Adaptogens for Healing Burnout

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Do you feel like you are running on empty but you can’t find the time to refuel and replenish? A feeling of overwhelm can eventually turn into burnout and it is an unfortunate epidemic in our society these days. We tend to have too much going on than our bodies can handle and we don’t take the time to recharge our batteries. Women are more likely to feel the impact of overwhelm and burnout on their mental and physical well-being but that doesn’t mean we don’t see it in men. You may be a nurse who does shift work, a police officer needing to pump out adrenaline on the job, a new mom getting little sleep, or a menopausal women taking care of both teenagers and elderly parents. It all leads to the same thing if we can’t take care of ourselves! 

Some mild symptoms you may commonly experience are fatigue, poor sleep, sugar cravings and irritability. It can eventually lead to symptoms you may not acknowledge as burnout such as anxiety or depression, insomnia, poor memory, low libido, muscle soreness, inability to lose that dreaded belly fat, and a poor immune system. What we really need to watch out for is when the body can’t support itself anymore and autoimmune conditions such as Hashimotos thyroiditis or rheumatoid arthritis occur or potentially blood sugar issues or chronic hives. Eekk!

What is burnout?

I have explained this in a few different blog posts, but basically burnout is when you have pushed your stress response system pasts its limit of resilience. Your body is putting on the brakes to protect itself as best it can, forcing you to take it easy. Its the little white flag saying “I surrender.” These are the clues for you to take a step back or support your way through it. This is where adaptogens come in! Thank goodness all is not lost! 

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are herbs and fungi that have been around for many years. They help us adapt and heal from stress, hence the name, and they definitely come in handy in my practice! There are a few categories of adaptogens - calming, nourishing and stimulating - therefore best to know where you're at in the “burnout phase” to get the most out of them. If you use something too stimulating when you need more nourishing you may be adding fuel to the fire and cause more anxiety. 

Stimulating: These are helpful when you aren’t quite burnt-out but need support to get through an intense time, eg. studying at medical school, meeting a work deadline or working a night shift. Examples - panax ginseng, matcha, rhodiola.

Nourishing: When you need to fill the bucket up again and refuel these come in handy. They acts as building blocks lets say to boost cortisol. Most of the adaptogens fall into this category. Examples - ashwagandha, rhodiola, holy basil, licorice (not advised for high blood pressure), medicinal mushrooms. 

Calming: When someone is feeling anxious and their body needs to hit the reset button, these calming adaptogens are very helpful. They slow down the output of cortisol. Examples - schizandra (calms the mind), avena sativa, holy basil, motherwort. 

A reminder that adaptogens should not replace nourishing lifestyle habits that support a calm and relaxed state, such as meditation, sleep, nourishing food, time in nature and time with loved ones. Adaptogens are also not suitable during pregnancy. 

If you are feeling burnt-out and need a reset come chat! I’d love to help pick the right adaptogen for you. 

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen 

Chocolate Dream Bars

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Craving a little chocolate on these hot days but everything just melts in your hand? Well I can't tell you these won't melt eventually in your hand but I can tell you they are a delicious health-ish snack or dessert for summer time! They taste like a delicious bite of candy bar that isn't too sweat yet satisfies your craving. 

I have made these from the Oh She Glows Cookbook #2 a few times now for get togethers and they have always been a big hit. Bonus is that they are gluten free, dairy free, AND nut free! Bonus #2 is that they are super simple to make. I tend to omit to seeds on the top, mainly because I always forgot. :) 

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1.5 cups crispy rice cereal (Mine is Nature's Path)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • just over 2 tbsp brown rice syrup (can find at superstore or sobeys)
  • pinch of sea salt

Filling:

  • 1 cup sunflower seed butter
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 pinches of sea salt

Coating:

  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted (optional)
  • 3/4 cup non-dairy chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp coconut oil 

Directions:

  1. Oil a 10x6 in loaf pan and line it with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the length of the pan. 
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the crust ingredients until the cereal is full coated. Spoon the mixture in to the prepared loaf pan and spread it out evenly with the back of a spoon. With lightly wet hands, since it is fairly sticky, press the mixture down firmly and evenly into the pan. It may seen loose still but that is ok. Place in the freezer. 
  3. Rinse and dry the bowl and then combine all the filling ingredients and stir until combined and smooth.
  4. Removed the pan from the freezer and spoon the filling on top of the crust. Spread it out evenly with a spatula. Return the pan to a flat surface in the freezer and wait about 1 hour, or until firm.
  5. Once firm, in a small pot melt the chocolate and coconut oil over low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until smooth. Turn off the heat. Spread the chocolate quickly on top of the filling, fairly quickly to it doesn't harden up before you finish spreading it. Sprinkle the toasted sunflower seeds on now if using. Return the pan to the freezer for another 30 minutes or so. 
  6. When ready to eat, run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen. Life out the slab using the sides of the parchment paper to pull it out. Run very hot water over a sharp knife for a minute then slice the bar into small squares and serve immediately. The hot knife will ensure you cut smoothly through the hard chocolate. Enjoy! Remember to put any leftovers in the fridge soon or they start to melt. 

Do you have any healthy summer treats you like to make?

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

Naturopathic Approach to Healing Eczcema

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If you suffer from eczema you know that the itching, redness, peeling, cracking and even blistering can range from annoying to debilitating. It can be very hard to pinpoint what the trigger is especially as the severity and location of the rash can change quickly. 

What is most frequently prescribed for eczema, or most rashes for that matter, is topical cortisone cream. While this can be very helpful in the short term to decrease severity of symptoms and therefore sometimes your sanity (trust me I’ve been there!), longterm use of cortisone cream can thin your skin and simply suppresses the rash instead of targeting the cause. For those with eczema on their face, cortisone cream is still prescribed, although with a disclaimer to not use too much or longterm. However, what else are you supposed to use if the rash does not go away? 

This is where Naturopathic Medicine can step in. By treating the root cause of eczema, the use of cortisone cream becomes minimal or not even necessary and your skin can look and feel as good as new! The root is typically due to poor gut health and immune function so that is what I target first for my patients. 

6 Steps to Healing Eczema

1. Determine any pattern:

Patterns are helpful to determine to better identify the cause. Take note if your skin is worse in the heat or cold. Do you notice a correlation between your hormones and skin, eg. does it flare just before your period or improve during pregnancy? 

2. Look at your diet:

The most common cause of eczema I see in my practice is due to a food sensitivity damaging the gut. Food sensitivities can be determined through an elimination diet or a simple blood prick test. The most common food trigger I see related to skin issues is dairy. You may not need to eliminate all dairy longterm, however I suggest avoiding all in your diet for 4 weeks and take not of any skin improvements. Other common food triggers are wheat, eggs, soy and corn. 

3. Heal the gut:

From experience, simply eliminating a food may not do the trick completely, especially if too much damage has been done to the gut. That is why I always pair an elimination diet with gut healing support. With continued stressors, a molecule called zonulin is released which weakens the tight junctions holding the intestinal cells together, allowing more permeability. It is therefore important to knit those cells back together with amino acids found in collagen or from glutamine. Some of the most effective gut healing supplements are probiotics, glutamine or collagen powder and omega 3 oil. Dosing depends on severity of the symptoms.

4. Control the immune function:

When the gut is more permeable, the immune system then reacts to foreign substances to leak through into the blood stream. It is therefore important to support and control the immune system to decrease inflammation. Probiotics, omega 3 fish oil and D3 are all helpful nutrients for this purpose. 

5. Heal the skin:

As we work on healing the gut, it is helpful to calm down the inflammation on the skin directly, depending on the severity of the symptoms. My go-to cream for this purpose contains a variety of soothing and healing herbs and nutrients including calendula, aloe vera and vitamin E.

6 . Address stress: 

Last but not least, address your stress levels! High cortisol exacerbates inflammation both in the digestive tract and throughout the body. Consider adrenal or stress support supplements, create a mindfulness practice for yourself and get some sleep, eight hours every night!

If you struggle with eczema try out these tips or don't hesitate to reach out to discuss proper diet changes, supplements and dosing for you. 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

Food Friday: Overnight Oats

 Tastes better than it looks once its all mixed together :)

Tastes better than it looks once its all mixed together :)

I never seem to have the time or the craving for hot porridge in the summer. Enter…overnight oats. This is a great option for those days you are on the go quickly in the morning but still want to make sure you get a nutritious breaky to start your day. The great thing about overnight oats is that you can mix it up to your liking, adding any summer berries, nuts, seeds and other flavours you like. Like my oatmeal I always make sure to add some sort of protein and fat to ensure my blood sugar is balanced and it keeps me full for a few hours. We want to avoid sugary cereals with milk for that purpose. There are many recipes for overnight oats on the web, this is just how I like to do it :) 

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup almond milk, other other nut milk
  • 1/4 cup regular rolled oats (not steel cut or quick oats)
  • 1-2 tbsp buckwheat groats (optional - I find mine at Bulk barn)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds 
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or sprinkle to your liking)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract 
  • 1/2-1 scoop Sproos Collagen powder (optional)
  • 2 tbsp chopped walnuts (or other nuts or seeds you prefer)

Optional toppings - blueberries, strawberries, shredded apple, apricots, shredded coconut, cardamom, hemp hearts, ground flax seed, goji berries - you name it! 

Directions:

  1. Add almond milk, oats, buckwheat groats, chia seeds, maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon in a jar. Close the lid and shake, shake, shake. Place jar in the fridge overnight. 
  2. In the morning grab your jar and add any toppings you wish. I make sure to mix in collagen powder and lately I have been adding walnuts, hemp hearts and any berries or fruit I have.

That's it. Easy as 1, 2...nope that's really it. :)

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen