Managing Stress (and our Mental Health!)

As we move in to Fall, it is increasingly important to acknowledge the impact of mental health and discuss strategies to promote positive mental health. World Mental Health Day 2023 just occurred on October 10, designated by the World Health Organization (WHO). The campaign is meant to raise awareness of mental health concerns and promote positive mental health ( “Good mental health is an integral part of our overall health and wellbeing.”

Preventative strategies are of utmost importance, considering how seasonal winter changes can impact our mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder is the presence of depression with a seasonal pattern.  It is a concern more common in Canada and other northern latitudes because of the long winters and reduced sunlight. 

The Government of Canada, back in 2019, detailed various actions each of us can take to promote positive mental health.  Naturopathic doctors prioritize many of the same actions with our patients, such as:

  • Managing stress
  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy food choices


Acute stress is necessary, but chronic stress is what leads to negative changes. Chronic stress can lead to several changes in the body, like immune and digestive dysfunction, impaired heart health, or hormone levels. Acute and chronic stress can impact our energy levels, our ability to sleep, and our ability to focus. The impacts of stress can last well after the stressful event itself is gone.

Resilience is the ability of our body and mind to withstand changes in our lives. Our body’s face changes every minute of every day, making them naturally resilient. When a stressor overwhelms our body or mind’s ability to bounce back, we become less resilient to handling these changes well. Chronic stress decreases our resilience. This can lead to fatigue, mood changes, headaches, weight gain, decreased focus, insomnia…


Managing stress comprehensively involves tending to the various parts of ourselves…physical, emotional, and mental.


An example of building emotional resilience is Grounding, a technique to help us engage with what we are feeling in the moment and to ground in our body. WHO created a guide that includes grounding and other techniques:

Meditation is one such way to build mental resilience by bringing awareness to our mental experience and harnessing a point of focus. For those interested in what the science says, David Vago, Ph.D. promotes mental health and well-being through research on meditation and the brain.  Learn more here:

Building physical resilience includes both healthy eating and exercise. It also includes determining any contributing factors, so that we can make an appropriate plan. Ordering blood tests and utilizing the appropriate tools are ways to help your body deal with the stress it is facing. For some, that might require supporting digestion, others it is optimizing sleep, while others it is improving energy.  Herbal medicines and nutrients often excel here.


As a naturopathic doctor, I strive to help my patients put in place the tools to feel better now and set a foundation for future health. I work together with my patients to create a plan for them.


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!

Chilling Adventures: Cold Water Immersion for Health

In recent years, cold water immersion has gained popularity as a health practice that offers a myriad of benefits when done correctly. In the Comox Valley, you can regularly see brave souls venturing into the bracing waters of our rivers, lakes and ocean throughout the year. As someone who has always considered themselves to be “thermally challenged”, I was reluctant to try cold water swimming, but the health benefits, plus the rave reviews of people who do it regularly, convinced me to try it. I was amazed by the increase in my vitality after cold water swimming and decided to do a little more research on cold water immersion.  As a naturopathic physician I am interested in practices that help my patients tap into their health potential and improve longevity. Cold water immersion, when practiced safely, is a way to utilize the healing power of nature. We’ll explore the health benefits, risks, and how to safely practice cold water immersion, whether in the ocean, lakes, rivers, or at home.

Wim Hof, a Dutchman, brought the ancient practice of cold-water immersion back into the limelight through his extraordinary feats of endurance in extreme cold environments. He introduced his Wim Hof Method, a combination of breathing exercises, meditation, and cold exposure, to the world. His method has garnered followers worldwide, who have experienced improved physical and mental well-being by embracing cold water therapy.

Cold water immersion is not a new concept; it has roots in naturopathic hydrotherapy, a practice that has been used for centuries to promote health and healing. Naturopathic physicians have long believed in the body’s innate ability to heal itself and the role of natural elements like water to promote this process.

Modern science supports these ancient beliefs. Cold water immersion is now backed by scientific studies that show a range of health benefits. It can boost the immune system, improve circulation, reduce inflammation, improve blood sugars and even alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. People who do it report increased energy and alertness. The practice has also been associated with enhanced recovery from exercise and injury, and improved sleep quality.

To practice cold water immersion outdoors, find a safe body of water with cold temperatures. Ensure there are no strong currents or dangerous wildlife. Make sure you go with an experienced buddy to two. Start with short, controlled dips, gradually increasing your time in the water as you become acclimated. It’s essential to focus on controlled breathing to manage the shock of cold water. You can also practice at home in the shower or bath. Start with a warm shower to relax your muscles and gradually decrease the temperature. You can also try alternating between hot and cold water for a ‘contrast hydrotherapy’ effect. Always end with cold water to stimulate your body’s response to the change in temperature.

Not sure if you’re the right person for this health practice? It’s vital to acknowledge potential risks which include hypothermia and excessive cold shock if it is not done correctly. It may have increased risk for individuals with certain medical conditions like heart problems, Raynaud’s disease, or cold urticaria (hives). I vet my patients carefully before recommending cold water immersion practices.

Whether in the wild or within the comfort of your own home, cold water immersions practices can be a refreshing addition to your holistic approach to health and wellness. Check out the Facebook group “Point Holmes Wild Swimmers” for more local information and discuss your suitability for the practice with your naturopathic physician.

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!

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

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!

Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture (Cosmetic Acupuncture)

Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture (also called Cosmetic Acupuncture) is a safe, effective, and natural way to reduce the signs of aging!  The goal is to promote skin health by harnessing the body’s own resources to create sustainable changes in the skin. 

The health of the body can be seen in the health of the face.  That is why Facial Acupuncture is a holistic approach.  We use body acupuncture points alongside facial points to promote healthy changes in the skin. 

The aging process results in changes to facial skin and tissues.  This leads to characteristic skin texture changes and loss of facial volume.

Over the course of 5-10 sessions, you can expect to see:

  • Improved circulation
  • Brightened and smoothed complexion
  • Reduced puffiness
  • Reduced fine lines
  • Toned facial muscles and sagging jowls
  • Nourishment of facial tissues

Facial Acupuncture may be ideal for you, if you are:

  • Looking for natural results
  • Looking for a holistic approach to anti-aging 
  • Looking for alternatives to conventional techniques
  • Looking for preventative ways to preserve and promote skin 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 Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture 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.

PCOS – Androgen Excess

I’m a naturopathic physician, but I’m also a woman who had a hormonal imbalance called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and who comes from a family of women with PCOS. I’ve spent decades learning about this hormonal imbalance and treating women who have it. If women want to really turn PCOS around there are strategies that can improve symptoms, improve fertility, and set them up for better mental and physical health long term. There have been three major breakthroughs in our understanding of PCOS that have come about since I was diagnosed 30 years ago. Naturopathic physicians are leading the way to find real solutions to this issue, which is the number one cause of infertility in North America. 

Firstly, I have to say that the name Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a lousy name.  Women with PCOS don’t even have to have cysts on their ovaries to get a diagnosis! A better name being proposed by experts in the field is Anovulatory Androgen Excess, meaning that these women have too many of the “male” hormones, or androgens, which can hijack the menstrual cycle so that it slows or stops, and ovulation is less likely. There are also receptors for androgens in the skin, which can result in acne and excess hair growth on the face and body. Lesser-known symptoms of PCOS are anxiety, depression, brain fog and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

Secondly, there are several different types of women that can have these symptoms which we call PCOS, depending on what’s driving the issues. In women who may be slim and have inherited the issue the root of the problem is in the pituitary gland.  These women tend to have normal blood sugar metabolism. In contrast, for some women, PCOS is very closely related to adult-onset or type 2 diabetes in that they have high insulin levels which drive up testosterone.  The good news for these women is that normalizing body weight, eating a low-carb diet, and having regular exercise can make a real difference in their hormones. 

The third breakthrough is that we’ve expanded the ideas around treating PCOS. It used to be that the only treatment was oral contraceptives.  Yes, “the pill” can help control some symptoms.  But it does nothing to restore fertility, reverse dark hair growth or teach women how to balance their hormones in a real and lasting way.  My goal in working with women with PCOS is to engage them in a program that can do all those things and set them up for good long-term health.   Firstly, I run blood tests to dig deeply into their hormones and blood sugar to see which type of PCOS they may have. Then we create an individualized program with diet, exercise, and stress management at its core.  There are also herbs and natural medicines shown in clinical studies to balance hormones, reduce symptoms and help fertility.  There are times when pharmaceuticals can help, especially when excess dark hair growth is the issue. When women with PCOS go off “the pill”, their symptoms come back. But with these other medications, the positive effects can remain after the pills have been stopped. I am so grateful that a naturopathic physician helped me get a handle on my PCOS 30 years ago and I have learned so much in helping my own daughter and many other women manage their PCOS with the help of our modern understanding of this complex condition.