The Power of Mindset: How Your Mind Influences Your Health Choices

Let’s face it, what we know we should do for our health and what we actually do are often quite different. When it comes to making healthy choices, we often focus on external factors like finding the right diet plans, exercise routines, or medical advice. While these factors are undoubtedly important, one key determinant of success that often goes overlooked is the power of our mindset. The way we think and perceive ourselves and the world around us can have a profound impact on our health choices. As a naturopathic physician, I see the fascinating connection between mindset and health. I’ve learned that it is imperative that the doctor-patient relationship include good coaching on how to cultivate a positive, empowered mindset towards our choices, our bodies and our health.

The choices we make regarding our health are deeply rooted in our mindset. Our beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions about ourselves and our bodies shape our daily habits. For example, if we have a negative mindset and believe that we are incapable of making lasting changes, we are more likely to give in to unhealthy temptations, procrastinate, or give up on our goals. However, with effective coaching towards a more positive mindset, we can develop a proactive approach to our health, set achievable goals, and cultivate healthy habits that support our well-being.

One fundamental step towards creating a more intentional lifestyle is mindfulness. Learning to be more aware of your inner self and practicing being fully present in the moment can positively impact health choices. For instance, when we cultivate mindfulness, we become more attuned to our body’s signals of hunger, fullness, and overall well-being. This awareness enables us to make informed choices about what, when, and how much we eat, resulting in a healthier relationship with food and a better understanding of our body’s needs.

The mind and body are deeply interconnected, and research increasingly shows that our thoughts and emotions can influence our physical health. Negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and pessimism can weaken the immune system, increase the risk of chronic diseases, and slow down the body’s healing process. On the other hand, a positive mindset, characterized by optimism, self-belief, and resilience, can enhance our overall well-being and even influence recovery from illnesses.

Naturopathic medicine is all about empowering people to become informed about their health and coaching them on how to live a lifestyle conducive to good health, including using natural medicines when needed or for health optimization. The old medical model was to wait until you got sick, then expect the doctor to provide a magic pill. My patients come when they are sick and when they are well. They are eager to have an in depth health investigation and create a program to move towards greater health. Fundamental to success, is adopting a positive mindset conducive to making informed decisions, overcoming challenges, and cultivating sustainable life habits.

Developing self-awareness, practicing mindfulness, and fostering self-compassion are essential steps in harnessing the power of mindset to achieve optimal well-being. As a naturopathic doctor, I am just as likely to coach a patient on these important practices as I am to prescribe an herb, vitamin or prescription drug. Remember, your mindset can be a catalyst for positive change, leading you on a path towards a healthier and happier life. 

Aging Gracefully: Embracing Change & Wellness

The concept of aging gracefully encompasses a dynamic journey marked by change and a commitment to wellness.  In the realm of naturopathic medicine, this philosophy resonates deeply, offering elders a holistic approach to embrace the evolving chapters of life while nurturing their well-being. 

 

As a naturopathic doctor, I hold the privilege of guiding people of all ages through change.  Much like the diverse range of dietary preferences, the approach to aging gracefully through naturopathic practices emphasizes individual uniqueness. We acknowledge the inevitability of change while promoting strategies that support optimal health and vitality.

 

Embracing change becomes a cornerstone of aging gracefully. Just as seasons transition, so do our bodies and lifestyles. We can all engage in mindfulness practices that foster acceptance of the changes that naturally occur with age. This mental shift can significantly impact emotional well-being and overall outlook.  Mindfulness teaches us to observe the inevitable nature of change.  The practice of mindfulness can help us to embrace change.

 

Wellness, in naturopathic terms, is a harmonious integration of physical, mental, and emotional dimensions.  Elders can champion their wellness journey by staying physically active. Engaging in activities like yoga, tai chi, or daily walks promotes flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular health.  Mental well-being is equally vital.  Practices such as meditation, journaling, and engaging in creative hobbies foster cognitive agility and emotional resilience.  Engaging in social activities, spending time with loved ones, and nurturing meaningful relationships contribute to mental and emotional well-being.

 

Graceful aging advocates for a balanced, nutritious diet as a cornerstone of health.  We can all prioritize whole foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, harnessing the power of nutrition to support their bodies’ changing needs.  Processed foods, while convenient, lack nutrition.  Hydration, often overlooked, is also paramount for overall health.  Integrating herbal teas, infused water, and water-rich foods can effectively maintain hydration levels.  Furthermore, including omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods like walnuts, flax seeds, and fatty fish, can promote brain health and cognitive function.  For a deeper dive on nutrition, longevity and aging, an excellent book is The Longevity Diet by Valter Longo. 

 

Mindful eating is another key principle.  Savoring meals slowly enhances digestion and allows us to listen to our bodies’ signals of fullness, preventing overeating.  Deep belly breathing before meals can help us to promote stomach acid secretions which naturally decline as we age. 

 

Herbal medicines can complement the journey of aging gracefully; adaptogens like ashwagandha and anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric.  Prudent use of herbal medicines involves ensuring they are the right ones for you, as they can interact with medications.  Seek professional help, like a licensed naturopathic doctor, beforehand.

 

Elders can truly embrace graceful aging, fostering vitality, purpose, and well-being in every chapter of life using healthful strategies.  For an individualized approach to healthy aging, contact Dr. Shawn for a complimentary “meet the doctor” visit to determine if naturopathic medicine is right for you.

 

Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Book in a Complimentary 15-minute, no obligation appointment with Dr. Shawn to see if Naturopathic Medicine is right for you!

Intestinal Hyperpermeability (aka “Leaky Gut”)

The prevalence of intestinal hyperpermeability, also known as “leaky gut,” has gained attention in recent years.

 

Normally the small intestine aids in digestion of foods and absorption of nutrients, while also acting as a barrier to harmful substances.  These functions become compromised when the lining of the small intestine becomes excessively permeable, allowing harmful substances to enter the bloodstream. Factors such as dietary choices, chronic stress, certain medications, infections, and digestive microbiome imbalances can compromise the intestinal barrier integrity.

 

Naturopathic medicine offers a comprehensive approach to addressing these factors, with a focus on individual health goals and tailored strategies. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, incorporating specific practices into one’s lifestyle can improve intestinal hyperpermeability.

 

As a naturopathic doctor, my role is to help patients identify and achieve their health goals through personalized plans. To support “leaky gut”, some strategies have shown promise:

 

  1. Dietary Adjustments:  Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet is essential for healing the digestive lining. Emphasize whole, unprocessed foods rich in fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. On the other hand, it is important to minimize or avoid foods that can exacerbate digestive inflammation, such as refined sugars and processed foods.

 

  1. Nutritional Support:  Certain nutrients play an important role in restoring digestive health. L-glutamine, an amino acid, aids in intestinal cell regeneration.  Omega-3 fatty acids, from fish and algae, possess anti-inflammatory properties.  Herbal medicines possess healing properties and can aid in soothing the intestinal lining.  See your naturopathic doctor to help you choose the right supplements.

 

  1. Digestive Microbiome Balance:  Balancing the digestive microbiome is important to protect the intestinal lining. Probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics feed these bacteria. Incorporate fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and tempeh into your diet and consider high-quality probiotic supplements.

 

  1. Stress Management:  Chronic stress can impair the digestive barrier by causing mast cells to release their contents.  Implementing stress-reducing practices like meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, and regular physical activity can help us reduce the impacts of stress on our body.

 

  1. Identifying Food Sensitivities:  Food sensitivities and allergies can contribute to increased intestinal permeability. Working with a naturopathic doctor can be beneficial to identify and eliminate potential trigger foods through an elimination diet or specialized testing.

 

Addressing intestinal hyperpermeability requires a multifaceted approach, and naturopathic medicine offers effective strategies. By adopting dietary modifications, incorporating digestive-healing nutrients and herbs, balancing the digestive microbiome, managing stress, and identifying food sensitivities, individuals can take proactive steps towards restoring digestive health.

 

Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Book in a Complimentary 15-minute, no obligation appointment with Dr. Shawn to see if Naturopathic Medicine is right for you!

Medicinal Plants in your Garden

It’s that time of year…the sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and gardens are growing!  Plants are outstanding allies for a number of reasons.  Plants not only provide us with a source of nutrition, but can also be used for everyday ailments.  While most of us will use our garden spaces to grow our favourite foods, you can also grow your own medicines. 

 

Many everyday foods are themselves medicines and a classic example is garlic.  Garlic is called Allium sativum and contains multiple compounds that are good for health.  I often find myself recommending garlic as part of a comprehensive plan for those with high cholesterol and blood pressure.  Garlic is rich in antioxidants, also valuable in supporting cardiovascular health.  Garlic is easy to grow, typically started in the fall and grown through the next summer.

 

Many common teas that we simply enjoy the taste of also have therapeutic properties.  A couple examples include Lemon balm (Melissa off.) and Chamomile (Matricaria recutita).  Chamomile is great to use as a companion plant, meaning it grows well amongst other aromatic herbs, like basil or peppermint.  Lemon balm can spread rather easily so it may best be planted in a pot to contain it. 

 

Both lemon balm and chamomile are carminatives, which means they reduce digestive disturbances like gas and cramping.  Both are calming to the nervous system so useful during times when stress impacts our digestion.  Aromatic herbs like these are generally best steeped for 10-15 minutes to maximize their health benefits.  When I create an individualized plan for someone with IBS, I often use herbs like these in a tincture formula for a stronger effect.

 

Coneflower (otherwise called Echinacea or Echinacea purpurea) is a beautiful plant that is easy to grow.  The root is the part used and generally we find this herb useful for colds and flus.  Roots require a different extraction method than teas, called a decoction, in order to extract the medicinal properties.  I tend to use Echinacea in a tincture formula with other good herbs for colds and flus (like Elderberry, for instance!).

 

Prudent use of herbal medicines involves ensuring they are the right ones for you, as they can interact with medications or with other herbs.  Use herbs wisely by consulting reputable resources, following instructions on labels, and seeking professional help when needed.

 

Health-related information contained here is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for a visit with a regulated healthcare practitioner, like a licensed naturopathic doctor.

 

Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Book in a Complimentary 15-minute, no obligation appointment with Dr. Shawn to see if Naturopathic Medicine is right for you!

Dementia Prevention

According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, in 2020, 124,000 Canadians were diagnosed with dementia.  By 2030, it is projected that upwards of one million Canadians will be living with Dementia.  These are staggering numbers.

There are many causes and multiple types of dementia, including vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  While there is no cure, there are factors that can be addressed to reduce one’s risk.  As a naturopathic doctor, my aim is to help you identify risk factors and develop a plan with you to address them.  A comprehensive bloodwork panel can test for a number of risk factors, including blood sugar, inflammatory markers, homocysteine, and more.  Genetic tests can also be ordered as a part of Alzheimer’s disease risk.

Reducing risk factors is an important step, including making dietary changes to support blood sugar and heart health.  One particular way of eating called the Mediterranean diet, reduces inflammation, is rich in antioxidants, and is known to improve both diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk.  All of these are aspects to address with dementia. 

A Mediterranean diet includes fish as a major component, many of which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  One consideration when eating fish is to avoid those that are higher in mercury.  This is because mercury has toxic effects on the body, especially on the brain.  Lower mercury fish include shrimp, salmon, pollock, and canned light tuna. 

Lifestyle choices can also be impactful for dementia, including eliminating smoking, reducing excessive alcohol consumption, and exercising.  Exercise can improve memory, brain function, and increase blood flow to the brain.  Not to mention, exercise can improve blood sugar and heart health (those risk factors I talked about above).  There are different ways to exercise and various types to enjoy, but enjoyment is the key factor.  Like anything, the chance of you continuing to exercise is highly dependent on whether you enjoy the activity.  So, the first step with exercising is picking something you enjoy doing.

One of the key aspects that I address with patients looking to prevent dementia is to reduce chronic inflammation.  This is because inflammation that affects the brain is a contributor to the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s.  When thinking about a foundation for optimal brain health, we turn back to what we eat.  A diet that is rich in plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds) tends to include more antioxidants, which reduces inflammation in the body. 

On top of diet, there are herbal medicines and supplements that are anti-inflammatory.  Two examples include curcumin and fish oil, both of which help to reduce inflammation.  There are various types and qualities of curcumin and fish oil on the market, so ensure you pick the right one for you.  If in doubt, your naturopathic doctor can clarify.

Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Book a Complimentary 15-minute, no-obligation appointment with Dr. Shawn to see if Naturopathic Medicine is right for you!

Early Cancer Testing You Should Know About

Part of being a health-conscious person is being aware of the early signs of cancer and taking advantage of cancer screening. Cancers caught early are often treatable. An estimated two in five Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and about one in four will die from cancer, making it the leading cause of death in Canada. Having a relationship with a doctor who can provide regular checkups, blood work, and cancer screening simply saves lives. But because fewer people in the Comox Valley have a family doctor, these non-urgent conversations happen less often. People without a family doctor often only use the walk-in clinics for urgent concerns and miss out on regular screening. And what woman wants to go to a stranger at a walk-in clinic for intimate exams? As a naturopathic physician, more of my patients are accessing my services for basic medical screening tests and exams and I’m glad they have options. Here I’ll remind you of the key symptoms you should watch for and tests you should do regularly to screen for cancer. 

Paying attention to changes in your body and not ignoring them is important. It’s better to have a symptom checked out and found to be normal than ignore it and have it progress into overt issues. Symptoms that warrant investigation include unexplained: fatigue or weight loss, persistent lymph node enlargement, persistent hoarseness or coughing, bladder changes, any vaginal bleeding after menopause, easy bleeding or bruising, difficulty swallowing, unusual lumps, digestive issues, night sweats, neurological symptoms, changes to moles, white areas in the mouth and more.

Regular testing offers the chance to pick up cancer before it becomes serious. For women, PAP smears test the cervix for abnormal cells that can be or become cervical cancer. Current guidelines are for women aged 25-69 to do a PAP smear every three years. MDs or NDs can offer this service. Only about 75% of eligible Canadian women are up to date on this important test. 

Mammograms save lives. Women can just call the Comox Valley North Island Hospital. They can use an MD or an ND as the doctor who receives the results. Since one in five cases of breast cancer is found in women under 50, I agree that women in their 40s should be screened every two years.

The FIT test is a simple stool test that picks up invisible blood in the stool, which can be a sign of colon cancer. About one in 17 Canadians will get colon cancer, so it makes sense to regularly screen for it. Your MD or ND can provide the requisition for this test.

Prostate cancer screening is controversial because the harms associated with testing for and treating prostate cancer can outweigh the benefits. That said, research shows that screening blood tests do save lives, especially for high-risk populations.

I regularly provide skin cancer checks as part of a yearly physical exam, especially a patient has light-coloured skin, eyes and hair, has many moles or freckles, or report having had several blistering sunburns as a child. MDs can refer patients to dermatologists or skin specialists for diligent tracking or treatment of suspicious spots. 

I also recommend an annual full basic blood work-up, physical exam and discussion of any health issues that may be cropping up. It’s not possible to do good cancer screening when patients can only bring up one symptom, since it is often the constellation of symptoms that provides the clues needed to suspect cancer. Plus we want to be discussing healthy lifestyle practices to increase the chances of living long and well.

Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a naturopathic physician who has practiced in downtown Courtenay since 1997. 250 897-0235 or www.getwellhere.com

Mediterranean Diet

February is not just for Valentine’s Day.  It is also Heart Month here in Canada.  With 2.6 million Canadians having a common type of heart disease, the question remains is there a role for diet in preventing heart disease.  The Mediterranean Diet is arguably the diet that gets us closest to that answer.  As a naturopathic doctor, a foundational conversation I have with most of my patients is one of what do we eat.

The Mediterranean Diet is almost certainly the most researched way of eating in the world.  It is based on patterns of eating habits observed in peoples living along the Mediterranean Sea, especially the European side.  Most of the research has focused on how healthy it is for heart and blood sugar health.

The Mediterranean diet is not a diet in the weight loss sense.  Rather, it is a way of eating focused on whole foods that are rich in nutrients.  Whole foods are those that are fresh or cooked but unprocessed.  Plant foods are the stars, rich in phytonutrients, foods like colourful fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts/seeds, and whole grains.  While typically lower in red meat, poultry and fish are both good sources of protein and some fish have heart-healthy omega 3’s.

 

Multiple studies show the Mediterranean Diet has benefits for heart health, blood sugar regulation, mood and mental health, autoimmune conditions, prostate concerns, and more…

 

Here are some tips and tricks to incorporate this way of eating into your everyday life

 

Everyday Meals should contain:

  • Protein source – Seafood, Poultry, Legumes (beans, lentils), Eggs, Cheese, Yogurt
  • Healthy Fats – Olive oil, Nuts, Seeds, Olives
  • Vegetables – All the colourful vegetables you like (salads, greens, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, broccoli…). For example, each meal you can aim to have a salad.
  • Whole Grains – Brown/Wild rice, Quinoa, Couscous, Barley, Farro, whole grain pasta
  • Herbs & Spices
 

Imagine your plate to be 50% Vegetables, 25% Protein, 25% Whole Grain, 1-2 Tbsp Healthy Fat

 

Weekly Meals:

  • Aim to have 3 servings of fish & 3 servings of lentils or beans weekly
  • Keep red meat to 2 servings a week
 

Try to Reduce:

  • Replace sugary sodas and juice with water
  • Replace sugary desserts with fresh fruit (save desserts for special occasions)
  • Moderate alcohol consumption

 

Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Book in a Complimentary 15-minute, no obligation appointment with Dr. Shawn to see if Naturopathic Medicine is right for you!

Stellar Smoothies

Stellar smoothies can be a staple part of our diet for a lot of us.  Of course, summertime is the best time for fresh fruit and light eating.  But even in winter, smoothies can be a great way to have a light, nutritious, and most importantly, delicious meal.

Whether you are looking for an easy-to-digest meal, extra protein in your day, or a way to get those greens in, smoothies have your back!  It is easy to make a delicious smoothie that is also jam packed with greens and other nutritious foods.  Smoothies take only a minute to make, have easy clean up, and allow you the convenience to have your breakfast anywhere.

It helps if you have a high-powered blender to make it smooth, but it isn’t required.  Any blender will do!

Below are building blocks of my favourite smoothie recipe, which you can adapt as you like.  Happy blending!

Basic building blocks:

Step 1: Start it off with Liquid & Ice (3/4 – 1 cup)

Water, coconut water, dairy-free milk (almond, hemp, soy, coconut, cashew, rice), herbal tea

Step 2: Add in Green Veggies (1 – 2 cups) – should make up the bulk of your smoothie for added nutrition

Spinach, kale, swiss chard, lettuce, etc.

Step 3: Add Fruit (1/2 cup)

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples, pear, banana

Step 4: Add Protein (1 – 2 Scoops or Tbsp)

Hemp seeds, protein powder, collagen, nut/seed butter (almond, cashew, hazelnut, sunflower)

Step 5: Add healthy Fat (1 – 2 Tbsp)

Flax oil, chia oil, hemp oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, hemp seeds, avocado

 

Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Contact Dr. Shawn for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.

Finding Relief from Headaches

Headaches are a common experience for many and effect all sexes, genders, and ages around the world.  Globally, it is estimated that 20% of people at any particular moment have a tension-type headache.  Migraines, which can feel quite severe, effect up to 12% of people.  25% of Canadian households experience migraines.  There are many types of headaches but migraines and tension-type are two of the most common and often treated with medications.

In naturopathic medicine, we aim to identify both the type of headache and the root cause so that we can provide optimal relief.  One’s physical alignment and posture, for instance, can play a role.  So can dehydration, skipping meals, stress, and tension.  For women, menstrual headaches and associated hormone changes can lead to headaches.  Other aspects, like digestion and liver health, allergies, and food triggers can all cause or worsen headaches.  All of these can help naturopathic doctors determine connections and get to the root cause.  In this way, we may help lessen your need for medication and afford some relief.

Tension-type headaches often have a stress component.  Stress can lead to muscle tension and postural changes.  Stress can cause us to skip lunch when we are busy or reach for another cup of coffee.  All of these are aspects to consider when suspecting a headache is linked to stress.  In these cases, Rest and Relaxation (R&R) techniques can help.  It could be listening to music or pursuing creative endeavours, like painting or writing.  It could be a warm bath or massage.  For others, laughing with friends, doing yoga, or physical affection with pets or loved ones can help.  There are a multitude of options to relieve stress.  These and other options such as herbal medicines, nutrients, supplements, and mindfulness techniques, are all what naturopathic doctors are trained to provide.

Migraine headaches have a number of potential food triggers, from common everyday foods to artificial sweeteners like aspartame.  Working to determine which foods are triggers for you can help prevent your migraines in the future.  Analyzing diet and digestion can also provide clues to bring relief.  While we explore the root causes, we can attempt pain relief in the moment using nutrients, herbs, and supplements.

All of these aspects and more can unlock the clues to pain relief from headaches.

 

Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.

Sun Protection: Keeping your Skin Vital & Healthy

For many of us, young and old, summer is the time where we soak up the sun and spend more time outdoors.  Whether we are camping, enjoying time with family outside, or spending the day with friends at the beach, it is important to understand that sun exposure affects our skin. 

Sunlight has its benefits.  Many folks feel their mood improve after a long grey winter.  Sun exposure leads to vitamin D production in the body.  Some people with eczema or psoriasis can see improvements to sunlight.  While sunlight has benefits, it is important to take care to avoid sunburn and prolonged exposure to the sun.  This is because UV rays from the sun can cause damage to our skin.

Prolonged sun exposure can exacerbate the effects of aging and is associated with various skin cancers.  Effects from the sun on aging can include worsened skin wrinkling and loose skin, or broken blood vessels near the skin.  Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and approximately 1 in 6 Canadians get skin cancer.  No matter your age or skin tone, whether you are concerned with the look or health (or both!) of your skin, it is important to apply appropriate sun protection.

Basic skin care includes reducing UV exposure from both the sun and tanning beds.  The sun is the strongest between 11-3pm so it is best to reduce our time in the sun then.  While in the sun, keep hydrated, make sure to cover up (skin, face, eyes), and use a broad-spectrum natural sunscreen of at least SPF 30.  Chemical vs mineral sunscreens both have their advantages and disadvantages.  Natural formulas can contain extra ingredients to nourish your skin.

Frequently checking your skin can help you stay on top of your skin health.  As a naturopathic doctor, we can educate on how to check your own skin & we can provide physical exams should you have any skin concerns, sun-related or otherwise. 

We can help formulate a sun care plan to consider include how antioxidants (from diet or supplements) and advanced sunscreen formulas can help protect your skin even further.  Naturopathic doctors can help you determine which medications or herbs make your skin sensitive to the sun.  We can even answer questions about which supplements help protect your skin the most from sun damage. 

 

Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.