I love to travel, and when I do get a chance to leave my hometown, I love going to places that are different from where I live. Different meaning in climate, culture, food and ecosystems.
With travel, we get the great benefits of discovering a new place, meeting new people, learning about a new culture, going on an adventure, or just relaxing and taking it all in. No matter what the style of travel, I always have a travel first aid kit that has come in handy more than once.
Here what I like to bring with me:
Travel Probiotics* – To help keep my digestion on track and prevent traveller’s diarrhea, I love using a probiotic. HMF Travel by Genestra works like a charm, and I especially love it because it doesn’t have to be refrigerated. I start taking these 1 week to 10 days before leaving, 1 capsule every day while I’m away, and for about a week after I get home.
D-mannose* – Many women are prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) when travelling. The slight dehydration, different foods, etc. D-mannose is a cranberry extract which is a great trick for urinary tract infections cause by E. coli, which is the most common bacteria causing UTIs. It typically comes in a (naturally) sweet tasting powder that dissolves well in water, making it very easy to take.
Nuun electrolyte tablets – these make a tremendous difference for jet lag and fatigue from sitting in the sun for too long! They are also pretty tasty! These are available online (I’ve purchased them on Amazon before) and in some health food stores. Air travel is extremely dehydrating, which is exacerbated by landing in a hot climate. Staying hydrated when flying and when travelling is one of the greatest discoveries I made in terms of feeling energized and staying healthy. (I have no affiliation with this company, I just really like their product!)
Ginger capsules* – great for nausea, travel sickness and doubles as a great anti-viral and digestive aid for any indigestion.
Digestive enzymes* – when I travel, I usually eat outside of my normal diet. This means more of the foods that I have a hard time digesting (fried foods, bread, meat). A digestive enzyme really makes a difference for heartburn and bloating that I get from these foods.
Herbal antibiotic/antiviral* – I love having one of these on hand in case I catch anything such as a cold, urinary tract infection There’s nothing worse that getting sick on vacation. I use Candida SAP because it has a combination of really good antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal herbs. It’s also easy to take, way less harmful to the gut flora than an antibiotic and fairly safe to take. Make sure you take this one with food though
All purpose salve – for cuts, scrapes and bug bites.
Aloe vera gel – for those sunburns that are that much easier to get as we get close to the Equator. This is one that can typically be easily found in local shops or fresh leaves in markets, but I like to have some on hand just in case!
Red or Greens Powders* – if I know I’m going to be low on fruits and vegetables – I find this really makes a difference in my energy, digestion and just how I feel overall!
Chia seeds, flax seeds or psyllium husks – So many people experience travel constipation. Having extra fibre is definitely important, along extra water. My personal preference is psyllium husk as I find it works better for me. But it’s harder to find if you don’t bring it with you.
Magnesium citrate* – Magnesium is helpful to get a deeper sleep, muscle spasms, and headache prevention. In the Magnesium citrate format, it’s also helpful to get things moving when. 400 to 600mg per day, along with lots of water and some fibre from the seeds mentioned above can do the trick for constipation.
Essential oils – I usually bring Peppermint for headaches, a digestive blend for indigestion, Tea Tree oil for an antiseptic (sometimes I’ll add a few drops to my soap when washing my hands), and a nice smelling one just for fun! I usually avoid using these on plane though, just in case anyone is sensitive.
*In case you need to stock up on any of these, professional quality supplements available through my online dispensary.
If I could only pick one of these things (this is a tough decision) I would bring a probiotic.
Now, please note that these are great to have on hand and great to use, but if you do get sick, please see a doctor if needed.
I also realize the environmental impact of travel. It really hit me a couple of years ago in Cusco, Peru, when we kept buying these 4 Litre bottles of water to refill our bottles. The plastic accumulation is tremendous, and I had to find a better way.
Now I always travel with my SteriPen, a very compact water sterilizer which means that I can safely drink the same tap water the locals drink without the risk of drinking a little bug that will upset my foreign flora. I just fill up my water bottle, sterilize for about 1 minute and I’m good to go! It also works great for sterilizing stream water when hiking!
I also make sure to keep a reusable shopping bag for any purchases I make, eat in places where no plastic is used (as much as possible).
Since my last trip, really great shampoo bars have popped up, so I will definitely be travelling with one of these to avoid using the little shampoo bottles. In the past I’ve gone to a local shop to pick up a few basic toiletries, which usually does the trick for the duration of my stay!
If you’d like share any healthy travels tips you have, I’d love to hear! You can also check out my online dispensary for any travel essentials you may need!
Is ‘overwhelm’ a common feeling in your days? Do you feel like you hardly ever get any down time to recharge your battery? Do you feel like you’re tired but wired all the time? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, firstly, you’re not alone, and secondly, you are most likely suffering the effects of chronic stress.
This is a modern day woman (and man) reality that has us going through life without enjoying the ride, but instead, just trying to make it through our days. I mention women here because it’s my expertise, not because this is unique to women.
Chronic stress is at the root of so many of our illnesses, from anxiety and depression, IBS and other digestive disorders, inflammatory conditions, hormone imbalances, autoimmune conditions, and so many more. Many experts say that most illnesses start in the gut, and I agree, but stress has such a huge impact on the gut, that I think they go hand in hand, impacting each other.
This chronic stress leads to what we commonly call Adrenal Fatigue, or HPA Axis Dysfunction (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis). This happens when brain registers stress, initiates a stress response, and over time, stress hormone production gets out of balance, inflammation increases, and health declines.
The good news is that it is possible to reverse this. Eating a whole foods diet, using the right supplements, and being mindful about our lifestyle are all important tool, and I argue that mindfulness is actually the most important tool we have. Using mindfulness practices is the best way to decrease the stress response produced by the brain, and it’s not as hard as it may sound. Practicing mindfulness doesn’t necessarily mean sitting for hours observing your breathe. Although this is ‘very’ beneficial, there are many other ways we can practice mindfulness and get all the benefits.
Mindfulness simply means being fully present. In any healing program I create, I always incorporate a mindfulness practice. I even created a whole tool called My Soul Challenge, which promotes mindful living and self-care in order to inspire and motivate others to make time for this practice in their daily lives.
Here are four mindfulness hacks that you can start practicing today to start brining more calm into your day:
Digital detox: Set a time to retire your electronic devices for the day, and be strict about it. Also, limit your consumption of digital media. Rather than grabbing for your phone and mindlessly scrolling through, put it down and use your time to read, listen to music, go for a walk, spend time with family or friends, etc.
The blue light we are exposed to from screens is very stimulating for the nervous system and the amount of information we consume per second is extraordinary, it bombards our brain with information that we try to process. We feel good for a second when we get boost in dopamine by seeing the novelty of a new post from our favourite blogger, or a new like on your photo, but this is distracting and in the end only increases the stress response from the brain.
Avoid multitasking: We live in an age of multitasking, checking emails, working and eating, all the same time. Although this may feel like we’re being more productive, it’s actually an enormous stress on the body, which increases fatigue and overwhelm and decreases productivity. It’s actually more productive to do one task for 45 minutes, taking a short break and then starting up again.
Set time aside for your snacks and/or meals, and set a time aside for each task you need to do in the day. Notice how easy or hard this is for you, and notice how your productivity, concentration and overwhelmed feeling change when you focus one one task for 45 minutes spurts at a time,
Grounding ritual: Have a grounding ritual that you use as a way to slow down and bring attention to what you’re doing and in what direction you are going with your day. This can be as simple as a few deep breaths in between meetings or tasks, or it can be as elaborate as a rose-petal essential oil Epsom salt bath at the end of your day or a the end of your week.
Having a grounding ritual is a moment in your day where you can relax, gather your thoughts, or take a second before turning the page and moving on to the next part of your day, wether that is your next task in your day, or transitioning from work to home or to go to bed. This grounding exercise helps decrease the stress response, and even if it’s just for a few minutes in your day, over time, you’ll get great benefits.
Vacation in your day: Take a moment in your day where you feel like you’re on vacation. Disconnect from everything, step away from your work and have that moment of bliss in your day. This used to seem like such a luxury to me and actually, a waste of time in my busy days. There was no way I had time to do this. But taking time to have a really nice cup of tea, taking two minutes to focus on your breath, going for a walk outside or meeting a friend for lunch in the middle of my work day actually tremendously increases focus and productivity for the rest of the day, while decreasing the feeling of being overwhelmed and completely stressed out.
Start by incorporating one or two of these things in your day, and increase from there. The result will be better health, increased energy and happiness, better relationships, increased productivity at work, and an increased feeling of calm in your day.
Learn more about My Soul Challenge, the fun tool to bring more mindfulness and self-care into your life.
Stop for a second and ask yourself what your Soul longs for. What do you dream of doing? What do you put on your vision board? Now, ask yourself what’s holding you back from doing these things. This seems to be a hot topic these days, and definitely a hot topic in my mind. For most people, the answer if ‘FEAR’: fear of failure, fear of succeeding and things not being as dreamy as we had hoped for, or fear of the ‘then what’? Or course there are several logistical limitations, but once we get around all of that, what it comes down to is fear of the unknown, as it feels safer to live with the discomfort we know then to face change, even if it’s a positive change. Furthermore, I’ve noticed in myself and others, that the longer we live a certain way, the harder it gets to make change. Fears grow and we get increasingly comfortable in our routines and habits, even if they don’t bring us joy.
‘What would you do if fear wasn’t holding you back?’
“What we fear of doing most is usually what we most need to do.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I used to look at people doing the things I wish I could do with such admiration and think that they had something special. Now, I still admire them, but I realize that what they are just humans like you and I, and that what is special about them is their determination. They went for what they wanted, despite any fears they may have had.
Fear stops us from:
So how do you work through these fears and do things anyways? How do you step out of our comfort zone?
First, acknowledge your fears. Just sit with them and observe them. What stories are on autoplay in your head? Are they true? Simply doing this can be tremendously freeing. Make a list of things you would like to do.
Next, acknowledge what have you done despite fear. I can think of many things I have done in the past that I wouldn’t have done if I had spent too much time thinking about them letting fear creep in. These are often the things that I think are a great idea at the time and then seriously question what I was thinking when the time comes to actually do them! They are also some of the greatest experiences I have had and the ones that shaped me as a person. Remembering these moments of courage is tremendously empowering and proof that you are able to do things despite fear.
For me, some of these things are:
There are many more things I can think of that terrified me at the time, but that I am proud of myself for doing. You can probably think of a few things you’ve done without giving it too much thought. When you think back on them, they may be some of the most meaningful things you’ve done, but that you wouldn’t have done if you waited long enough to let fear get in the way. Or some things terrified you, but once you did them, you realized they weren’t so scary after all.
Start by doing the smaller, less scary things. Once you do them, celebrate, share your accomplishments with pride! And keep working at your list.
Some of the most incredible transformations I’ve seen actually started with a dietary change. For more than one person, taking out processed foods and switching to whole foods diet let to feeling better, increased confidence and a thirst for life. In these cases, it all started with facing one fear every single day: the fear of changing their diet, and being successful at it led to more and more confidence and desire to make more changes. The snowball effect was incredible to witness!
Why is this all of this important? Why should be push ourselves to do things that scare us? I think the answer is simply because on the other side of fear lies growth, empowerment, happiness, health and healing. On the other side of fear lies the answer to the ‘what if’s, and on the other side of fear lie endless possibilities.
Please note that this article isn’t meant do disregard fear due to trauma or anxiety. In many cases, working with a qualified practitioner is tremendously helpful. If this is the case for you, I invite you to seek the support you need.
*Cover photo from www.rockblok.com/
How often do you get up to a rushed morning to get everyone and yourself ready to get out the door on time? In all fairness, early starts are tough and it’s easy for things to get out of hand. Add exhaustion and the anxiety of getting out the door on time to the mix, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a major stress response to start your day.
When I say major stress response, I’m referring to our body’s response to stress: the fight or flight response. The brain registers stress and then sends the signal to the body to produce stress hormones: adrenaline and about 10 minutes later, cortisol kicks in. The hormones are produced by the little adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys.
The morning is actually when we naturally produce the highest amount of cortisol. Right before we wake up, those little glands work hard to produce a massive amount of the hormone to get us up and going in the morning. This is called the Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR) and it’s a normal healthy response. If we wake up in a panic however, the CAR is going to be even higher than it already is. That response gets us feeling stressed out even longer and we’ll even be quicker to react throughout the day. Something else that happens with that response it our body disfavours the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy. This results in feeling more depression, especially in the morning, which sets us up for an even harder day.
There are a few ‘not-so-great’ habits that heighten the stress response in the morning. I’d argue that by starting the day in a rush, checking your phone and emails first thing in the morning, or pressing snooze until the last possible minute, you could very much be setting yourself up for a stressful morning and a stressful day.
We need to really consciously work on keeping that frantic morning stress response to a minimum, which is why I’m in favour of the morning routine! Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but for anyone who gets up to go to work in the morning, this probably resonates on some level.
Here’s what seems to work for me. I definitely don’t do all of this every morning, but some variation of it. And even when doing this, there are still some mornings we are rushing out the door to get to the school bus on time. Doing these things just seems to help everything else go more smoothly.
Having lunches prepared for the week. I usually make a big pot of soup or stew on Sunday night or make sure I have meals planned for the week and enough for leftovers.
Writing out my to-do list the day before, so I know what needs to be done that day and what my schedule is going to be like.
Setting my alarm 10 minutes earlier (took some time getting used to this one) to have time for a slower morning.
Having an easy ‘go-to’ breakfast that is tasty and nutritious. Chia seed pudding, hearty breakfast muffins or cookies and smoothies are on heavy rotation.
Getting up, taking a few deep breathes and doing some light stretching. Or a bit more of a workout if I have time.
Focusing on being in the present moment in the shower and NOT running through my to-do list and all the stuff that needs to get done for the day.
Scheduling a time to check emails in my day rather than checking them right when I wake up.
Setting an intention for how I want my day to go, how I want to feel during the day, or what I want to accomplish that day; doing a short meditation or some gratitude journalling before I start my work day.
What I find especially helpful with having a morning routine is that if some curve ball throws me off in the middle of the day, the level of anxiety it causes me is much lower if I made time for a grounding exercise than if I had a totally chaotic morning.
Of course, this is thrown off by an early morning event, a sick child, an early morning flight or anything else that is different from the norm. This is ok, as long as there is time to come down from that anxiety causing response, and as long at these days are the exception and we’re not starting all of our days in a panic.
Now, just to be clear, when I speak of a morning routine, I’m not referring to a list of tasks that have you exhausted even before starting your work day. It’s more of a ritual that helps you feel grounded and like you are ready to go through your day feeling inspired. Your morning routine may be totally different from mine, and that is perfect as this is something that is totally individual. So whatever works for you, do that! If you don’t know what works for you, try different things until you find what suites you best!
As a naturopathic doctor, I have the great privilege of hearing people’s stories. How they live, what they worry about, what challenges they’re facing, their fears, what they hope to achieve or how they want to feel.
Over the past 5 years, I’ve heard a lot of stories, not only in Canada, but in Colombia and rural Nicaragua as well. In these five years, I’ve sat down with people from all kinds of backgrounds, from those who work in the corporate sector, to entrepreneurs, government workers, stay-at-home moms, students, subsistence farmers, and so many others. Although every single conversation I’ve had with people when working as a Naturopathic Doctor started with a health concern, there is common thread that links them all, and that is the desire to be heard, the desire to be truly heard without any judgment.
During my last trip to Nicaragua with a group of students, we attended over 100 patients in less than a week. This is a lot considering Naturopathic Medicine visits can be quite lengthy. As the week progressed, I started to understand something I had never really taken into consideration before. Maybe it was the number of individuals we saw over the week, or maybe it was the fact that we had a very limited of medicines to choose from and had to be a bit more creative in determining the best treatment plans. What we did have to offer to every single patient was the time to listen and ask questions, genuine care (we did also have some really great healing modalities like acupuncture, massage therapy, and chiropractic adjustments). What I started to realize is that creating a sophisticated treatment plan isn’t the only way naturopathic medicine heals. As I saw people smile and express their gratitude, I realized that an important part of healing is through connection and storytelling, not only pills and restricted diets. We all have a story, and telling that story to a compassionate listener can bring tremendous healing, and it can also inspire healing in others.
When I thought I would be offering basic medical treatments for things like ear infections, parasites, muscle and joint pain, and urinary tract infections, I learned that being heard and connecting with others are actually an essential part of healing. My experience really made me understand that as humans we are wired for connection. It doesn’t matter if we come from one of the world’s most affluent countries, or a rural area living in poverty, we all want to be heard and feel connection with other human beings. This creates a sense of belonging, it takes away some of the isolation that can be experienced from disease. When I look around me and I see a society hungry for material goods and productivity, I see an underlying hunger for connection that is even greater. Is this maybe one of the reasons we are so unhappy as a society?
One of the greatest lessons I learned from my experience in Nicaragua, and one I struggle to maintain under the pressure of North American standards, is the need for connection, for slowing down and listening, for kindness and compassion toward myself and other, and for solidarity. It’s something I need to remind myself of daily when I face the stressors of deadlines, strict schedules and continuous need to ‘do’, rather than taking the time to just ‘be’. I will forever be grateful to those patients in Nicaragua for teaching me this great lesson.
Valentine’s day is just around the corner, and the hearts and Valentine’s day promotions have been up for weeks. This holiday, known for it’s chocolate and flowers is all about romantic love. Although I love receiving a nice bouquet of flowers or some good dark chocolate, this year, I’ve decided to celebrate a Valentine’s month, and not in the romantic love kind of celebration. This year, I’m celebrating by spreading love around the city. It all started as a bit of an experiment at the end of January, but it’s been so much fun that I decided to continue and I’m making it my way of spreading love and happiness around the city.
It’s pretty simple actually. I’ve been writing little feel-good quotes on pieces of paper and leaving them on people’s cars, on their desks at work, or other places where I know someone will eventually find them. I call them Love Bombs. In order to track them, I’ve been writing #mysoulchallenge on the piece of paper. I didn’t know if any would show up on social media, but to my surprise, quite a few have been popping up, and the comments have made it all worth it – because the alternative would have been a complaint from the police for invasion of private property. People have been writing that it’s just what they needed to read at that moment, or that it may their day that much better after not feeling great.
The idea behind this experiment is actually founded in positive psychology which says that by doing something kind for someone else, we can actually rewire our brain to increase happiness. So this is my way of experimenting with science, and seeing if I get these benefits too!
Other than just feeling good, these kinds of activities also increase concentration and productivity, decrease stress hormone production, better ability to deal with stressful situations, and improve overall health. So really, nothing to lose! Other examples of activities are a gratitude journal, sending an email telling someone how much you value them, being of service to others, meditation, etc.
It really just take a few minutes to rewire your brain for happiness. So far, it’s been working pretty well for me. With My Soul challenge Love Bombs, I get to hopefully make a few more people feel a bit happier too while I’m at it.
Dr Renée Purdy is a Naturopathic Doctor in Moncton, New Brunswick. She is dedicated to promoting and inspiring individuals to improve their health and happiness as she believes that when we are happy and healthy, we can reach our true potential and change the world. Renée is also the creator of My Soul Challenge, a game she created to promote health and happiness, and she a member of the faculty for Natural Doctors International (NDI), a naturopathic global health organization that promotes holistic healthcare.