Patient-Centered Care: How Our Well Woman Visit Was Born

Cervical cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in women aged 20-49, with peak incidence occurring age 40-50. This year, some 1300-1500 Canadian women will be diagnosed.

With proper screening, cervical cancer is a preventable disease, but of those who die from it this year, only about half will have had a recent pap test.

So why aren’t women getting paps?

Sometimes it’s because they don’t have a medical doctor, but mainly it’s because the process is uncomfortable. It’s easy to put off for another day. And another.

I spent years reminding patients that it was time for a visit to their doc for a “yearly” and many would put it off. I would offer to do the test myself, (ND’s are licensed in Ontario for pelvic and breast exams, and pap tests) but still there would be hesitation.

A year ago I sat down with some of the important women in my life and asked them this question:

What is it about the experience of your annual physical that you hate? Or, to put it more positively, what would you change about this experience that we all have to do, but don’t like to do?

Here are some of the comments I got:

“Do the sheets and gowns have to be paper?”

“Does everything have to be so cold?”

“There is never any easy way to ‘clean up’ and you leave the office feeling uncomfortable and looking for a washroom.”

“I’m worried that in the summer my feet might smell and it’s embarrassing.”

“Why does the light have to be so stark?”

“I wish I could get a copy of the results, not just ‘no news is good news’.”

Is this all that was standing between women and regular paps? Well-armed with some of the reasons why women were opting out or delaying paps, we set about creating a new “Well Woman” annual visit from the ground up.

The Well Women Visit at StoneTree Clinic was created around what patients actually needed and wanted. Your visit takes place in a softly lit room, with real linens and warm socks. All equipment used is warmed and lubricated, and at the end of your examination you receive a cup of hot raspberry leaf tea to soothe the uterus and calm the soul.

You should feel respected and comfortable…or as one woman said, “It’s never fun. But this is definitely as good as it gets!”

Discomfort is a lousy reason to avoid an annual exam. But it’s a reality. Spread the word to the women in your life: screening is important, and there are options to make it easier.

We offer Well Woman Days every few weeks – see our events page for details, call the clinic at 705-444-5331, or book online here.

A Different Dirty Dozen: Food Additives

Last year we posted about the Dirty Dozen of produce, and how to choose fresh foods with fewer pesticides. If you’re wondering about food additives and their effects on the body, trainer and lifestyle coach Sarah Heipel from Good Energy posted this helpful little article on Facebook that we thought might be of interest:

Remember that healthy eating doesn’t have to be a complicated science. The best way to avoid these additives is to eat less processed food. Michael Pollan said it best in his book, In Defense of Food: Eat food that nature makes, not too much, mostly plants!

Is Laughter The Best Medicine?

The CBC reported this week on a study in which they found women undergoing in vitro fertilization were more likely to have a successful pregnancy if they had an opportunity to have a good laugh right after implantation. You can find details here.

IVF isn’t the only way that laughter can help. It’s also been shown to increase immune function, decrease stress hormones and even decrease pain.

So, in the interest of good health, here’s a video to help get some laughter in your weekend.  Enjoy! (If you can’t view it, you can find it here: )

Mercury Amalgams: How Safe are Tooth Fillings?

We’ve known for years that dental amalgams deliver a daily dose of mercury to the body. In fact, mercury fillings are the single largest source of mercury exposure for the average Canadian. 1

The link between mercury from tooth fillings and actual health problems, though, has been the subject of much debate.

Health Canada has long recommended that dentists not use mercury amalgams in groups such as children, pregnant woman and people with kidney disorders, but the US has been slow to follow. Both Canada and the US still classify amalgams as medical devices not substances, which means they’re subject to less scrutiny.

In 2009, the FDA ruled mercury wasn’t harmful, but last month an FDA advisory panel urged them to reconsider. It would appear that the tide is slowly turning.

What About Your Fillings?

Having mercury amalgams doesn’t mean you have a health problem, but if you’re concerned about your fillings, we recommend a three step process:

  1. Test for elevated levels of mercury in the body
  2. Help remove the mercury through IV chelation, supplementation, and inhalation treatments
  3. Referral to a specialist for safe amalgam removal and replacement

To learn more about testing for mercury and other toxins, contact the office at 705-444-5331 to book a complimentary appointment.


An 11-Year-Old Shares His Food Wisdom

At the ripe old age of 11, Birke Baehr is planning a career as an organic farmer. In this TED talk, he gives us his thoughts on what’s wrong with our food system. This little dynamo made me smile for our future!

If you can’t see the video, you’ll find it at:

If you’d like to find and support local food, visit:

Happy healthy eating! – Tara

Is it REALLY old age?

This weekend my daughter Eve walked into the living room, stopped dead, looked around with a confused expression and said, “What I am doing in here?”

A moment later she smacked her forehead and said, “Oh, now I remember,” and carried on with her day.

Here’s what I find interesting: at the age of nine, it never crosses Eve’s mind that a brief blank moment means that her memory might be going. For her, it’s normal to occasionally forget. Yet many of my many of my patients and friends (and myself for that matter) might treat a similar situation as the onset of Alzheimer’s.

I hear the echoes of this in other comments:

  • “I’m too sore after exercise—my old joints can’t handle it any more.”
  • “I can’t stay out late. I’m too tired the next day.”
  • “My body just can’t handle it like it used to.”

No one escapes time, but are you really getting that old or do you just think you are? There’s much research to suggest that the mind ages the body, not just the other way around.

I’ve been listening to my younger patients and reading their posts on Facebook. What I hear is interesting: “Wow, I was sore for days after that workout,“ or, “It took me ages to recover from that party.” Like Eve, they’re experiencing the same aches, pains and memory gaps as their parents and grandparents. The difference is that they blame it on what they did the day before, not on the age of their bodies.

Something worth considering the next time you decide you’re too old: Is it your body or your thinking that’s changed?

Swine Flu and Vitamin C: 60 Minutes Documentary

A colleague sent me this story from 60 Minutes New Zealand.  It’s a 17-minute video about a family who used high dose vitamin C when their father was dying of swine flu. Interesting video, if you have a few minutes. Plus, when do you get hear a 60 Minutes-style documentary with a Kiwi accent? 🙂



Living Proof: Vitamin C – Miracle Cure?

Ear Infections: Does Your Child Need Antibiotics?

A study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that antibiotics have little effect on childhood ear infections. You can read an overview on CNN.

The gist is this: most kids will recover from their ear infection at the same rate with OR without antibiotics, simply by providing pain relief. That helps avoid antibiotics side effects like rashes and diarrhea.

A Naturopathic Approach

Ear aches are a complaint we see a LOT in the clinic, and for good reason – if you’ve had an ear infection you know how painful it is. That pain is caused by pressure on the ear drum.

One naturopathic approach is to use a castor oil pack (see below), drink lots of fluids and get your child to move. Gentle exercise moves the lymph, increases circulation and may help the ear drain.

New pediatric guidelines will likely recommend pain relief instead of antibiotics, depending on the case.  JAMA also has some guidelines for knowing when an antibiotic is in order. When in doubt, see your health care provider!

How To Use A Castor Oil Pack

Our last patient newsletter included this tip – we thought we’d share it here.

Castor oil moves the lymph, strengthens the immune system and has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. It can be easily used by almost anyone, anytime. (If you’re pregnant, using a castor oil pack on your abdomen is not recommended unless you are trying to get a little one out who has overstayed their welcome.)

What you’ll need:

  • A bottle of castor oil, NOT cod liver oil. Castor oil can be bought in any drug store or health food store
  • A clean dye-free cloth
  • A heating pad (those bean bags you heat in the microwave are great)
  • A comfy place to sit or lay for 15-30 minutes

Sore throat?
Apply castor oil liberally to your neck, cover with a clean cloth. Apply a gentle heating pad and let it sit there for 30 minutes.

A little one with an ear ache?
Apply around ear and all down the neck of the affected side. Cover with a clean cloth and apply gentle heat for 15-30 minutes.

A tummy ache?
Apply castor oil to abdomen, cover with clean cloth and apply gentle heat for 30 minutes.

Castor oil can be applied to any area that is feeling congested and full of inflammation. Do twice a day for a couple of days – although sometimes once is all that’s required!

Diabetic-Friendly: Steel Cut Oats and Chocolate Pudding

Lia’s diabetes talk in Clarksburg / Thornbury last night was a big success – thanks to everyone who came out. For those of you looking for the recipes for the delicious goodies she brought along, here you go!

Steel Cut Oats6 servings (approx 40g complex carbohydrate / serving)

  • 300g Steel cut oats
  • 1L water
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pure organic vanilla
  • 2 bananas mushed
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds)
  • 1/4 cup Goji berries

Boil steel cut oats in water with cinnamon on medium temperature until cooked (20 min). Remove from burner and add the rest of the ingredients… Enjoy!

Chocolate Avocado Pudding4 servings (9g carbohydrate w maple syrup version)

  • 2 small-med sized ripe avocados
  • 1 banana
  • 1-2 TBSP maple syrup (depends on taste) or use a packet of Stevia to get rid of 20g of sugar calories
  • 3 TBSP organic cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp pure organic vanilla
  • 1-2 TBSP water or almond milk

Put all things into a blender and blend on high speed, scraping down the sides in between. Should come to a creamy delicious consistency.

This is a great therapeutic food for a diabetic, especially with the Stevia conversion. Avocado and banana supply much needed potassium for the diabetic, and pure cocoa improves glucose balancing throughout the day. Also hyperallergenic!

Is Your Health a Problem or a Constraint?

One of my favourite bloggers is Seth Godin. Recently, he wrote about the difference between a problem and a constraint.

Here is his definition of the two: “A problem is solvable. A constraint must be lived with.”

Seth is a business writer, but the insight can be applied just as readily to health. Many of today’s chronic health problems are being billed by conventional medicine and the media as constraints – something we have to live with, instead of solve.

When we say, “It’s in my genes,” we’re looking at health through the lens of constraints. When we say, “There’s nothing I can do about my high blood pressure/high cholesterol/Type II diabetes,” we’re seeing more constraints – diseases, conditions and labels that have to be “lived with” and managed.

But research and experience is telling us a different story: many of our so-called “diseases” aren’t constraints. They’re just problems. They’re the result of poor diet, sedentary lifestyles and chronic stress.

And those are things we can fix.

When you see a health concern as a problem, not a constraint, it means that YOU can solve it. That’s empowering stuff.