Evidence-Based Crunchy

“There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.”

― Hippocrates

This post has taken me a while to write, mostly because it’s incredibly near and dear to my heart, but also because I think it’s a subject that people potentially have strong ideas and opinions about, because I know I do. If you’re just reading for the first time, or haven’t read the ‘about me’ session, I’ll let you know I’m a physician. A western medicine physician. I went to a Canadian medical school and trained in both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Family Medicine in Canadian residency training programs. What does that mean? It means I spent ten years learning the ins and outs of the human body; about anatomy and physiology,; pathophysiology and pharmacology; about health, wellness and disease; about epidemiology and evidence based medicine.  I learned this in both the classroom and at the bedside and I firmly believe that practicing evidence based medicine provides our patients with the best possible care.   At the same time I consider myself crunchy; I am both politically and socially liberal, health conscious, spiritual and environmentally aware and I don’t believe these things have to be mutually exclusive

As a physician of western medicine who firmly believes in evidence-based practice but also dabbles in essential oils, eats a predominantly whole foods, plant based diet and loves a good tincture and potion, I often find myself frustrated. Frustrated at the division between what people perceive as western medicine and all other forms of complementary medicine out there. Because I don’t believe there has to be a division. I believe many forms of alternative medicine and allied health professions, whether that be Chinese medicine, naturopathic medicine, registered massage therapy, physiotherapy etc., are just that COMPLEMENTARY and can be integrated into the overall management and support of an individuals health and wellness.

And so, I consider myself evidence based crunchy (a term I wish I could say I coined, but I heard it from a fellow colleague and thought, hey that’s how I practice medicine!). So what does this mean? It means that if the evidence shows that there is a non-pharmacological treatment or remedy for something a patient is presenting with, I’m game to try it, and to be honest, often times recommend them. Kiddo has a cough? Try some honey. [Just not under the age of 1 for the theoretical risk of botulism in unpasteurized honey].  Struggling with mild to moderate depression? The first thing I suggest are lifestyle changes including exercise, meditation, mindfulness practice and yoga.  But want to try some herbal supplements or natural health products? Go for it. There is some evidence for St. John’s Wort, Omega 3’s and SAM-e’s.  Want to try to bring your cholesterol down with diet changes? Damn straight! But you got a kid with fever? I will advise against using your essential oils to bring the fever down and suggest you go with something we know works like good old fashioned acetaminophen  A pregnant woman with a UTI? You need more than cranberry juice, my friend.  If some evidence in a peer-reviewed scientific journal comes out saying differently I’ll pay attention and adjust my practice, but until then I use what I know is safe and effective and is based on the evidence.

So why am I sharing this with you? I guess it’s because I want people to realize that a lot of us in medicine see the grey between the black and white; we see the desire that many patients have to pursue what they believe to be more natural remedies; we understand your desire to take control in your health and actually DO want to support you in that. But we want to do it in a safe, evidence based manner. I think what is often misunderstood is that natural doesn’t necessarily mean safe. Plants are powerful. Many of our most potent drugs in medicine come from plants. Digoxin, a cardiac medication that needs to be monitored very closely for it’s narrow therapeutic window, comes from Foxglove.

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Many chemotherapeutic agents used to treat cancer come from plants. Tamoxifen, a drug that dramatically improved the treatment of breast cancer,  is derived from the bark of the pacific Yew tree.

I can’t speak for other physicians, though I suspect that many feel the same way that I do; we DO want you to be engaged, to take control of your health, to get engaged, to educate yourself, to make diet and lifestyle changes, but we want you to do it safely. By all means, go see a naturopath, use essential oils but please talk to us about it. We’re here to listen and support you on this journey because some of are quite crunchy ourselves.

xo

 

Time MGMT

a.k.a – How to make time to train when you have three children under the age of four

I think this is the skill that I’ve likely honed most since becoming a parent, and yet still need to work on it (based on how long it’s been since my last post :). It’s incredible how many balls in the air you have as a mother: managing your kids needs on what feels like a minute-to-minute basis, grocery shopping, meal planning/prep, laundry, cleaning, feeding the cat, paying the bills, signing your kids up for activities on time….the list goes on. And have you noticed I have neglected to include one VERY important component? SELF CARE.

I don’t know if it’s our biology or rather that we fall into the habit of putting ourselves last but most women and mothers I know are guilty of the same. We are all great at taking care of our children, our spouses, our furry friends but sadly not always ourselves.

Now that I’m on baby number three I’ve come to realize that a) I’m guilty of this and b) this needs to change. Fortunately I have a husband who is super supportive of me making/finding the time to still do the things that make me happy outside of being a mother and for me that is fitness, running/biking/yoga. Those are my happy places. But that still doesn’t make it easy. Our days are full. FULL full. They start somewhere in the 6:00 am hour when our darling boys scramble out of bed full of energy and ready to get the day started and they don’t wind down until 8:00 or 9:00 pm at night after the kids are in bed, the dishes are washed and the toys have been tidied. So how do I find time to train? I’ve learned to make time. It’s never going to be the right time to go for a run, or to get to that spin class. Someone is always going to be crying. There will always be laundry to be done, dishes to be washed, beds to be made, PlayDough drying out that needed to be put away hours ago. But you have to leave it behind and just GO.

It’s funny, for Hagen and I the more kids we have it’s almost easier for us to find time for ourselves. Partly because we are more aware of how important it is and how having that little bit of time makes you a better partner, parent and happier self; but also because we have gotten better at scheduling, prioritizing what makes us happy and realizing it’s something you absolutely have to do.

So what are my tricks to try to manage my time and get it all done?

  1. Make the time. You’re never going to get out for a run, a bike ride, a cup of tea with a friend if you don’t schedule it it. Make it a priority. Days are full but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room. Hagen sets his alarm for the wee hours of the morning to get to the gym or out for a run. Sometimes I’m not leaving for an exercise class until 8pm at night because that’s when there is finally peace in the house. And some days when I’ve got a meeting and a few groceries to pick up and a baby in tow I travel by jog stroller. I run/walk to my meeting, the grocery store, etc. When the car needs service, I drop it off first thing in the morning and run home. I remember one of the few winters in the past four that I wasn’t pregnant (ha!) I’d get up early to run and the kids would be awake and not wanting me to leave so into the Chariot they’d go and we’d run past the fire station and by the bagel shop. Get ‘er done.
  2. Ask for help. Or pay for it. Full stop. We don’t have much family nearby. Hagen’s father lives in the city but works full time as a professor so isn’t around much to lend a hand. My family is all on the mainland. We are lucky to have a fantastic network of friends but most have kids the same age so not a lot of people we can lean on for childcare. So we have a nanny. Full time. Yes, I’m on maternity leave. No, I’m not ashamed. I have a few people ask me if our lives are as happy/fun as they look on social media and I can honestly say yes, they are. Because we have help. We know we need it. It makes us happier people and better parents. It’s a big expense, but absolutely worth it for our happiness. Our lovely Nanny has quickly become part of our family. She helps me run our home, she is helping me raise my children and she is helping me keep my sanity. I can get out for a strength training class, a trail run, and leave the three kids for an hour and focus on myself. It feels so good and I return refreshed and re-energized to deal with the chaos of a three year old who has decided he no longer needs anyone to wipe his bum after he poops or a four year old whose love of numbers and incessant questioning could drive you to madness. But it doesn’t, because I prioritize my sanity.
  3. Be accountable and make the investment by whatever means you can. Commit to meeting a friend for a run, offer to pick them up on the way to your yoga class. Schedule it into you planner so it’s there staring you in the face. Or pay for a trainer. Register for a series of classes. If it’s important to you, it’s worth investing in. If it’s going to make you happier and healthier than make the time and spend the money. It’s probably going to work out to be less $$ that how much you spend on latte’s a month so budget and plan accordingly. Don’t buy that extra bottle of wine on the week-end and put that cash towards the pilates classes you’ve always wanted to do. Always wanted to run a 10k – make a plan to run with a friend every weekend, join the local Running Room ‘learn to run group’ beacuse I guarantee you’ll meet at least a handful of people in the same boat as you who you can be accountable to. And do it now. Why? Because there is never going to be a ‘good time’ now is as good as it’s going to get. Life only gets busier. We all know that by experience.
  4. Manage your expectations. A.K.A Embrace the chaos. In an ideal world I want our house to be clean, everything in it’s place, our kids fed and happy and clean. You get the picture. But we don’t live in an ideal/perfect world. We live in chaos, like most families with small children do. So it’s OK if the French Press sits with old coffee on the counter all day; if the Paw Patrol toys are strewn on the living room floor; if the pile of unfolded laundry sits for just one more day. Now don’t get my wrong, I’m NOT saying let chaos rule, I’m just saying let a little more chaos into your lives. You’d be surprised how much happier everyone will be for it 🙂

 

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I’ll finish by saying this. I am by no means an expert, if you have other tips on how to fit training and self care into your lives I’d love to hear about them! I plan on doing another post on the importance of self care in general as well because I think this is something we women need to get better at!!!!

Until then, stay well and train. Hard.

xo