Starting Life as a Naturopathic Doctor

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Sometimes you wait so long for something to happen that it’s hard to believe the time has actually come….I am so happy to announce that I am officially a Naturopathic Doctor in the province of Ontario! I began my journey into this career back in January 2014 after working as a Registered Nurse for a few years. The photo above is of me and my best friend from CCNM named Andy. Graduation day was certainly a day filled of pride for us!

Once CCNM (the most intense schooling I have ever experienced) was done, the journey was not over. Oh no, no, no. This past summer consisted of me spending most of my days studying for NPLEX II (a three day core clinical science examination) which you have to pass before you can apply for registration as a Naturopathic Doctor with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.

The entire process is complicated and sometimes frustrating and sometimes terrifying, but one day you wake up and BAM, it’s all done! And now the time has come to start my ND practice – what joy! I will be working at Elevated Health Associates Inc. on Danforth Ave. The clinic owner, Toni Sharman, is an amazing Osteopath who serendipitously was brought into my life, and I am so grateful! The clinic is about halfway between Coxwell and Woodbine station and has a really wonderful, welcoming energy. I can’t wait to see who I get to treat in the future and the wonderful results that occur.

Hope to see you soon!

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Canadian Infertility Awareness Week: May 7-13, 2017

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As we approach the end of Canadian Infertility Awareness Week I wanted to write a blog post on this topic, as I am very passionate about this area of health. Over the last year, I had the privilege to be on the Fertility and Reproductive Health Shift at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic with the wonderful Dr. Zeynep Uraz. Now that my Naturopathic Medical schooling is complete, I am gearing up to write the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam in August 2017. After passing this exam I will begin to see patients in private practice, and I intend to focus a lot of my energy in the area of infertility.

From all that I have learned so far, it has become clear to me that, by and large, infertility is a poorly understood topic among the general population. I don’t just mean this in the sense that people often don’t understand it medically, but also, and perhaps even more so, emotionally.

When we see our friends on social media, it isn’t uncommon to see a pregnancy or birth announcement. What is much less common is to see a post from an individual or couple saying, “it’s been 14 months of trying to conceive and my period came again”, or “another failed IVF, I feel so hopeless”, or “I just got diagnosed with infertility, I never thought this would happen to me”. The shame and sadness is often kept hidden, tucked away, into living rooms filled with tears or cold medical offices. Infertility can be a reality for a person of any age or gender.

Sometimes people who are facing infertility get asked questions like, “why don’t you just adopt”, or they receive the common advice of “just relax and it will happen”. While these statements may be well meaning, they are rarely helpful.

Fertility Matters Canada is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to learn more about this topic. I especially love the #1in6 section of the website, where couples share their personal experiences with infertility. The name of this is based on the fact that 1 in 6 couples are diagnosed with infertility. So whether you have been diagnosed with infertility, have a friend who is on this journey, or would like to learn more, I highly recommend checking out their website.

I will end on this quote:

There isn’t a person you wouldn’t love if you could read their story

– Marjorie P. Hinckley

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Province Apothecary meditation blog magic!

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I am a big fan of Province Apothecary: a Toronto based company that makes all natural skin care products. I met the founder, Julie Clark, at a friend’s house a few months ago. She is a genuinely kind person who is passionate about her work! After chatting with Julie, I offered to write a guest blog post on their website. I decided to write about my top three favourite apps/websites for guided meditations. The post was published on Thursday, and you can read it on their website here.

Happy meditating!

Madeleine

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Tea with an ND-to-be: Jennah Miller and Caleigh Sumner

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Caleigh (left) and Jennah (right) doing patient research!

In this final month of 2016, I have brought back Tea with an ND…..to-be! Meet Caleigh and Jennah, fourth year interns at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic. I have had the pleasure of being on shifts with both of these ladies this year, and thought it would be interesting for readers to learn about some NDs-to-be!

Here are their answers to five rapid fire questions…..

Question 1 – What did you study for your undergraduate degree?

Jennah Miller (JM): Dietetics at Acadia University in Nova Scotia.

Caleigh Sumner (CS): Health Sciences at Western University in London, Ontario (I started in Kinesiology but it was too sporty for me!).

Question 2 – Why did you choose to study Naturopathic Medicine?

JM: I have always been very interested in nutrition, and I know that it is a foundation of Naturopathic Medicine. I found that dietetics was not as holistic as I wished it would be, it was more by the book and not what I saw for myself in the future. Also, in grade 12 career management class, I was told I would make a good ND!

CS: Naturopathic Medicine was a part of my life before I was even born, and a huge part of my life growing up. I was always used to integrative medicine and it was normal for me to see an ND as a child. Ever since I was really young I knew I wanted to study Naturopathic Medicine!

Question 3 – Where do you plan to practice and why?

JM: I plan to work somewhere in downtown Toronto, hopefully in the west end because I really like that area (somewhere between High Park and Christie). I feel like people who live in that area are more focused on health and that Naturopathic Medicine is more mainstream….so the demand is there, and the area is not overly saturated with NDs.

CS: I’m planning to practice in Halton Region (specifically Milton or Burlington) because I’m a very suburban girl and I’m used to suburban communities. I may also practice in King West because that’s where my boyfriend lives…or I may just live in King West and commute to Burlington!

Question 4 – What are the top three things people can do for their health?

The ladies decided to answer this question together….here’s what they said!

JM & CS: A big one is definitely self-care. Taking time for yourself that isn’t a chore….so not necessarily going to the gym or taking your supplements. Someone at an OAND conference said “self care if anything you do for yourself that makes you feel sweet that isn’t a sweet”. It should be a nice moment. Try to figure out what serves you and get rid of what doesn’t. Surround yourself with people who build you up and who love you. Like-minded folks who make you feel at ease, like your friends and family.

Secondly, drink water! This is so simple and yet so important. Drinking more water can improve your health in so many ways. Water is important for immune health, digestive health, your integumentary system and general detoxification.

Finally, sleep! Routine in the basis for all health. Try to keep a consistent sleep routine, meaning go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, and you will see the benefits!

Question 5 – How will you stay healthy (and have fun) over the upcoming holidays?

JM: I’m going to take time to recharge and not feel guilty about being “lazy”. I feel like a lot of people have many obligations over the holiday break, and it’s important to remember that it’s okay to take time for yourself. You can’t fill from an empty cup! I will be going to visit my parents in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. We will put up the Christmas tree on New Year’s Eve day (an annual tradition) and then I’m headed to Montreal for New Year’s Eve with my boyfriend. For fun I will be eating cheese fondue on Christmas Eve and drinking lots of craft beer from the brewery my Mom works for.

CM: Over the holidays I will be spending time with friends and family in Mississauga and Niagara-on-the-Lake. For health I will be doing intermittent fasting….probably for 16 hour chunks (overnight). Over the holidays I try to burn all the extra calories I will be consuming by staying active throughout the day (skating, walks in High Park, etc). For fun I will partake in movie madness, where I go to the theatres and watch a few movies in a row. My guilty food pleasure over the holidays are ginger molasses cookies!

Thank you Jennah and Caleigh for taking the time to answer my five rapid-fire questions! If you wish to see Jennah or Caleigh, they are both accepting patients at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic until April 2017. 

Stay tuned in the New Year when I publish my first post in 2017! Happy Holidays!

Madeleine

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Endometriosis: A Personal Journey

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Post-op in the hospital

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5 days post-op

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8 days post-op

The funny thing about plans is that we make them, with the full intention of seeing them through, but then life happens, and everything changes. I start my November blog entry with this as a way of saying, for this month I am, again, going to veer away from my ‘Tea with an ND’ concept, and discuss a health topic that is both timely and personal for me. I wanted to write about this while it was still fresh in my mind (and body)!

So, the topic this month is endometriosis – doesn’t it sound like a fun word? It must be a fun condition right? Ha – I wish.

For anyone who has endometriosis – this blog entry is for you. 

I am going to focus on my own endometriosis journey, but if you are looking for more general endometriosis facts, check out the recent blog post written by my intelligent, kind and lovely naturopathic intern gal pals from wholeandwholistic.com who recently wrote about endometriosis from an objective standpoint.

Before I start my personal story, I better share a few facts…so, what is endometriosis?? It is the presence of functioning endometrial tissue in sites outside the endometrial lining of the uterus. It is a condition that occurs in females of reproductive age and the most common symptoms are painful periods, pain during intercourse, pain during bowel movements and sub-fertility.

I’ve had painful, heavy periods since I first started menstruating at age 10 (yes, 10, I know – not fair). I am now 30. This means I’ve been suffering for a good portion of 20 years. For a chunk of those years my symptoms were “controlled” well with birth control of varying sorts. In my early twenties I decided to go off of birth control and learn the fertility awareness method (which, as an aside, acted as an excellent form of natural birth control). Each month I would dread my period and then suffer for days when it arrived. I had prescription pain killers which would help with the pain, but sometimes even that wasn’t enough.

As I began my naturopathic medical education I was committed to solving my menstrual problems naturopathically. Diagnosing endometriosis can be really challenging, and the diagnostic gold standard is laparoscopic surgery, so many women (like me!) go for many years without having a diagnosis. I didn’t know for sure if I even had endometriosis, but I forged on in my healing journey.

Over the last few years I tried just about every possible naturopathic modality (and beyond!) with the aim of resolving my painful and heavy periods. I did acupuncture, hydrotherapy, supplements, nutritional changes, homeopathy, vaginal steaming, arvigo abdominal massage, botanical medicine – you name it, I tried it. With each tried and failed treatment, I thought that I was a failure. I was mad at my body for not being cured by the medicine I believed in, that I was putting my blood, sweat and tears into learning. I thought, if I can’t solve my own issues with naturopathic medicine, how am I ever going to help a patient?

Earlier this year I went and saw a gynecologist who said she thought I was a good candidate for laparoscopic surgery. This would mean surgically looking in and around my uterus and then removing any endometrial tissue that might be found. It seems like a logical decision to make, but for me, it was such a hard decision. What it signified for me was that I hadn’t been able to cure myself with naturopathic medicine. I talked it over with lots of colleagues, friends and family. In the end, I decided to opt for the surgery and now I feel that this whole opportunity has taught me some great lessons.

I realize now, more than ever, that western medicine and naturopathic medicine are both incredibly powerful, important and useful. Different conditions require different approaches. There is no way that I could have removed the endometrial tissue in my body with naturopathic medicine alone. But I can (and did) use the principles and interventions of naturopathic medicine to prep my body for surgery and ensure that the rest of my body was as healthy as possible so that I could recover quickly.

As for the surgery itself, I had it just a few weeks ago. It was a three-hour procedure done in hospital. The surgeon made four incisions in total (see pictures above!). You get to go home the same day you come in (someone has to drive you home). The first few days after surgery are pretty tough. But each day things get better and your body starts to heal. After 20 years I finally know that I have endometriosis. Now that this procedure is done, I now know that there is no endometriosis in my body! Yes, it is true that it can grow back, but now I can use many different naturopathic treatments to help keep it at bay and make sure that my body is as healthy as possible.

At the end of the day, health care decisions can be really hard. There is no one size fits all. Every treatment option has risks and benefits. I am at peace with my decision and know it doesn’t reflect my ability to help my patients heal naturopathically. If you are struggling with endometriosis or any other menstrual issue, I would be happy to talk to you about the different treatment options available.

Be well,

Madeleine

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Sitting with myself: A Vipassana Adventure

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For the month of October I am taking a break from interviewing wonderful NDs so that I can share my recent experience having spent ten days in “noble silence” at the Ontario Vipassana Centre: Torana Dhama. As described on their website, the course has three aspects: sila, Anapana meditation and then Vipassana. Firstly you must observe silence and refrain from harming yourself or others (including mosquitos!!). Then you learn to observe the breath, and eventually you learn the art and practice of Vipassana. This latter aspects involves meditating in silence, eyes closed, and observing the sensations in your body: big, small, pleasant, unpleasant…absolutely any sensation.

Before this course the longest I had ever sat for a meditation was an hour….once….and I found it incredibly hard. So making the jump to ten hours a day may have been a bit risky, but hey, go big or go home, right?

In addition to not speaking you also can’t bring any reading materials, write, use electronics or leave the grounds. Might sound like a prison. Maybe it is like a prison…..but I think that’s the point. No distractions. Just you and you – so get used to it, because guess what folks, that’s the reality of life no matter how many times we try to ignore that fact.

I arrived in the afternoon of September 7, which happened to be an insanely hot day. As I dripped bits of sweat onto my registration paper I started to mentally prepare for what the next ten days would bring, I had absolutely no idea.

The first mediation was that evening, after which noble silence began. One hour in and my hips ached. Oh dear. I walked to my cabin in the dark and tucked myself in for the night. At 4am my alarm clock went off: game time. Each day ran the exact same. Meditation from 4:30-6:30am. Sweet, glorious breakfast at 6:30am. My shower time was 7:20am – another cherished time of the day. Group meditation from 8-9am. Independent meditation from 9-11am. The worlds most delicious lunch at 11am. And then free time until 1pm.

At free time you would find most people sunning themselves or lying under a tree. Many of us went for walks along the loop trail in the woods. I had my routine down by day two. Two loops of the trail, one in each direction, and then find a spot to stand and stare at trees. Talk to birds and chipmunks and caterpillars and grasshoppers (telepathically, obviously). Try to stretch out my body. File my nails. Maybe put my hair into braids.

At 1pm meditations started again until 5pm, at which point we stopped for tea and fruit (no dinner). At 6-7pm we had our last group meditation of the day and then we had a nightly discourse, in video form, taught by S.N. Goenka. Once the discourse ended we would meditate until 9pm and then lights out by 10pm.

Over the course of the week I had all sorts of emotions. But as time went on, my hips opened up, my mind quieted down, and I began to experience feelings in my body I never knew existed. As my monkey mind shut down my subconscious mind began to emerge. Long forgotten memories would randomly bubble up to the surface. Beautiful memories from my childhood that I had completely forgotten. At moments I traveled into dream spaces I had previously created. I could feel the energy flowing through my body like a river.

This experience proved to me the power of meditation. The goal of this course, of this technique, is mastery of the mind. How often have you felt like you are a prisoner to your mind? How often have you wished you could just shut off all your thoughts and be HAPPY. Meditation is for everyone. Vipassana has even successfully been taught to people in prison. If you want to learn more about the power of meditation, let’s chat, even you can do it.

When I arrived it was summer. Each day it became cooler, leaves began to fall, trees began to change colour. Each night the moon got bigger. Each morning my alarm went off at 4am and I thought to myself, I’m awake. I’m awake.

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