Maximizing Your Extended Benefits

Most of our patients have chronic health problems that they’ve been suffering with for years–a long and slow process of symptoms showing up, then getting more frequent or becoming more intense.

At some point, their MD has done all the tests and the story usually arrives at one of these endings:

  • “There is nothing that can be done.”
  • “You’re just getting older.”
  • “It’s in your genes.”

Or my personal favourite: “It’s all in your head.”

When patients arrive at StoneTree, however, and discover how chronic and acute problems need a different approach, the story changes. Often, it seems there really are things that can be done.

At this point, it’s not uncommon for patients to say, “Why didn’t I come sooner?”

The Cost Barrier and Maximizing Your Benefits

Of course, one of the reasons that people don’t come sooner is the investment. Naturopathic care is not covered by OHIP. The full hour-long new patient visit is not covered. The lab tests are not covered. The treatments are not covered. And as Canadians, having to pay out of pocket for health care can take some getting used to.

Fortunately, extended health coverage is picking up the alternative and complementary medicine tab more often, and giving their members better and better coverage. Collingwood and area teachers, for example have recently had their coverage for naturopathic edicine increased to $1000 a year per family member.

If you, or a friend or family member is considering visiting a naturopath, starting with the most expensive initial visits at the end of a benefit cycle allows you to maximize coverage to get the best care. 

The first few visits with ND’s are often the most expensive, but after that, treatment intensity normally decreases and becomes much easier to afford. You can get started before the new year, and then your benefits renew, giving you lots of coverage to deal with your treatment plan starting in January without interruption.

To learn more about how naturopathic medicine can help you, call 705-444-5331, or book online at

Tonight’s Be The Change Film: Minimalism

Minimalism: A Documentary about Important Things – Tickets here.

Some of the happiest times in my life have been while living out of a backpack, carrying my house, my kitchen, my bedroom and few good books from place to place. Those were times of travel as a young woman, before the responsibilities that I have now as a mom, wife, doctor and business owner. Why wouldn’t they be happy times?

As I settled down into a more “adult” life, the draw of a bigger house, a better car, more furniture, the next big thing was sometimes overwhelming–after all, that’s what you did. The quantity of your stuff was a measure of your success, and it was so very easy to get sucked into the quest for more.

But does more stuff make people more happy? Beyond basic needs, I see no evidence in my life to support that. In fact, in all the places we have traveled and lived in the world, some of the happiest people I have met were in countries where they had the least.

Tonight’s Be The Change film series documentary, Minimalism, explores the consumerism and its impact on our lives, our health, and our environment. You should go.

Join us at the Simcoe Street Theatre today! Tickets are still available for the 5PM show. Watch the trailer here if you can’t see the video above.

The Nature-Mood Connection

The days are getting shorter, and the nights colder! We’re almost at that time of year when, unless you’re a skier, getting outside in nature can seem like a lot of work compared to putting on comfy clothes and curling up with Netflix.

We’ve written a lot about getting outside in the winter. The fresh air and exercise help your immune system, increase energy, and help the seasonal blues. Now, we’re back again to take another pre-winter run at convincing you that getting outside is critical for your health.

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science has added more support to the idea of getting outside as a way of managing mood, but this time with a twist. In this case, the study went beyond just “outside”. It looked at two different groups of people – those who went for a 90-minute walk in nature, and those who went for a 90-minute walk in an urban environment.

More Room, Less Rumination

Researchers have known for years that there’s a connection between urban life and mental illness (urban dwellers suffer more), but the causation and mechanism have been tough to figure out definitively. Is it something about city life that makes it worse? Or does country living make it better? Both?

In this case, the researchers wanted to look specifically at what’s called rumination–basically thinking too much about things that upset you. Rumination is important because it’s associated with a host of mental and physical complaints, including depression.

The result? Based on brain images and self-reporting, the team determined that those who went out for a walk in nature showed a decrease in rumination.

And those who walked in an urban environment? No change.

The takeaway here is that the change wasn’t about the exercise in general, it was about being in nature. Both groups walked the same distance, just in different environments.

Half the world now lives in an urban environment, which leaves urban planners with some food for thought. In the meantime, those of us in the Collingwood area should take advantage of our good fortune and get outside this winter!

And as for the snow and cold? It’s been said that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. Do your mood a favour: get a good coat, a warm hat, and great mitts. Invest in a good pair of warm, dry boots. Your brain will thank you!

Left to the Wrong Devices: How Your Teen’s Sleep is Suffering

When I was 15 there were exactly two ways to connect with your friends: seeing them in person, or talking on the phone.

This was in the 80’s. If you were lucky, your house had a phone with a big long cord that you could take into your room. Your parents, siblings or pets were sure to trip over it, leading to the inevitable, “You’re spending to much time on that darn phone!” tirade.

At 9PM at our house, the phone option was shut down. No more incoming phone calls were accepted. The social options were over, and it was time to go to bed. There was no Internet. No Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat or Twitter.

Now? Every single teen has their own phone with seemingly unlimited options for connection and communication.

They have to keep up their “streaks”, make sure they are posting to their wall, ensure they are giving their friends enough “likes”. And they do it on multiple platforms for dozens of friends at a time.

Reduced Sleep has Health Consequences

It would be easy to dismiss this as a “when I was your age” rant, but in 15 years of practice I have seen a change in my teen patients around sleep and mood. Of course teens want to stay up later and sleep in. Of course they can be moody and prickly. They are teens, after all.

But typical teen moodiness is not what I’m talking about.

We are seeing more teens (and pre-teens) with true insomnia, anxiety and mood disorders than we ever did 15 years ago. A recent study about mobile phone use and teens has recently confirmed what I already thought to be true: Kids and teens with access to tablets and smartphones at bedtime sleep less and are sleepier during the day.

This review article looked at 20 previous studies which, when combined, covered more the 125,000 kids. The reviewers excluded studies that looked at TV or personal computer use. So this wasn’t about “screen time”. It was about the engagement of using a tablet or smartphone.

Texting vs Talking

With a good old-fashioned phone conversation, there is a beginning, a middle and an end. In the texting or social media world, conversations can keep going all night. And if you get up for a pee in the middle of the night? Check your phone for the time and 15 new notifications draw you right back in.

Add to that the fact that your teen can re-engage without disrupting anyone in the house. When we were kids, you would never phone a friend at 3AM–you’d wake the whole house up and there would be consequences for that!

How to Help Your Teens

So how do we help our teenagers? We can’t take the smartphones away – that would be tantamount to putting them on a desert island.  Connecting to their friends is VERY important to teens and is an important put of how they develop their autonomous and independent selves.

What we can do is help develop skills and boundaries around the use of these great tools of communication and connection.

  • Set a “finish” time. When I was a kid, phone use was done at 9PM. Why not set a time for conversations to be over with smartphones as well? This allows your teen to finish all their conversations. Their friends know that they are off-line at a certain time and there is no possibility of connecting.
  • Get the technology out of the bedroom. Bedrooms are made for sleeping and reading when you are a teenager. Screens, phones, homework, really anything that engages their brains should be left to other rooms of the house.
  • Practice not being connected. Just because you can connect – doesn’t mean you should. Go for a walk with your teen and leave the phone at home. Insist they get a weekend job, where using their phone is not allowed or not possible. Support their schools in no-phone policies in class.

Kids need to experience the joy of solitude, quiet and focus, but may not be able to choose that on their own…hence one more tip:

  • Model the behaviour you want to see. Practice improving your own sleep and device-free time, too! Remember, kids do as you do, not as you say…:)