Fiddleheads

Gratitude:

1)  Got to hike the Pacific Rim Trail today (well at least part of it!)

2)  Went to Tofino and had a delicious dinner and stopped at Long Beach on the way.

3)  Had a wicked awesome yoga class today.

Yoga: The class led by Eoin was fantastic.  We were all sweating buckets.  The lecture portion was amazing too.  I learned a lot today.  The main focus has been on proper alignment which I LOVE to pieces.  He compared the work we do to that of what a chiropractor does which I found cool.  He said a chiropractor will go in and properly align the vertebrae by adjusting them one by one and essentially popping them back into place.  The work we do, however achieves the same proper alignment but by teaching you how to hold your body in space.  The focus is on preventing injury and how to adjust people properly when in a variety of poses.  These bits of knowledge transformed my yoga practice after having gone to some of his classes Toronto, but hearing him teach the logic behind everything here in Ucluelet is blowing my mind.  This is such great stuff.

Meditation: Eoin had us do some Ayurvedic style breathing exercises today where you for example, plug your right nostril and breathe deeply in through your left nostril and then deeply exhale through the same one, then plug the left nostril and breathe deeply inthrough the right and exhale…then you switch sides again and repeat these cycles for a while.  When we finished that exercise, he asked us to keep our eyes closed and be still for a while, but I couldn’t.  I felt like “bing!”, “pop!”, something burst and suddenly my vision was brighter, clearer, amazing.   It was the coolest feeling.  That’s the power of breathing eh!

Food Awareness:  Prana-meter rating would be a 10/10 again this morning.  Made a smoothie with fresh pineapple, frozen strawberries, flaxseed oil, and hemp protein.  Had the rest of my little naturopathic chicken nuggets from yesterday and used hummus to dip them.  For dinner my roomie, and two of our new yogi friends drove to Tofino!  On the way we stopped at Long Beach which was gorgeous and breath taking.  We stopped at this restaurant called SoBo and I had Pesto Halibut which was amazingly delicious.  Food just doesn’t get better than this.

Nature Appreciation:  I feel like a kid here.  Everyday there’s something new to discover in Ucluelet that I’ve never seen before in my life.  Like fiddleheads.  It’s this fern that grows in the rainforest and tastes kind of like asparagus.  Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.  It’s also a good source of fibre.  We saw lots of them when me and some of my new yogi friends hiked the Pacific Rim Trail in Ucluelet during our lunch break today.   Then in Tofino when we went out for dinner my halibut came with fiddleheads which were amazing…and tasty!

Day 2 of Yoga Training

Gratitude:  I didn’t pack enough sweaters for this trip and it gets awfully chilly sometimes when we’re doing yoga, so I was really grateful when a fellow yogi friend from class, offered us a ride to the main street today on our lunch break.  I bought a cute new hippie-like sweater.  Definitely CCNM-friendly attire.  Made of organic fibres, and pure love and hand-made designs by the locals.  Having a ride was greatly appreciated as my legs, and well pretty much the rest of my body is getting more and more sore.

Yoga:  Today we started off the morning by taking turns leading the group through sun salutations.  We did 46 sun salutations total.  They’re meant to warm the body up, and man did they ever do that.  I was pretty much dripping by sun salutation #38.  After that Eoin led us through an awesome class where we luckily got to stretch our backs and legs…much needed.  We spent the rest of the day breaking down what I thought were basic yoga moves and quickly learned that they’re all far more complicated than I ever could have imagined haha!

Meditation:  I know I meditated today, but I, as well as a few others, seem to have completely forgotten what we even experienced during that meditation time.  I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but I do know I must have been pretty relaxed!

Food Awareness:  Prana-meter is 10/10 again today!  I had some apple cinnamon brown rice for breakfast, left-over Warm and Spicy Sweet Potato Salad for lunch, brown rice crackers with hummus for snacks and lots of water, and then I made these chicken nuggets for dinner.  I made bread crumbs for the nuggets out of brown rice flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes, and bits of brown rice crackers.  The recipe actually called for sesame brown rice crackers but those are virtually impossible to find in Ucluelet…believe me I’ve looked…so I had to make do with what I had.  They turned out great!

Nature Appreciation: Clean air.  The quality of the air was probably the first thing I noticed when I first landed in B.C.  I could immediately feel my lung cells smiling with every inhale of fresh clean air.  It’s kind of chilly in the mornings here, but I like to open up my window and take a big whiff of that O2.  What a way to start your morning!

Back to Regularly Scheduled Programming

This blog started out with a general skeleton for my posts:  Gratitude, Yoga, Meditation, Food Awareness, Nature Appreciation.  As time went on and life got hectic, I had to prioritize some things so my posts became fewer in number and more about random things I just wanted to write about.

Today however, marks the first day of my yoga teacher training in Ucluelet with Eoin Finn.  So far it’s been excellent.  We’ve been asked to make those 5 commitments daily.  So you can expect my old style of post once again!  Nature Appreciation used to be my moment to educate on my favourite botanicals….BUT, since I’m now in British Columbia and have an abundance of real life nature to appreciate on what feels like a minute to minute basis, Nature Appreciation will simply be about me sharing what blew my mind in nature that day.

Gratitude:

I have a wonderful roommate Hollie who apparently is also a GENIUS.  She booked us this amazing condo for the entire time we’re staying here which also happens to be a resort, and which also happens to be the location where our yoga training takes place.  It has a full kitchen, and a hot tub on the patio.  We each have our own rooms, and bathrooms, and she let me have the room with the view of the water and mountains since I’ve never been here before!  The bed is the most amazingly glorious thing ever, it might even give my memory foam mattress a run for its money.

Also grateful for the good weather we’ve been having.  Hollie informed me that Ucluelet is usually a lot rainier, and with cloudy skies, but literally since I arrived, it’s been sunny and beautiful with minimal clouds.  I like to think I brought that sunshine.

Yoga: we did a whole lot of yoga today.  I felt kind of heavy throughout the practice.  I haven’t done yoga in a while and the heaviness tends to happen under  those circumstances.  I imagine I’ll be feeling light as a feather by the time I leave this island in 11 days.  I very much look forward to that feeling… but not looking forward to leaving any time soon!

Meditation:  We didn’t really meditate today.  Savasana was amazing however, so I could technically count that as meditation time.  I remember feeling very good, but I can’t even tell you what was going through my mind, if anything at all.  Likely just a lot of gratitude for being here in Ucluelet and being part of this yoga training.

Food Awareness:  So I’m going to go ahead and give myself a 10/10 on the Pranameter.  I am maxed out on prana today.  I am following a naturopathic detox protocol right now, food just doesn’t GET any healthier.  The reasons I’m on the detox are many:

1)  I ate a lot of garbage in the month of April, mostly as a coping mechanism for exam stress, partly because of sheer laziness, and lastly because I don’t really “cook”.  I mean, if the occasion calls for it, I’ll whip something up.  But I am by no means a master of the kitchen and this is something I would like to work improve on!

2)  I have not done a detox in a few years and it’s definitely time for one!

3)  I recently bought a wonderful book called Delicious Detox written by Dr. Carol Morely ND.  It’s truly fabulous.  She lays out what you need to buy each week, and gives tips on when to prepare certain things ahead of time to save time throughout the week.  She also gives tips on how to cook certain grains: like how many cups of water to add per cup of grain, how long to cook them for…etc.  There’s also PICTURES of the delicious meals.  I love that!  I hate when cookbooks don’t show you pictures of what you’re making.  It gives you no idea as to whether you’re even remotely on the right track when you’re cooking recipes for the first time.

Today I whipped up some Warm and Spicy Sweet Potato Salad.  It was actually quite good!  It didn’t take very long to prepare either.  I could see myself making this for lunches very often.

Nature Appreciation:  Okay so growing up in Windsor, and now living in Toronto, I’m used to seeing a lot of squirrels.  Here in Ucluelet however, I’ve been seeing Eagles, and though I haven’t seen one yet, I definitely enjoyed my morning wake up call by the friendly neighbourhood sea otter.  These are creatures I normally see in Zoos, so it’s totally blowing my mind that these are animals I can see on a daily basis…well hopefully I’ll spot one soon!

I <3 British Columbia

“Wow, you’re seriously doing this?”

That’s what I was thinking to myself as I approached Gate 139 at the Toronto Airport.  Even though I’ve known I was going to come to BC for yoga teacher training since about January, I haven’t been able to properly plan for it, like buying plane tickets, bust tickets, booking hotels, etc until TWO DAYS ago.  Talk about last minute.  Unfortunately that’s just how the cookie crumbled, but I’m here now!  And so far…I’m loving it!

While on the plane last night I had this feeling like I was being followed or watched.  Which is weird…who could be following me from outside of the airplane?  So I looked behind me outside the plane window…and it was the MOON!  

Full, and big, and beautiful…and ORANGE.  It was gorgeous.  I don’t know what it is about the moon, but whenever it’s full and I catch a glimpse of it, it completely enraptures me.

I just stare at it with my mouth open, in total awe.  Once in Toronto, I was almost run over by a car during one of these moments.   When I discovered who it was that was following me on the Air Canada flight, I spent quite a bit of time just staring out the window.

So far everyone I have ever spoken to about Ucluelet (where my yoga training will take place), or about any part of BC really, has said that it’s “magical”.  I’m looking forward to checking this out for myself.  I hear there are whales and really tall trees.  My senses are already on max overload as I can smell clean air, no smog, concrete buildings are minimal here, I hear birds an they sound happy, and everything is GREEN!  So far, already having a great time.  Right now, I’m in Nanaimo and my bus leaves for Ucluelet in half an hour.  One thing I found particular cool was that by sheer accident, or fate…whatever you wanna call it…. I booked my hotel literally right beside where I have to go catch my bus.  How crazy is that?

I AM AN INTERN!

So… I’ve recently been yelled at by a few dedicated readers because my daily posting has clearly stopped.  So I feel I should justify what’s been going on here!

I thought once finals were over, that I would continue on my regimen of daily posting and daily yoga, meditation, food awareness, nature appreciation, and so on.  Instead, however, as predicted I’ve become quite busy.  Though I’ve been keeping up with yoga, though I’ll admit, not daily, there just hasn’t been enough time to write posts as often as I’d like….and here’s WHY!

Last week was technically my week off from CCNM.  No more finals, no more studying, just vacation.  Some of my friends went on interesting trips and came back bronzed and glowy.  I went to Windsor.  It was great.  I was able to shadow two amazing NDs in the Tecumseh-Windsor area, learned a ton of new info and got a bunch of useful tips for surviving my internship this year and for starting up good habits for my future practice.  I also got to spend some quality time with my dad and boyfriend, both of whom are two people I don’t get to see often enough.  Insert, large, pouty, sad face here.

This week has been…. well…. busy…the GOOD kind of busy.  The kind of busy that makes you feel good about how you spent your day.  You go to bed feeling accomplished and like your life is on track.

This week is very important in the timeline of my life at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.  After three years of INTENSIVE study, a disgustingly large number of finals, assignments, practicals, and other hoops to dive through…

I AM AN INTERN.  

I am seeing patients…real ones at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic.   

After two shifts of seeing patients I can honestly say that all those years of stress, anxiety, and hard-work have immediately paid off this week.  There is still a lot left for me to learn but I can tell I will enjoy the learning process along the way.

For those of you who are unsure of what it is exactly I’m doing as an intern here’s the deal:

CCNM has within it the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic.  It’s literally in the same building.  It’s the largest Naturopathic Clinic in North America. It’s a teaching clinic which means when you come for treatment you are treated by a primary intern (ideally ME!) and a supervisor.  I would primarily be overseeing your case and coming up with treatment plans and administering them, but the Supervisor oversees everything.  You know… to make sure I don’t kill anyone…stuff like that.  Occasionally 3rd, 2nd, or 1st year students may pop into visits to shadow a primary intern, but if you don’t want a shadow, then one doesn’t have to be there.

Through my training at CCNM I am able to perform physical exams and make diagnoses like any other med student but my treatment methods will be targeted towards finding the Root Cause of your concerns.  Treatments can often include, Hydrotherapy, Botanical Medicine, Nutrition, Supplements, Traditional Chinese Medicine including acupuncture, and chinese herbs, Lifestyle coaching, Massage, Naturopathic Manipulation (which is a fancy way of describing a typical adjustment you might get from a chiropractor), and Homeopathy to name a few…  What is prescribed depends on you the patient as every treatment for every person is highly individualized and often times no two patients, even if they come in with the same complaints, will be treated exactly alike.

People often ask what kinds of things NDs treat…

To be honest, the simple answer is: everything.  There are certain conditions that are more serious than others and will require collaboration with an MD and an ND and constant monitoring, however many people come in for complaints like: skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis; stomach troubles like food sensitivities, indigestion, and acid reflux; infertility, dysmenorrhea, proper detoxes, weight loss…  Athletes like to come in for treatment as well.  The RSNC even has a Sports Medicine shift, though all interns will be equipped to help with musculoskeletal concerns as well.  The Clinic has a Pediatric shift too, so feel free to bring your children in.

If you’d like to come see me, and I certainly welcome you to do so…you can book appointments on the following days/times:

Wednesday: 10:45 – 3pm  (This is a Cancer Shift:  If you have been diagnosed with cancer and are looking for naturopathic treatments to supplement conventional treatment you may already be seeking, I’m your girl!  Please note though that only patients with cancer can book on this shift.

Thursday: 2:45 – 7pm

Friday: 2:45 – 7pm

Saturday: 10:45 – 3pm

If you would like to book an appointment with me, just call 416-498-9763 and ask to be booked under MEIGHAN VALERO.  I will be away getting my Yoga Teacher certification in BC in the next few weeks but I will be all yours as of June!

Naturopathic Awareness Month

Day 68

May is Naturopathic Medicine Awareness Month.

This post started with my typical gratitude, yoga, meditation, food awareness, nature appreciation… but I kind of got stuck on Gratitude and then this post quickly turned into something entirely different–primarily about MDs vs NDs and my dream version of health care in Canada..  So…there you have it.

Gratitude: Katherine Kolowicz.  She’s a Naturopathic Doctor in Windsor that I preceptored with on Monday.  Spending the day with her was really reassuring and inspiring for many reasons.  For one, it made me realize how ready I am to start my internship.  When thinking about being an intern, I sometimes get this lingering and irrational fear of: what if I have no idea how to treat my patients?  But spending the day with Dr. Kolowicz I saw that I would have taken the same or similar treatment approaches she took and she has a significant amount of experience under her belt.

I shadowed Dr. Kolowicz for 11 hours, and at the end of that work day, she wasn’t exhausted.  Neither was I.  In fact, she was quite happy and pleased and said, “Isn’t it so great to love your job?  We’ve been here all day and I still feel like I could keep going.”

Once upon a time, before I had known about Naturopathic Medicine, I had plans to become an allopathic doctor (the conventional medical kind). This was the dream because at the time I thought being an allopathic doctor was the only kind of “doctor” you could be.  I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to know everything there is to know about the human body, how it works, what can go wrong, and how to fix and prevent it from needing to be fixed in the first place.  Disillusioned by experiences with my own family doctor, I was always slightly uneasy about the idea of being an MD.  I knew it wouldn’t be a labour of love, and I knew there would be limitations to the way I ideally wanted to practice medicine.  There were too many subtle signs and symptoms that my family doc could never explain and would never do anything about until it turned into an actual pathology.  I don’t believe that allopathic medicine has any business being our society’s only form of primary health care.  It is severely lacking in the form of preventative medicine.  Something Canada is in dire need of.

Ok so this sounds kind of extreme and I bet all my medical friends are feeling pretty insulted/offended so let me explain… I don’t mean that I think Naturopathic Doctors should rule the world (well okay, maybe a little), that all medical doctors are useless and no one should get surgery or take medication.  This is definitely NOT what I mean.  What I mean is that when a patient first has a concern, they primarily see their family physician–often an allopathic one.  This is what I think should change.  Services need to be redistributed in a more practical way.

Think of your typical family doctor.  We go to them with the idea that they have all the answers, that they know everything there is to know about health.  Yet, their training leaves them with many holes regarding family medicine.  Where is their training on nutrition?  What can they do about your stress levels?  Being over-weight is a risk factor for developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and so many other conditions.  In short, you can expect to cut off years from your overal life expectancy if you are over-weight.  It’s sad, but it’s true.  Most family docs will simply tell you, “you need to lose weight and eat healthy”.  But that’s about it.  There’s typically no education on what you need to do in order to lose weight, how many pounds per week is considered healthy weight loss, what your protein/carb/fat ratios should be, how many calories you should aim to burn and consume daily.  There’s also no counselling on nutrition, which foods to avoid, which foods provide nutrients or minerals that can aid in weight loss, the importance of fibre in cholesterol reduction.  There’s no counseling to discover the reasons for the weight-gain in the first place.  Is there trauma behind the weight-gain?  Loss of a loved one?  Childhood bullying?  Binge-eating disorder?  … I could keep going.  There is nothing substantial in a medical doctor’s toolbox that supports patients being healthy without medications.  Even if an MD had the appropriate training to fully counsel patients in this way, they don’t have the time, required to properly counsel and that’s not their fault.  The system is burdened and they have too many patients to see everyday.  By contrast, among other things, this kind of counseling is the crux of what a naturopath spends his/her time being trained on.  NDs of course, receive the same training in terms of being able to diagnose pathologies like an MD would, the main difference is that we don’t treat with drugs, and we pay careful attention to the early warning signs that can turn INTO pathologies if there is no early intervention.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete hater against medications or medical doctors.  Medications are incredibly necessary to keep people disease- and/or death-free.  But there is SO much more we can be doing for ourselves to avoid even getting to the point of being medicated.  This is what Naturopathic Doctors are educated and trained in.

In my opinion, a Family Doctor is the keeper of your health.  He or she is the person who looks after you, ideally from the time you are old enough to stop seeing a Pediatrician to the time one of you dies or moves away.  This doctor is in charge of every aspect of your health.  This can involve everything from gastrointestinal complaints, to asthma, to irregular menses.  Most importantly however, this should involve education on what it means to be healthy.  Growing up in Windsor, I went to a grade school where almost every kid brought to school “dunkaroos” or “fruit roll-ups” or chips or cookies as snacks either during recess or at lunch time.  This was a staple for most children, and was often coveted by children like me, whose mother never bought things like that.  Despite my regular begging, she’d shrug it off and say those things were “basura”…a spanish word for “garbage”.  Boy was she right.  My lunches unfortunately, weren’t exactly the picture of health either however, as I brought a Coca-cola to school daily, and usually drank another at dinnertime.  Where’s the fruit?  Where are the vegetables?  Why didn’t my family doctor concern himself with what my family was eating on a daily basis?

If you study medicine across the globe, almost every culture except the Western world has a tremendous focus on using food as medicine.  In traditional chinese medicine, the first step to restoring balance and healing is often through the diet.  In fact, a patient who has a “spleen Qi deficiency” will often not recover if they do not make changes to their diet.  Usually dietary changes are the only changes necessary to execute a cure in this case.  Acupuncture will help, but the problem will likely recur if the diet is not adjusted.  The same is true in Ayurvedic medicine.  Other countries used to have healthy dietary traditions that are now being overridden by poor Western influences like McDonald’s and popular packaged and processed foods.  How many blocks do you need to walk in Japan before finding a McDonald’s restaurant?  What do most Mexicans drink to cool off?  It’s likely a carbonated soft drink.

Thomas Edison had it right when he said:

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his or her patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease”


Naturopathic Doctors focus precisely on this.  We have the same training as medical doctors in diagnosing and managing a person’s health but our treatment tool box is loaded with an endless array of natural and effective options for the patient to prevent or eliminate illness, whereas a medical doctor’s tool box is unfortunately often limited to drugs or referrals to specialists who will either prescribe stronger drugs or will operate.

In Canada our health care system is burdened.  Sure, it’s “free” for every citizen, but how many of us have had to wait months, or nearly a year to get an MRI done?  How many of those appointments were scheduled at 4am?  This is insane and this is how cancers are missed.  If we spent the next generation remodelling our current medical model so that it blends both naturopathic and allopathic medicine in a more practical way, one that trains youth how to eat properly, to stay active, and how to sustain their own health in natural and effective ways so they can then teach their offspring the same thing, the number of patients requiring meds, and MRIs and heart operations would surely decrease.

In a nutshell, NDs are superb at preventive medicine and at treating the root causes underlying common pathologies that, when out of control, will require regular medication.  MDs are superb at prescribing those necessary meds or referring out when a pathology has reached a state in which no intervention can lead to death.

Both doctors work hard to prevent the worst outcome…death.  The way I see it, if a naturopath can intervene as early as possible in the ultimate goal of death/illness prevention and they can do this in a way that involves supporting your own body’s innate healing abilities then to me, this seems like the most logical way to go about health care.

For now, the most I can hope for is that MDs and NDs can work closely together, not against each other, but cooperatively and with open communication, striving for the best outcome for the patient.

I dare you to watch this and not feel inspired…

Well hello there!  So it’s been what feels like approximately 2 thousand years since I last posted.  It’s actually only been a week and a few days but a lot has happened this month.  It’s kept me off my regular posting and my regular yoga and I’ve definitely felt it.

TWELVE final exams are written and gone.  The first six took place in four days, the next six were in five.  Pretty proud of my classmates and I for getting through that and coming out alive!  As expected, there wasn’t always time for daily yoga for an hour, but I did make time to do a few sun salutations even if only for a few minutes.  It wasn’t the same, but still rejuvenating.

April was a month that brought hardship after hardship.  One thing would go wrong, and before I could even attempt to fix it, another went as well.  This was true in my personal life, but also true across the world.  In April we saw earthquakes, tornadoes, revolutions, radiation spewing out everywhere, and don’t even get me started on the Harper government.

If April is supposed to bring showers, and May, flowers, then I look forward to happier times ahead.  At least speaking for myself, I can see that May is already bringing much happier times.   I am done my 3rd year of med school and start my internship in a week.  I am nourishing the yin in my life and resting as much as possible to counteract the extreme yang and crazy energy required to study and retain all the information gathered for those final exams.  I am eating well, exercising and sleeping as much as my body will allow.  It is good times!

In the spirit of rejuvenation I thought I would share this TED talk with you.  I love watching TED talks but this one is quite special as it’s by Eoin Finn who I’ll be doing my yoga training under in just a few short weeks!!  In it, he addresses a very important message: the need for more love in our society, the need to slow down, and the need to connect to each other.  The way to do this?  Hammock Enlightenment.  Watch and enjoy!

watch me

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