Thursday 28 December 2017

Fricot dans ma (instant)pot

 Ours, like many other house holds in Canada, was gifted an instantpot for Christmas. If you've known me for a long time or have been reading my blog or following my social media posts you'll know I'm a huge pressure cooker fan, so this seems the natural progression, a pressure cooker that is automated, that doesn't require "supervision".
I decided tonight was the night to try it out. Mid-morning I took a small chicken out of the freezer. Unsure of its fate. Around 4:30 it was still quite frozen and I wondered if I was pushing my inaugural instant pot experience limits a bit. I figured I'd learn more from trial and error than spending an eternity gleaning from blogs, or the manual.
 I typically make fricot, in a stock pot, stove top, 1-2 times per month. I learned the basic art from a boyfriend in my late teens and more recently mastered the addition of dumplings by following an authentic recipe from an Acadian friend from Cocogne.  I browsed This blog post by Mommypotamus quickly, to get an idea about how to transition my fricot  to the "instantpot" world.
I quite literally threw the following into the pot in this order:

2 unpeeled carrots chopped
2 medium unpeeled white potatoes chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
1 medium peeled white onion chopped
A smallish chicken
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp summer savoury
1 tsp kosher salt
5 cups of water.

I closed the lid, made sure the steam vent was closed and pressed "soup". It seemed too simple and much too quiet so I flipped to the pressure cooker section of my manual. Everything seemed to be As instructed, and the valve was raised so I figured it was working. Eventually the timer started counting down from 30. After about an hour and a half total, the natural pressure release was complete, and I opened the pot a bit nervously, picturing a half cooked carcass. What I found was; chicken cooked to perfection in a delicious smelling broth- it worked. I "fished" the chicken out into a plate and pulled it apart with my fingers and a fork, returning the pulled meat to the pot (saving the bones for my next project- bone broth). Finally,  I gave it all a good stir & voila; started to ladle it out to my family.
My hubby & I both agreed it was the best fricot I've ever made. The broth was so rich, so flavourful. My son was a little disappointed because I hadn't added dumplings this time around.  I'll have to figure those out for next time. I'm thinking I'll make them simultaneously, stove top, in a portion of frozen bone broth.
Please let me know if you make some yourself, any tips or feedback much appreciated.

Monday 11 April 2016

3 Steps to Strong Springtime Immunity

It's almost mid-April and winter is finally waving goodbye. Our days are warming up, there are ample puddles to jump in, and we can almost dig our hands into the dirt.
3 Simple ways to keep your family healthy during this seasonal transition:

1. Embrace warmth.
Continue to eat steamy foods like soups & stews, gentle warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and hot herbal teas like echinacea, elderberry and chamomile. Dress your kids for unexpected changes in temperature, and unexpected spills in the puddles. Consider low grade fever to be your body's first line of defense against viral and bacterial infections (see earlier post on how to support a fever). 

2. Limit sugar consumption. Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's, then Easter keep our candy larder overflowing all winter long. Limit consumption of refined white & brown sugars, as well as high fructose corn syrup. Encourage naturally sweet fruit, or gently sweetened homemade treats made with (limited) less refined sugars like honey, maple syrup, juices, dates. Sugar directly inhibits our immune response so it's especially important to avoid during the first signs of cough, cold or flu. 

3. (Re)Consider Cod Liver Oil
High in fat soluble vitamins A & D and omega three fatty acids EPA & DHA it's no wonder our grandparents doled this out during long Canadian winters. Natural flavouring and encapsulation have made this wonder supplement somewhat more palatable in modern times. 

Friday 14 August 2015

Food Sensitivity Testing

I have not eaten an egg in a decade, I've had small amounts of eggs in baked goods, challah bread, waffles and pancakes, but I have not eaten an entire egg since my Carroll food intolerance test indicated that I do not have adequate enzymes to digest them properly. I used to be the queen of the fried egg with mustard on pita in Naturopathic Medical School, then wondered why I'd have a "nervous stomach" midway through the morning. No more eggs, no more nervous stomach! 
I offer the Carroll food intolerance testing as well as other food and nutrition related tests through my clinic. The following is a brief description of each. If you are interested in knowing more, or having a test done, please contact me. 

The Carroll food intolerance test
Tests your enzyme intolerance, this doesn't change over time, it identifies one food or group of foods that your digestive system does not make enough enzymes to break down properly. Soy, potato, dairy, fruit, seafood, meat, honey, eggs, sugar, mine salt, grains are tested for a main intolerance as well as combination intolerance (wherein two groups must be eaten a number of hours apart). 
The test is done through a blood spot, sent to California. 

IGG food sensitivity test
Tests your immune reaction to 96 different foods. Immune systems are dynamic, so your IGG reaction to foods can change over time, the general recommendation is to eliminate the foods that are identified for 3 months, then attempt to re-introduce them. Oftentimes after the suggested break some of the foods can be re-incorporated into your regular dietary rotation. The test is done through a blood spot, sent to Calgary.

Tests your blood for genetic variations that can help predict disease development; cardiovascular, diabetic, etc, and introduces preventative suggestions from a nutritional and supplemental stand point. For example if you have the fairly common mutation that makes synthetic folic acid impossible to breakdown, all commercial grain must be eliminated (as it is fortified with folic acid). This test Is not a test I would order of the main or only concern was a digestive disturbance, rather it is geared towards individualized disease prevention. 

 Clinically each of these tests can take a lot of guess work out of the question "what can I eat"? Which is often times posed when a person seems to be reaction to something they cannot identify or everything they eat. Sometimes our body gives us the sensitivity clues so long after ingestion it's impossible to pinpoint through food journaling or elimination diets. 

Blossom Bitting ND

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Prevent Pollen Problems

 Spring is here, or so the calendar tells us. Warmer temperatures and seeing ALL of this snow melting is very inspiring for most of us. However, the snow's release of mold spores, coupled with upcoming pollen pollution can leave some running for cover. 
The following are a few quick naturopathic home care tips to help you prepare for allergy season. Better control over your allergies can leave you with more energy, better focus and a better mood. I usually recommend anyone who suffers from allergies to start a prevention plan around the time of the spring equinox. In other words, the time is now. 
Support your immune system- foods high in omega 3 fatty acids (fish,flax seeds,walnuts & hemp seeds) and pro-biotics (yogurt, keffir, kimchee, sauerkraut) help to balance the immune system, making it less reactive to allergens. Taking  a vitamin C supplement (at least 3000 mg per day, no more than 1500mg at a time) can act as a natural anti-histamine, helping to reduce the itchiness, redness and inflammation that comes along with allergies.
Take some honey in your tea- adding a teaspoon of local unpasteurized honey (I usually get mine from la fleur du pommier at the Moncton or Dieppe farmers market) to your diet can expose you to small quantities of local pollen which may help desensitize you to the spring time flood of pollen from trees and plants. Nettles is a mineral rich herb that has been used traditionally for allergy symptoms for centuries, it mixes well with peppermint to make a flavorful tisane appropriate for any age. I make and sell a tea blend called "132 Weldon" it deliciously combines these herbs with red raspberry leaves. 
Use a neti pot- an ancient yogic practice which has become mainstream in recent western culture,  partially due to Oprah promoting it about a decade ago, a neti pot is used to bathe your nasal passages with warm saline. It washes away any potential air born allergens that you've inhaled throughout the day or previous night.
See your ND- The above steps are basic and somewhat universal steps to help you to start to control your "spring fever". As always, you will get better results if you consult with a naturopathic doctor like myself, one on one, as we can address the specifics of what has perpetuated your individual imbalance.  We can also add tailored in office solutions such as acupuncture, specific herbal solutions, homeopathy, adrenal gland support, sleep aids, etc. 

Tuesday 3 March 2015

How to nip an ear infection in the bud

Last month was a doozie in our house; a new born, more snow storms than ever before, and a cold that kept coming back. Admittedly with late pregnancy, the holidays, and all that the new year brought I had become a bit lax about my preschooler's immune support supplements. 
For the first time in his life my son complained of a sore ear. I took a quick peek at his ear canal and saw some redness and a little fluid behind the ear drum, but no frank infection. That day I whipped up an old faithful naturopathic home remedy, garlic ear oil. He did not love the sensation of receiving the ear drops, but by supper time his ear was forgotten and the slight temperature he had been running was back to normal. I checked his ear for the next three days and all was normal. 
Ear infection,  or otitis media, is one of the most common early childhood infections. This is partially due to the fact that little ones ear canal are more horizontal than adult tubes, making it less easy for them to drain on their own. An upper respiratory tract infection such as a cold, sore throat or cough can all contribute to fluid backing up into the ear canals. As this fluid sits it creates a localized area of inflammation and sets the stage for middle ear infection. 
Garlic is a powerful antibiotic, anti viral and it contains a natural anti- inflammatory; quercitin. Mullein is a commonly used herb in cough remedies as it helps to thin secretions, in this case, promoting drainage of fluid from the ears. 
Garlic Ear Oil
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves crushed garlic
Hand full dried mullein herb 
Stir olive oil, crushed and peeled garlic and mullein in a stainless steel sauce pan over low heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 25-30 minutes. Strain with a wire mesh tea strainer oil into a clean glass jar, discard herbs. Allow to cool before use. 
Run glass jar under hot water to heat oil to slightly about body temperature. Fill a eye dropper with oil. Have child lay down on side,with affected ear up. Drop 10-15 drops oil into ear, place cotton ball to keep oil from dripping out, have child lay in this position for up to 30 minutes if possible. Repeat 3 times per day. 

For the treatment of sore ears I would also suggest gentle massage from behind the ears down the sides of the neck towards the collar bones to promote fluid drainage. Repeat 15-20 times always starting behind the ears and moving downwards. Implementing warming socks hydrotherapy can also be helpful to ward off early signs of ear infection, and to help reduce fever naturally. Place a pair of cold wet well wrung cotton socks on your child's feet, then place dry wool socks on top, leave them on overnight or until the feet warm up during the day. 
Please note, this home remedy does not take the place of naturopathic or conventional medical attention. It should only be used at the first sign of ear discomfort or if you know for sure the ear drum is intact. 

Saturday 21 February 2015


In the early morning hours of a snowy January day, after 17 minutes at the hospital and two very satisfying pushes, my husband and I welcomed a tiny, perfect daughter into the world. My heart filled with love, pride and an overwhelming sense of relief.
At 32 weeks gestation we had a scheduled growth ultrasound to check our daughter's progress in the womb, and to double check a foot that appeared to be turned in, earlier at our 20 week ultrasound. What we found, was that our daughter was small for gestational age. What cannot be determined in these cases is why? Was my placenta not functioning optimally as the neonatologist suggested as a cause, was there a knot in the cord? I knew it wasn't from the other three common causes; smoking, drinking or malnutrition. Perhaps,  suggested my non-medical sister, it's a little girl who is "just nipped in at the waist", as it turns out, my sister spears to have been right!
The neonatologist told me not to be alarmed, chances were the baby was fine, but she didn't want me to gestate past 38 weeks. My heart sank. I'm a big advocate of natural childbirth. I believe birth should follow a natural progression, allowing for nature to take its course unless the well being of babe or mama is at a measurable risk. I went home and researched everything I could do as a naturopathic doctor to help my baby grow; I enlisted the help, support and advice of friends and colleagues. Over the next two weeks she grew twice as much as "expected", and continued to show that trend at the 37 week check up as well. At our 37 week check up the neonatologist said she didn't need to see us again, and she no longer suggested induction before the baby reached term.
From 38 weeks gestation until she was born on her own timeline at 40 weeks and three days I was given a lot of pressure at weekly visits with my obstetrician gynecologist to induce labor, just in case. Just in case me being of advanced maternal age put the fetus at risk, just in case her small size made her more susceptible to fetal death, just in case a protein in my serum indicated an unknown issue with her physiology. Wouldn't I rather have her now,  when we knew everything was fine, versus waiting for something to go wrong? I resisted. Instead I wanted her to be born when the incredibly intricate interplay of hormones and physiology brought her earth side naturally. Throughout these weeks we continued to follow her growth, fetal blood flow and do ultrasound profiles to determine her well being. I also started using naturopathic means to gently encourage her earth side.
"Naturopathic induction", unlike medical induction will not mechanically or hormonally start labor; rather it will encourage nature to take its course.
The following is a discussion of possible methods I would use when helping to encourage a labor to begin. During weeks 38 through to my babe’s birth, I employed them all.
Acupuncture is usually my first tool of choice when working with mothers who are ready to birth. I choose points according to the individual aspects of the case presenting, as well as a classic combination of points used traditionally to move energy downwards, calm the nervous system and help to "open” the musculature in the pelvic floor. I try to do acupuncture for about thirty minutes for three days in a row.
Prostaglandins are tiny fatty compounds in our bodies that have hormone like action. We know that prostaglandins help to ready the cervix for effacement (opening and thinning); semen is high in prostaglandins, as is evening primrose oil. I recommend lots of intimacy, as well as oral and topical application of evening primrose oil to help support the action of the bodies own prostaglandin synthesis .
Many natural childbirth educators also advocate intimacy for its promotion of relaxation, and feelings of security, which can also help to release any extra tension in the pelvic floor. I should also mention nipple stimulation here, which can be done manually or with a great pump, continuous stimulation for 20 minutes at a time several times per day may start contractions due to oxytocin release.
Homeopathy can also be used to help encourage the baby to move into a position of optimal engagement; head down, back to moms belly, chin to its chest, arms at side. The right remedy can also help mom stay relaxed and ready.
Castor oil is a laxative herb that really stimulates the bowels to start moving. This technique is the most often referred to "home remedy" for labor induction. It is thought that by stimulating the bowels into action, the uterus may also be stimulated into action, causing contractions to start with hours of drinking a castor oil "milkshake".
Herbal medicines such as black cohosh, blue cohosh and partridge berry also have a long history traditional use. There is some research that shows these herbs can cause harm if not used sparingly and correctly, so I do not recommend their use outside of professional supervision. Red raspberry leaf tea, on the other hand should be taken as often as possible from week 34 onward to help support the uterus for effective contractions.
Walking and other physical modalities are also very helpful for relaxation and proper positioning. I had a fantastic osteopathic treatment by Annabelle Gaudet from the Clinic Jaune in Shediac
the week before my labor, as well as my first rebozo treatment by traditional birth attendant Lisa Leblanc the night before I went into labor.
In retrospect, it is impossible to know if any of these treatments helped to hasten my labor. I birthed my son at almost the exact same point in gestation without any medical or naturopathic induction. Her birth was faster, less painful, and "smoother", but again, that could be because it was my second child and she was so tiny. In the end I'll never know. I can remain happy and confident that I made the right decisions for my family. Once babe is in our arms, none of us really need to focus on anything else, do we?

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Homemade Cough Syrup

I've been an ND for 11years, and made cough syrup for the first time  today. Now that I know how easy it is, it'll be a "go to" recipe for whenever we need it, which is unfortunately often enough in a house with a preschooler with a developing immune system. I found a recipe for Dr.Nowell's syrup among my herbal medicine notes from college, and altered it a bit to use ingredients and herbs that I had on hand.  I choose echinacea as it is anti-viral and anti-bacterial, it helps to strengthen the immune system's fight against upper respiratory tract infections. Wild cherry bark is astringent  in nature which helps to decrease mucus production. It also acts as a mild expectorant, helping to bring mucous up and out of the body. Red clover blossoms have a long traditional history of use in cough, asthma and bronchitis herbal formulas. Red clover also acts as a mild expectorant and is high in vitamin and mineral content. While small doses (such as those outlined below) are safe for short term use, red clover does have phytoestrogens so supervision is advised for long term use. Dried bulk herbs are available at most health food stores. Red clover grows in abundance locally if you plan ahead for next year you could harvest and dry it in late summer for use in your winter chest tonics. Other common herbs that may be used include; thyme, ginger, lobelia, horehound, as well as many others.
The recipe didn't turn out as syrupy as I'd have thought, more like a thick juice consistency. Aside from the sharpness of the vinegar it tastes great, my son actually asked for more after his first dose (must be the sweetness of the honey). 

My Recipe:
1 Lb local unpasteurized honey
24 oz water
2 oz dried red clover flowers
2 oz dried wild cherry bark
1 oz dried echinacea 
Generous pinch of ground cinnamon 
12 oz Apple cider vinegar 

The process:
Mix water and honey & bring to a simmer, add dried herbs and continue to simmer covered  for 20-25 minutes. strain and discard herbs, retaining the liquid. Add vinegar to herbal liquid blend. Place in a bottle with air tight top, refrigerate for 1-2 months. 
Dosage is 2 tsp every 1-3 hrs for children 1 and up, increase to a tablespoon dose for adults.