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You and Your Doctor

It is so important to have clear communication with your family doctor. The patient needs to do their best to explain their symptoms or concerns to their family doctor.  And, ideally, the family doctor will take time to explain things in terms which the patient can understand.

This is the ideal situation, but it is sometimes far from what actually happens. It is stressful going to see our doctor when we are not feeling well. We can be forgetful or feel intimidated. Add to this having to wear a paper dress in a freezing-cold examination room, and we have a recipe for a disappointing experience.

Here are some things you can do to take responsibility for your side of your patient-doctor relationship:

1.         Make a list of what you want to discuss before you come to the appointment. Most doctors welcome this, some do not. If your doctor does not like lists, make one anyway. This list is for you and your comprehensive care. And, whether your doctor appreciates it or not, it is a way to respect her time as well, by efficiently addressing your concerns.

2.         Take someone you trust with you to make notes and help ask questions. Two sets of ears will pick up more than one. Having another person there who present in your best interest may have different questions or perspective which will bring more information to light.

3.         Be honest. Tell your doctor about everything you are doing with regard to your health – good or bad. She needs to know if you are under the care of an alternative practitioner, such as a naturopath or acupuncturist. Your doctor also needs to know how much alcohol you consume, and if you take over-the-counter non-prescription medication on a regular basis.  This is not the time to be coy or try to paint a better picture of your practices.

3.         If you have frustration or disappointment in dealing with your doctor, talk to her about it. We may feel tempted to just find another doctor and start over again, but this can be a trying experience especially if you are in the throes of an existing medical condition. Instead, tell your doctor how you are feeling about how she interacts with you, and be honest. This may be an opportunity to come to a better understanding of each other. And, if your honest comments are met with an unsatisfactory response, then you can feel certain that it is best to move on and find another doctor.

4.         Trust yourself. If you have questions about your health which remain unanswered, ask to have a second opinion or to see a specialist in the field of our concern.

We are a generation of women who recognize that we have responsibility to take part in our health care. Gone are the days of accepting our physician’s diagnosis or treatment without question. Asking questions and doing a little research on our own is the best way to ensure that we are taking the treatment path that best works for us.

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Cocktails and Mocktails

The Wino That I Know!  Trying to cut down on alcohol consumption for both health and calorie implications is always a good idea.  However, it can be easier said than done.  Men are built to tolerate alcohol better than women (this is NOT an encdorsement, by the way).  However, with one drink, alcohol affects many systems in a woman’s body, not the least of which are hormone imbalance, sleep disruption, the triggering of sweats and hot flashes, to name a few.  Add to this the extra pounds and doesn’t it make you wonder why we do it?   Sometimes it is as simple as a force of habit, or the ‘ritual’ of cocktail hour.  I discovered this while trying to cut down on my beloved 5:00 martini(s).  I realized that a big part of the ritual for me was putting ice in the martini shaker, adding the ingredients and then pouring the exlixir into an ice-cold fancy glass.

So here’s I do now and it has really helped me find a new happy hour rythmn.  Ahead of time, I make home brewed iced tea.  I often use a fragrant or delicious fruit herbal tea, or my favourite green or black tea.  Put it in the fridge to get ice cold.  Try not to add sugar, as this defeats the whole purpose of taking in a healthier drink, but if you must sweeten, try to do just a little bit, or use Stevia.  At “martini time’, put the ice in the shaker (love that clinking sound!), add the beautiful iced tea, shake the dickens out out of it, pour into your favourite frosty fancy glass, add a twist of lemon or lime and enjoy!  In my experience, everyone starts to ask me what I’m drinking and they feel a bit jealous because it looks so delicious!

If wine is your poison of choice, try this trick:  pour purified water into your wine glass and add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (or more if your taste demands).  Apple cider vinegar has that pungent fullness of flavour which we often crave from our glass of wine.  It also contains phenomenal health and weight loss benefits.  Cheers!

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Our ‘Dietary Inner Child’

August 25, 2011 — Feeling stressed and aggravated with life in general, I dove into a plate of perogies and sour cream for lunch today.  Perogies are my new ‘go to’ food (used to be KD)  I knew I would feel worse after my indulgence, so why do we still do it?  Health guru, Dr. Amen, says our dietary inner child is directed by sugar and the key to side-stepping cravings is to make sure our blood sugar levels stay steady throughout the day.  I didn’t have a proper breakfast and by lunchtime was feeling quite desperately hungry.  Too late for my inner child.

A little trick that I have used to avert a craving is to simply take a tablespoon (or two) of a high quality, cold-pressed oil — olive oil, avacado oil, sesame oil.  These good-for-you oils are high in nutrients and great for our ‘good’ cholesterol.  It helps with the craving because this high quality fat satisfies our hunger pangs for the moment — actually giving our inner child a time out — so we have a moment to breathe and make a better dietary decision for ourselves.

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Environment and your Hormones

What does our Environment have to do with hormones? The answer is — Everything! For this article, the term “environment” means anything that impacts you in your life, for instance:

House and Home: Do you feel comfortable and peaceful at home? Happy even? Do you like your surroundings and feel safe in your neighbourhood?

Our Work: Whether inside the home or outside the home, do you feel fulfilled? If you don’t feel fulfilled and your work is simply a means to an end — you have to support your family — is this okay with you? There has been a major thrust in past years telling us all “let what you love be what you do”. We “should” be in a job or profession that is our passion.   This is, perhaps, something to strive for, but I feel it is a cruel expectation in some ways. Sometimes we are simply in a job that we must do and it’s okay to be okay with that! I know a lady from my hometown who loved scrapbooking. She loved it so much that she opened a scrapbook studio in town as her business. I ran into her a year after she opened, and asked her how it was going. The business was doing well, she told me, but the unfortunate thing was that now she hated scrapbooking. Her hobby had become her work, and having to work at it had ruined the pleasure for her.

Social Life: Do you have friends who add to your experience in life, or do you have friends who bring you down? It’s an easy distinction to make — after being with a particular friend, how do you feel about yourself?

Diet: A diet which doesn’t nourish our bodies properly causes a great deal of stress to the system and can lead to hormone upset. Does your diet include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables; lean proteins, and whole grains, while avoiding over-refined and processed foods?

Water: Do you have access to purified drinking water? There is more and more press about the chemicals and pharmaceuticals which are present in our water — even our processed city water. Many of these chemicals are disrupting to our hormones. We need water for our health and having the best quality water you can is a gift to your hormone health.

Time: Do you have enough “down time”? Do you have time to rest…just rest? When we try to recover from a hormone upset, or we try to keep our balanced hormones balanced, rest is not just important — it’s critical. If you find you are craving some time alone with small fantasies of what you would do, this is something to heed. One of my girlfriends with small children had a small fantasy of having a cup of tea and reading a magazine cover to cover. Once she examined this in her life, she realized the only thing that was keeping her from doing it was guilt. She felt guilty taking some time to herself during the day, even though her job as “mom” went from early morning to late at night. She put her guilt away, and decided that she was worth the effort, and a better-rested and re-charged mom would be a better mom.

The above list is meant as food for thought. Any of the above aspects of life, if unbalanced and in control of us instead of us being in control, will create some kind of stress response in us and our hormones. If something stood out to you as your read this list, maybe this is something to examine in your life. If you feel afraid to make a change for yourself ask a simple question: “what’s the down side of me doing this?” I find when I ask myself this question, it suddenly clarifies for me what I need to do.

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Your First Visit To A Naturopathic Doctor

On your first appointment the ND (naturopathic doctor) will take time to gather a wealth of information from you. An accurate and detailed patient history is absolutely critical for getting good care. If you are unsure of a procedure, or you don’t understand the value of a particular question or treatment method…ask! A good ND will take the time to make sure you understand everything that is going on and will respect your wishes if you do not want to proceed in a certain direction.

Be completely honest with your ND. Tell him/her about all the medication you are taking at the moment, including dosage amounts. Better yet, bring the bottles along. Don’t be shy – men, if you are taking Viagra, let the doctor know! Also, don’t try to edit out any bad habits during your history-taking. Be honest about alcohol, drug use and how many times per week you hit the fast food drive thru. Your ND needs the real picture to be able to have a positive effect on your health.

The reverse is also true. When using a naturopathic doctor to complement your health care, be sure to explain what you are doing to your family doctor and any other medical specialist you may visit. To be honest, some GP’s are not excited about a naturopath being involved, however more and more, mainstream medicine is coming to accept that we, as informed patients, are using alternative methods. If you are on any special naturopathic therapies or medicines, your family doctor must be made aware.

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Do or Diet!

Well, we’re nearly half-way through January.  Who has kept their resolution?

I always say I refuse to make resolutions.  However, my obsessive-compulsive inner voice can hardly contain itself.  I think we all feel that a new year means a time for drastic changes in diets or bad habits.  With stuffing and gravy now just a faint memory, what does a resolution mean to you?

Start small.  Make one change that you can commit to and incorporate into your daily life to become a new habit.  For example, exclude one bad thing from your diet, like soda pop, and make that commitment a part of your life.  Don’t ‘try’…just ‘do’.  When I find myself reaching for a Diet Coke, my brain says “right…I don’t drink Coke anymore”.  Once you have that one thing mastered, move on to something else.

Before you know it, by next New Year’s you’ll have a few new strong habits under your belt — and maybe a little less belly fat!