Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors

The American based Environmental Working Group, which publishes a yearly dirty dozen and clean fifteen list of fruit and vegetables, has just released a dirty dozen list of endocrine disruptors.  This list contains a number of chemicals that can mimic or disrupt the hormonal balance in our body and can increase our risk of developing different types of cancer and other health concerns.  

The dirty dozen endocrine disruptors include:  
BPA  - which is a chemical found in plastics and is in the lining of many food cans, thermal paper receipts, and plastic products.
Dioxins - which are industrial toxins that have infiltrated the food supply and are especially found in higher fat foods like meat, dairy, and eggs.
Atrazine - which is a chemical used on corn crops and has infiltrated the water supply.
Phthalates - which are chemicals also found in plastics and are in food containers, plastic wrap, children's toys, as well as in fragrance containing/scented body care products.
Perchlorate - which is found in rocket fuel and has also infiltrated the food and water supply.
Fire retardants - which are found in foam furniture, carpet padding, and mattresses.
Lead- which is a heavy metal and is found in old paint and has infiltrated the water supply.
Arsenic - which is also a heavy metal and has also infiltrated the water supply.
Mercury - which is a heavy metal that gets into the air and oceans through burning coal and is found in fish. 
Perfluorinated Chemicals/PFCs - which are found in non stick cookware and stain/water resistant clothes/furniture/carpet.
Organophosphate Pesticides - which are some of the more commonly used pesticides currently and have infiltrated the food supply.

Glycol Ethers - which are solvents in paints, cleaning products, brake fluid and cosmetics.

The pervasiveness of many of these compounds can feel pretty overwhelming.  It is important to understand the nutrients and antioxidants from the foods that we eat (even if they aren't certified organic), the antioxidant rich supplements we might take, the exercise we do, and the positive stress release activities we have in our routines (meditation, journaling) all help to strengthen our body's ability to manage these compounds.  Some other relatively easy positive steps we can take to limit some of our exposure include:  switching to natural based body care products and cleaners, using glass storage containers, using non stick cookware, buying certified organic food when possible, drinking filtered water.
For more info on the Environmental Working Group's dirty dozen endocrine disruptors list, see their website at

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Simple Seasonal Supper

Last week, I picked up beets and a small pumpkin squash from the grocery store (my garden space is small, so I don't grow either of these veggies) and decided to make a simple seasonal supper a few nights ago.  Although the veggies took approximately 1 hour to bake, the preparation time was pretty quick.  To prepare the squash, I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, placed the squash into a casserole dish, spooned some of the tomato 'juice' I had on hand from the many tomatoes I have harvested from my garden this year into the centre, added some oregano and sea salt, and baked for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Once the squash was in the oven, I diced the beets and placed them in a casserole dish with diced onion, garlic, and zucchini.  I added a simple tahini sauce (tahini, nutritional yeast, tamari, lemon juice) over the veggies and placed the dish, alongside the squash, in the oven and baked for 45-50 minutes.  The whole preparation time for both of these dishes combined was at the most 20 minutes!  Once the veggies were ready, I served them with pinto beans and short grain brown rice.  This was a hearty and delicious and easy fall meal!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hello September!

Even though the arrival of September means most of the front yard perennials have finished their work for the year, the echinacea plants are in full bloom.  Echinacea is my favorite perennial and is such a great immune stimulating herb!  I love seeing the echinacea plants every year!

With the summer winding down, I have already made my second batch of yummy fall granola (the recipe is from the Oct 30, 2010 blog post).  With these last 2 batches, I didn't have any cashews, so I added extra almonds and walnuts instead.  I also didn't have any sesame seeds, so I added hemp seeds and I have changed from using canola oil to coconut oil.  Each time I make the granola, it is quick and easy (it takes under 20 minutes to add the ingredients together and another 24 minutes to bake) and it is always delicious!

This year I planted 5 small tomato plants that I picked up from the farmer's market and they have turned into a tomato jungle!!  I have already picked enough tomatoes to make 1 batch of my favourite tomato soup.  Because tomatoes can aggravate both joint pain and heartburn, this soup isn't a great fit for everyone, but if you can tolerate tomatoes, it is yummy and easy to make.
Here is the recipe for Simple Tomato Soup:
1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 onion, chopped, 4 cloves garlic, minced, 1 cup crimini mushrooms, chopped, 2 cups zucchini, chopped, 1 tbsp basil (I also used a handful of fresh basil, oregano, and parsley), 2 tbsp wheat free tamari, 8 cups tomato 'juice' (to make the juice, I stewed the tomatoes until they were primarily liquid and then stamped them through a colander and discarded the skins and saved the remaining juice), 2 - 4 cups leafy greens (I used a combination of kale and collards), chopped, 2 cups cooked green lentils, 1/2-1 package pasta (I used tinkyada brown rice penne), cooked

Place olive oil in a soup pot over low-medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes.  Add crimini mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes.  Add zucchini, basil, and wheat free tamari and saute for 3 minutes.  Add tomato juice and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add leafy greens, lentils and rice pasta.

I have been making some variation of this recipe for more than 20 years and it never disappoints!  To make it even more enjoyable, the tomatoes, zucchini, leafy greens, fresh basil, fresh oregano, and fresh parsley that I used in this recipe are all directly from my backyard garden.  The penne that I used in this recipe soaked up most of the tomato juice and turned the recipe into more of a stew than a soup!

I have been aiming to pick zucchini regularly from my garden, but I missed one and ended up with a super zucchini!  In order to use up some of the super zucchini, I made chocolate zucchini bread (really a cake :))!  This is definitely a treat recipe and not a every day food recipe, but it is so yummy and well worth making if you find your self with LOTS of zucchini.  The recipe I used is from the book Color Me Vegan by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.  This book has many delicious and nutritious recipes based on the variety of lovely and colorful vegetables and fruits available and is a good one to have at home/borrow from the library.  I substituted spelt flour for whole wheat flour, coconut oil for canola oil, and halved the amount of sugar (and used pure maple syrup instead of granulated sugar) and the bread/cake still turned out great.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

More Garden Pictures!

Some of my favourite plants in my front and back garden are medicinal plants.  Each of these plants are perennials and are well developed for/easy to grow in the Edmonton climate.   Here are pictures of some of the medicinal plants found in the gardens:

This is sage which is an excellent herb for supporting overall hormonal health.

This is hyssop which is an excellent herb for supporting overall lung health.

This is goldenrod which is an excellent herb for supporting overall urinary health.

This is rhodiola which is an excellent herb for supporting overall emotional health.

This is St John's Wort which is also an excellent herb for supporting overall emotional health.

This is arnica, which in it's homeopathic form, is excellent for supporting body pain and trauma.

This is feverfew which is an excellent herb for supporting migraines.

This is yarrow which is an excellent herb for addressing fevers.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Garden Pictures!

I meant to post these flower pictures a few weeks ago, but am only getting around to doing so now!  These flower pictures are of the plant pulsatilla, which is an excellent homeopathic remedy for acute childhood illnesses (amongst other concerns).  It is also called the prairie crocus and is native to the prairies, so it very easily grows/flourishes here in Alberta.  It is one of the first plants to flower in the spring - it produces beautiful blooms and I am always so happy to see it back again for another year.  I have also included a picture of the self seeding lettuce in my back garden box - it is growing by leaps and bounds and I had my first salad with it tonight.  Yummy!!

Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

Every year, the US based environmental working group (EWG), publishes a list of the top 12 fruits and vegetables that are the most contaminated with pesticide residues and the top 15 fruits and vegetables that are least contaminated with pesticide residues.  In the past, they have stated that one could reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% if they bought/consumed only certified organic forms of the dirty dozen.  I don't see this specific info on their website anymore, but these lists still do give a great insight into the fruits and vegetables that are the most and the least important to buy in the certified organic form.  The dirty dozen includes: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers.  The EWG has also included 2 additional groups of vegetables on the dirty dozen + list - leafy greens (especially kale and collard greens) and summer squash (zucchini, yellow crookneck squash) because they have both been found to contain residues of pesticides that are particularly toxic to the central nervous system.  The clean fifteen includes:  asparagus, avocado, cabbage, cantaloupe, sweet corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, mushrooms, onions, papaya, pineapple, frozen sweet peas, sweet potatoes.  The EWG does note that a small amount of the sweet corn (field corn, which is used in processed corn based foods, is almost always genetically modified) and (Hawaiian) papaya sold in the US is genetically modified and it would still be best to buy the certified organic form.  Even though this information is US based, I think it is 100% applicable to us in Canada as well and can help to inform our grocery shopping choices.  For more info on the dirty dozen + and the clean fifteen, see .

Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Growth

When we are engaged in supporting and strengthening our overall health, we are growing and evolving. I love the spring and summer because the forward momentum of our internal growth is mirrored by the external new growth that surrounds us in our outside environment.  We are supported by and are able to draw upon the energy of the earth at this time of the year to further build the base of our health.  I was excited to find examples of this new growth yesterday.  The top picture is of the spring crocus in the front yard.  The middle picture is of the st john's wort in the front yard.  Both of these plants are perennials and return every year.  And the bottom picture is of the brand new tiny lettuce plants in the back yard!  Thanks to the miracle of self seeding lettuce and raised bed gardens, the lettuce plants come back early every year and thankfully all the snow hasn't deterred them this year!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Confusion Around Calcium

In the last few years, there have been a few studies that have brought up concern around calcium intake and increased rate of heart disease and death.  An article by Tina Kaczor in the April 2013 edition of Natural Medicine Journal examines the recent Swedish study on long term calcium intake and rates of all cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality.  The Swedish study found that people consuming more than 1400 mg of dietary calcium per day had higher rates of all cause mortality (death due to all causes) and cardiovascular disease mortality (death due to heart disease) compared to people who consumed 600 - 1000 mg of dietary calcium per day.  The same increased rates were seen for women in the study who took a calcium supplement (a standard calcium supplement prescription in Sweden is 500 mg per day) and consumed more than 1400 mg of dietary calcium per day, but were not seen for women in the study who took a calcium supplement and did not consume more than 1400 mg of dietary calcium per day.  The same increased rate of all cause mortality was also seen for people consuming less than 600 mg of dietary calcium per day.  Interestingly, in Sweden, milk consumption (which most people consider their primary source of dietary calcium) is generally high, and still only 2% of the study population were consuming more than 1400 mg of dietary calcium per day.  This gives a good insight into the fact that it is unlikely that most of us are getting more than 1400 mg of dietary calcium per day and that we do not need to feel alarmed by this recent study.  As well, the info from the study did not show any concern around calcium supplementation when the dietary calcium intake was below 1400 mg per day, so for the great majority of us there is no concern around taking a good quality calcium supplement on a daily basis.  The study did show that it is important for us to be aiming for between 600 - 1000 mg of dietary calcium per day, so it is a good idea for each of us to examine our diet to ensure we are within this range. Here are some examples of the amount of calcium found in different foods:  1 cup of milk (including generally both soy and dairy based) = 300 mg, 1 cup dairy based yogurt = 450 mg, 1 cup cooked broccoli = 180 mg, 1 cup raw kale = 55 mg, 1 cup cooked spinach = 240 mg, 1 cup calcium fortified orange juice = 300 mg, 1 cup cooked chickpeas = 80 mg, 4 ounces firm tofu = 250 mg, 1 cup cooked brown rice = 50 mg, 1 ounce almonds = 80 mg, 1 tbsp tahini (sesame seed butter) = 130 mg.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The FODMAP diet

In the January 2013 edition of Naturopathic Doctor News and Review, Christine Doherty discusses fructose intolerance and the FODMAP diet.  Some people have difficulty absorbing fructose in the small intestine.  This is called fructose intolerance and it can cause damage to the villi/lining of the intestine which can lead to nutrient malabsorption and digestive disruption (including gas, bloating discomfort, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, reflux, nausea).  Australian researcher, Dr Sue Shepherd, developed a diet that is low in fructose and related molecules called the FODMAP (which stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, polyols) diet.  People who have celiac disease often have lower tolerance for FODMAP foods and can have continued digestive symptoms even after gluten has been removed from their diet.  People who have lactose intolerance also often have intolerance to the additional FODMAP foods, so they may also have continued digestive symptoms even after lactose has been removed from their diet.  There are 5 categories of FODMAP foods including:  fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, and polyols.  Some of the FODMAP foods in these categories include:  agave syrup, honey, artificial sweeteners, mango, apple, peas, asparagus, milk, yogurt, soft cheeses, ice cream, wheat, barley, rye, onions, garlic, garlic, broccoli, legumes, coffee, almonds, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, avocado, nectarines.  If we have done dietary work and have seen some improvement in our digestive symptoms, but still have continued concerns, it may be worth it to explore the FODMAP diet.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Change in Rice Milk

I have long used Rice Dream rice milk and for the last several years have bought Rice Dream Original Enriched because it was organic and did not have any sweetener added.  I probably hadn't looked at the carton for the last several months, so I am not sure when this change happened, but when I looked last week, I saw the Original Enriched is no longer organic and they are using a mixture of both white and brown rice!  I was very glum when I discovered this!  There was a food bank drive in our neighborhood this weekend, so I donated the cartons I had stocked up and have now switched over to Natura Rice Original rice milk.  It is organic, uses brown rice and does not have any sweetener added.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Practical suggestions for supporting restful sleep

An article by Peter Bongiorno in the March 2013 edition of Naturopathic Doctor News and Review offers a number of practical suggestions for supporting restful sleep including aiming to go to bed preferably by 10 PM.  This suggestion is based on maximum melatonin (which supports restful sleep) production occurring between 10 PM and 2 AM.  Another recommendation is to avoid bright lights at least 30 minutes prior to going to bed.  This includes bright lights from overhead lights or lamps, as well as bright lights from computer/phone/TV screens.  Building on this, it is important to create a night time ritual leading up to bed which can include dimming/shutting off room lights and considering a nervine tea, like chamomile, which helps to calm and relax the central nervous and supports restful sleep.  A person can also consider integrating a small nighttime snack (such as a slice of apple or banana with nut butter, a small piece of rice cake/bread with nut butter) to support healthy blood sugar balancing which also supports restful sleep.  Whether we have difficulty around falling and maintaining a restful sleep or not, these suggestions are easy to integrate and can result in a more balanced sleep for everyone.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Coconut oil and Alzheimer's Disease

An article by William Ware in the February/March 2013 edition of Integrated Healthcare Practitioners discusses the support that coconut oil (and medium chain triglyceride rich oil) can offer for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's Disease (AD).  One theory behind AD is that there is impaired glucose metabolism and impaired insulin action in the brain which leads to decreased energy production in the brain and impaired cognitive function.  Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCT's) which provide a source of ketone bodies which can compensate for the impaired insulin action and act as an alternative fuel for the brain helping to support healthy cognitive function.  Based on this theory/research, specifically designed MCT rich oils are also now available in health food stores.  MCT rich oil provides a higher level of ketone bodies than coconut oil, but these higher levels decline more quickly in the blood/body than the ketone bodies that are provided from coconut oil.  An American MD, Mary Newport, has worked extensively with coconut oil and MCT rich oil and has developed a protocol to offer optimal support for people with AD.  She suggests a 1:1 ratio of coconut oil and MCT rich oil and to dose a total of 3 tbsp with each meal and 2 tbsp before bed.  Newport does report that she has seen diarrhea with these high doses, but slowly increasing the dose does tend to prevent diarrhea.  These doses would be way too high for someone without AD, but this research does give a great insight into the important level of support coconut oil and MCT rich oil can offer for overall brain health.  Based on this, it is good to consider integrating coconut oil (and/or MCT rich oil) into our daily routine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Delicious Baked Brussel Sprouts!!

I have long been a fan of brussel sprouts, but I had only ever eaten them steamed.  Recently I have been seeing lots of pictures of baked brussel sprouts, so I decided to try it out - the results are delicious!!  Since trying it 3 weeks ago, I have been making a baked brussel sprouts and yam dish once a week.  To prepare, I peel and chop the yams and cut the brussel sprouts into halves or quarters and place in a canola oiled baking dish and then bake at 350 degrees.  After 30 minutes, I have been mixing in a sauce made with 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 2 freshly squeezed lemons, 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast, 2 tbsp of canola oil, 1 tbsp of tahini, and 1 tbsp of basil and then baking for another 30-45 minutes.  Tonight, I mixed this dish with brown lentils and a stir fry of onions, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, green beans, broccoli, and black kale (see above picture).  This is a particularly yummy winter meal and I am so glad that it is now a regular part of my supper choices!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Herbal Medicine

I recently signed up for a monthly herbal medicine webinar that will cover herbal protocols for specific concerns as well new research in the field of herbal medicine.  With the first webinar, I was reminded of some of the terms/actions that I love in herbal medicine.  The term alterative means a substance that supports a gradual and beneficial change in the body/our health.  To me, the definition of alterative sums up the goal of naturopathic medicine - with naturopathic medicine, we engage and support the body with gentle healing methods that slowly and steadily encourage the body/our health to move more towards.  I also love the demulcent action of herbs.  A demulcent herb coats and soothes the body tissues helping to reduce inflammation and support tissue healing.  Interestingly demulcents herbs (when taken orally) only come in direct contact with the lining of the  digestive tract, but through a reflex action in tissues that are embryonically similar to the digestive mucous membranes (which includes the lining of the lungs and the urinary tract), the demulcent herbs can also support and strengthen the health of the lungs and the urinary tract.  The action of demulcent herbs gives an insight into the incredible wisdom and ability to work together that both our body and the herbs share.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Final Day of the Cleanse!!

It is the final day of the cleanse for me and I realize that I posted no new recipes this year!  This is due to the fact that all of the meals that I have had on the cleanse have been a variation on a simple supper with either short grain brown rice, long grain brown rice, or mixed wild rice blend, as well as some type of legume (chickpeas, pinto beans, lima beans, black eyed peas, french lentils, red lentils), and stir fried/baked vegetables.  Sometimes I also included a tahini based sauce or just mixed a freshly squeezed lemon with the stir fry.  Even though this sounds pretty boring, it was even worse when I was in Germany in Sept 2010!  I literally ate the same meal every day (actually 2 times per day because I had leftovers every day for lunch - see above picture for an example!).  Generally it is not a good idea to eat the exact same food every day, but luckily for me, the foods I was eating were low allergenic/easy foods for my system, so I didn't have any concerns.  My meal consisted of wehani/red rice, french lentils, onions, garlic, carrots, and zucchini (all cooked in with the rice - I had limited cookware!!).  I dressed the rice bowl with raw cucumber and a lemon/almond butter mixture and sea salt.  I know it is hard to understand, but I did love the taste of this meal and looked forward to having it every day!  Having said that, I was definitely happy when I got home to my own kitchen and I did avoid french lentils for at least 1 month after my return!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

NAC and Autism Spectrum Disorders

An article by Kaycie Rosen Grigel in the September 2012 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal discusses the potential support NAC can offer for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  The article is based on research that was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in 2012.  The research found that dosing NAC for 12 weeks lead to a significant improvement in irritability and repetitive behaviour.  An improvement was also found in social cognition and autism mannerisms.  The improvement that NAC offers is likely linked to NAC's ability to modulate glutamate activity/transport in the brain which impacts cognitive development, memory, learning and level of excitability/irritability.  As well, it is possible that children with ASD have impaired antioxidant status, so the improvement that NAC offers is also likely linked to its ability to increase antioxidant capacity. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Supplements to enhance H pylori treatment

An article by Donald Brown in the July 2012 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal discusses a number of supplements that can enhance and optimize H pylori treatment.  H pylori is a bacteria that is commonly found in the stomach and can contribute to the development of peptic ulcers and chronic inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis).  The standard medical treatment for H pylori is the short term combination of 2 antibiotics and a proton pump inhibitor.  There is research that has found taking vitamin C and vitamin E (both of which offer anti-oxidant/immune strengthening support) along with these H pylori medications improves the body's ability to clear H pylori infection.  There has also been research that has found that taking probiotics along with these H pylori medications improves the body's ability to manage these medications with less side effects.  There has also been research that has found taking NAC (which disrupts the protective film that H pylori creates to stabilize itself in the stomach) prior to integrating these H pylori medications also improves the body's ability to clear H pylori infection.  As well, research has also found that integrating cranberry juice (which prevents the adherence of H pylori to the stomach lining) both with and for 2 weeks post these H pylori medications also improves women's ability to clear H pylori infection.  Each of these sups are relatively easy to integrate for a short period of time and worth considering alongside H pylori medical treatment.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Timing of TSH Measurements

TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is the standard blood test that is used to screen for thyroid concerns.  In Canada, the range for TSH is .2 - 4.0 with a low TSH reflecting hyperthyroid function and a high TSH reflecting hypothyroid function.  An article by Tina Kaczor in the December 2012 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal reported on a study published in Endocrine Research in August 2012 that found a significant difference in TSH levels depending on the time of day the TSH was measured.  The study focused only on people with hypothyroid concerns (either autoimmune thyroiditis or primary hypothyroidism) and it found that both groups of people had lower (more balanced) TSH levels in the afternoon compared to the morning.  While it is encouraging to have a more balanced TSH, if one is monitoring their thyroid health or how they are responding to prescription thyroid medication, it is most important to gather readings that provide a full insight into how the thyroid is functioning at its most difficult/least balanced time of the day.  From this recent research, it is most importnat then to have the TSH measured in the morning.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Weekly Health Chart

Since the fall of 2012, I have been making myself a weekly health chart.  The left column of my chart contains the health supportive steps that I want to work on and the rest of the following columns each contain one day of the week.  For each health supportive step, I have an individual goal listed and if I match the goal for the day of the week, I put a check mark on my chart in that day's column.  The chart has helped me integrate new steps into my daily routine including daily coconut oil, avocado (when I can find them - which has been pretty steady since Sept), and seaweeds as well as a nightly stress release/grounding routine of sun salutations (wrong time of the day, I know, but it works for me) and deep breathing.  Outside of the holiday season and travel, I have been able to stick to my goals and it is so satisfying to see a chart full of check marks at the end of the week!!  As a perpetual night-owl and non-outdoorsy person, the steps that have been the hardest for me are getting a full night of sleep and going for regular walks, but the cleanse has helped me to be more consistent with both of these.  A health chart is easy to make, can be individualized to each person, and provides us with a great framework to support our overall health.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Morning smoothie

During the cleanse, my morning smoothie has consisted of 1 granny smith apple, 1 inch cucumber, 1 cup rainbow or red chard, 1 cup water, 2 tbsp hemp seeds, 1 tbsp almond butter, 1 tbsp coconut oil.  This morning though I had left over avocado (that I forgot to have for supper the night before!), so I added it to my smoothie.  I didn't pick up on much of a taste change, but it definitely made the smoothie much creamier.  It was a fun change of pace!

My favourite volunteer position ever!!

Even though this post does not directly relate to cleanse friendly recipes or wholistic health, it does cover an activity that is a crucial part of my self care routine.  As a way to support and strengthen my overall health, I have long enjoyed the grounding and fulfilling activity of volunteering.  I have volunteered in a variety of different places over the years, from the Grey Nuns hospital gift shop (my first volunteer position) to the Saving Animals From Euthanasia (SAFE) team adoption center which is where I currently have been volunteering for the past 2 years.  Working with the cats (all of whom have either been rescued from Alberta pounds or from the streets - the above picture is of beautiful Lucy one of the current SAFE team cats) at the adoption center is my favorite volunteer position ever - I look forward to spending time with them every week.  I think it is important for all of us to build activities into our lives that help us change our regular pace of life and give us an insight into the goodness that surrounds us.  The SAFE team cats provide me with this opportunity every week.  In addition to being a great organization to volunteer with, SAFE team is also an excellent place to adopt forever family member cats from.  If you are interested in learning more about SAFE team, check out their website  As well, SAFE team will be holding their main fundraising event, Comedy for Claws comedy night and silent auction, on April 23 2013.  If you would like to purchase tickets or donate an item to the silent auction, please feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Additional cleanse foods and yeast/candida imbalance

In addition to the standard foods that are removed during a cleanse, if a person has yeast/candida imbalance concerns/symptoms, they can also consider removing a number of additional foods including:  all fermented foods (which can include yeast and yeast containing baked goods, alcohol, malt and malt containing foods, vinegar and vinegar containing/pickled foods, and mushrooms), all sweeteners (both refined and unrefined), dried fruit, and fruit juice.  For some people, they may also find support for their overall health in removing all fruit, all processed grain based foods (including pasta, muffins, cereal, crackers), higher carbohydrate vegetables (including peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash), all nuts, and all legumes.  Each of the above listed foods has the potential to further encourage yeast/candida imbalance in the body and can help support a person in feeling better and moving more towards balance when they are removed from the diet.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Additional cleanse foods and reflux/heartburn

If a person experiences reflux/heartburn, generally removing caffeine (including chocolate) and alcohol during a cleanse will offer some support for their symptoms.  Additional foods that can also be taken out during a cleanse to further support a reduction in reflux/heartburn include:  spicy food, high fat/fried food, citrus fruit (especially oranges/orange juice, grapefruit/grapefruit juice), tomatoes, and mint (including mint tea).  Aiming to eat smaller meals more often and aiming to avoid eating after 6 PM will also reduce the frequency and severity of reflux/heartburn for many people.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Omega Institute

The above pictures were taken at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York.  Omega is an educational retreat that offers workshops on body, mind, and spirit wellness.  I attended a weekend workshop taught by Pema Chodron in May 2010.  My travel journey to Omega involved an all night plane ride to Toronto, an early morning flight to New York city, a cab ride to Penn station, a train ride to Rhinebeck, and a shuttle to Omega - I was very relieved when I arrived!  Omega is in a tranquil setting, surrounded by trees and filled with many beautiful gardens.  There are no outdoor lights, so it is very peaceful and magical at night.  Pema Chodron also requested that the workshop attendees remain silent until Saturday at noon (the workshop started on Fri evening), so this further contributed to the peacefulness of the setting.  One of the many helpful teachings that Pema Chodron shared during the workshop was for us to work with whatever our source of distraction or stress is and to utilize it as a platform upon which to build our mindfulness practice.  I love this shift in perspective that she shared - I think it is often the case that we look at our source of stress as something that we need to overcome or something that only holds us back, but her teachings encouraged us to instead look at our stress as a holding space where we can rest our awareness and then begin to build further mindfulness/grounding/balance from. I find this a very empowering approach and one that provides us with a great opportunity to continue to build and strengthen our overall health.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Organic frozen fruit

After what feels like years of not being able to find a reliable source of certified organic frozen fruit, I was very pleased to recently see a new line of Earthbound Farms certified organic frozen fruit.  Yay!  There are a number of different types of fruit to choose from, including raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and cherries.  So far, I have seen this frozen fruit at Planet Organic and Blushlane in Edmonton, but I suspect it will be widely available in other natural food stores and big grocery stores soon.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Important info about birth control

In the May 2012 Issue of Natural Medicine Journal, the article 'Primary Risks of Oral Contraceptives and HRT' by Gina Cushman outlines a number of concerns that are linked with oral contraceptive (OC)/birth control usage (including birth control in the pill, patch, and injection form).  OC usage depletes magnesium, zinc, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and vitamin C levels in the body.  OC causes an increase in blood coagulation/clotting and can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and blood clots.  Although OC usage may reduce the risk of ovarian, endometrial, and colorectal cancer, it is linked to an increased risk of breast, cervical, liver, and skin cancer.  OC usage is also linked to an increased risk of chronic inflammatory immune disorders (including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and crohn's).  OC usage is also linked to an increased incidence of gum disease/inflammation.   Even though OC usage is the most common form of contraception, there is also the option of working with fertility awareness/charting which can provide an accurate insight into fertility and can function as an effective form of contraception.  For more info on fertility awareness, and

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Important info about beta carotene and breast cancer survivors

The Life After Cancer Epidemiology (LACE) study published a report in the Sept 2011 edition of the journal Cancer.  The study found that women who were survivors of early-stage breast cancer that consistently took supplemental vitamin c and vitamin e (6-7 days per week) had a reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence and lower risk of all cause mortality.   Whereas women who were survivors of early-stage breast cancer that took supplemental carotenoids had an almost 2 fold increased risk of all cause mortality.  The primary supplemental carotenoid is beta carotene so, with this information, it is important for women who are breast cancer survivors to ensure they are not taking supplemental beta carotene, including in their multivitamin.  There has been no link found between eating a diet rich in beta carotene (from yellow/green/red/orange vegetables and fruits) and an increased risk of death or cancer recurrence.