Does One Thing Matter?

Whatever we are not changing we are choosing.
–Laurie Buchanan

This is a powerful quote in a health care context. The evidence shows over and over again that the quality of our health is directly linked to our lifestyle choices.

  • What we put into our bodies. Consume junk food or whole food? Water or soda pop? Chemicals or organics?
  • What we do with our bodies. Exercise or watch TV? Get outside in the sun or stay in? Stretch or sit? Drive or walk?
  • What we think with our minds. Feel gratitude or envy? Hope or despair? Love or resentment?

But change is hard. Our habits can feel like they are static and unchangeable. Yet they aren’t–we CAN choose something different. We CAN change. It happens every day. It might be difficult but it is possible, and it starts with one decision to do something different, no matter how small. Just think:

  • You can decide today to stop smoking one cigarette.
  • You can decide today to go for a one-minute walk outside.
  • You can decide today to eat just one green thing.
  • You can decide today to talk to one friend. 
  • You can decide to think one positive thought, no matter how small. 

Yes, it’s just one thing. But one is so much more than none. One is a first step. One is a change. One is a choice. Maybe, hopefully, one of many. But it all starts with one.

SIBO: What Is It and Could You Have It?

Tummy troubles are one of the most common complaints that naturopathic doctors deal with. Usually, we have great success–if we can help a patient get to the bottom of food intolerances, rebalance their flora, or deal with stress, then tummy troubles like IBS can become a thing of the past. 

But when our usual magic doesn’t clear things up in 8-12 weeks, we start to think that a patient might be dealing with SIBO.

What is SIBO? 

SIBO is the acronym for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. In this syndrome, bacteria that normally grows in other parts of the gut start growing in the small intestine where they shouldn’t be. The result is symptoms such as pain in the stomach, especially after eating, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, a regular feeling of fullness, gas and weight loss.

If the SIBO is long-standing, the bacteria can start to use up the body’s nutrients, leading to malnutrition and more global symptoms of fatigue and malaise.  

What causes SIBO? 

In some cases, SIBO it the result of the bowel’s anatomy and physiology not working probably. There could be an adhesion or stricture in the bowel, so the muscular activity of the intestines breaks down and the food and bacteria aren’t moving through properly. The pH of the intestine could be off resulting in the wrong bacteria growing in the wrong place. The immune system can be out of balance causing bacteria to grow where they shouldn’t.  

How do you know you have SIBO?

The wrong bacteria in the small intestine release hydrogen and methane gas. This can be measured by a breath test, where breath samples are taken over a period of time to measure the gasses.

If SIBO is indicated, we then use a three-pronged treatment plan designed to eradicate the bad bacteria, heal the gut lining, and feed the good bacteria!

If you’d like to learn more about SIBO or other digestive challenges, or get more information on SIBO testing, contact us or book a complimentary meet-the-doctor visit online.

Lyme Disease: What You Need to Know

With the incidence of Lyme disease climbing in Ontario, and in Simcoe County specifically, we’re getting more and more questions at the clinic about what people can do to keep their families and themselves safe. 

Here are answers to some of the most common questions, as well as info on a new tick removal kit we have available in the clinic.

What is Lyme disease? 

Lyme disease is a disease caused by the bacteria borrelia burgdorferi. It is spread to humans through the bite of an infected deer tick. 

Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, fatigue, and a skin rash, especially one that looks like a red bull’s eye (called erythema migrans). Although rashes are fairly common, only 30% of Lyme patients report experiencing a rash, and only 9% develop the classic “bull’s eye” rash.

How do you test for it? 

Lyme testing is tricky. Testing used in conventional medicine in Ontario commonly shows false negative results, especially in the early stages of the disease.  

There are two reasons for this. First, it takes time for antibodies to develop in the blood (between ten days and a month) so the early tests can miss the diagnosis. Also, Lyme is known for antigenic shifting, meaning the antibodies change, so antibody testing isn’t always effective.

Some international labs, like this one which we use, will do in-depth testing that is more accurate but is not covered by OHIP.  

Is it treatable? 

Lyme disease is treatable. However if the infection is not treated in its early stages it can easily turn into a chronic infection. 

Chronic Lyme disease will not go away on its own over time. There is no evidence to suggest Lyme disease clears the body without treatment. In fact, the opposite research exists.

There are two persistent myths surrounding chronic Lyme disease that affect its treatment. The first is that it doesn’t exist. The second is that there’s no reason to treat chronic Lyme disease since people don’t get much better.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most people can return to work and carry on with few limitations on their lifestyle. Lyme disease remains one of the most treatable of chronic illnesses.

What do I do if I find a tick on my body?

You can remove an embedded tick yourself, but it is a lot easier with the right tools, and something to keep it in for analysis. We now carry a tick removal kit at the clinic. It’s a great item for your first-aid kit, glove box, backpack, or purse, etc.

The kit includes tick identification cards, 3 styles of tick removers (ie, if tick is in your ear or a pet’s ear a different tick remover size and style are required), magnifying glass, containers to put ticks into, instructions for proper tick removal and identification, and a container to save the tick in. 

Available online, or at the clinic! 

Tips for Surviving the Summer Heat

Canadians don’t deal well with sustained heat and humidity. Sure, the odd day or two of over 30 gives us something to complain about, because we love to complain about the weather. But day after day of +30C with high humidex? That’s something we don’t adapt to very well.  

Many people around the planet, however, do effectively live in and deal with these high temperatures all the time. Here’s what we can borrow from their experience.  

Slow down. It’s often cold in Canada, so rushing from one thing to another in our day is not only possible, but it also helps keep us warm by generating body heat. That’s the last thing you want to do in high heat and humidity environments. Moving slowly decreases the heat you are generating and keeps your core temperatures down. 

Avoid activity in the heat of the day. In the tropics, the most productive times of the day or in the early morning and late after. Minimize activity and movement when possible. The middle of the day is for finding shade and rest. 

Stay hydrated. This isn’t just about water. Many cultures who live in hot climates have traditional beverages that help manage hydration. Coconut water, cold teas, like yerba mate in South America, lime juice, and water. Drinks like these are refreshing and contain electrolytes as well as water.  

What happens when you don’t manage heat well? You run the risk of heatstroke, also known as sunstroke–a type of severe heat illness that results in a body temperature greater than 40.0 °C (104.0 °F).

Symptoms of heatstroke include:  

  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Lack of sweating despite the heat
  • Red, hot, and dry skin
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
  • Rapid, shallow breathing

What to do about it: 

  • Get to a shady or air-conditioned place
  • Cool off with damp sheets and a fan
  • Take a cool shower or bath
  • Rehydrate (with NON-sugary beverages)

If you don’t feel better in 30 minutes, it’s off to the doctor with you! You may need IV fluids.  

Two Delicious Ways to Drink More Water

Up to 60% of your body is water—just good old H20. The amount varies depending on location. The brain and heart, for example, are composed of 73% water. The lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, while your muscles and kidneys are 79%. Even your bones are a surprisingly juicy 31%!

It’s no surprise, then, that being dehydrated isn’t good for you. To avoid that, drinking 8 cups of water per day is a good rule of thumb and easy to remember. To adjust for body size, our recommendation is usually to drink one half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces of water per day–that’s the equivalent of 10 cups. 

Why We Struggle to Drink Water

Of course, knowing how much is only part of the challenge. There are two issues that frequently come up with our patients who are chronically under-hydrated.

The first is that they simply aren’t thirsty. But symptoms can show up differently in different people. For example, you might not be thirsty, but you might still experience any of the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Tired or sleepy
  • Decreased urine output
  • Urine is low volume and more yellowish than normal
  • Headache
  • Dry skin
  • Dizziness

In other words, you can be low on hydration, but not experience “thirst”.

The second reason is that many people find water boring, and so they look to flavoured and sugared drinks to make things more interesting. Those are generally bad choices.

Our solution to both these challenges is to make sure you have something delicious and healthy at hand. Here are a couple of our favourite alternatives!

1. Infused Water

Here at the clinic, we love to have infused water around. A few added fruits and herbs can give plain old water a delicious boost! Some of our favourites are: 

  • Lemon, cucumber, and thyme 
  • Strawberry, basil, and lemon
  • Apple and cinnamon sticks 
  • Grapefruit and rosemary 
  • Lavender and Strawberry 
  • Lime and Mint 
  • Watermelon and Mint
  • Orange and blueberry 
  • Raspberry and Lemon 

2. Homemade Herbal Iced Tea

Another delicious way is to make a homemade iced herbal tea. It takes just minutes!

  • Take a herbal tea of your choice.  
  • Put 2 bags in a one-litre mason jar.
  • Pour boiling water over bags to half fill jar.  
  • Steep for 15 mins at least. Remove bags. 
  • Add honey if desired.
  • Fill the jar with ice.

And enjoy!

Eid al-Fitr: The Festival of Breaking the Fast

The month of Ramadan is the holiest time of the Muslim year. For those who observe it, Ramadan is a time of intense spiritual renewal, when Muslims follow strict rules and participate in pious activities like charity and peacemaking. Perhaps the best-known aspect of Ramadan is fasting; for 30 days, practicing Muslims don’t eat or drink during daylight hours. 

The end of Ramadan, as you might expect, is also a big deal, and it begins with the three-day celebration of Eid al-Fitr—the festival of breaking the fast.

Charity to the poor is an important value in Islam. A few days before the festival, Muslim families give a specific donation to the needy to ensure every Muslim can have a hearty meal and celebrate the day fully. 

In many countries with large Muslim populations, Eid al-Fitr is a national holiday. Schools, offices, and businesses are closed so family, friends, and neighbors can celebrate together. In the U.S. and the U.K., Muslims may request to have the day off from school or work to travel or celebrate with family and friends.

In countries like Egypt and Pakistan, Muslims decorate their homes with lanterns, twinkling lights or flowers. Special food is prepared and friends and family are invited over to celebrate.

The date of Eid al-Fitr is always the same in the Islamic calendar, but in the Gregorian calendar, it changes from year to year. This year, the festival of breaking the fast began on June 4 and ends today, June 7. Interestingly, Eid al-Fitr doesn’t technically begin until the new moon appears in the sky, which means that across the world, celebrations can start at different times depending on location.

Regardless of timing, however, the intention is the same: to celebrate, to be charitable, and to be together.

As you begin this weekend, think of Eid al-Fitr. Eat together, and try to give something to those who can’t!

Naturopathic Medicine Month – Week 4: Cancer Care & Connection

It’s our last week of Naturopathic Medicine Month–we’ve had a great time answering your questions and busting myths!

Just because the month is over doesn’t mean we don’t want to continue to answer your questions. We’re always open to hearing from you. If you have a question or are wondering if Naturopathic Medicine has a solution for you, drop us a line or book a 15-minute complimentary “meet-the-doctor” visit.  

Myth: “Naturopathic doctors undergo little training”

Many people believe that becoming a Naturopathic Doctor requires little to no training, especially compared with conventional Medical Doctors. The belief that you can take an online course, or read a few books and call yourself a Naturopathic Doctor couldn’t be farther from the truth. As one of the 25 regulated health professions in Ontario, Naturopathic Doctors have access to seven “controlled acts”. Only four regulated health professions have more.  

After completing pre-medical sciences in university, Naturopathic  Doctors, attend a four-year, full-time accredited naturopathic medical school. During those four years, they gain a thorough knowledge of biomedical sciences by taking anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, physical clinical diagnosis, and pharmacology courses, as well as learning the naturopathic modalities such as herbal medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, and physical medicine. Students also complete supervised internships, gaining practical experience with patients.  

In Ontario, an ND must then also obtain a license by first passing board exams, both written and practical and acquiring malpractice insurance.  

The College of Naturopaths of Ontario registers eligible naturopathic doctors, and ensures they maintain continuing education requirements and adhere to professional standards of practice.  

FAQ: “Can I see a Medical Doctor AND a Naturopathic Doctor at the same time?”

You bet! 

In fact, research has shown that those patients receiving naturopathic care alongside conventional care do better than those receiving conventional care only.  

For best outcomes, patients want both MDs and NDs on their teams. MDs are experts in how to diagnose and manage disease and pathology. NDs are experts in the healthy function of your body. When a patient has a plan to optimize their health along with managing their disease they can’t help but win. 

Solution: Caring for Patients with Cancer

A cancer diagnosis can be one of the most frightening events in life. Naturopathic Doctors who work with cancer patients help them navigate through this very stressful and confusing time, and empower them to make an overall plan for their health as they engage with their conventional treatment plan.  

With these patients, the focus is on helping to:

  1. Decrease the side-effects of conventional cancer treatments
  2. Improve the nutritional status of patients before, during, and after conventional treatment
  3. Support the patient’s immune system to avoid additional illness
  4. Increase the effectiveness of conventional treatments
  5. Improve overall health in an attempt to prevent the spread or recurrence of cancer
  6. Support the body’s ability to better heal itself

Dr. Ehab Mohammad, ND practiced oncology as a medical doctor for over 20 years before becoming a naturopathic doctor. Here at StoneTree, he works exclusively with patients who have received a cancer diagnosis. By applying the best evidence and understanding how conventional and complementary therapies work together he helps patients come up for the best plan of management.  

Healthy Living Tip: Connection 

Humans are pack animals. We need social connection to thrive, not just air, food, and water.   

Recent studies on loneliness suggest that being lonely for a prolonged period is more harmful to your health than smoking 15 cigarettes per day! Beyond causing heightened rates of depression, anxiety, and irritability, loneliness is now being associated with potentially life-shortening health issues such as higher blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.

More and more Canadians are now living alone–some 28 percent of households, according to recent numbers by Statistics Canada, which also reports that one in five Canadians identifies as being lonely. 

Living along and being lonely also means eating alone too, and that’s unfortunate–eating together is one of the great secrets of health and wellness. Eating together usually results in eating better food, eating it more slowly, which usually means eating less of it, too!

Eat together!

Naturopathic Medicine Month Continues! Lab Tests, and Healthy Eating Made Simple

Naturopathic Medicine Month – Week #3

Here we are in our third of four weeks spreading the word about Naturopathic Medicine. As with our last two posts, we have a myth, an FAQ, a solution, and a tip!

Myth Buster: “Naturopathic Doctors put everyone on a restrictive diet.”

It’s true that all Naturopathic Doctors believe that food matters when it comes to your health.  

Most modern, chronic disease is strongly linked to poor diet, sedentary lifestyles, and smoking.  The evidence in the medical literature is overwhelming. So, with that in mind, just about every visit you have with an ND is likely to touch on what you eat. 

That can take a number of different forms. It might be dealing with inflammatory foods through food intolerance testing, or simply changing a diet high in “food-like substances” to one high in actual food.  

That doesn’t, however, mean that everyone needs to be gluten-free, or dairy-free, or vegan, or paleo, or keto, or whatever the latest sexy diet plan is.  

Each individual is different, and the diet that works for each person is also different. Getting to the root of that for each person is a cornerstone of naturopathic medicine.  

We have written many blog posts about nutrition that touch on our philosophy–here are a couple from the archives:

FAQ: “Can Naturopathic Doctors order lab tests?”  

Just like MD’s, Naturopathic Doctors can and do order labs tests.  There are, however, a couple of key differences: 

  • OHIP does NOT cover lab tests ordered by ND’s. The upside is that patients pay for their own labs, they get to have more control of their testing which keeps them in the driver’s seat for their health.    
  • ND’s look at labs differently. Although ND’s are trained to recognize abnormal labs, we are most interested in determining if there is a functional problem or pre-disease marker in lab results. Diabetes, for example, shows up as PRE-diabetes long before diabetes shows up. Staying on top of labs and dealing with problems ahead of time is true preventative medicine. 

Solution: Hormones!

Imbalances in hormones might be the single biggest root cause of the symptoms that bring patients to StoneTree Clinic. 

Symptoms like

  • persistent weight gain 
  • fatigue 
  • mood issues 
  • poor sleep 
  • brain fog
  • headaches 
  • menstrual issues 
  • PMS
  • Menopausal symptoms.  

The root cause of hormone imbalances are different for every patient, and we use specialized testing to figure out what the imbalance is.  We then use our awesome toolbox of herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, and diet and lifestyle changes to get things back where they belong. 

Tip: Healthy Eating Made Simple

This hilarious video really captures the confusion that most people feel about what they eat:

  • Eggs are good for you, then they are bad for you, then they are good for you again. 
  • Fats are bad, now they are good. 
  • Carbs are good for you, then they are not. 
  • You should eat meat, not eat meat, avoid gluten, eat more fiber….

It’s hard to keep it straight!

The best advice we can give holds true no matter what the new fad diet is:

Eat foods that nature makes, mostly plants, not too much. 
(Thanks, Michael Pollan)

It really is that simple.  

Nat Med Month 2: Low Energy and Being Tortoise Healthy

Our celebration of naturopathic medicine continues with another myth, a question, and a tip!

Myth: “Naturopathic Doctors are anti-medicine.”

Naturopathic Doctors work with patients to rebalance their bodies toward health and healing.  That rebalancing, which often includes a healthy diet and lifestyle, can reduce the need for some medications–and that’s a good thing!

However, there are MANY instances when conventional medications are needed. Naturopathic doctors are trained to recognize those situations and refer patients back to their family doctors to access those important treatments–it happens here all the time!

Best results don’t come from “one-or-the-other” thinking. Best results come when a patient feels in control and empowered to access the health care they need most.   

FAQ: “Is Naturopathic Medicine covered by OHIP?”  

Naturopathic Medicine is not covered by OHIP, and with all the changes that are being proposed, it’s unlikely to ever be included in our publicly-funded system.  

Naturopathic Medicine is, however, covered by most extended health benefit packages, and through the years this coverage has continued to expand.   

At StoneTree we do our best to direct bill insurance companies to make access to care even easier!

Solution: Getting To the Root Cause of Low energy 

Unexplained fatigue is the single most common reason people walk through our door.

Often, a patient has gone to their MD complaining of tiredness, but their blood work comes up “within normal limits”. It’s a frustrating thing to hear when you’re experiencing a symptom that’s interfering with your life.   

What “within normal limits” really means is that there is no diagnosable reason for the fatigue; it does NOT mean your biochemistry is functioning optimally and that there’s nothing wrong.  

One common cause of unexplained fatigue is functional hypothyroidism, but there are many more. Sub-clinical nutrient deficiencies, food intolerances and leaky gut, toxic exposures or chronic infections can all be culprits. Book a free “meet-the-doctor” visit to learn how we can help.

Healthy Living Tip: Be Tortoise Healthy

It’s all about the tortoise, not the hare….

In our “microwave culture” of wanting things instantly, we are often looking for that magic pill or the easy way out. But chronic health problems are frequently the result of an accumulation of small actions over time, and regaining good health is no different.

If you want lasting health, you need to focus on being the tortoise, not the hare!

  • The hare diets. The turtle slowly shifts to eating habits that can last a lifetime.
  • The hare is a weekend warrior. The turtle is active every day in some way.
  • The hare binge sleeps on the weekend. The turtle builds good sleep habits.
  • The hare makes time for others on rare holidays. The turtle tries to connect every day.

Be a tortoise this week!

Want to learn more about how naturopathic medicine can help? Book a 15-minute complimentary “meet-the-doctor” visit here.

It’s Naturopathic Medicine Month!

Actually, next week is Naturopathic Medicine Week, but we’re celebrating all month!

We’ve been helping people in the Georgian Triangle for 18 years now. Almost two decades! In that time, we have had the privilege of touching the lives of over 7000 patients.

Yet, for all that progress, we still meet people every week that don’t know who we are or how we help.  

In celebration of Naturopathic Medicine Week, we’re getting back to basics. By answering FAQ’s, debunking myths, and outlining the problems we solve, we hope to change that.  

Please pass this info on to someone you think we can help.  We all love our job and can’t wait to do more of it!

Myth: “Naturopathic medicine is not evidence-based”

Actually, there is plenty of evidence to support the natural and complementary therapies used by ND’s. New studies are published all the time in peer-reviewed journals, and many show positive findings. If you’re looking for evidence, there is no shortage. Last week, for example, we looked at the evidence to support IV vitamin C as an effective treatment for seasonal allergies.

FAQ: What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic Medicine is a comprehensive approach to health care. Naturopathic Doctors (ND’s) are trained to diagnose and treat various acute and chronic conditions. Our main objective, however, is to find and treat the underlying cause of your health concerns.

ND’s follow a series of principles that guide their approach to helping you improve your health:

  • Primum non nocere – first do no harm, effective health care with the least risk for all patients.
  • Vis medicatrix naturae – healing power of nature, respect and promote self-healing
  • Tolle causum – treat the cause, identify and remove causes.
  • Docere – doctor as teacher, educate the patients, inspire rational hope, encourage self-responsibility
  • Treat the whole person – each person is unique with their own factors affecting their health
  • Health promotion is the best prevention – STAYING well is just as important as GETTING well.

Solution: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Studies show that between 13-20% of Canadians are affected by Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) at any given time.

Here’s the tricky part: this syndrome is rarely a result of a pathological problem. There’s usually very little to point at and say, “There’s the cause.” As a result, conventional medical intervention often falls short.

Upwards of 50% of people suffering from IBS end up seeking out complementary and alternative care. Why? Because the root cause of the symptoms is most often functional in nature – something is out of balance. Uncovering and repairing functional imbalances in your biochemistry and physiology is what naturopathic medicine is all about.

Healthy Living Tip: Get Out in Nature!

Yes, getting outside in nature is actually good for you. And no, this isn’t your mother saying, “get some fresh air!” This is the increase in doctors actively prescribing time outdoors as a treatment.  

And if you can couple nature with exercise? Then you’re really getting somewhere! A local group of health enthusiasts is doing just that. Check out Primitive Patterns–they’re offering outdoor exercise classes all summer.