Are You Addicted to Your Phone?

Tens of thousands of years ago, when we homo sapiens were just getting started, we had to be able to effectively meet our goals in order to survive–we had to find water, get enough to eat, seek shelter, and generally get things done. Unlike now, if we just lay about all day not accomplishing anything, we’d die. We had to be goal-oriented.

The key driver for this goal-seeking behaviour was, and is, a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is the reward chemical–it provides the little hit of “goodness” we feel when we accomplish a goal. (That delightful feeling of crossing something off your to-do list? Dopamine.) It’s an evolutionary gift from a long line of ancestors that helped us survive. It helps us see rewards, and take action to get them.

So what does this have to do with your cell phone?

Because accomplishing goals like “find food” were so critical, dopamine became a pretty addictive chemical in the brain. We LIKE the feeling of dopamine, and are driven to do what creates the release of it. We’re  easily addicted to things that deliver it.

The problem is that some things that have nothing to do with creating a meaningful life create dopamine for us. Things like alcohol, nicotine, gambling and yes, that delightful little “ding” your cell phone makes when you get a text.

Every time you hear the sound of a new message or see the tiny alerts or badges onscreen, your reward system swings into gear. Almost all of this happens below the level of your awareness. All you know is that you simply can’t resist checking your phone.

How Do You Know if You’re Addicted?

The same brain chemistry that casinos hijack to keep you sitting at a slot machine for hours is being hijacked to keep you staring at a screen. Your phone has been doing a remarkable job of training you. And not just to respond to whistles and signals like a trained seal, but to find it intolerable to suffer even a few moments without stimulation.

Here are some questions to ask yourself?

  • When you wake up in the morning do you check your phone before you go to the bathroom?
  • Do you walk from room to room holding your phone all the time?
  • If you get a text while driving, do you find it impossible to wait the ten minutes until you get home to look at it and respond?
  • Do you regularly respond to texts while reading your kid a bedtime story?
  • Are you unable to leave your phone in the car when you are having dinner out with friends?
  • Are you incapable of sitting quietly for ten minutes without looking at your phone?
  • Do you use your phone while watching TV or eating?

Why is it important to ask ourselves these questions? Here are a few things you might find interesting about high cell phone use. It’s been linked to:

  • Higher anxiety
  • Lower grades
  • Decreased happiness
  • Lower quality sleep
  • Poor posture
  • Lower relationship satisfaction
  • Reduced activity
  • Less time outdoors
  • Less time spent with others

Are those weather alerts and social media updates really that valuable?

What to Do?

Every recovering alcoholic will tell you that the first step to fixing a problem is to admit that you have one in the first place. If you can do that, what do you do next?

  • Turn off your alerts. Those little badges and sounds and flashes are designed to trigger your reward system. You don’t need to get alerts from every app.
  • Use “do not disturb” mode. Most devices will allow you to shut down your phone’s alert systems, while still letting through calls from a specified list of people. That way you can still get a call from your teenager or spouse, for example, but not from anyone else.
  • Set time periods in which you shouldn’t use your phone (i.e., 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.).
  • Designate activities in which your phone is forbidden (e.g., driving, dinner time).
  • Schedule break times to access your phone or social media.
  • Practice being bored. Your phone is gradually eroding your ability to simply be. Try taking longer and longer periods away from it. Reclaim your ability to live without constant digital stimulation.

If you find you can’t do these things, or instinctively push back against them, that might be the most powerful indicator of all that you have a problem.

Are you using your phone, or is it using you?

Why Healthy Eating is Hard

This video is perhaps the funniest way we’ve seen to capture the confusion around food that the health industry has managed to generate over the years.

So funny, but also so true. It feels like nutritional advice is constantly shifting and contradicting previous advice. What to do?

For us, nutrition falls squarely into the category of simple but not easy. It’s simple to eat better: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

The trouble is that following that advice is not always easy. That’s where we come in:

  • Need to understand how your diet is affecting your health and how changing it can dramatically change how you feel? Book an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor.
  • Want some insight into what specific foods you might feel better avoiding? Get a food intolerance test to find out.
  • Looking for access to gluten- or dairy-free foods and other specialty nutritional items? Check out the new Pantry at StoneTree.

Changing how you eat isn’t easy. But it is simple, and it is possible. And we can help!

Decreasing Heart Attack Risk by Tackling Inflammation

Recent research in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 10,000 patients who had had a heart attack AND a positive hsCRP result. (This is a blood test for inflammation.)

All of the patients received high doses of statins, which is the present standard of care, then they were split into two groups. Half of the patients received an injection every three months of a drug called Canakinumab, the other half received a placebo injection of normal saline. This trial went on for four years.

Canakinumab is a form of anti-inflammatory medication. It’s used predominately in those with rheumatoid arthritis. But according to the research, when you give it to people with heart attack risk you get some interesting results:

  • 15% reduction in risk of a cardiovascular event like a fatal or non-fatal heart attack or stroke
  • 30% reduction in the need for expensive interventional procedures like bypasses or stents
  • No change in death rates in the 2 groups.

You can read some mainstream coverage of the news here, including the impact on cancer rates.

The short story? Reducing inflammation is good for your health, in particular your heart.

What’s the Catch?

All of this sounds like good news, and in theory, it is. But nothing comes for free. The problem with Canakinumab is that it decreases inflammation by suppressing the immune system. That means patients who take it may be more susceptible to infections, require increased healing time if injured.

Enter the Better News

Chronic inflammation is often lifestyle-related. A poor diet, being sedentary, being over-stressed and under-slept, smoking and/or exposures to other toxins—all of these things contribute to your overall inflammatory set point. And the magic of lifestyle issues is that they can often be fixed without medication.

Dealing with inflammation is a big part of what Naturopathic Doctors do. We have written about it often, and dealing with it in some form or another is a common part of our treatment plans.

It stands to reason that dealing with and improving your inflammatory lifestyle challenges would be helpful in decreasing inflammation. If you could reduce your risk without the need for intense anti-inflammatory medicines that suppress your immune system, wouldn’t you want to?

The starting point is easy. Finding out if inflammation is a problem for you is as simple as a quick and inexpensive blood test called hsCRP–the same one used in the study. All you need to do is get started!

For information on hsCRP testing or inflammation reduction, book online or call 705-444-5331.

Why You Should Consider Natural Feminine Hygiene Products

Our menstrual cycles are a fact of life. In our early teens we were taken aside by our moms, aunts, big sisters, teachers or friends. We were told the facts of life and given a box of pads and/or tampons to start our journey into womanhood.

After that, dealing with our cycles month after month eventually became routine. Most of us buy whatever product we were either first introduced to, or whichever one is on sale. Not much thought is given to it, other than, “I hope it doesn’t interfere with my next beach holiday”.

So why consider changing now, especially to an all-natural feminine product? Here are a few good reasons, and a few great product suggestions.

Your Health
Pads and tampons are made from cotton, synthetic rayon, and other synthetic fibers. Cotton has been called “the world’s dirtiest crop.” It’s heavily sprayed with pesticides, and along with pesticide residues, the material these products are made with are bleached with chlorine dioxide, creating dioxin as a byproduct. Add to that anti-bacterial agents, fragrances and many other chemicals, and you get quite a toxic soup that we are exposing our lady parts to on a monthly basis.

These contaminants are carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and allergens. The tissues of the vagina are sensitive, and these chemicals can cause real problems. In fact, in women with irritations in this area, one of the main treatment options is to change to an all-natural product. After that, the problem often resolves with no further treatment.

The Environment
According to The National Women’s Health Network, 12 billion pads and 7 million tampons are dumped into U.S. landfills each year. That’s A LOT of garbage, not to mention to chemicals used in the growing and manufacturing processes.

Cost
The average woman will spend an average of $150 per year on feminine hygiene products. That’s well over $5000 in a lifetime–no small potatoes. Choosing a re-useable option cuts that down considerably.  For example a Diva Cup costs $45 and you can use it for a decade or even longer.

All Natural Options

Disposable, organic pads and tampons

Although this option is not less expensive nor does it solve the environment problem entirely, they are MUCH healthier for your lady bits. The organic, unbleached cotton eliminates the exposure to toxins. Natracare products are available for purchase at The Pantry at StoneTree Clinic.

Diva Cup

This option is awesome for your health, the environment, and your pocket book. The diva cup, or a menstrual cup, is a silicon cup that can be used over and over again. It sits in the vagina and is emptied at regular intervals throughout your cycle. It takes a little getting used to but is absolutely worth the effort. Available for purchase at The Pantry at StoneTree Clinic.

Cloth Pads

This option also hits all three reasons for making the change to all natural products. Just like reusable, cloth baby diapers, you can make or buy reusable cloth menstrual pads.

Sea Sponge

Again, this reusable option is beneficial in all three areas. This absorbent sponge is placed in the vagina like a tampon, removed at regular intervals, cleaned, and re-inserted.

There have been some reports of cases of toxic shock syndrome as a result of using sea sponges because of dirt, grit or bacteria left in the sponge. However, it is important to keep in mind that this can happen from conventional tampons as well.

Drop by The Pantry at StoneTree to see our selection of natural feminine hygiene products!

Get Those Kids Moving!

A new study published in the Frontiers of Physiology in July offers a glimpse into the possible long-term importance of getting our young ones moving.

The study fed a group of baby lab rats a high-fat diet and then separated them into three groups. One group was denied exercise for their whole life, one group was denied exercise until they were adults, and the last group was allowed to exercise from the very beginning.

  • The researchers found that early exercise positively impacted the way the rat’s metabolism responded to the high-fat diet. They were able to transform fat into energy more effectively. This effect lasted for 60 days after the exercise stopped. No big surprise here.
  • But, the interesting part was that early exercise decreased overall inflammation as an adult. Even though the rats still all got fat from a diet that was too calorically rich, they did not seem to have the same negative health effects of a high-fat diet without exercise.

Clearly, kids aren’t rats, and no one is going to run a lifetime study denying humans exercise (although the fact that 1 in 10 kids meets the physical activity guidelines suggest we might be working towards it, sadly.)

But although it might be difficult to know what the long term studies will tell us for sure about humans, while you’re waiting there’s almost zero downside to getting kids moving!

This is one time when it’s probably quite reasonable to compare your kids to rats. 🙂

Lazy: A Manifesto

“Life is too short to be busy.”
Tim Kreider, We Learn Nothing

This essay from author Tim Kreider speaks for itself and is absolutely worth the listen.

Our addiction to “busyness” as a culture does not make our lives better. It keeps us away from the people and things we love. It gives us a sense of purpose that is often purposeless, and keeps as in the dark about what our true art is.

It’s summer holiday time. Book an hour, a day, a week–whatever you can–and revel in your laziness. Rediscover, as the Italians say, dolce far nientethe sweetness of doing nothing.

After all, doing nothing IS doing something!

Enjoy,

The StoneTree Team

How to Decide What to Eat

North Americans are obsessed with figuring out what is or isn’t the BEST food or diet.

Reports in the media like this one report on a single food that is magic for a specific health complaint–in this case nuts and colon cancer. No doubt some media outlet will post an article the soon that nuts are bad for you because they are too fattening, too contaminated or likely to cause diverticulitis.

It seems like there is just no knowing what is good for you and what isn’t.

In fact, the International Food Information Council Foundation’s annual Food and Health survey this spring reported that 78% of those surveyed reported they encountered conflicting information about healthy food, and the follow-up questions indicated that 58% of respondents reported that this conflicting info created doubt in the food choices they were making.

We’re confused, in other words, and we don’t know what to do.

How To Decide What To Eat

Knowledge is power…expect when it isn’t. The way that health and nutrition is reported in western media is not making us healthier and more empowered. It’s doing the exact opposite.

The best resource I have found to take the confusion out of healthy food and healthy eating is Michael Pollen’s book, In Defense of Food.  He digs into lots of great detail to support his thesis which is simple, easy and NOT confusing: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

By “food”, Pollan means things your great-grandmother would recognize as food. Whole foods. The more processed a food becomes the less it should be eaten.

  • Strawberries? Yes. Strawberry jam…less so.  “Strawberry” milkshake from McDonalds? No.
  • Non-GMO corn? Yes. GMO, round-up ready corn…less so. Organic corn chips even less so. High fructose corn syrup? No.
  • Sunflower seeds? Yes. Sunflower oil…less so. Commercially produced, low-fat salad dressing with sunflower oil? No.
  • Grass fed beef. Yes. (Assuming you eat meat.) Commercially farmed corn feed beef…less so. Processed beef patties with fake cheese and simulated bacon flavouring? No.

It’s a good rule of thumb. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. If you want to learn more, you can watch the documentary “In Defense of Food” on Netflix.

By they way…Pollan followed up In Defense of Food with Food Rules, a guide to answer the question, “What should I eat?” Guess what the last rule is?

“Break the rules once in a while.”

Worth considering. All these years of study and worry and research and media don’t seem to have made us any healthier!

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Recipes From the StoneTree Summer BBQ!

The StoneTree team spent a glorious Friday evening enjoying some delicious food and excellent gin. We though you might enjoy the recipes!

Napa Cabbage Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 lb. napa cabbage chopped
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. In a pie plate, bake the almonds for 5 minutes. Let cool.
  • In a bowl, mix the oil, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar. Add the cabbage, scallions and cilantro and toss. Add the almonds and season with pepper. Toss again and serve.

Source

Lentil Salad with Sundried Tomatoes and Feta Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 can lentils
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese

Directions:

  • Mix in a bowl
  • Add quinoa or other grain if desired, but double the dressing if you do!

Celery Salad with Feta and Mint

Ingredients:

  • 6 large celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint leaves

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, combine celery and red onion. Add olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with feta and mint.
  • Wanna cheat on the dressing? Try Paul Newman’s Family Italian!

Source

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 avocado – peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Directions:

  • Place lime juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and cayenne pepper in a small jar. Cover with lid, and shake until ingredients are well mixed.
  • In a salad bowl, combine beans, corn, avocado, bell pepper, tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro. Shake lime dressing, and pour it over the salad. Stir salad to coat vegetables and beans with dressing, and serve.

Source

Vitamin B12 Deficiency: What You Should Know

Vitamin B12 is one of eight B vitamins in your body. (Yes, the numbering is strange. There used to be more labeled B vitamins, but scientists short-listed almost thirty of them down to eight.)

Of all the vitamins in the B-complex, though, B12 is the most complicated and arguably the most important. B12 is involved in the metabolism of every cell in your body, and it’s critical for producing red blood cells and keeping your nervous system running.

With that kind of resume, it’s no wonder that a deficiency in B12 can lead to a crazy list of symptoms such as:

  • Weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness
  • Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • A sore, red, smooth tongue
  • Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas
  • Nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking
  • Vision loss
  • Mental problems like depression, anxiety memory loss, or behavioral changes

How common is a B12 deficiency?

B12 deficiency isn’t some oddball condition that House, MD would diagnose. It’s very well-known. The problem is that it’s a lot more common than we thought. For example:

  • Up 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have plasma B12 levels in the low normal range.1 That’s a range where many people can still experience symptoms, even though they’re considered “normal”.
  • In people over 60, some 6% are deficient and 20% are marginal in their status.2 Levels tend to decrease with age.
  • In vegans and vegetarians, the number are considerably higher.

How are we getting it so wrong?

First, conventional medical professionals don’t test serum B12 routinely. Second, even for those that do test, the test they typically use isn’t ideal. It will only show a B12 deficiency in those who are VERY deficient and have been so for a long time.

But long term deficiency is problematic. B12 is critical for a healthy nervous system, and chronic low levels can lead to irreversible nerve damage. That’s not a place you want to go. Naturally, what we want to do as practitioners is to determine if a deficiency exists before things reach that stage.

Laboratory tests like urine MMA or serum homocysteine can give use information about your B12 status sooner, at a time when most people are asymptomatic. Good screening with the proper testing is simply good preventive medicine.

Who should worry about B12 status?

B12 deficiency may be under-diagnosed, but that doesn’t mean you’re at risk. Certain groups of people are more likely to develop a deficiency:

  • Vegetarians and vegans
  • People taking PPi’s or other stomach acid medications
  • People with digestive issues and tummy troubles
  • People with a family history of B12 deficiency

What should you do about it?

  1. Test your levels with your health care provider.
  2. Eat B12 rich foods like shellfish and liver (organic only please). There are no plant-based sources of B12.
  3. Supplement if you’re low.
  4. If you are over 60, get a B12 shot once a month. It is cheap, safe and easy.
  5. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, consult with your health care professional.

Curious about your B12 levels? Contact the clinic for information on testing, supplementation, and B12 shots.

Do You Know These 6 Possible Causes of IBS?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a diagnosis of exclusion. That’s a fancy way of saying IBS is a bunch of symptoms that aren’t being caused by any known pathology. When everything else is ruled out for those symptoms, IBS is what you’re left with.

In the case of IBS, those symptoms include:

  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or sometimes both
  • Bloating and swelling of your stomach
  • Excessive gas
  • Urgency of bowels
  • A feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels
  • Mucus in your stool
  • A lack of energy
  • Feeling sick
  • Backache
  • Bladder problems, such as urgency to urinate or difficulty emptying bladder
  • Pain during sex

IBS is a real pain in the butt (no pun intended) for patients, but it’s also a hassle for conventional docs to treat because there is very little understanding as to the cause and there are very few drug therapies that work.

Although there is some evidence to suggest diet change can help, and there is research looking at the effectiveness of probiotics, no one solution resolves all cases.

That is where Naturopathic Medicine comes in. Complicated cases with no clear cause are often where naturopaths can shine because we simply have the time and experience to dig deeper into case histories.

In clinic, we’ve found that IBS symptoms can result from many different, yet common, body imbalances. Here are six that tend to reveal themselves in our practices frequently:

  1. Food intolerances. The immune system in our guts is very strong, and when it’s working properly it shouldn’t react to the foods we eat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work properly. When this part of our immune system gets out of balance, the proteins in our diets can start causing problems. Gluten and dairy proteins are the most common culprits and testing can be easily done to figure out others.
  2. Dysbiosis. The flora in our digestive tract is a very important part of staying healthy. When those little critters get out of balance they can cause many of the unpleasant symptoms of IBS.
  3. Parasites. It’s easy to pick up one of these little bugs and carry it around for years. Our immune system in our gut usually takes care of most exposures, but stress, poor diet, and exposure to drugs and chemicals can help parasites evade the immune system. That means they can stick around and cause tummy trouble.
  4. Nutrient deficiencies. One form of IBS is a spasm of the muscles in the colon. This can be the result of magnesium deficiency and can be corrected with supplementation. Taking magnesium by mouth, however, may not work at first. Sometimes the intestinal tract can’t absorb it, and in that case, the result is MORE loose bowels. Using IV magnesium is a better way to calm down the intestinal muscles.
  5. Toxic exposures. Many toxins are eliminated from our bodies through our bowels. All of the fat-soluble toxins like solvents, plastics, pesticides, heavy metals like mercury come out this way. If a person is overexposed and/or has a genetic susceptibility to poor detoxification, these toxins can build up and cause trouble.
  6. Stress and mood imbalances. We think that the neurotransmitters that impact our mood only operate in our brains, but there are receptors for these chemicals all through the body, and there are PLENTY of them in our guts. Chronic stress and anxiety can really wreck havoc with these receptors and cause IBS-like symptoms.

Teasing out which one (or more) of these is the culprit can be tricky work, but lab testing, case histories, physical exams and treatment plans that target possible causes can help us narrow it down. For more info, contact the clinic at 705-444-5331, or book online anytime.