Way Back – Play Back!

I just realized I’ve never linked my Quinoa video on here!

Way back in 2010, ’twas the inaugural year of the Bob’s Red Mill Intercollegiate Cup, and I was but a meer second year student at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. By this point in my education, I was pretty much going crazy with all the studying, classes, and lack of sleep – so entering in a competition seemed with a great idea, since I couldn’t get any worse!

The Bob’s Red Mill Intercollegiate Cup was between all the naturopathic medicine schools across North America. The purpose was to make a short video about your favourite grain – I chose Quinoa! From there, I made it to the finals and was whisked off to Portland Oregon to attend the North-West Naturopathic Medicine Conference and present a speech against to 2 other contestants.  In the end, my speech was the worst, but Bob was feeling generous that day, so we all won $5000! Pretty amazing! It was definitely one of the highlights of my medical career thus far.

Check out my video!

 

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Best Salad

Sometimes when I compare myself to my colleagues in the Naturopathic world I feel like a bit of an outcast when it comes to my personal dietary choices. I eat bread/gluten, I indulge in chocolate daily (just a couple of squares), I am a connoisseur of all things dairy (cheese and ice cream make me weak in the knees), and I’ve never really been in love with salads. It’s not that I’m against salads (I eat them most days in fact, as I always pair one with my dinner), but I never really yearn for salads… until now. After trial & error, and some googling, I have finally come up with the best salad! It’s so good in fact, that I really can consider eating this for 3 meals a day. Allow me to introduce you to my leafy lover, who has the very orginal name of “Balsamic Egg Salad” (catchy eh?).

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Balsamic Egg Salad…. nom nom nom!!!

What a thing of beauty.

Ok, so disclaimer, this salad does contain Parmesan cheese. But, if you are avoiding dairy, I’m sure it’ll taste fine if you opt-out on the cheese, or perhaps consider swapping in some nutritional yeast? ( I haven’t tried this, but it’s just a thought). Alright let’s get down to business.

Balsamic & Egg Salad 

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 2-3 cups of lettuce (I used lamb’s lettuce in these picture [feltsalat] but arugula works even better in my opinion)
  • fresh grated Parmesan 1 tsp & 1 Tbsp
  • 1 shallot, 1/2 finely chopped, 1/2 in thin slices
  • 3-4 Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (not in the picture above, I was out!)
  • Half an avocado, diced
  • 1-2 eggs depending on how hungry you are
  • 1 tsp butter or oil (for frying)
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp of Dijon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Once you have all your ingredients out, start to heat up your pan on medium heat with a bit of butter or oil for frying.(For a healthier option, you could also consider boiling water to poach the eggs instead)
  2. To assemble your dressing combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon, 1/2 diced shallot, 1 tsp of shredded parmesan, and a few grinds of salt and pepper. Stir these together vigorously so that they become a suspended solution.
  3. By this time the pan should be nice and hot, so crack in your egg(s), trying not to break the yolk.
  4. Quickly return to your work station to prep the salad. Rinse & spin your lettuce and dump it out onto your plate. Top with sliced sundried tomatoes, avocado, 1/2 shallot cut in slices, and 1 Tbsp of shredding Parmesan cheese.
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  5. While assembling your salad, keep an eye on that egg, and flip it quick when it’s cooked on one side (~2 mins). Cook on the other side for about 10 seconds (to sear the yolk and finish cooking the white, leaving the yolk delicious and runny.
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  6. Lay that egg(s) right on top of the salad, and then top with the balsamic vinaigrette.
  7. Eat quickly & enjoy! The warm runny yolk in contrast with the crunchy salad and tangy vinaigrette is a fabulous combination.

Well I hope this brings you as much (belly) happiness as it brings me!

Update: This salad also is great with soft boiled eggs. Instructions: Bring a pot of water to a boil, slowly & carefully using a spoon lower an egg into the boiling water and let it cook for exactly 6 minutes! Remove and rinse quickly under cold water, and then peel & add to salad! Eat & enjoy!

“Back” To Action

Throwing your back out is a huge inconvenience. You are in pain, and your mobility is decreased leaving you feeling helpless. From personal experience, it always seems to happen to me when I am in the middle of a project (ex. moving, home renovations, squash game), or right before an event that I’m looking forward to (ex. birthday celebration, graduation, etc).

For as many ways as there are to injure your back, there are just as many treatment protocols to fix it. As a follow up to my previous post on proper shovelling technique, here are a few tips on how to get yourself back into action.

  1. Stop what you are doing and stop all activity that aggravates your back.
  2. Go see a health professional, like your local Naturopathic Doctor, Chiropractor, or Osteopath. All three of these health care providers are trained in assessment and treatment of spinal problems. After assessment, common treatments that they will provide include:
    • Manipulation – essentially performing precise high velocity thrusts to reduce muscle spasms and pain (aka. cracking your back).
    • Acupuncture – most NDs and some Chiropractors and Osteopaths are trained in this ancient Chinese medicine. By inserting needles around and/or into the tight muscles of your back, this can help relax the muscles and relieve tension.
    • Electro-stimulation – By applying pads placed on your back or via an inserted needle, electrical current is rhythmically pulsated into your tight muscles causing them to slowly release, stimulate healing, and/or decrease pain.
    • Supplementation/Topical Creams – You may be prescribed a supplement or topical cream to help aid in muscle relaxation, pain control, and/or recovery as your health care provider sees fit.
  3. Warm moist heat – Fill a hot water bottle with boiling water, wrap it a tea towel, apply a damp cloth to the injured area of your back, and then place the hot water over the area. Be sure not to fall asleep to prevent unwanted burning. Leave it on for 20 minutes, then off for 20 minutes. Repeat for 3 cycles or as needed.
  4. Massage – You can get this from your masseuse or your ND.
  5. Rest and Relaxation – This is essential. Your back has suffered an injury and it takes time to heal and recover from any wound. Give it the chance to heal itself.

For more tips on how to recovery from back sprains and strains, see your health care practitioner. If back injuries occurs regularly, consider seeking help from an Naturopathic Doctor/Chiropractor/Osteopath or Physical Therapist for some safe core strengthening exercises that are right for you.

A word on muscle relaxants and analgesic medications. These will help take away your pain, and nobody likes to be in pain, (myself included) but a word of caution… Just because you do not feel any pain while taking these drugs, does not mean that you are better. It is all too common for people to cause further injury and damage to their back while on medication due to the inhibition of pain signals. Pain is there for a reason, remember? It is telling you that something is wrong. So do not jump right back to normal functioning level after 1 hour of taking a Tylenol. You’re going to need to sit this one out for a bit, and let your body fix itself.

Shovelling Correctly

Snow Snow Snow! Winter is here (at least in Berlin) and we’ve got a beautiful layer of snow on the ground. As this is my first winter in Berlin I’m already quite surprised by how the Germans deal with their snow. Unlike in Canada where we salt, shovel, and blow our snow away as fast as it falls, here in Berlin snow seems to be accepted and left relatively undisturbed. Instead of biking with small children in “kinder wagons” or child bike seats, now children are pulled/towed around by their parents on wooden sleighs (it’s really rather cute).

Children’s sleds locked up outside my local Kindergarten.

However, as beautiful as a soft blanket of snow is, it does come with increased risks of slips and falls, which can result is broken bones, concussions, bruises, and damaged egos. So be sure to walk safely and slowly, and consider giving yourself extra time to get around as you take extra care.

Since most of people in Berlin don’t have driveways, sidewalks, etc, the only snow that they are responsible for shoveling is on their balcony. After speaking with my German teacher yesterday about how she throws out her back every year I realized that proper snow-shoveling technique/education is often overlooked here. But no longer, here are some quick tips to proper ergonomic shoveling technique to prevent injuries:

  1. If you have any heart-problems, history of back problems, or other health risks that could be aggravated by physical activity then it would be advisable for you to get someone else to shovel instead. If you live alone, hire the kid next door, or take it really slow and light.
  2. Don’t put off shoveling, do it while the snow is fresh! Fresh snow is loosely packed and therefore less dense and icy, which makes it much easier to move.
  3. Keeping Tip 2 in mind, shoveling is exercise so don’t just run out there and dive right into it, you need to warm up first. Some warm up ideas include walking up and down some stairs, stretching, marching on the spot, walk around the block, whatever it takes.
  4. Push, don’t lift and chuck! Pushing snow with your shovel is much easier on the back and gets the job done a lot faster. Push if off to the edge of the drive way, path, or off the edge of your balcony (just be sure to check for any unfortunate pedestrians below, and try to avoid paths out of respect for other people).
  5. If you must lift snow (when there is lots of snow), then twist on your feet instead of through your back. Fast twisting motion can quickly lead to a sprained back.
  6. When lifting snow, be weary of how much you are scooping up. The wetter the snow, the bigger the scoop, the longer the shaft of the shovel: all of these will cause an increase in load on your body. Take increased number of scoops with less snow to spare your body, as there is no medal for speed or strength.
  7. Remember to breath. Many people often hold their breath when they are lifting, which causes an increase in intrabdominal pressure, which if you have any preexisting heart problems can cause stress to your heart and your blood pressure to increase. Also, on a basic note, you are exercising so therefore your muscles need more oxygen, don’t deprive them of this!
  8. Now lets talk technique. Proper shoveling technique is very similar to the proper technique used to move heavy items.
    Keep your spine in a neutral position. This is its strongest position and will give you the most power. Bend through your hips and knees. By doing this you can bring the spine forward and lower your body (and shovel) close to the ground, without stressing the back. Brace those abs! By doing this your core muscles are helping to reinforce the weight of the load on your body to help prevent injury/back sprain. Lift with your legs as you rise, not with your arms and back. Remember, don’t twist and chuck (especially over your shoulder or off to the side), rise with your legs and walk over to your snow-dumping pile and tip the snow off your shovel. Nothing about shoveling should be wild and jerky.

Happy Shoveling!

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Healthy Snack Ideas

Healthy Snacks!

  1. Aim for your snacks to be between 100-200 calories.
  2. Avoid foods that are high in simple carbohydrates (sugars) like candy bars or soda pops. Instead, aim for foods that contain complex carbohydrates like whole-grain breads and cereals to help keep you fuller since they are higher in fibre and offer a more complete nutritional profile.
  3. Try to incorporate protein-rich choices into your snacks such as nut butters, low-fat yogurt or cheese since protein will help satisfy your hunger and stabilize your blood sugars.
  4. Avoid foods that high in fat since these are higher in calories, however on the flip side, be skeptical of foods that are advertised as being “low fat” since these are often replaced with high sugars to keep the tasty. Many low-fat foods have equivalent number of calories as their full-fat versions.
  5. Foods advertised as “all natural” or “pure” doesn’t necessarily mean that they are nutritious. Ex. “all natural” juice drinks are filled with sugars and zero fibre or protein.
  6.  Prepare healthy snacks in advance and keep healthy snacks with you. Ex. Oatmeal servings in your desk, pieces of fruit.
  7. Always read serving size information on packaged foods and make sure that you only eat 1 serving.
  8. Make sure to accompany your snack with at least 1 cup of water. Sometimes we confuse feelings of hunger with feelings of thirst, so ensure that you are always properly hydrated.

Healthy Snack Examples

  • 1 apple (Cal:80 C:22 F:0 P:1)
  • 15 almonds (Cal:180 C:4 F:15 P:5)
  • 2 rice cakes and ¼ avocado with salt & pepper (Cal:180 C:18 F:8 P:6)
  • 1oz Whole-wheat pretzels with 1 tsp spicy mustard, (Cal:107 C:23 F:1 P:3)
  • 1 cup Baby carrots and 2 tbsp of hummus (Cal:140 C:20 F:6 P:4)
  • Frozen fruit (grapes, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, mangoes, melon etc.) (Cal:70 C:17 F:0 P:0)
  • 1 cup of Edamame in the pods (Cal:180 C:16 F:8 P:17)
  • ¾ cup of President’s Choice 0% fat Greek yogurt with ½ cup of sliced strawberries (Cal:180 C:18 F:0 P:19)
  • ½ cup of 1% cottage cheese, 1 Tbsp of Raisins, sprinkle with cinnamon (Cal:149 C:18 F:2 P:16)
  • 1 hard boiled egg and 3 whole wheat saltine crackers (Cal:158 C:14 F:7 P:8 )
  • 1 banana and 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter (Cal:205 C:31 F:8 P:5)
  • 1 scoop of Vega Vanilla Chai Protein Powder with 1 ½ cups of unsweetened Vanilla almond milk (Cal:180 C:14 F:8 P:15)
  • 12 Rice crackers and 2 Tbsp of salsa (Cal:205 C:31 F:8 P:5)

Prevent Osteoporosis/Osteopenia Through Fitness!

The bones you have in your body right now are not the same bones as you had a couple of years ago – your bones are alive and always changing. Bone matrix is constantly being layed down by cells call osteoblasts, while bone is broken down (resorpt) by cells called osteoclasts. In a perfect world these two types of cells should be working at the same rate so that old bone is constantly being remodelled and replaced by new bone. However, as we age this process becomes out of sync, and decreased osteoblastic activity cannot keep up which results in a slowly decreasing bone density and potential even osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis currently almost effects 2 million Canadians are living with osteoporosis. Although it is a disease mostly affecting women, it does affect men as well. 1 in 4 women over age 50, and 1 in 8 men over 50 years have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is actually a disease of childhood that manifest as you age. Peak bone mass is achieved around age 18-20, but after that point your bone mass will most likely stay stable  until their mid-30’s when they start to lose bone density. As women approach and go through menopause they lose bone at the greatest rate around 2-5% per year.

The major risk of having osteoporosis is the large increase chance of fractures. At least 80% of fractures in people 60+ are related to osteoporosis with the most common sites of osteoporotic fracture are the wrist, spine and hip. 23% of patients who fracture a hip die in less than a year.

The most effective way to prevent osteoporosis is to during your teenage years when your body is laying down that foundation for your skeleton. But if that time has already passed, there are other ways to decrease the demineralization of your bones.

 

Fitness prevent Osteoporosis!

By engaging in regular physical activity this promotes the formation of new bone and remodelling the old bone to be structurally stronger. Physical activity also improves muscle strength and size which can act as cushioning for bones but also help with posture, balance and coordination, which will reducing the risk of falls and broken bones

Things that you can do to prevent osteoporosis!

  1. HIGH LOADING STRENGTH TRAINING!!!!
  • Meaning that, doing 7-8 reps at 60-80% of your 1RM is more effective than 15-20 reps at 20-40% of 1RM. It’s called a “work-out” for a reason, it’s supposed to be hard work! This will more effectively increase Bone Mineral Density, metabolism, and stability!
  • Try to target larger muscle groups; pecs, lats, rhomboids, glutes, quads, hamstrings, etc. Sorry – but only doing wimpy biceps curls will not help you prevent Osteoporosis.
  1. Do moderate intensity cardiovascular activity at about 60-85% heart rate max. The government of Canada recommends being active at least 2.5 hours a week . Are you getting that? Activities such as skipping and jogging are especially good for building bone because have impact which stimulates more rapid bone development.
  2. Hire a personal trainer to help you prevent osteoporosis.
  3. Diet: Stay clear of foods that acidify the blood because this will facilitate further bone loss, such as coffee, soda pop. Avoid high sugar and salt diets. Be sure to include many foods that alkalinize the blood such as vegetables, meats, and alkaline grains (ex. Millet and Quinoa)! Make sure you are eating enough protein since that is the building block for the majority of your bones, and also ensure adequate dietary mineral intake of Ca, Vit D, Mg, etc from sources such as almonds, dark leafy greens, broccoli, etc. For more dietary information please consult a dietician, naturopath, or primary health care provider.

It is important to realize that once you have osteoporosis you cannot reverse it, so it is crucial to plan ahead and take pro-active action against osteoporosis. This is a preventable disease.

For more information, please visit your primary health care provider. Visit your MD and check out osteoporosis.ca for more information about osteoporosis.

 

Reference:

  1. www.osteoporosis.ca
  2. www.heartandstroke.ca
  3. www.cdc.gov
  4. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hp-ps/hl-mvs/pag-gap/index-eng.php
  5. Kennedy, D. Osteoporosis Lecture. CLS 306 Course Notes. 2011. Toronto.

Osteoporosis Smoothie!

This smoothing is packed with protein and calcium to help promote bone building! Chug this in the morning to keep those bones healthy and strong!

1/2 banana
1/2 cup of frozen berries
a handful of spinach
1 scoop of protein powder
1/4 cup of Greek yogurt
1 cup of skim milk

Blend & c’est fini! This is a big smoothie sure to satisfy your morning hunger.

Nutrition information:
Calories: 288 cal
Fat: 9 g
Fibre: 5 g
Protein: 35 g
Calcium: 64% RDA

Understanding The Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

To some people, Naturopathic Doctors are your primary care contact. We check vitals, we see you for acute colds, we manage your chronic diseases, we fix your sports injury, and we do your yearly physical exams (including your PAP or feel your prostate). However to other people, we are quacks, just a bunch of hodge-podge hippy doctors.

Slowly, over time, my goal is to debunk this myth, and get rid of the skepticism. There is method to our so-called madness. As a future clinician, I plan to practice healing techniques that have proof to back them up. Not just “my cousin’s friend says so” but real, well documented, evidence based medicine – just as a regular family doctor would. I want my patients to get better, faster, and stay well for as long as possible, so for this reason I will be provide the treatment to provide the best results, and the least adverse effects.

As Naturopathic Doctors we have principles, which we all strive to. Our principles are aimed towards patient centered care, to empower the patient, and heal the patient. When you go see a Naturopathic Doctor for yourself, this is what we promise to give to you. I have listed them below, and tried to explain what they mean to me. Do they mean the same to you?

1.     Do no harm,

  • Pretty important, Do not make the patient worse. Do not hurt them.
  • But let’s dive just a little deeper. Doing no harm is providing care that also removes any sources of harmful stimulus and reduces any detrimental side effects.
  • This principle can actually be slightly controversial to be honest, since many some healing techniques actually cause pain. Ex. A healing crisis in homeopathy with involves a return of symptoms, or perhaps you could even view acupuncture needles as painful if the patient is very sensitive to that form of therapy. I personally can attest that having trigger points worked out manually (massage) or mechanically (with an electro-stimulatory needle) really hurts during the session, but you feel fabulous for weeks later, so it’s worth it.
  • The way I interpret this principle is that we are not doing any harm overall to the patient

2.     Treat the causes,

  • This is the Key really (in my opinion) that sets us apart. This is where we search for the root cause. Why is this person having symptom ‘x’?
  • As NDs we try to dig deeper, and not just put a Band-Aid over a problem to just treat the symptoms – we need to find out WHY these symptoms are occurring, and treat that! I like to think of us as Health Detectives!

3.     Doctor as teacher,

  • This is my favourite principle! I love exercising and healthy eating, and living a balanced life style! I find it so invigorating and fun to try to improve my health everyday. The average person still doesn’t seem to connect what a massive impact lifestyle has on their health. I’m hear to help teach you how about how your lifestyle decisions impact your health, and then to teach you how to live a healthier life to prevent illness and chronic disease.

4.     Treat the whole person,

  • Every person is different. Every mind is different. Every body is different. And everyone perceives and copes with their illness-state differently. Naturopathic doctors cater to you, to come up with a treatment plan that is unique as you are, to be able to come up with the best healing plan that is best for you!

5.     Emphasize prevention,

  • We wouldn’t think of driving in a car without wearing your seatbelt, or wouldn’t go into a construction site without wearing proper safety gear? Your body can be similar to your car, you take it in to get your oil changed, brakes re-padded, axel realigned, etc.. then why not take your body in for a check up, and to learn some precautions that you can take to prevent any illness. Stop riding without your helmet, and come in and see your ND.

6.     Support the healing power of the body,

  • Your body is an amazing thing! And as Naturopathic Doctors, we understand that. Our job is essentially to help stimulate you to heal yourself! We call the body’s inner healing force the vis medicatrix naturae, your body’s inner power. Your body is doing the healing work, your immune system is what is killing those pathogens, your cells are replenishing to help you grow, your liver is eliminating toxins, etc. Naturpathic Doctors are just coaches and cheerleaders for healing really. We help your body heal itself.