The Math of Habit Change

The start of a new year marks a new beginning–it’s a compelling time to make a change for the better. Of course, those changes can be easy to promise but tough to deliver. Now, as mid-January approaches, many of us are finding our resolutions put to the real test!

Interestingly, resolutions often take the form of what you might think of as subtraction—things like cutting out sugar, curbing spending, or reducing screen time.

On the surface, this makes sense. Why not cut out the “bad stuff”? We seem to have an innate knack for demonizing things, and it’s only natural to want to get rid of the things we see as negative.

The problem with subtraction, however, is that it’s hard–particularly when it comes to ingrained behaviours like eating and drinking. Habits are essentially stored in the brain as neural connections, and that makes them easy to repeat, but difficult to eliminate. And habits that give us pleasure of some sort, like eating, shopping or screen-bingeing, are particularly difficult to break; when we don’t do them, our body’s neurochemistry prompts us to fire them back up again.

That doesn’t mean you can’t kick a bad habit. Not at all. But it might be worth considering whether adding might be more effective than subtracting in getting the job done.

For example:

  • If you commit to and focus on eating 8 serving of veggies a day, your belly might be so full of fibre that you aren’t really thinking so much about the chocolate bar.
  • If you commit to and focus on saving $5 a day in a jar, you might start to feel excited about your growing vacation savings instead of struggling with feelings of denial over the caramel macchiato.
  • If you commit to and focus on going for a 30-minute walk each day, that half-hour might just replace some of the time sitting on the couch watching Netflix.

Is this a magic bullet for change? Not at all. But if you find you’re struggling with your resolutions now the new year is really underway, it might be worth asking yourself whether addition might deliver better results than subtraction.

Gratitude and 2018

Last year was a big one for StoneTree Clinic. Our team and our patient community grew a lot! Here are a few highlights from 2018:

  • One new naturopathic doctorDr. Bronwyn Hill, ND. She started her ND career as a volunteer student over a decade ago, helping out Dr. Shelby and me when we were practicing over on Erie Street. She graduated from the Canadian College of medicine five years ago (she and Dr. Maggie were classmates) and after a few years in the city, she decided to make the move up north. We couldn’t be happier.
  • With well over 2200 IV’s being done in 2018 we needed some help, and added two new faces in the IV suite:
    • Sahar El Awady (Dr. Ehab’s wife). She brings both her history as an anesthesiologist in Eygpt, and real passion for patient care. She started in the IV suite this fall and is eagerly learning the naturopathic approach to health care.
    • Deb Chatwin, nursing assistant extraordinaire. You will see her as Angela’s right hand this January, learning the ropes and helping out.
  • One new face behind the front deskBridget McMaster joined us this summer as a student intern and we get to keep her until she heads off the Naturopathic College in the fall of 2019.
  • Three maternity leaves, which added 3 new babies to the STC family!
    • Dr. Kendra welcomed Rowan into her family in April of this year. She is now back to work and reconnecting with her patients and we get to snuggle with Rowan during case conference every week.
    • Dr. Maggie and her family welcomed a daughter, Rose into her family in October and Dr. Candice welcomed her son, Owen into the world just in time for Christmas this December. Both moms will be back to patient care in the late spring. Dr. Bronwyn is looking after their patients and loving it.

And most importantly….

  • Over 800 new patients came to the clinic for the first time! That means that in January we’ll kick off the new year by welcoming our 7,000th new patient! As always, we’re grateful for your trust in us and feel truly privileged to be a part of your health journey.

Thanks to all of you for a great year, and for growing with us as we find our way. As always, if there’s any way we can serve you better, let us know.

From the team at StoneTree Clinic, we wish you all a healthy and happy 2019!

It’s Even Easier to Use your Extended Benefits Before 2019

It’s easy to forget about your health–especially if your body hasn’t yet decided to remind you. And it’s particularly easy at this time of year when you’re running around dealing with holiday commitments and other stressors.

But now might be the most important time of year to remember to support your immune system and shore up your stress hormones.

This time of year we usually do a shout out to our patients to ensure they are:

  1. Taking care of themselves during the stressful holiday season
  2. Maximizing the use of their extended benefits package before the calendar turns over 

This year, STC has made it even easier for our patients to take care of themselves and use up the extended benefits they are entitled to – especially in times when cash flow is tight. We now offer direct billing to extended benefit insurance companies.

Simply bring in your policy card and let the front desk know you want to direct bill–they’ll do their best to get it done for you!

What Dr. Tara Learned at Convention

I was recently at a naturopathic convention, and one of the speakers put up a slide that I thought was worth sharing:

 

YOU CAN’T OUT-SUPPLEMENT A SHI**Y DIET AND LIFESTYLE

 

This may not be the news you want to hear as we head into the holiday season, but…it’s the truth. In almost every lecture at the three-day conference, which covered health issues from heart disease to cancer to infertility, all roads invariably led back to one problem: too much inflammation.

There are many great supplements, backed by lots of research, that help the body deal with inflammation – curcumin, fish oils, berberine, bio-flavanoids, olive oil. The list is long.

But taking a mitt-full of these supplements doesn’t help if you are living a standard North American lifestyle. Too much sugar, not enough greens. Too much stress, not enough sleep. Too much sitting, not enough movement. Too much screen time, not enough people time. It’s a perfect storm for making inflammation.

The basics are the most important, and the prescription is the same for everyone.

Eat generous helpings of produce every day. One easy way to get started is a daily green smoothie. There are recipes abound. Here is my current favourite:

  •  ½ frozen banana
  • 1 peeled orange
  •  1 handful curly kale
  •  1 handful spinach
  •  1 cup almond or coconut milk
  •  1 scoop isolated whey protein

Commit to getting into bed earlier. NO TV in the bedroom. Read, journal, meditate or…. but no TV!!!

Move every day. Yes, every day! Everyone has a few minutes. Get outside at lunchtime. Meet a friend after work or in the morning. It’s a kind of miracle.

Turn off the TV, the computer, the iPad and TALK TO A PERSON. Commit to eating as a family. If you’re living on your own, start up a weekly dinner group.

You can spend a fortune on supplements, but just remember: they won’t make up for not taking care of yourself.

Our Favourite Health Tips

I often get comments about how healthy everyone looks here at the clinic. And considering we work with sick people all day, it’s amazing that we rarely if ever get sick.

Part of our job is certainly to walk the talk. We take our own advice and our own medicine, and we work hard to stay healthy. I thought it might be interesting to dive into that, so recently I asked the StoneTree team for their favourite health tips. I hope you find a few here that resonate with you!

 – Dr. Tara

 

“I keep a gratitude journal and try to make entries in it regularly. It helps me stay positive and appreciate the little things in life. My goal is to write down 3 things that happened in the day that I am grateful for. I can’t say I remember to do it every single day, but the more I do it the better I feel. I think I started this after reading Brené Brown’s work showing that the most joyful people are those who actively practice gratitude.”

–Dr. Candice


“The most important thing I do for optimal health is moving my body every day–exercise always improves my mood, attention and overall health. Throughout the week I will change up my physical activity so it doesn’t get boring or repetitive. This is something I have done for a while as I would find myself unmotivated and bored after going to the gym every day and almost dreading it. One night will be a high-intensity workout at the gym, one night a yoga class at a studio in town, another night a spin class, another night a Zumba video at home or an at-home circuit, one day I might swim and the next I might go for a walk or hike. This way of exercise keeps me motivated and excited, there is so much you can do with your body to keep you engaged!”

–Bridget


“To anyone who knows me this is going to be repetitive, but GREEN SMOOTHIE EVERY SINGLE MORNING.

I have been religious about this for the better part of a decade. It covers at least 3 to 4 servings of vegetables and fruit right out of the gate, gives me an energy boost, and all the fibre keeps my digestive tract happy and regular.

Without my smoothie, I would have a hard time reaching my vegetable servings for the day (my goal is 6 servings of veg). Each morning we blend up a big batch in our Vitamix and everyone gets one, including our toddler, he loves it!

Here’s the key: at least HALF of the blender should be greens ex. Spinach/kale/zucchini etc.”

–Dr. Kendra


“I take my T3 pills every morning which is the most important thing for my health!”

–Dr. Harry


“Being balanced is important for me. This means having some quiet time to balance stress, getting things done but having time to enjoy family and friends, eating right but also enjoying “splurge’ foods. Balance in all aspects of my life is key for me to be happy and healthy.”

–Lisa


We saw a facebook message once that stated, “children need 8 snuggles throughout the day”. My morning routine is big squeezes/hugs/kisses with my boys when they wake up. As they get older this is somewhat of a challenge–some days we are doing tons of extra hugs at the end of the day to even get that. So making sure my morning always starts with physical snuggles helps.”

-Angela


“I prioritize good quality sleep. I know this can be a challenge with babies, children, and life in general, but optimizing whatever amount of sleep you do get is so foundational for health. I turn off the screens at least an hour before bedtime, take my magnesium, have an Epsom salt bath, and then it’s off to dream-land. Having a routine is very helpful!”

–Dr. Bronwyn


“Since I changed my career from the medical and radiation oncology profession to Naturopathic Medicine, I changed my whole life. I keep my clear water intake to 3 litres every day, eating a lot of cabbage and broccoli, giving up the bread and pasta (most of the time). I feel much better, with high energy and focus. Even my sleep gets better.”

–Dr. Ehab


“Starting my day out with a green smoothie gets me going. I’ve been doing it every day for 8 years.”

–Julie


“I start my day with a 30 min walk up a hill with my husband. This gets me outside for fresh air and sunshine, it gets me my cardiovascular exercise AND weight-bearing because I am lugging my body uphill, and it gets me connected to my best guy every day.”

–Dr. Tara.


“I am not a very good water drinker, so to stay on top of my hydration I have 3 strategies that I do daily:

1) I bring a water bottle with me every time I leave the house

2) I keep a jug of water and a glass on my desk at work with a sign that says ‘drink me’

3) I bring a glass of water to bed with me every night. Whatever I don’t drink before bed/throughout the night I make sure I drink in the morning when I get up.

By sticking to these strategies every day I am guaranteed to drink more water than my body would ‘naturally’. It’s amazing what staying on top of my hydration has done for my energy, my mood, my concentration and my ability to distinguish hunger from thirst.”

–Dr. Maggie


“Packing a good lunch for work. Whether it’s leftovers from dinner, or a medley of what I find in the fridge (today it was layers of napa cabbage, tahini sauce, adzuki beans, spicy salad mix, roasted beets, kimchi, avocado, chipotle flakes), or simply running out the door with an avocado (knowing I have a can of quinoa & black bean chili in my locker for emergencies)… I am prepared. Eating a good lunch leads to making better choices when it comes time for dinner.”

–Dr. Shelby


“My favourite advice or health hack would have to be to ‘Sweat More’! Even though “you are what you eat”, the times I have felt the greatest in my life are those when I have been working out and SWEATING regularly.

Strength training has been shown to improve muscle strength, bone density, metabolic rate, cognitive function and reduce the potential for functional decline. In combination with cardiovascular workout activity, it can improve muscle tone, lung capacity, and cardiovascular health. All of this resulting in less risk of metabolic syndrome, inflammatory processes, peri-menopausal symptoms, and improved insulin sensitivity. The SWEAT that comes along with activity is a wonderful pathway of detoxification for the body – after all our skin is our largest organ. So to all our clients … I say “SWEAT MORE” and try to welcome every drop of it.”

–Lori Prest, RN

Lavender: Reduced Anxiety with No Side-Effects

Lavender has long history of use for its calming effect. Anxiety, insomnia, restlessness—they’re all challenges that can often be helped with lavender.

In 2014, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at the impact of the orally administered lavender oil preparation Silexan.

The study divided 539 adults into four groups.

  • A placebo group
  • A paroxetine group (a prescription anti-depressant, commonly known as Paxil)
  • An 80mg dose lavender group
  • A 160mg dose lavender group

The study measured results using the Hamilton Anxiety Scale before and after.

Great Results, No Side-Effects

After ten weeks of treatment, there was a reduction in anxiety in all groups, but lavender was the clear winner:

  • 63.3% in the lavender 160mg group
  • 51.9% in the lavender 80mg group
  • 43.2% in the paroxetine group
  • 37.8% in the placebo group

The best part? Unlike Paxil, which has many demonstrated side-effects, the lavender had none.

Another study comparing lavender to lorazepam showed similar results, and at the end of the trial, the remission rates were higher for the lavender group (40% for lavender, versus 27% for lorazepam).

A great, research-backed win for lavender!

If you’d like more information on the safe and effective use of lavender, contact the clinic.

Functional Hypothyroidism: When Normal Isn’t Normal

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that’s responsible for secreting a critical hormone called triiodothyronine or “T3”.

T3 is the active form of the thyroid hormone. It’s the body’s “accelerator,” regulating body temperature, heart rate, body weight, and glucose/cholesterol management. T3 is essentially responsible for controlling cell metabolism in every cell in your body, promoting optimal growth, function, and maintenance of all body tissues.

Needless to say, it’s a pretty important hormone.

Enter rT3, the Evil Twin

Your body also has reverse T3 (rT3), T3’s evil twin. This pesky hormone is a mirror image of T3. It can attach itself to T3 receptors, but because it’s shape is different, it doesn’t fit properly and fails to activate them. In doing so, it blocks T3 from plugging-in, thus inactivating the accelerator.

Under normal circumstances, your body produces about 60% T3 and 40% rT3. That means the rT3 is “outgunned” and things work as they’re supposed to.

Here’s the catch: Reverse T3 production increases in direct response to stress of any kind. Cortisol, the stress hormone, effectively inhibits our ability to produce T3 AND promotes the production of rT3– a double whammy. Under high, prolonged stress, so much rT3 is produced that it blocks almost all of the T3 receptors and normal T3 is completely, or almost completely, inactivated.

What happens now? You get all the symptoms of hypothyroidism (low thyroid function):

  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Puffy face
  • Hoarseness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches and pain
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Slower heart rate
  • Depressed mood
  • Impaired memory

Here’s the critical part. Conventional medical approaches typically don’t measure T3 and rT3 levels, so your lab tests for related hormones like TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and T4 (the “raw material” from which T3 and rT3 are made) can look normal.

The Solution

Most medical doctors do not recognize rT3 dominance theory or functional hypothyroidism, and will not prescribe T3. Conventional medicine only recognizes thyroid gland deficiency.

This isn’t a thyroid gland deficiency. It’s an imbalance of T3 to rT3, most often caused by prolonged stress. This is easily treated with stress management and a prescription for T3.

Questions about your thyroid or any of the symptoms above? You can have your rT3 and T3 levels measured by contacting the clinic.

Dr. Kendra is Back November 5th!

Dr. Kendra is back in the house on November 5th. She is already booking up fast!

Her hours this fall/winter are:

  • Monday 2-6
  • Tuesdays 9-5
  • Thursdays 10-1

A big welcome to baby Rowan! We are all so excited to have another baby in the StoneTree Clinic family.:)

You can book an appointment with Dr. Kendra here, or by calling 705-444-5331.

Food as Medicine: Moonshine Mama’s Turmeric Elixir

Turmeric has received a lot of coverage in health media of late, and for good reason. The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has been shown in studies to be useful for a wide variety of health concerns, from inflammation, arthritis, and mood to heart disease and even cancer.

The trick is getting enough in you in the right form to make a difference.

To get the benefit of the active ingredient in turmeric, the supplement companies extract the curcumin out of the root using ethanol. They then package the curcumin in fats to increase absorption.

However, if you want to do it the old-fashioned way, you can add turmeric to coconut oil with some black pepper, and heat it up. This releases the curcumin and increases the absorption of it.

The maker of Moonshine Mama has a personal reason for its development–she was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer.  During exhaustive research, she kept finding four foods that were consistently connected with good outcomes for cancer patients: ginger, lemon, honey, and turmeric.

She wanted an easy and delicious way to get this into her diet every day, and voila, the Moonshine Mama’s Elixirs & Tonics brand was born. They are available in many locations around the Collingwood – Press Market, Wild Stand, Farm to Table Market and, of course, here at StoneTree.

Wanna try one? Come into the clinic and sample one of the 4 delicious flavours we have in the fridge!

5 Ways to Support Breast Health

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, an estimated 26,300 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. This represents 25% of all new cancer cases in women in 2017. The same year, 5,000 women died from breast cancer. This represents 13% of all cancer deaths in women in 2017.

The number of women and families impacted is enormous.

In that spirit of prevention, we wanted to focus on the most important things you are can do to prevent breast cancer before it begins.

1. Make time for regular exercise

Adopt an active lifestyle. Aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate aerobic activity at least five days per week. The average risk reduction when comparing the highest versus lowest levels of physical activity is 25%. <source>

2. Minimize or avoid alcohol

Alcohol is one of the most well-established dietary risk factors for breast cancer. Women who consume more than two glasses of alcohol a day are at higher risk. <source>

3. Eat more veggies

Consume more cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower), dark leafy greens, carrots, tomatoes, citrus fruits, berries, and cherries. Cruciferous veggies help the body detoxify excess estrogens and chemicals that are associated with increased breast cancer risk. <source>

4. Maintain a healthy body weight

If you can consistently connecting to the three lifestyle factors above, then you’ll have a much better chance of maintaining a healthy body weight. Plenty of moderate exercise, a plant-based diet, and avoidance of alcohol is usually a slam-dunk in this area.

Maintain a BMI less than 23 throughout your life. Weight gain and obesity may increase your risk of breast cancer. <source>

What does a BMI of 23 mean? Here’s how to calculate yours. This way of evaluating weight isn’t perfect–it doesn’t take into account body composition or structure–but it is a place to begin evaluating if weight loss is an area you need to focus on.

5. Quit smoking

The risk of breast cancer (and many others) increases if you smoke. Smoking is associated with a modest but significant increased risk of breast cancer, particularly among women who started smoking at adolescent or peri-menarcheal ages. The relative risk of breast cancer associated with smoking was greater for women with a family history of the disease. <source>