The impact of nutrition on postpartum depression often goes overlooked when looking for answers or support.Read More
The time between embracing a pregnancy ("I guess this is really happening?!") and having a baby is a strange one. Filled with what can be an overwhelming amount of information and decision-making, it can feel that each choice you make - midwife/obstetrician, home/hospital, get a doula/go it alone - will be the one that determines how the whole birthing process goes for you.
And as with a lot of decisions we make, it's true, the choices we make profoundly influence the outcome. I think the thing to examine when making decisions around childbirth is what exactly the outcome we are looking for is. At the end of labour and birth one outcome will be the same no matter what - a tiny brand-new adorable baby - so why do we feel the need to control how the whole thing goes?
What is the thing we are really looking for when as an expecting parent we agonize over which hospital to birth at or interview six or seven doulas?
A positive birth experience.
The true reality of labour and childbirth is that we don't have nearly as much control over how it goes as we hope we will. Just because you hire a doula, work with the best midwife collective in your city, and plan a homebirth doesn't mean you won't end up being induced and having a Caesarian birth. And just because you schedule your Caesarian, doesn't mean you won't end up with a precipitous labour at home.
The good news is any kind of childbirth experience can good with a certain amount of work in the prenatal period. Taking time to explore your prejudices about labour and childbirth, facing fears/anxieties, developing tools for pain management, and building coping mechanisms for any possible situation can all help to empower you to embrace the unknowns of birth and labour. Over the next few weeks I'll be blogging about things to explore as a part of your prenatal preparation that can contribute to making your birth experience a positive one.
If you are looking for a prenatal class in the Hamilton area that will provide you with hands-on coping practices to build your confidence for both the physical and emotional challenges you may be faced with in labour & chlidbirth, check out my 5-week series starting at the beginning of March in Hamilton's west end at Inland Island Community Wellness Centre.
Do you find yourself popping an antacid before every meal because of heartburn?
Have to use 3 pillows at night to stop your reflux? Concerned about the effect of long-term medication use for GERD?
You are not alone and there are long term solutions for dealing with chronic and unrelenting GERD and acid reflux. The question that we're not asking enough is why are you dealing unrelenting acid reflux even though you've cut out all your triggers and are taking medication?
If you've read other posts on my blog, by now you know that my most treasured principle of naturopathic medicine is tolle causam, i.e. find and treat the cause of the symptom to the best of our ability. With acid reflux and GERD the cause is so rarely questioned or explored in conventional medicine. Got heartburn? Must be producing too much acid! What?! Why on earth would that happen but in the rarest of cases. Here are some things I like to explore when I'm working with someone who has experienced long term reflux:
Over 60% of people dealing with long-term GERD may have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO as a root cause (Kim et al., 2012). For those taking proton pump inhibitors to manage their reflux, SIBO and its associated symptoms (constipation, diarrhea, boating, gas, pain, nausea) may be just around the corner - over 61% GERD patients treated with PPIs develop SIBO after a year of treatment.
A functional microbiome can be restored and reduce your symptoms
A LOOSE AND "FLOPPY" SPHINCTER
You've had an endoscopy and all it shows is mild gastritis, inflammation, and a "floppy" esophageal sphincter not doing its job to keep your stomach acid in your stomach. An unreliable sphincter is NOT a life sentence; support with herbs, supplements, manual adjustments, and nutritional support can lead to a strengthened and toned muscle decreasing both your reflux and esophageal inflammation.
It can be strengthened and get back to doing the job it's meant to do.
Chronic exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid can lead to inflammation and cell changes that not only lead to pain in between flare ups of reflux, but have the potential to lead to more serious conditions like Barrett's esophagus and esophageal cancer. There are safe herbal and nutritional options to bring down gastritis and esophageal inflammation without further irritating the stomach or leading to ulcers.
Get rid of your reliance on pharmaceuticals while safely restoring your health.
FOOD SENSITIVITY TESTING
Food elimination diets based on IgG ANTIBODY TESTING for food allergies help to identify foods that may be aggravating the inflammation in your esophagus and increasing pain associated with heartburn. As well, non-allergic food sensitivities to things like gluten, dairy, and nightshades have been shown to aggravate reflux in sensitive individuals.
Test for your food sensitivities to design the diet that will get rid of your reflux and support your health.
I value pharmaceutical approaches (e.g. proton pump inhibitors) for temporarily reducing acid production, especially in cases where there is severe inflammation causing damage to the esophagus or intense discomfort - but in the short term only. Research is showing a potential causal relationship between PPI use and various forms of dementia and an established relationship between long term PPI use and decreased vitamin and mineral absorption leading to bone density loss and increase fractures. Looking for and treating the cause of the reflux while treating the symptoms will in most cases allow for patients to safely stop taking pharmaceuticals and lead to long term healing of GERD and reflux symptoms.
Treating the root cause of illness doesn't happen overnight - it takes commitment and diligence on the part of the patient, no doubt about that - but it pays off! The other day I received a message from a patient who had been suffering with severe reflux for 4+ years who started working with me in late 2014 - he had drank 3 coffees that day without any reflux and couldn't believe it. You don't normally hear a naturopathic doctor yelping for joy when a patient tells them they have drunk 3 coffees in one day, but this was a special case!
If you are suffering from GERD or acid reflux and are looking for a long term solution don't hesitate to contact me (or another naturopathic doctor local to you) today. We can help!
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Even in naturopathic medical school where not much is taken for granted we barely touched on the topic of premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD. If you're familiar with the condition because you deal with it yourself, you can probably guess what was said about it - "an extreme version of PMS," pretty much sums it up. I'm sure hearing that again makes you cringe. Let's start this off right, PMDD is not just an extreme form of PMS, it is a debilitating, cyclical, hormonally controlled mood disorder.
Early in my first year of practice I saw my first PMDD patient, and she was very tapped into the online community of PMDD-sufferers. What that meant was she came to me with lots to share and teach me about her own condition. I learned so much from the experiences of that first PMDD patient and the resources she shared with me; we came up with a treatment plan that fit her case and within 3 weeks she started to feel the effects. After years of intolerable luteal phase anxiety and irritability she got through her cycle with significantly more ease (and way fewer arguments with her husband). By the time her next cycle rolled around, the results were even more profound; our regime of dietary support, acupuncture, nutritional supplementation, and hormone regulating herbs helped to decrease her symptoms and redesign the terrain that allowed for the PMDD to take hold, leading to long-term relief.
A couple years and many PMDD patients successfully treated since then, I've amassed a considerable amount of knowledge on the subject. Each person is an unique individual and so is their experience of premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Here are some of the approaches I've found to be helpful when working with people with PMDD:
Don't underestimate the mighty herb! I have found herbs that help to support regular hormonal cycling to be my number one ally in supporting patients with PMDD. Depending on each individuals presentation of symptoms, their timing, and severity, I have found that putting together individualized herbal protocols to be an incredible asset in the early stages of managing PMDD. Herbs like Angelica sinensis, Caulophyllum thalictroides, Schisandra chienesis, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Rhodiola rosea, and Paeonia lactiflora help to ensure a balanced exchange of hormones and support their appropriate metabolism by the liver. Herbs play one of the largest roles in helping to support mood lability and cyclical anxiety when I'm working with someone with PMDD.
Diet, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Support
This is the stuff that might be on your radar already - decreasing sugar consumption, increasing the veggies on your plate, quitting your afternoon coffee, avoiding screens before bed... Simple, right? Not always, but the effects on the intensity of your PMDD symptoms can be profound. My job is to help make the transitions to these new habits and routines achievable, sustainable, and reasonable. I offer dietary and nutritional support uniquely designed to your particular symptoms and condition, and offer recipes, meal plans, and moral support to make any changes I recommend as easy as we can. It's possible to feel better and I'm here to help you get there.
Metabolic changes that occur during the second or luteal phase of the menstrual cycle may contribute to an increase demand for certain nutrients and antioxidants during this period. One theory of how PMDD affects sufferers is by requiring an increase in certain nutrients in order to balance out these changes. Depending on your presentation and unique set of symptoms, a period of nutrient supplementation with magnesium, vitamin B6, an activated B-complex, iron, or calcium may be beneficial and necessary while we work on supporting lifestyle and dietary changes to address the root cause. Everyone is different and the same cocktail of vitamins doesn't necessarily help each person the same way. Testing and careful observation of your cycle and symptoms leads to the best results when devising a supplementation plan.
Dr. Emily Bennett is a naturopathic doctor working in Hamilton, ON at the corner of King St. W. and Locke St., and in downtown Toronto at Queen West and Spadina Ave. To book in for a free consult or to get started with treating your PMDD, go here.
Did you receive a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and then get told "not to worry about it"? "Nothing can be done"? "It's not serious"?
Meanwhile you're suffering the everyday consequences of a digestive system all out of whack. Getting to the root cause of your IBS symptoms is what Hamilton naturopathic doctor Emily Bennett is passionate about.Read More
Being alone can be a gift. It can be a breath of fresh air, an open door to inspiration, peace & quiet, or a rejuvenating regenerating necessity for your social life.
It shares a root word with that challenging, often painful, barely bearable feeling of being lonely. But of course it's not the same! No, you know that. We've all had the experience of being at a party, a meeting, a fall fair in the country (maybe!) and feeling nearly consumed by loneliness. People all around, people looking into your eyes, people next to you on the ferris wheel, nonetheless you feel a longing for someone/something/somewhere that's just not there.
Loneliness might be your first stop on the journey towards experimenting with being alone. At the end of a much loved relationship, when no one's available to hangout, or you've finished the final episode of Friends and there's nothing left to watch on Netflix, maybe you're filled with that aching, empty feeling of being lonely. You're dissatisfied with your current situation and you look outwards to your external environment to fill the void, but for whatever reason it's not available.* Seize the moment! You're alone (or you could be if you left that fair you're having an awful time at)! There's magic in being alone.
How to find the magic in being alone
1) Get creative
Seriously, this is the best thing I have to offer you. Pick up your guitar, a pen, a paintbrush, magazines and a pair of scissors, put on a record and your old tap shoes, MAKE SOMETHING! Build a fort out of your couch! Write, direct, + cast yourself in a short film! Make a very elaborate dessert for one! We are all creative souls, though lots of us are trapped in the land of Monotony and Low Self-Esteem. You are capable of making stuff, and the act of making is so surprisingly full of joy & satisfaction, that even if nothing comes out of it, maybe even especially if nothing comes of it, it is so utterly worth it.
2) Go for a walk
Aimlessly. Not to run an errand but just to walk. Examine the tops of buildings, notice the birds, listen to an audiobook, a song, an album, nothing, put your hands in your pockets and stroll.
3) Take yourself out on a date
If you've never done this before, it's kind of a must. Options include: exploring a part of the city you've never been to, going to a museum and slowly wandering, going to a subtitled film in a language you don't know, dinner + a drink, yoga + a pricey juice, anything your little heart desires! Get dressed up and treat yourself like the incredible babe you are.
4) Try community acupuncture
Or something else like it! I'm biased, of course, but as a person who was a user of community acupuncture long before being a practitioner, I have to say that it is a great way to enjoy being alone, especially if actually being alone is pretty uncomfortable for you. The practitioner does a short intake with you (quietly!), puts the needles in, and then leaves you to lounge and stare off into distance while peaceful music plays in the background and blends with the murmurs of others having their intakes done in the chairs around you. It's lovely. You're on your own but there are other gentle souls on their own close by. The energy of receiving a treatment in a group atmosphere like this can't be denied! It's a beautiful thing.
*Sometimes loneliness accompanies deeper feelings of sadness or depression. Sometimes you feel so lonely that you know the only thing that will help is not to be alone. In those moments you need to follow your instincts. Call your mom, call a bud, call a helpful person on a helpline who can help you with that.
I figured that since I get the same questions about what I do as a doula fairly often, it might make sense to get it out there in writing for easy access. The following are some of the most FAQ about doula work. If you have others that I haven't answered, please list them below in the comments and I'll update the post as needed!
What does a doula do?
A birth doula's tasks include assisting the mother & partner in preparing for and carrying out their plans for birth, staying with the mother throughout their labour, providing emotional/physical support, an objective viewpoint, as well as helping the parents get the info they need to make informed decisions. Doulas also facilitate communication between the labouring mother, partner and clinical care providers. Working with a naturopathic doctor & doula gives you the added benefit of working with a medical professional educated in the physiology of birth and equipped with tools to aid in common challenges of birth and labour, including baby position, stalled labour, avoiding induction, and pain management.
Why work with a doula?
There are lots of reasons. I find that many new parents don't realize that without a doula, they will be alone for much of their labour. Whether you labour at home or in the hospital, a lot of the time you spend in labour will be without any additional support. At the hospital, nurses will be in and out occasionally checking on you and your baby's heart rate. For home births, the midwives may come by in a prolonged labour situation, but more likely they will just be there once active labour is progressing to transition. But a great deal of the time, it is just you, your partner, and whoever else you've invited along for the ride - in some cases, your doula!
What's the problem with labouring alone? Absolutely nothing! But, in some cases labour goes on for 8, 12, 24, 36 hours, and keeping your energy up can be challenging. If it's your first time, it can be quite hard in the heat of the moment to remember the tips & tricks you learned in your prenatal classes for coping with the pain, or knowing when to call your care provider. Having a doula there who is experienced, calm, and not as emotionally involved in the outcome as the new parents can help remind you that what feels like a nerve-wracking & hectic situation is just a natural process with an expected course.
There's lots of research coming out to support the work that doulas do. For example doulas have been shown to
- decrease the rate of medically nonindicated Caesarian births, seriously though they really do
- decrease the cost of labour by minimizing the need for medical intervention
- decrease the need for pain management measures such as epidural
- help new parents have better success with breastfeeding
If I have a doula, do I need a midwife too?
A doula is not a qualified primary care practitioner for labour & delivery. Doulas are not trained to deliver babies, so you must also be working with a midwife or physician even if you choose to work with a doula.
If I plan to birth in the hospital with an OB/GYN, can I still use a doula?
Definitely! From my personal (and biased!) perspective, having a doula during a hospital birth with an obstetrician is especially important. A doula can help in a hospital birth with an OB/GYN by:
- making sure you don't go to the hospital too early
- providing continuity of care - your doula will stay with you from whenever you call them in labour to when the baby is born; conversely, it is possible and often likely that both nurses and physicians will be going on and off duty during the course of your labour
- being there for the labouring parent if the non-labouring parent needs to take a break to get something to eat or go for a walk
- help you to avoid medical intervention as long as you desire and is possible
If I have a doula, do I have to have a natural birth without pain medication?
Nope. Definitely not. However, one of the advantages of having a doula is that many parents who expect to need pain medication are able to avoid it through the use of massage, positional changes, encouraging support, and information about how their labour is progressing.
What does my doula do if I end up having a Caesarian birth?
That depends on a few things. Although some OBs and hospitals are not yet comfortable with it, many doulas are able to attend the Caesarian birth along with the non-labouring parent. The advantage to this is that the labouring parent's partner is able to watch their baby joining the world for the first time, while your doula can stay by the labouring parent's side providing information on what is happening and emotional support. At some point after Caesarian births, the baby is often taken away from the labouring parent's side in order for the surgery to completed. Having a doula present means that the non-labouring parent can go be by the baby's side while the doula stays with the parent who has just had surgery, to continue to provide support. Having a doula by your side in a Caesarian birth can help to make the experience a positive one and the rite of passage birth should always be.
In the event that you are not able or elect to not have your doula by your side for a Caesarian birth, many doulas will adjust their package to include more postpartum care in the place of being present at labour & delivery.
What role will my partner play in my labour & delivery if I have a doula?
Believe it or not, your doula is there for your partner just as much (or sometimes even more!) than they are for you. While you, the labouring parent, enter "Labourland" and go deep into the changes going on in your body as your labour progresses, the non-labouring parent may have questions about what is going on, how they can help, if it's alright if they go to the bathroom, get a snack, etc. With a doula present, someone is there to make sure that the non-labouring parent (and soon-to-be new parent!) is able to take care of themselves through what can be a very long and tiring process.
How do I find a doula?
Great question! If you are in Toronto and the GTA and are interested in working with me, you can check out the page on my Naturopathic Doula Services. A review of the DONA and CAPPA websites will yield a ton of doula options in your locality, as well as a search for 'naturopathic doulas' + your town name, if you are interested in finding someone with similar training to me.
If you have any more questions let me know! I'd love to answer them.