I had been toying with the idea of visiting a Naturopathic doctor for a couple of years when the opportunity came up for me to take the plunge. Having always been very proactive when it comes to my health, it was only the next "natural" step, after all.
I have a long history of health complications, thanks to my decade-plus battle with bulimia and all that it did to my body. My battered endocrine system and imbalanced hormones were just the tip of the iceberg, as appointments with my GP also deduced possible bone density issues and various nutritional deficiencies at different points of my medical past.
The thing is though, with all my concern and yearly check-ups, we never really "solved" a thing. Nope, my body is still quite out of whack; my monthly cycle is non-existent without the aid of oral contraceptives, I suffer from chronic dry mouth, and my blood pressure is continuously low. Visit after visit, my doctors of western medicine would listen to my concerns, conduct standard testing procedures, write me a prescription or a requisition for more invasive investigation, and then rush me out the door.
Now, this is not to say that I haven't been happy with some of the results I've received via standard medicine. When I was suffering from long-term insomnia after the passing of my father, a sleep aid prescription seemed the only solution to work at the time (I've since discovered acupuncture and no longer have the sleep difficulties I once had). Had it not been for my doc's early detection of precancerous dysplasia during a routine Pap, than I might not have been able to sidestep that possible threat. No, overall I have been OK with how standard healthcare has treated me thus far.
But I have decided that I want answers. Not just band-aid solutions, or easy fixes. With all my nutritional background and knowledge, and my keen interest in Eastern medicinal techniques, I now know that there are options, and that it is a lot simpler to work at preventing illness with lifestyle changes, than it is to try and "fix" disease once it is present.
Enter Dr. Erin Wiley, ND. After weeks of research, I decided to check out Integrative Health Institute, a warm and welcoming centre in downtown Toronto, co-owned my Erin and her partner Dr. Meghan Walker, ND.
I booked my "intake" appointment for a sunny Tuesday afternoon, and was told that it would take about an hour and a half to complete. There were a few forms for me to fill out pre-visit, which I easily printed off from their website and filled in ahead of my inaugural journey in the world of natural medicine. The questions were thorough and specific, and I found myself patting myself on the back for making this decision. Already I knew that this was going to be a very different and positive experience.
When it came time for my initial consult, it was nice to be greeted by Dr. Wiley, a glowing and cheerful professional, clad in a cute denim dress, not the standard stark lab coat I was used to seeing at my hospital clinic. Already I felt at ease. To get things started, Erin introduced me to her practice by giving a brief, easy to understand overview of what Naturopathic doctors do.
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You can't beat beets! Beets are full of vitamins B3, B6, C and beta-carotene. They're also a valuable source of iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium -- all necessary to promote optimal detoxification and elimination. Beets also support good gallbladder and liver health -- organs that are paramount for breaking down and removing toxins. The high amount of fibre in beetroot improves digestion and helps eliminate bodily waste.
Often known as seaweeds, these amazing foods house powerful antioxidants that help to alkalize the blood and strengthen the digestive tract. The algin in seaweeds absorb toxins from the digestive tract in much the same way a water softener removes the hardness from tap water. Sea vegetables offer the broadest range of minerals of any food, containing virtually all the minerals found in the ocean -- the same minerals that are found in human blood. Dulse is my personal fave.
Dandelions are considered a powerhouse food full of nutrients that are essential for anyone regularly eating the "Standard American Diet" (SAD). They're a rich source of minerals and provide a variety of phytonutrients. They're super antioxidants that support cleansing of the digestive tract and offer great liver support. Try adding dandelion leaves to your salad.
Broccoli is part of the powerhouse brassica family of vegetables. Broccoli contains important phytochemicals that are released when they're chopped, chewed, fermented, cooked or digested. The substances are released then break down into sulphorophanes, indole-3-carbinol and D-glucarate, which all have a specific effect on detoxification. Broccoli sprouts can actually provide more benefit than regular broccoli as they contain 20 times more sulfurophane. Add these to your salads and get creative with them in your meals.
One of my favourite "superfoods," flaxseeds serve many purposes. When detoxifying your body, it's essential to ensure toxins are eliminated properly. Ground flaxseeds provide a wonderful source of fibre that helps to bind and flush toxins from the intestinal tract. They're also a great source of health promoting omega 3 oils. Try consuming two tablespoons of gound flaxseeds in lemon water every morning
Who doesn't love lemon? This wonderful fruit stimulates the release of enzymes and helps convert toxins into a water-soluble form that can be easily excreted from the body. Drinking lemon water, which is alkaline-forming, first thing in the morning will help to balance out the acidity of foods we've consumed. Don't forget to add your ground flaxseeds to enhance toxin removal.
No detox plan should be without some garlic: It's a powerful antiviral, antiseptic and antibiotic. Ridding your body of these pathogenic microbes can reduce endogenous (made by your body) toxins. The vital sulphuric compounds garlic contains makes it an essential detoxifier.
Artichokes are not only a very tasty food, they're also incredibly healthy. Artichokes have been shown to increase bile production and purify/protect the liver. They also have a mild diuretic effect on the kidneys, ensuring proper removal of toxins once the liver breaks them down.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, which gives it its yellow color. The rate at which your detox pathways function depends on your genes, your age, lifestyle and a good supply of nutrients involved in the detox process. Curcumin is used a lot in Ayurvedic Medicine to treat liver and digestive disorders.
Apples are full of wonderful nutrients. You get fibre, vitamins, minerals and many beneficial phytochemicals such as D-Glucarate, flavonoids and terpenoids. All of these substances are used in the detox process. One flavonoid, Phlorizidin (phlorizin), is thought to help stimulate bile production which helps with detox as the liver gets rid of some toxins through the bile. Apples are also a good source of the soluble fibre pectin, which can help detox metals and food additives from your body. It's best to eat only organic apples as the non-organic varieties are among the top 12 foods that've been found to contain the most pesticide residues.
She emphasized the importance of relationship building, explaining that she and I would be developing a doctor-patient link that welcomes open communication and honesty, with a real focus on problem solving. Through her use of easy to understand metaphors and diagrams (she showed me how my circadian rhythm matched up against ideal sleep-wake cycles with pen and paper!), I got to better understand where our focus would be when it comes to sorting out my health concerns together. We went through my intake forms from beginning to end, with Dr. Wiley stopping to ask pertinent questions when she needed more information. I got the opportunity to really speak about my feelings, symptoms, and overall concerns. Nothing was rushed, everything was considered.
After a lot of great communication, it was time for some tests. Not your standard blood samples and stethoscopes either! Nope, Dr. Wiley deduced that what she needed to do was have a look at my blood pressure, and take a check on my body composition. What was really neat, was that after checking my blood pressure and finding it to be a low (as suspected) 85/50, she proceeded to check it once more while I was laying down, and then did a "gravity" check, having me rise up to standing and immediately checking it then to see any difference. Never had that happen with my regular GP!
We did my body composition test using a series of electrodes attached to a few points of my body, yet another new experience, but I won't have those results until my next visit. Hopefully this can answer, among other things, the question as to whether or not my body is absorbing water into my organs as it should, and then we can figure out if and why I am so bloody thirsty all the time!
So what conclusions did we come to? Well, I just may have a condition caused "adrenal fatigue" brought on by the high levels of stress I have been under over the course of the past few years. Apparently, my poor adrenal glands just aren't functioning as they should, and in turn, a whole slew of other systems in my body are unhappy as well. This might explain the shortness of breath I have been having recently, my fluctuating energy levels, and dry mouth. I love that after just this one sit-down with me, Erin was able to recognize the wide array of symptoms I have, and focus them in on one specific possible cause. Next up: treatment!
I left that day armed with a ton of arsenal to put me on the path to recovery from my tired adrenals, including two recommended botanical supplements. Dr. Wiley also supplied me with a two-page "action plan" of sorts, to get me moving forward in improving my health in a holistic way. This print out serves as a guideline for a few very simple changes I can make to improve my digestive health, kidney function, endocrine balance, and general nutrition, all specific to my personal needs.
So how do I feel now that I have taken this first step towards holistic health? Amazing. I feel inspired, motivated, and most importantly, supported. I can tell already that this is going to be a life-changing experience. So, Dr. Wiley, I'll see YOU in four weeks!
Another way to feel well, holistically? Eat well! I have some great MAP Wellness Raw Food Workshops coming up! Register in November for a chance to win a $100 prize pack courtesy of Fresh Restaurants!
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