Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Many Types of Iron Supplementation

Let's start this post with a little anecdote... one of frustration. I had a patient with a history of low iron who was taking Feramax (a polysaccharide-ion complex form of iron) for several years as instructed by their medical doctor. On this patient's latest blood work it showed that their iron levels (as measured by "ferritin" storage) hadn't budged an inch.

Yes, it's frustrating when a medication or supplement isn't working, but what was more frustrating was that even after seeing these test results, the MD told the patient to keep taking the Feramax.

Now, I have nothing against Feramax, in fact, it can be a fantastic supplemental iron and has been known to be more gentle on the stomach than other forms like ferrous gluconate. I've prescribed it among other iron supplements in the past. But it obviously wasn't helping bring iron levels up in this patient. This often means that there is an issue with bioavailability and absorption.

When left in the hands of patients, it's easy to become confused with several types of iron supplements available. While I was a pharmacy assistant, customers would come in regularly looking for iron as directed by their doctor. Of course, without any actual prescription or direction, customers typically went for the cheapest one on the shelf. But quality matters here and no one was educating these customers (and at the time, legally I wasn't allowed to since I was still a student) on the differences between these supplements.

Some iron supplements like ferrous gluconate and ferrous fumarate can be harsher on the stomach; Some can cause nausea and constipation; Many of them interact with other minerals such as calcium, and not all of them have a stellar absorption rate. In fact, the absorption rate of most iron supplements is less than 5%.

It's also important to note the needs of each individual. For those who are vegan or vegetarian, they may wish to avoid heme iron supplements - heme iron being derived from animal hemoglobin (typically porcine). Heme iron has about 3x more bioavailability to non-heme or elemental iron, making it an excellent treatment for increasing iron levels in those who are anemic.

Another elemental form of iron is iron glycinate or iron bisglycinate chelate. This form of iron is protected by glycine molecules so that it doesn't interact with other minerals in the GI tract; As well, it has better bioavailability than ferrous gluconate. Because of how gentle it is (and cost effective!), this one tends to be a client favourite.

The take home message here is not to be discouraged when one type of supplement isn't working. Even with something like B12... if taking an oral supplement isn't working, there's a better chance at increasing B12 levels via injection as the injected B12 is delivered directly into the muscle and avoids the stomach and GI tract altogether.

The wonderful thing about naturopathic doctors is the abundance of nutrition training we have in comparison to medical doctors. Try not to be discouraged on your path to wellness, but know that there is usually an alternative if something isn't working for you.

ND's Notes: It is not advised to take an iron supplement without the supervision of an MD or ND via blood work. The toxicity associated with excess iron can be extremely dangerous. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

My great Italian bread/pasta experiment

I've been gluten-free for about 8 years now. What that means in reality is that 99% of the time I eat only foods that are gluten-free, with about 1% of the time, having some sort of exposure to wheat-based grains. I don't mean that I have "cheat days" but I'll consume something at a restaurant that may not be completely wheat/gluten-free. Not breads, pastas, nor pastries... those have always been off-limits.

But that all changed when my husband and I decided to honeymoon in Italy. I knew that they used a different species of wheat in Europe, and had heard that those with gluten/wheat sensitivities often can tolerate bread and pasta way better there than in North America.

I was intrigued and excited to eat real bread and pasta for the first time in almost a decade. My goal was to eat and drink my way through Italy and see what happened. I was going to eat real baguette bread; I was going to enjoy a pastry at a cafe; Focaccia in a market. Hell, maybe even pizza!

So I did. I ate it all and for the most part I loved it all, but there were lessons that I learned with each meal:

First, not every restaurant or venue gets their flour from Italy. I made an incorrect assumption that our Mediterranean cruise would be serving local foods. I soon found out that even their beef came from Chicago (which induced a huge "WTF?!?" moment for me). Pasta, I learned, had to be labeled specifically as "durum wheat" pasta. But the breads and pizza still left me bloated, gassy... my insides were not happy even if my taste buds were.

Off the boat, food was much easier. I wasn't having reactions from independent/family run restaurants. Anything that was non-touristy seemed to be fantastic, and my gut agreed. I was able to eat focaccia in Venazza, pasta in Taormina and Genoa, and croissants in Florence with no issues. It was glorious. I was able to enjoy heavy starches that didn't feel so heavy.




I felt like I had an excuse to be indulgent; and perhaps I did. But that feeling wears out after a while. By the end of our 2-week vacation I was craving protein and vegetables. I was craving leafy salads and steamed broccoli drenched in olive oil. Not to mention that my waistline definitely widened being on a predominately carbohydrate-based diet.

They were gloriously happy-making meals for the time being, but it wasn't something that I would be able to continue. The body - my body - can only take so much. The challenge now is switching back. Getting my body back, reducing my carb and sugar cravings, and regulating my blood sugar.

The Aftermath of my Gluten Experiment

The last croissant I had was at the airport before we left Europe. It was everything I had hoped it would be, until I stopped to pay attention to my body. All of a sudden I felt anxious, my heart beating fast. What was going on? I realized it was my blood sugar. Having only had a croissant, my heart was racing and I felt like I needed a run. I knew this was a pattern I'd have to get out of. This spike in blood sugar was uncomfortable, but all too common.

Secondly, the residual carb cravings after having come back. I almost forgot how strong they could be! Telling me to go bake a batch of cookies, or eat more of that sunflower seed bread, or, how about a third serving of rice? It's so hard to battle that voice; even more so when you're feeling exhausted.

Thirdly, by the end of the two weeks, and more so in the two weeks upon our return, my skin broke out like crazy! Not just facial acne, but eczema!

What gets me through this part is knowing how good I can feel on a low-carb diet. My tastebuds and brain were spoiled in Italy. We deserve it! To enjoy the food of another country and culture is an experience not to be taken for granted, but for my own personal health, it's not a lifestyle I can thrive on long-term.

I'm so happy I took a chance (with the help of probiotics and digestive enzymes) eating Italian wheat products, but I'm even happier to be home so that I can stuff my face with veggies and proteins again.

Monday, June 4, 2018

How to Cure the "Hangry" - and it's not with extra snacks

Most of us have heard the word "hangry," which describes the irritability we can feel after not eating for a certain amount of time. In my clinical practice, the magic amount of time that patients say it takes is typically 3 hours. I need to eat every three hours, or I get shaky and really grumpy!

And it's not just what I'm hearing from others, but also what I've experienced first hand. We have a word for it in our family too... when someone starts acting irrational and grumpy because they haven't eaten in a couple hours...

But when you think about it, a few hours is practically nothing. Three hours, and our bodies are begging for food again? Seems a little illogical looking at how many calories we're consuming each day. So what's really happening and how can we fix it?

"Hangry" is a sign of blood sugar dysregulation, and it happens more often in those with higher carbohydrate diets. In a nutshell, consuming regular and relatively large amounts of refined carbohydrates and sugars as a main fuel source results in those sugars ending up in the bloodstream. This is what increases blood sugar levels and it requires insulin to pop up to let the sugar into the body's cells; as well, the liver will help store the sugar you're not using as glycogen.

Spikes and drops in blood sugar levels can definitely affect our mood and energy. It can also lead to further complications long-term like insulin resistance - where we continuously bombard our bodies with so much refined carbs/sugars that insulin can't meet the demand.

Apart from hypoglycaemic symptoms, insulin resistance is associated with obesity, PCOS, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. As well, blood sugar dysregulation can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The good news is that blood sugar regulation can be corrected with dietary and lifestyle changes (the rate of which will depend on the individual). Here are some tips to get started:


  • Avoid eating at night, or eat only within a 12-hour window, max. Fasting for at least 12 hours will help train the body to not just use sugars/carbohydrates as a fuel source as you're not feeding yourself throughout the night. Therefore, the body tends to use up glycogen stores from the liver, and eventually fat if it needs it.
  • Reduce refined sugars and carbohydrates in the diet. This isn't to say that all grains are terrible for you, but you don't need them as much as our old food pyramids have historically told us. 
    • Avoid those daily breakfast sandwiches, muffins, scones, cookies, and excessive bread, pasta, and pizza intake. Try having 1-2 meals per day that have no grains in them at all. 
    • Avoid sweetened beverages. This also applies to your coffee and tea. Try replacing your sugar with honey, and then slowly wean down the amount that you add daily to your beverage. 
    • Avoid sweet alcoholic beverages, including ciders and mixed drinks with sugary sodas and juices; as well as liqueurs and "sweeter" drinks like rum, and wine. 
  • Include more healthy fats and protein into the diet. Fats and proteins are extremely filling, whereas after finishing a bowl of pasta, you may still reach for a piece of bread, able to eat another few bites. On the other hand, eating something with a high fat or protein content is more likely to leave you satiated. Aim for 20-30g of protein in your first meal of the day. Examples of helpful foods for fat and protein content include:
    • Avocados
    • Unsalted nuts/seeds, 
    • Eggs,
    • Lean cuts of meat, 
    • Fish, 
    • Protein smoothies (see below for recipe)
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity has been shown to independently induce expression and translocation of the GLUT4 transporter, which helps to transport sugar/glucose into skeletal muscle cells. This is especially helpful for those with insulin resistance. 
  • Drink more water. Sometimes when we chronically feel hungry for carbs, it's not hunger at all. Try drinking a glass of (lemon) water first. Check-in with yourself to find out if your hunger is more just boredom, or thirst, before reaching for a snack. 
Fat-filled Protein Smoothie (1 serving)
In a high-powered blender, mix: 
- 1/2-1 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- 2 tbsp hemp hearts
- handful or 4 strawberries 
- 1/4 cup blueberries OR 1/2 a banana
- 1 scoop whey isolate protein powder
- 1/2 an avocado

Although some people choose to go "cold turkey" with a new dietary plan, jumping in head first, I find changes tend to stick more when they are gradually introduced and practiced.  When we make dietary and lifestyle changes, give the body time to adjust. The key is in being consistent, and not allowing a lot of "cheat days." Even the idea of "everything in moderation" can cause major set backs if it pulls a person back into their old habits. 

Looking for extra resources and meal ideas? I find that blood sugar regulation can be positively influenced with both the Paleo diet and the Mediterranean diet. Both focus on fresh vegetables, and healthy fat sources like olive oil and fish. If paleo sounds too restrictive, then modify it. Allow yourself side dishes of quinoa, or brown rice. Or small portions of potatoes. View food as your body's fuel, and take it one day at a time. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The dangers and consequences of lack of sleep

Sleep is one of those funny things that most of us love, but we can never seem to get enough. On the one hand, anyone who is tired will tell you how much they desperately want more sleep. They might have to take naps, or just crave a decent full-night of sleep.

On the other hand, a lot of us also need down-time after work and into the evening. Maybe you have kids and you don't get time for yourself or alone time with your partner until after the kids are in bed. Maybe you take work home with you and work late, and therefore just don't get to bed early enough. Either way, we're pushing our bedtimes later, and our wake-up times aren't necessarily changing.

This balance of sleep, work, and time for yourself to decompress, can be really tough to achieve. Part of it is due to how we, as a North American society, view our daily expectations. Workplaces expect a 8-hour workday minimum, with more and more jobs requiring additional hours adding up to 60-80 hours per week. How on earth is that healthy for anyone?

Most of the research I have done in this area is eye-opening. Humans in general need a minimum of 7 hours per night. Anything less than 6.5 hours per night increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers such as breast cancer. (full article with references here: http://thenatpath.com/mind/sleep-deprivation-chronic-health-outcomes/)

I was reminded of these while listening to a fascinating podcast with Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and founder/director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science on the JRE:

(http://podcasts.joerogan.net/podcasts/matthew-walker)
I've posted a short clip below, but the full video is also found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwaWilO_Pig


Key messages were that in addition to the number of hours of sleep needed, the quality of sleep is crucially important. That evening glass of wine might help you relax, but the alcohol is keeping your system up.

As well, sleep isn't just for rest! This isn't just about letting the body go to sleep, but allowing your brain to solidify all the connections you were trying to make from your day. This is where the saying "sleep on it" comes from. Even for students who are studying - it is more beneficial for their learning and memory to sleep, rather than to pull an all-nighter. You might think you're giving your brain extra study hours, but the connections will not be made or stay the same way if you instead got a good night of sleep.

Studies have also looked at the mental and cognitive function of school-aged children, finding that children are better able to learn when school start times are pushed back from 7/8am to 9 am or later.

And what about our doctors? The ones who pull double or triple shifts at hospitals, or who have a ridiculous number of working hours during their residency? Aren't we supposed to be superhuman and push through it? Nope! The initial regimen of pushing medical residents started with one MD: a man who was able to follow these long working hours. But it wasn't because of his "mental strength" - it was because he was accidentally addicted to cocaine! And now we use this as our standard for medical students and hospital doctors.

This type of sleep deprivation can cause major issues of impairment both on the job and while driving, being equated to the impairment of drunk driving. Falling asleep at the wheel is no joke, and it's not uncommon. That's what makes this so dangerous.

These developments in sleep science should be unnerving for a lot of us. Sleep isn't something to take for granted. These aren't extra hours to allocate to whatever activities you deem important. This is about your chronic health, and the safety of those around you. Today you might feel okay with 4-5 hours, but 10 years from now your health could be facing the consequences.

Interestingly, Walker actually addresses the "4-5 hour sleeper". He says that the percentage of human beings that can actually get away with that amount of sleep per night with no repercussions is a fraction of 1% but even that number is rounded up!

There are multiple ways to help improve sleep. Walker goes into a few of them, though what's most important is keeping a routine and removing obstacles that can keep you from good sleep:

  • Have a set bedtime, set an alarm if you need to remind yourself. 
  • Avoid screen time, like smartphones and computers before bed. Put a blue-light filter on your devices if you must use them. 
  • Avoid eating 2 hours before bed, and alcohol about 4 hours before bed (or just avoid alcohol altogether). 
  • Refrain from caffeine after noon
  • Keep the bedroom dark and do not allow light in from outside. Cover up electronics that have lights on them while you sleep
  • Keep your bedroom cooler at night. Use fans, A/C or lighter pyjamas if necessary. 
  • Work on stress management to regulate cortisol levels. This is crucial for those who find they're waking between 2-4am. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Mindful Bride, Part 2: Self-care and Mindfulness

Excellent, you've made it to Part 2: Self care for the Mindful Bride. 

I had heard too many times that brides never really got the chance to enjoy the day. The day flies by! They warned me, and, You probably won't even see your partner for most of the day - you'll get split up all night! 

This was terrifying and not at all what I wanted from my wedding day. I wanted to enjoy and savour every moment. I wanted to move at my leisure, spend time with the people around me, and with my husband! How on earth could I enjoy my wedding if my husband was going to be torn away from me all night? 

So I made a plan. I made a plan to do everything in my power to soak up every moment. To ask for help when I needed it. To ignore those who were acting a little odd or crazy, to focus my attention on my love for my partner and what this day truly meant. 

First off, it doesn't hurt when you've done some prep work and you have a kick-ass bridal team. My bachelorette party was a yoga retreat at a cottage up north, complete with a nature hike, home-cooked food, colouring, a Footloose movie night, and dance party (among other activities). 


We had a schedule, but we also had down-time. And even more important to me, I asked that the entire thing be a complete surprise throughout.  I wanted to just go with the flow, and enjoy every part as it happened. I didn't want to be anticipating an activity or planning ahead. I wanted to be in the moment. It was incredible!

A few weeks before the wedding, things were definitely getting crammed into my schedule. Self-care was a must as there were so many other obligations in those weeks. 

First, I was terrified of getting sick for the wedding, so I loaded up on all my supplements, taking my adaptogens and antioxidants to prevent illness and help keep my energy up. I even gave myself a B12 shot a few days before the wedding to help with anxiety and energy.

Next, I worked on my gratitude journalling. 4-7 days before the wedding I journaled about everything I was looking forward to regarding the wedding. I put aside anything that was upsetting me, anything that was stressful and anything that could go wrong, and ONLY journaled about the positives. I even wrote out a list (several pages long) on everything I loved about my fiancé. The words just flowed out of me and it reset my headspace. 

I booked myself a massage a week before the wedding; A full 60-minute massage with one of the RMT's at my clinic, which included cranial work and really reinforced getting my shoulders back, not allowing them to hunch forward. She was an angel to me that day. She also sent me home with epsom salts and I got to take a nice hot bath with them. 

Use exercise to blow off steam or stress. Go for a jog, a bike ride, a swim, or maybe a kickboxing class; Whatever you need to physically let out any tension that you're holding onto. I personally found yoga to be helpful. Listen to what your body needs. 

I got some well-needed quality time with my fiancé during the week before the wedding. We were both insanely busy with work in addition to everything wedding-related, but he was incredible and made the time to scoot out for a couple sushi rolls while we listened to music together, sharing a single set of earbuds. We also practiced our first dance a few times in our living room, which had me in tears, and totally excited for our day. 

Being Mindful on the day of the Wedding

All of that prep work had me more relaxed on the day of, and I aimed to keep my morning routine the same with my breakfast, coffee and morning wake-up routine. I highly suggest eating in the morning if you can (especially protein)... it's a packed day and it'll help to keep blood sugar levels balanced. Pack a few portable snacks like nut/seed bars or a protein shake to give you a boost throughout the day. 

Have your packing list ready and leave early. The day of, I made sure that everything was organized, and I had my incredible team. We left early, and our hair and makeup team was running ahead of schedule. All 6 of us were done with an extra 30 minutes to spare. 

We took that time to sip on some champagne, chat with our photographer and my mom. We settled into our room, taking a few bites out of whatever snack I could stomach. I felt so relaxed and not rushed at all. Best of all, I could stop to take it all in. My flowers arrived and I just stared at them for minutes. I looked at my dress hanging up; gave my mom an extra hug; and just walked about in my sock feet. 

We took our time getting dressed and again, we were right on time to start photos. I highly recommend doing photos and a "first look" before the actual ceremony. It saved us from cramming in photos between the ceremony and reception, and allowed my fiancé and I to get more quality time together to enjoy the moments leading up to the ceremony. This day was about us, and I didn't care for a huge "reveal" walking down the aisle. I wanted that moment alone with my fiancé. I couldn't imagine seeing him for the first time that day and not being able to say anything to him. The point is, we got time together - exactly what I had hoped for. 

Don't dwell on the negatives. We ended up with the most perfect wedding ever; even though we were caught in an ice storm, even though we were missing about 10 of our guests, even though my sister (under the influence of alcohol and a huge passion for dancing) broke a glass during the reception; even though we had to change our entire ceremony set up the day before the wedding, and even though there were multiple issues with room bookings... Everything was solved. Every problem had a solution and it all turned out perfectly. 

If something is out of your control, it is out of your control.  I could have overreacted and gotten upset about anything at any point in the day, but there wasn't a point to any of it. I was blissfully happy because I finally got to wear my wedding dress, and I was marrying my true love! How can you not be happy? This is your day and it's all about your love for each other. 

Lastly, when you slow down, you get a chance to just take everything in. Remember the little moments, the details. I went to sleep that night replaying the entire day in my head. I didn't want to forget a single second. And with those memories I was able to write out our entire wedding story - the next journalling assignment I made for myself. 

Your goals and dreams for the day might be different than mine, and that's okay. But I highly recommend taking the time for self-care, stress management, and practicing mindfulness so that you can fully take in the day and reduce the feeling of being stressed, rushed, or disappointed by any surprises that come up. 

These same principles can be applied to so much more outside of a wedding, but a wedding is a special lifetime event and considering the time and effort you put into planning and executing this day, you deserve to enjoy it and savour it; Appreciate it for all that it is. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Mindful Bride: Part 1, Planning and Executing

I wanted to do this series on being a bride, mostly because I found my experience to be quite different than many other brides, but also to help others who may feel like they are going crazy with planning, executing, and trying to enjoy their wedding day. There are steps to health & wellness in the face of stress and change, and everyday life. Being a bride and planning a wedding is no different; It can still be busy-making, stressful, and time consuming, so we can't forget about our own wellness during this process.

Here is Part 1: Wellness Guidelines for Planning and Executing, which is more about maintaining a clear head, not getting overwhelmed, and picking your battles. Part 2 will talk about actual self-care and stress management.

***

When you're about to get married, other married people loved to give you friendly warnings about what all could and will happen on your wedding day. I was told, my wedding day would fly by! That I would barely get a chance to enjoy it; There will always be something that goes wrong or not according to plan... I listened nicely to all of these warnings but I still believed that I could influence my experience as a bride.

At my wedding a few weekends ago, I did just that. People told me I was the most organized bride they've ever seen. My florist commented several times that I was one of the easiest brides she's ever worked with. Even my photographers exclaimed that they wish every bride was like me. 

I don't want my ego spin out of control, but I had to reflect on all of this feedback. What was I doing that other brides weren't?!

I will admit that I was incredibly organized - but this was made easier when I decided how much "stuff" we needed for our wedding. Perhaps you have grandiose ideas with extremely specific visuals in mind... maybe you have family or traditional obligations that you have to bend to. The point was that my husband and I chose what was right for us, and we didn't go overboard.

Rule #1: Less is more
You might think that you need 2-foot tall centrepieces to create a proper atmosphere. I will tell you that you can get away with a lot less. I had short, skinny $2 vases from Ikea and 3 roses in each.
We could have gone overboard, which is why it's so easy to become overwhelmed. It's okay to take a few non-essential items off your plate!

Items that we passed on included:

- Specialty late-night food station. Instead the venue/caterers supplied fruit, cheese and crackers;
- Videographer. We had a family member record our first dance. It wasn't worth paying $4000 to someone to film the day for us; especially as we had made such a great connection with our photographer. Finding her took time and luck; and it was more intimate without a film crew hovering over us.
- Extra entertainment. We felt the only entertainment our guests needed was a loving ceremony, an excellent dinner, and a lot of dancing!
- Extra flowers. I asked that all the bouquets be half the size of a classic bouquet. It saved us a ton of money and no one even noticed. Remember, the bigger the bouquet, the more you/your dress is covered.
- Fancy lights or smoke machines. Extra equipment needs to be rented, delivered, set up, taken down... We were able to dim the lights at our reception after dinner. That with some amazing music (and an open bar) was all we needed to have an incredible party. No special slide shows, screens, flashing dance floor lights were necessary.
- A Calligrapher or specialty invitations. I hand wrote out all the addresses on envelops for our invitations, and I used VistaPrint for all of our stationary. We mailed out 2 cards and one return envelope. We had our directions and Inn booking information on the back of the invite. We saved paper and money! If you don't want to hand-write out your envelopes, use a label maker or your printer.
- Special DIY projects. I picked one and it was because I had made a huge mistake: I ordered twice as many invitations as I actually needed. I thought, How could I repurpose all of these card stock invitations? Then I remembered that my mom had recently bought me a book on making paper flowers. So I packed up the invites, drove to her house, and we spent a day together making flowers out of my invitations:
It started off fun, watching chick flicks and cliche wedding movies while we cut out dozens of stencilled petals... but by the end of the day we had only completed 10 flowers between the two of us. It was gruelling and time consuming. But the truth is that we were able to use them without needing 100 of them. They were accent decor, not "mandatory" at every table. I was totally happy with that... as were my blistered hands.

DIY projects are fun and great ideas in hindsight. Some of them might actually be quite doable. But don't feel like you need to put intricate work into something for every single guest - Unless you have the time, patience, and the passion for such a project.

It's okay if you want these things. It's your wedding and you can create the day however you like. But there are times when you need to let things go. They are seriously not worth it.

A friend of mine who is an incredible baker made cookies and brownies for the end of the night at her own wedding. Our venue allowed the same and I had planned on doing some baking for ours as well (otherwise what's the point of owning a Kitchenaid mixer?). But the week before the wedding my schedule got slammed - and not just with wedding stuff... but work, and family, and other commitments. I was exhausted and baking wasn't going to happen. At that point I really didn't care. I didn't even tell the venue until I arrived on the day-of. It wasn't a big deal, but I'm glad I made the decision to let it go.

Rule #2: Avoid overreacting. 

Things go wrong. People have very loud opinions and expectations.
Our planned outdoor ceremony ended up being moved indoors due to a freak ice storm in the middle of April. One of the worst storms in Toronto in years, with rain, freezing rain, snow, slush and ice all within 24 hours. We had an entire table not show up, and even our officiant was a little late to arrive. Shit happens. It wasn't going to stop us from getting married. Nothing would. There was no point in getting angry. We were still getting married, and everything in my eyes was still as perfect as it could be.

But even if something had gone wrong that was someone's obvious fault; there's nothing good that comes out of going full dragon. The important point is to keep a level head. Exhale a deep breath, and then find a solution. One of the best parts of being the bride? You have a team of people who are there for you to troubleshoot.

Our venue (which was also an Inn) made multiple errors with room bookings and didn't have the room I requested available for getting ready in. So as I had my manicure done, my sister went up to the front desk and fixed it all. I didn't stress for a second. The issue would be fixed, or we would somehow find a solution (or another room). There's always a way to make things work. The goal is to not fight the resolution.

And remember - you're getting married! This is a happy day of celebration and everyone is there in support of you and your partner! Create and nurture the positive energy that you want surrounding you on your day.

Rule #3: Let the experts do their job - and trust them!

So you shelled out a few thousand dollars on photography... perhaps hundreds if not thousands on flowers (You've seen these weddings on Pinterest!). There's a reason you're paying so much: You are paying a professional for their time and their skill. Sure, there's the cost of materials, but you sought out your specific vendors because you thought they were the best in your price range, and you seem to really connect with them.

I gave our florist an idea of what I wanted, with flower types and colours, but I honestly had no idea what was in season. She guided me to combinations that ended up being incredible. She put together the most beautiful bouquets, and they were all so simple and romantic. Even when it came to the ribbon around the stems, she made a recommendation and not only did I love it, but I trusted her that it would look amazing (and she didn't disappoint).

Trust your experts. Try to avoid harassing them with phone calls and emails with changes and demands. I'm not saying that you shouldn't stick up for what you want or what you're asking for, but keep an open mind and understand that these people work weddings for a living.

Even if it's not exactly as you had pictured it in your head, try to see the beauty in it. See the love and the handiwork that went into each piece from your vendors/experts.

Rule #4: Call upon your think tank, but avoid getting too many opinions

There were multiple times where I had to make silly little decisions (like, which font looks better for the seating chart?) and I got a little overwhelmed with indecision (mostly because I didn't care about seating chart fonts... I just wanted it to be legible for our guests). Instead of just picking something, I would call upon one of my bridesmaids, or my sister, or mom, or, if the decision was more crucial than fonts, I would bring in my fiancé. I would have 3-4 options ready, then I would ask 1-2 people for their opinion - never more than that. Any more opinions and you will second guess yourself, and now you're trying to please the crowd. Once a decision was made, we stuck to it and moved on.

There's no need to dwell on the tiniest details; but you're also allowed some help in making those decisions. Back to Rule #1: Less is more. You don't need your whole posse there for you when you try on wedding dresses or meet with your florist. Pick one person and enjoy the experience. If you find there's someone who's opinion on the matter would mean a lot to you, then go home and come back another day with that person.

For our wedding cupcakes I went by myself to put down the deposit and then brought home a few different varieties/flavours of cupcakes home for my fiancé so that he could help choose the flavour that we would serve. The point is that you don't have to do everything alone. It's okay to ask for help.

***

I understand that my situation will not apply to everyone, but I hope that these little tidbits of advice will help others beyond the typical "warnings" that women hear. A warning isn't always helpful but guidance on how to better manage the wedding planning and execution is. And that is my hope for today's blog post. I'll be posting again soon for Part 2: Self-Care for the Mindful Bride

Saturday, March 31, 2018

6 products that most women would do best to avoid

I recently saw the swag bag that's being given out for those who participate in one of the Women's runs, here in Toronto. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a good swag bag. It's one of the perks of running a race.

What grabbed my attention was the number of items in this "Women's swag bag" that can actually sabotage a woman's hormonal health. Maybe not dramatically or from a single use/consumption, but long-term, or for those who already have hormonal issues.

Here are a few examples of products that most women should avoid, while trying not to call out specific brand names.

1) Commercial brand granola bars
           These are often laden with sugar; Both in the number of types of sugar and in the grams per serving. Upon reading the ingredients label you'll notice that a single product can contain all of the following: Brown sugar, Honey, Glucose, Sugar, and Glycerin. That's 5 different "types" of sweeteners in a single granola bar (as listed by a specific brand), with 5g of sugar and only 1g of protein and only 2g of fiber per serving. Shouldn't a granola bar be high in fiber?
           Additionally, we find chemical preservatives like BHT, artificial flavouring, and "modified milk ingredients." On a scale of healthy snacks, this one shouldn't even be an option.

2) "Nutritional" or Meal replacement shakes
           It makes me sick that we actually feed these to people. Sure, they're fantastic for helping certain people gain weight, but that's because each serving contains roughly 40g of carbohydrates with 1/2 of that coming from multiple sources of sugar and even more added sweeteners.
         Additionally, there are multiple ingredients that aren't well tolerated, especially as we age. 
→ Carrageenan is what researchers in animal labs use to induce inflammation. It can also be a cause of headaches and migraines for some women. 
"Vegetable oil" often contributes to high omega-6:omega-3 ratios in the diet - meaning more inflammation. This can manifest as IBS, joint pain, painful periods, depression, and brain fog.
Milk protein concentrate. Not a terrible ingredient for the average person, but as we age we lose our concentration of available lactase enzymes. Thus, as we age, we become more lactose-intolerant to some degree. For women specifically, I often recommend avoidance of all or most cow dairy as it is a common aggregator of digestion issues, hormonal imbalances, and increased inflammation.

3) Vaginal lubricants and wipes
      Vaginal dryness can often be a sign of a hormonal imbalance of estrogen. Avoid products that contain:
Glycerin: a sugar that introduced vaginally can lead to a greater incidence of yeast infections. 
Parabens like ethylparaben, methylparaben, etc. These are known hormone disruptors. 
→ Polypropylene glycol can be irritating, especially to sensitive tissue.

4) Commercially branded Hair and Body products that contain:
Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates: these are foaming agents that can dry out skin and can cause reactions for those with sensitive skin. 
Cetyl or Stearyl alcohols: avoid products that have alcohol near the top of the ingredient list if you have dry skin or eczema. Alcohol in creams or body products can be even more drying and cause eczema lesions to become painful.
Fragrance: fragrances that are not disclosed as essential oils are often synthetic and are known hormone disruptors. They can also induce headaches and other neurological symptoms, not just in the user, but in those around them. 
→ Parabens for the same reasons as above.

5) Anti-perspirants
       Using aluminum products to clog your sweat ducts stops you from being able to eliminate toxins from your skin in those areas. We're supposed to sweat. It's part of our homeostatic regulatory system, and part of the body's detoxifying system. If you're using products like the ones above, your body has to get rid of those chemicals like phthalates, and it does so through sweat, urine and feces. If you're excessively sweating, it's time to have the root cause evaluated. 
Read more on one of my previous blog posts and make your own deodorant! 

6) Tampons
    As a previous user, I can understand the frustration with me adding tampons to this list. But the problems that tampons can cause go beyond toxic shock syndrome. Tampons soak up everything they're in contact with; Not only menstrual fluid, but your natural vaginal secretions and discharges. This fluid is critical for maintaining proper vaginal pH (prevents you from getting bacterial vaginosis - itching, redness, and subsequent infections), keeping tissues moist and happy, and keeping your vaginal flora healthy. If you tend to get yeast infections frequently, stop using tampons all together. Some women who have other sensitivities or sensitive skin would also do best to avoid tampon use due to fragrances, bleaches and dioxins. 

The point here is to educate women and have people in general be more informed on the products they're purchasing and using in and on their bodies. 

Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie's book Slow Death by Rubber Duck discusses the environmental toxins that we expose ourselves to everyday, but also on the mechanisms our body has for eliminating them. It is an eye-opening read that I highly recommend. 

I also recommend EWG's webpage Myths of Cosmetic Safety for more information: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/myths-on-cosmetics-safety/#.Wr_BWmYZNsM