Feb 8

True Love


True Love

By Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW

When February rolls around, our minds are often brought to thoughts of love, romance, and sex. Whether or not you have a partner, you may want to renew your vows with your true One and Only… yourself! You won’t have a longer or more important relationship with anyone else, so the time has come to work on this relationship. Here are my top tips for working on your relationship with yourself:

  • Be kind. When you stop to think about it, you’re kind of hard on yourself, aren’t you? We all are. If you send an email with a typo, you’re such an idiot! Spill coffee on your lap? Such a klutz! If it was your best friend who did these things, how would you talk to her? Would you name-call and talk down to her? Doubtful. So why should you treat yourself differently? Self-compassion is one of the greatest (and most necessary) gifts we can give ourselves. When you are kinder, gentler, and more forgiving with yourself, you will likely find that you feel more confident and love yourself a little more.
  • Convince yourself. Now that you’ve got your everyday self-talk under control, it’s time to up the ante. Using affirmations is a kicked-up way of helping you stay accountable to positive self-talk. Look at yourself in the mirror; eye contact is important in communication, even with yourself! Depending on the message you need to give yourself, come up with a sentence or two that is empowering, makes you feel safe, makes you feel good, brave, beautiful, or loved. Repeat this to yourself in the mirror. Sometimes people say they feel a little foolish while practicing affirmations. I say that this is something just for you; a private moment of love for yourself. No need to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Recognize that this is for your benefit and no one else’s.
  • Connect to your body. What do you think of your body? Really, ask yourself. Chances are you answer with an aesthetically-based response. In our beauty-obsessed society, we tend to focus on our looks… But there is so much more to our bodies than what meets the eye. Regard your body with a mindfulness approach: What do you feel? Warm skin, strong muscles? When you close your eyes, what do you hear? The rhythm of your heartbeat, the sound of your nose breathing in and out? Perhaps most importantly, bring attention to what your amazing body can Can you lift heavier things than you thought? Create a beautiful piece of art with your hands? Run a little faster than you did last year? Grow another human?! (Sorry gents, that last one is specific to the ladies.) Your body is a magical thing that has so, so much more worth than what we can see in a selfie.

This Valentine’s Day, take the time to work on your most important relationship. You deserve your own time, attention, and love and you may be surprised by how much more confident, happy, and relaxed you feel.

LaurenBLauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at lauren@laurenberger.ca, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger3. Book your appointment with Lauren today. 



Photo reference: https://stocksnap.io/search/love/sort/relevance/desc



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Feb 1

7 Surprising Health Benefits of Love

Jen Feb Blog

Dr. Jen Newell, ND

Dr. Jen Newell is passionate about helping people embrace health, feel amazing and easily incorporate “real” food into their busy lives. Her mission is to make health accessible and achievable, and to inspire patients to live an active, vibrant and healthy life.

Jen has a clinical focus on digestive health, food sensitivities and healthy nutrition; mental health and stress-related illness; women’s health, hormone balance and fertility; optimal aging; and dermatology. She focuses on integrating healthy foods into one’s diet in a medicinal and therapeutic capacity and providing individuals with nutritional support that is easy to incorporate into a busy day. Dr. Newell practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.


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Jan 27

Regain your Confidence in the Gym!


By: Amy Dryden, Personal Trainer
As a personal trainer I have witnessed some ridiculous trends and de-mythed a number of stories. Over the years one thing has stayed consistent; women’s lack of confidence when it comes to the gym. When form and technique come into play people seem to avoid trying what they interpret as complex exercises but they are not so complex once you understand them.

Why weight train?
Speeds metabolism and will help you lose fat: When you strength train, especially large muscles, your body needs to work long after the workout to repair those muscles. What that means is that you’re burning more calories than you would just doing cardio. More muscle equals more calories burned at rest
Improve mood and hormone levels: Strength training will increase growth hormone, and help regulate cortisol levels. Growth hormone can help build muscles and enable the body to efficiently burn more fat. Cortisol can be a negative product of stress and can cause fat storage, however with proper nutrition and sleep in addition to exercise you can better regulate your cortisol levels. Lower levels of cortisol will improve your mood and eliminate the fat stored on your mid-section. Endorphins are another great benefit to exercise and weight training which make you feel good and ready to take on more!
Decrease your chances of osteoporosis: Increasing the amount of weight lifted, especially on large muscles groups (they can handle the most) can stimulate bone growth. High-impact, weight bearing exercise has been shown to combat the onset of osteoporosis, which is a very common and serious issue, especially for women.

How to get started
Do some research: There are so many great tools to help you get a better understanding of proper strength training form and technique. You can find exercise explanations on youtube, download fitness apps, or just search strength training on pinterest. Just be sure that you start basic and build up. Links to some of my favourite online tools will be added.
Keep it simple: Start by focusing on one area, weather that be bodyweight exercises, cable machine, or dumbbells. You can easily get overwhelmed with all that is out there so set a goal to focus on one area.
Bring a trusted friend: Two minds are always better than one and they can also hold you more accountable to your plan. You can help motivate each other and take turns planning the workouts.
Hire a personal trainer or join a fitness class: If you want a safe, effective, and efficient workout a personal trainer or fitness instructor are educated professionals who understand how the body works and how to create an impactful workout. A great trainer will take all the worry out of your workout and help you achieve your goals faster!

Always remind yourself of your end goal! Focusing on what you want will help you achieve your goals. It will be hard work but don’t get lost in the details, your health is important and you can do anything you set your mind to.

Fitness apps: Nike+, Nike+ training club, Fitocracy, Sworkit
Fitness professionals: Gray Cook, Jillian Michaels, Cassey Ho
Youtube/Pinterest: Search beginner workouts – nothing with the word insanity or extreme please

Amy Dryden, Personal Trainer
(647) 694-2504






Photo References: https://stocksnap.io/photo/SRWV8BAHE6

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Jan 25

Food Confidence: Food Sensitivity Testing in Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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By Dr Lisa Watson, Naturopathic Doctor

One of the most common medical diagnoses in modern days, is irritable bowel syndrome. Canada has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest rates of IBS in the world with over 5 million Canadians suffering with this condition. Despite the high rates of IBS in Canada, many men and women continue to suffer digestive symptoms long after receiving a diagnosis.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

IBS is a syndrome – a group of symptoms, some of which a person will experience, and some that they will not. A diagnosis of IBS requires that symptoms (gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation) have been on going for at least 6 months with symptoms at least 3 times in the past 3 months. Additionally at least two of the following three criteria must be met:

  • Symptoms are better after bowel movements
  • Symptoms are associated with a change in the frequency of bowel movements
  • Symptoms are associated with a change in the appearance of bowel movements

Food and IBS

Most people have recognized that certain foods can trigger symptoms of IBS. In some cases following a simple food avoidance diet (gluten free, dairy free, etc) can be enough to manage symptoms. In other people they never seem to know what is going to irritate their digestive tracts!

Food Sensitivity Testing and IBS

I believe that the digestive tract is the most important system in the body. It’s necessary for the absorption of nutrients that every other system uses to maintain health and optimal function. Understanding what foods can irritate the digestive tract is a paramount goal in treating IBS.

One means of identifying foods that can trigger IBS symptoms is food sensitivity testing. This is a simple blood test that assesses for the presence of immunoglobulins (antibodies) against foods. The presence of these IgG antibodies tells us there is an immune response, and subsequent inflammation, when that food is consumed.

Clinically, food sensitivity testing can give us confidence – confidence in the understanding of what happens when we consume different foods. Confidence in the knowledge that you are not accidentally provoking your digestive tract into a state of irritability. I have been using food sensitivity testing with my IBS patients for 8 years and have found it to be one of the most useful components of the naturopathic treatment of IBS.

Confident and Calm

The treatment of IBS doesn’t stop with food sensitivity testing. Healing the lining of the digestive tract, supporting healthy bacterial levels, balancing inflammation and immune function – all of these are important goals for treating irritable bowel syndrome. But food sensitivity testing can go along way towards giving you confidence that you are supporting your health with the best foods for your body, and help to calm the irritable nature of your most-important digestive tract.

Further Reading

Check out Dr. Watson’s articles on food sensitivity testing here: Understanding Food Sensitivities (link: http://drlisawatson.com/food-sensitivities) and Food Sensitivity Testing: Understanding Your Options (link: http://drlisawatson.com/food-sensitivity-testing)


LwatsonDr. Lisa Watson delivers health care that supports balanced and attainable health at all ages and stages of life. Of primary importance is health care that nurtures the body, mind, spirit, family and community.  As a Naturopathic Doctor and mother, Lisa believes that health care and a healthy lifestyle are intrinsically linked and that each serves to support the other. Dr. Watson practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.

Follow Dr. Watson on Twitter
Check out Dr Watson’s blog: www.drlisawatson.com



Photo Reference: http://rmalab.com/medical-laboratory-tests/allergy/igg-sensitivity


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Jan 18

Catapult Your Confidence

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By Dr. Jen Newell, Naturopathic Doctor

We’ve all seen the recent Kelloggs commercial – “97% of women have an ‘I hate my body’ moment every single day.” This is a powerful statement and a sad reality. How often have you looked in a mirror or caught a glimpse of yourself and fell victim to those negative, self-critical thoughts or compared yourself to someone else? I want 2016 to be a year where you walk tall and love yourself so check out my 5 Strategies to Catapult Your Confidence and start making little changes with deep impact!

5 Simple Strategies to Catapult Your Confidence!

  1. Positive Perceptions

Recognizing negative thoughts and self-talk is critical for putting an end to those thoughts and how you respond to them. As important as it is to recognize this self-talk, is to replace it with positive thoughts and a response that builds you up rather than break you down. This is about changing self-criticism to self-compassion.

  1. Fake It Till You Make It

Have a mantra saying something nice about what you are most self-conscious or critical about. The more you repeat the positive the more you begin to believe it. Don’t forget to remind yourself how awesome, beautiful and unique you are. I like to use post-it note reminders stuck in places where your confidence tends to waver (eg. the bathroom mirror) or positive journaling where you only list your positive qualities (read this as needed).

  1. Liberate and Celebrate

Do the things that make you feel beautiful and give yourself permission to feel amazing. So often we default to self-deprecation and don’t fully allow ourselves to shine or to embrace our beauty. Liberating that confidence and self-awareness could mean a number of different things to different people. It could be as simple as taking a shower and dressing in your favourite clothes that make you feel sexy and confident or it could be physical activity that makes you feel strong and powerful. These little things that you do for yourself add up.

  1. Kindness Leads to Confidence

Random acts of kindness for others can increase self-esteem, mental health and well-being. When you do something nice or meaningful for someone else, your self-love grows. Confidence is not just about being kind to yourself but extending that kindness outwards towards others. When I am feeling down about myself, I make a point to either send a nice note/email/card to someone I appreciate or I pay for the coffee of the next person in line at the coffee shop. These simple acts have a powerful effect on feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.

  1. Positive Posture

Your posture impacts your self-esteem and self-evaluation. A study in the European Journal of Social Psychology demonstrated that self-related attitudes (self-confidence) were greater when sitting straight than when slouching. Posture plays a role at the hormonal level as well. A study published in 2010 demonstrated that sitting and standing up straight elicits an increase in testosterone (a confidence-boosting hormone) and a drop in cortisol (a stress-related hormone). So listen to what your mother used to say and throw your shoulders back and sit up straight.


Bonus tip: Surround yourself with people that build you up and support you. This includes friends, loved ones and those on your health care team. We at IHI are here to help you live your best life and show your sparkle to the world!


Dr. Jen Newell, ND

Dr. Jen Newell is passionate about helping people embrace health, feel amazing and easily incorporate “real” food into their busy lives. Her mission is to make health accessible and achievable, and to inspire patients to live an active, vibrant and healthy life.

Jen has a clinical focus on digestive health, food sensitivities and healthy nutrition; mental health and stress-related illness; women’s health, hormone balance and fertility; optimal aging; and dermatology. She focuses on integrating healthy foods into one’s diet in a medicinal and therapeutic capacity and providing individuals with nutritional support that is easy to incorporate into a busy day. Dr. Newell practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.


Brinol, P., & Petty, R. &. (2009, February 25). Body posture effects on self-evaluation: A self-validation approach. European Journal of Social Psychology , 1053-1064.
Carney, D., & Cuddy, A. &. (2010, September 20). Power Posing Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance. Psychological Science .



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Jan 11

Questions for your Counsellor


By Lauren Berger Counsellor, MSW, RSW

Congratulations, you’ve set up your first meeting with your counsellor or therapist! You know that you’ve been feeling like talking and that you want some changes in your life… But how do you express what kind of help you’re looking for? Do you even know exactly what you’re looking for?!

Based on my experience, these are the top issues to be discussed with your therapist to get the most helpful lifelong advice:


  • How do I cope with… ? Much of the time our life problems can’t exactly be solved, but we can certainly learn to cope much more effectively to make the issues seem very tolerable. Coping strategies can run the gamut from relaxation exercises to cognitive choices to communication strategies. Your counsellor can help determine what will be most effective for you to help you cope.
  • How do I improve my communication with my… ? Whether it’s your partner, mom, boss, or frienemy, conflicts are bound to arise in life. The key to improving relations is (say it with me now) communication, communication, communication! Whenever you are dealing with another person, you will find your relationship will be much smoother if you can get your point across to the other person and learn to properly interpret the messages that they give you. Effective communication can save a lot of negative emotion, energy, and time, improving that challenging relationship!
  • How can I finally learn to relax?! Hey, life is hard! But don’t go cursing every challenge that comes your way. As the old adage says, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” That said, feeling stressed all the time isn’t good for anyone. Relaxation strategies offer us ways to cope with all those challenges and make us feel calmer in the face of anxiety. There are so many great ways to relax. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. Your counsellor can suggest relaxation strategies tailored to your needs, lifestyle, and goals. Is time an issue? Ask me about my 60 Second Calm strategy or ways to build relaxation into the activities you’re already doing. You may be surprised at just how much better you feel.
  • How do I finally stick with my goal/life change… for good? Making real life changes, no matter how badly we want them, is hard. Discussing your reasons for wanting to achieve this goal helps solidify your commitment and motivate you to keep going when the going gets tough. Ensuring you have techniques that work for you to get through the challenging times is key. You and your therapist can discover and select the best mechanisms to keep you on track. Support is essential, whether your friends and family have your back or if you need to depend mostly on your counsellor. Just remember: permanent change is absolutely possible. With commitment and support, you can get there.

Chat with your counsellor about ways she can help you navigate challenges, make sense of emotions, and reach your goals. Don’t forget: your therapist needs to be a good fit! If you don’t click with the first counsellor you meet, no worries; not everyone responds perfectly to every therapist or their techniques. Don’t give up! Talk to a few to find the best match for you.



Lauren Berger is BACK at the Integrative Health Institute on January 6, 2016! She is a Registered Social Worker providing counselling and psychotherapy. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at lauren@laurenberger.ca, or follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW. Book your appointment with Lauren here.


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Jan 4

Confidence Over Incontinence—The Role of Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy

Confidence Blog Image

By: Shannon Stoby, PT, MScPT

Being in control is comforting. Things are safe and predictable. We know what’s going to happen. We’ve got this. Any health issue can challenge our idea of the control we think we have, but perhaps the body’s most glaring indication of the lack of control is incontinence.

Whether a woman post-pregnancy, a man post-prostate surgery, or anyone who is ‘getting older’, the causes of incontinence are many, but the physical and mental outcomes are often the same—the loss of control and the loss of confidence.

As an adult with incontinence, you may lose your confidence to exercise, to travel, to engage in social situations due to uncertainty or fear of embarrassment. Often times, treatment recommendations may include medication, incontinence hygiene and support products, or even surgery. While these may offer some relief or be a way to cope, they may come with side effects and there seems little hope for actual resolution.

Pelvic floor physiotherapy can help. The muscles of the pelvic floor lie between your pubic bone and tailbone, front to back, and your sits bones side to side. Among the many nerves, vessels, and other organs, the bladder and rectum are also within the muscles and fascia of the pelvic floor. In some instances, the muscles may be overstretched and the reduced contractility can lead to the loss of control or some degree of prolapse may occur. In other cases, the muscles are tight, there are fascial restrictions, and the bladder may be unable to expand. In either instance, the muscles and structures are unable to appropriately respond to the usual cues. Regardless of the circumstances that lead to your incontinence, a proper assessment is important to determine the muscle tone of your pelvic floor, so treatment can proceed appropriately. Muscle tightness and fascial restrictions need to be addressed prior to strengthening for optimal function of the pelvic floor. Trying to strengthen muscles that are already tight is not going to yield the desired result, and can actually be counter-productive.

Pelvic floor physiotherapy involves internal assessment and treatment of the structures of the pelvic floor—vaginally for women, rectally for men. If this may seem outside of the comfort zone, think of it this way: your physiotherapist does not treat any other part of your body without seeing it, palpating it, and assessing it’s strength. The internal assessment is the gold standard of pelvic floor physiotherapy and guides the appropriate progression of treatment. I know it’s tempting to just quietly do the kegels like you researched on Google, but merely knowing the technique does not guarantee proper execution, nor does it mean that it is even the right treatment for you.

Although incontinence and the pelvic floor are not often talked about, the problems are very common. Unfortunately, the silence and embarrassment can also lead to depression and poor self-esteem; that loss of confidence can have widespread effects.

Regardless of your situation, incontinence does not have to be your ‘new normal’. Empower yourself by talking about it and seeking appropriate treatment. Regain control of your bladder and bowel to increase your freedom in the other areas of your life.


By: Shannon Stoby, PT, MScPT

Shannon is a Physical Therapist with an interest in helping her patients achieve holistic healing from whatever ails them and achieve optimum functioning in pursuing their passions.

Shannon graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Physical Education with distinction, and followed with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy. She is licensed with the College of Physical Therapists of Ontario and is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.

Shannon has trained extensively in John F. Barnes Myofascial Release (MFR), and this is the focus of her practice. She has worked with patients with mental illness, has trained in women’s health treatment, and is a sports enthusiast; MFR allows her a means to assist with all of these issues in a meaningful way. She has also worked across the lifespan, with experience addressing the health concerns of older adults. Through her experience in work and in life, she has come to understand that there is more to healing than just the body. While physical health is paramount, the roles of the mind and the soul in health and healing are of equal importance.

Shannon is excited for the opportunity to work with the talented team at IHI, and looks forward to working with you, in wherever the journey may lead.

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Dec 28

Cultivate Happiness with a Beginner’s Mind?

Beginners Mind

By Dr. Erin Wiley – Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few” ~Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

The start of a new year is around the corner and many of us might be anticipating a fresh start. A chance to renew our spirit, to make changes to our health and happiness, to learn and grow from our past experiences. In order to really break free from our patterns and ingrained beliefs, we need to have the courage to completely let go of our expectations. “A beginner’s mind” is a state of being in the present moment without expectation. It is an attitude of complete acceptance, free from fear and judgment, where the mind is open to all possibilities.

Children show us examples of a beginner’s mind everyday. If they hear music, it might move them to dance freely; they don’t care who is watching. Would you be so moved and free to dance? They are not afraid to pick up a paintbrush, regardless of skill and unconcerned about the finished product; they have no need to stay in between the lines or choose “the right” colours. They do it for the sheer joy of creating. Another example is the first time my two-year-old daughter saw the lights on our Christmas tree. She experienced sheer joy in seeing the lights for the first time, while I was already thinking about our busy holiday schedule, plotting meal plans and last minute holiday shopping. I was feeling relieved for having completed the tree, having immediately moved on to the next item on my to-do list, and completely missed out on the main reason one has a Christmas tree in the first place: the joy of appreciating its beauty, magic and sparkle! What have you missed out on because of your never-ending to-do list?

As adults, travel can help us experience the happiness of a beginner’s mind when we leave what is familiar and visit a new culture. Taking in new sights, enjoying new flavors, experiencing art and design for the first time. When we let go of our daily expectations of routine and obligations and are free to move about and explore it can bring a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm, and it is easy to feel happy. But do we have to travel far to find opportunities for new experiences?

Now imagine what would happen if we brought this attitude into our daily life. If we really enjoyed that cup of coffee, sat down for breakfast with our family, enjoyed exercise simply for how great it feels to move our body. How would our relationships improve if we paid closer attention in that conversation with a friend or saw our partner, parents or children with new eyes, just how they are in that moment, letting go of past grievances, hurt feelings or expectations about what roles or obligations they are supposed to fulfill for us? Imagine what our workplace would be like if we approached that next business meeting, got on that new project or connected with a co-worker with the enthusiasm and openness of a new grad? Might we bring out the best in each other, might we have more fun or might we learn something new?

Perhaps this year you can approach your New Year’s resolutions with renewed openness. Perhaps you will find the courage to take that dance class, sign up for cooking school, pull out those paintbrushes, write that blog or open that business, simply because you want to experience the joy of doing it. Let go of the beliefs that are holding you back, quiet that negative voice in your head, stop waiting until you are an expert and approach each day as a beginner.

For more information on “The Beginners Mind” check out this link to a video by Jon Kabat-Zinn on Mindfulness 9 Attitudes – Beginners Mind https://youtu.be/ssqclf52ZpY

You might also enjoy the book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice “by Shunryu Suzuki


Dr. Erin Wiley NDDr. Erin Wiley is a naturopathic doctor with a strong focus on preventative and integrative medicine. She is the Owner and Clinic Director of the Integrative Health Institute, an integrative medical clinic located in downtown Toronto. Erin has a strong clinical emphasis on stress related illness, anxiety, depression and hormone balance. As a naturopathic doctor, Erin is passionate about working with people to help them better understand their health and achieve their health goals.

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Dec 21

Travel Lightly


Travel Lightly

By Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW

The time you have waited for all year has arrived. It’s time for that Winter holiday vacation! You’ve scoured flights, hotels, restaurants… You’ve dreamed of strutting out of the office on your last day since August… And now the time has come! Maybe you’ve been planning a beach and margarita vacay or perhaps a Mount Tremblant ski trip (why yes, I will have whip on my hot chocolate!) Although relaxation and themed beverages may be the highlights of your vacation, you may find that there are some nagging travel stresses killing your buzz. Dump that travel baggage and keep looking forward to your vacation with my top tips for busting travel stress.

  • Preparation. Nothing gets my heart pumping like fearing I have forgotten a key item at home. While many things can be replaced without too much fuss (who hasn’t forgotten to pack socks?!), other things can be a challenge. In the weeks leading up to your departure, keep a running list of necessities. Love yourself a Post-It note? Perfect. Keep it where you can see it (with an accompanying pen) and record the essentials. Technology more your speed? Open a “note” on your phone and add to your list the moment you think of something. Make sure your list includes things like any prescriptions or supplements you take, travel documents, local currency, and chargers for your devices. These items are best kept in your carry-on bag in case your checked bag gets lost. Make sure you run through your checklist as you’re walking out the door to prevent leaving something behind.
  • Navigate the airport like a pro. Everyone knows that holiday time is the worst for airport craziness. Don’t let the chaos taint your trip. The best gift you can give yourself on your travel day is time. Get to the airport early. Leave more time than you think you’ll need to actually get to the airport (5pm on the 401 isn’t always smooth sailing). If that extra time wasn’t used up by unforeseen travel delays (hello, customs!), then congrats, you have bonus chill time! Take a walk through the terminal to get your body moving before you’re stuck in that little airplane seat for an hour or two or seven. Send out those last “Happy Holiday” texts to your buds before boarding. Hey, even try chatting up the airport staff… you never know when a first class seat will materialize with your name on it!
  • Keep your cool. Airplane anxiety happens to the best of us. Even though we’re often reminded that flying is an extremely safe method of travel, it’s natural to feel a little shaky. After you get yourself comfy in your seat, focus on breathing slowly in and out, letting your lungs expand your abdomen as you do. Let the inhale and exhale each last for about five seconds. As you get your rhythm, close your eyes and picture yourself at your destination. Imagine it with each of your five senses: Feel the sun on your cheeks, smell the salty ocean water, taste the refreshing smoothie, see the white sandy beach, hear the waves crashing. Keep up this breathing and imagery as long as you like. You’ll feel so relaxed, chances are a bump or two of turbulence won’t bother you a bit. Look forward to feeling relaxed and psyched for your destination as you touch down.
  • Go with the flow. Even the most careful planning can’t predict everything. Your bag may get lost, the weather may not be optimal, or the dreaded common cold may hit. The circumstance may not be ideal, but remember, you have control over your reaction to it. Don’t allow negative thoughts to take over and ruin your holiday. Remind yourself that, even with this blip, you’re here to have a good time. You are in charge of your emotions. Bring your focus to what is going well (the friendly bartender makes a fab daiquiri, you’ve totally beat your best time cross-country skiing, you and your partner are connecting better than ever) and choose to enjoy those aspects of your trip. You’ve earned your vacation, make sure you enjoy it!

This holiday season travel safe, have fun, and be kind to yourself. ’Tis the season of joy after all! See you in 2016!

Lauren Berger is BACK at the Integrative Health Institute on January 6, 2016! She is a Registered Social Worker providing counselling and psychotherapy. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at lauren@laurenberger.ca, or follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW. Book your appointment with Lauren here.


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Dec 14


Stay on courseBy Paul Overy

I am a grateful survivor of a rare form of thyroid cancer. It’s hard to say how likely this outcome was at the outset, but I do know it was challenging to make the choices required of me along the way from the time of diagnosis…and to create choices for myself when none were offered.

My adventures with cancer began when my general practitioner found a nodule on my thyroid gland during a physical exam in late 2011. This led to a series of ultrasound tests and biopsies, which all initially indicated the nodule was benign. Nonetheless, my endocrinologist referred me to a thyroid surgeon, who recommended surgery to remove my thyroid gland “just in case”. When I did some research on my own about this, I learned that about 95% of thyroid nodules, even large ones, remain benign, so do not require surgical removal. Given the risks associated with surgery, I asked that we adopt a “wait and see” approach.

We did that until August 2013, when a follow-up biopsy indicated that I now had a tumour in my thyroid gland, but upon learning this, it was my surgeon’s turn to suggest a “wait and see” approach. When I received the news about the tumour, I did not know the details of what I was dealing with, so agreed to the surgeon’s recommendation. As I did my own research about the particular type of tumour I had, however, I learned that it was very rare and poorly understood, with a substantially higher rate of malignant metastases and death than other forms of thyroid cancer. “Wait and see” seemed to be a reckless approach in this circumstance, so I requested both a follow-up appointment with my surgeon (which took 2 months to obtain) and an appointment (through my GP) with another thyroid surgeon, for a second opinion on a best course of action. That second opinion was that I should have surgery as soon as possible, which I requested from my surgeon when I was finally able to see him again (one cannot simply ask to be added to a surgery waitlist without a formal appointment).

I was able to have a full thyroidectomy in January 2014, which went very well, with no complications. The subsequent pathology work indicated that some cancer cells had begun to spread through my bloodstream, though thankfully, they had not breached the thyroid capsule itself.

Following that news, I was advised by my surgeon to proceed with the “protocol” of receiving radioactive iodine treatment, which is unique to thyroid cancer. While it has a certain brilliance, in that it effectively targets cancerous thyroid cells, it can also cause damage to all other tissues in the body and increases the risk of other primary cancers later in life. While I was glad to know there was such a form of intervention available should all else fail, it seemed perverse to me to begin with such a harmful treatment. I needed to find a gentler first course of action to deal with the residual cancer in my body, even though none was even mentioned by my surgeon or endocrinologist.

Beginning almost 2 years before this experience with cancer, I had been working with Dr. Erin Wiley to address my overall health, and I continued to receive her support during the period I was dealing with the knowledge that I had cancer. The transition to a low-carbohydrate and antioxidant diet she recommended was an excellent preparation for the choices I was about to make. Once I was faced with the prospect of harmful radioactive iodine therapy, I asked her to refer me to a naturopath with experience in dealing with cancer, which she did. Naturopathic oncologists are rare, with only a few dozen practicing Canada-wide. I was very fortunate to find one in my area of Toronto, who was able to see me on short notice.

When he read the details of my thyroid pathology, he told me “If I were you, I don’t know what I would do”. Because my thyroid tumour had been so large and aggressive, there was an argument that the invasive radioactive iodine treatment was called for. From my own research, I also knew that it could cause me permanent harm. I asked about the research supporting the naturopathic approach to cancer treatment (essentially a very low-carb diet, intravenous vitamin C, mistletoe injections and antioxidant supplementation), which he provided.

Based on my understanding of the risks and merits of each approach, and because it made sense to me to start with the least-invasive approach first, I chose to begin the naturopathic cancer treatment in February 2014, knowing that I could move to the medical treatment if that became necessary.

I continued to receive monitoring of signs of cancer both through my endocrinologist and my naturopathic oncologist, and by June 2014, test results in indicated there were no measurable signs of cancer in my body. I was deeply grateful.

My naturopathic cancer treatment continues (except for the intravenous vitamin C) and will until a full 2 years have passed; this is very much a “sprinkler rather than fire hose” approach. I continue to have my thyroid hormone replacement managed by my endocrinologist, who to this day has not asked me what I chose to do instead of the radioactive iodine treatment…she simply notes that I am doing well.

I am very thankful that I was willing, at each step in my decision-making process, to access different sources and types of information, that I was willing to go against medical recommendations in response to my understanding of the available empirical research, and that I had the guidance and great skill of many professionals in support of effective surgery and then my choice of a naturopathic response to my cancer diagnosis.

Health challenges can require us to make difficult and important decisions in the context of incomplete and conflicting information and advice. I have begun to learn what to accept and receive from each person and source, and ultimately rely on what makes sense in the absence of certainty. I hope this is a skill which will continue to serve me.


Photo Credit: Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/58675650@N05/7142557939/”>H.Magdy</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147″>cc</a>

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