Grief in the Fall

fall leaves

Every year as the kids put on their backpacks to go back to school, and the morning air gets cool and crisp, I get a pit in my stomach. 

I get a pit in my stomach and a tightness in my throat. Every September. Every September since my daughter was born.

It hits me each year, as the leaves start to change and fall, in a way that it doesn’t in the coziness of winter, the muddiness of spring, or the warm lazy summer afternoons; I worry about loosing my daughter.

The grief of this thing that hasn’t happened is so intense that at times I can feel lost in a cloud of depression. The fear can be so huge I can hardly breathe to be away from her, so profound is my anxiety about loosing her. 

And in other moments I’m ok. 

I’ve tried not to think about it. I’ve convinced myself that I don’t know why I’m sad or that I’m actually worried about something else. I told some of you yesterday it was my vitamin D levels.

But I know it’s not the whole truth.

My biggest heartbreak happened in the fall. It was over 10 years ago now but the pain lingers in this season like a finger print. Like a pair of tinted glasses colouring my view. 

I remember the word I used to describe my heart. 


I vividly remember sitting with myself on a bus trying to figure out how I would rebuild it. I considered something indestructible, like metal, but it felt too cold to be my heart. I didn’t want to become cold and hard. 

So I settled on having to rebuild it with flesh. Muscle was strong and resilient. My heart could get through this and be just as strong as before. And it did.

Since giving birth I’ve described motherhood as “a slow and painful process of letting go”  

Never does that feel more true for me than in the fall.

It’s hitting me that it’s time to rewrite that narrative I’m holding. That motherhood is painful. That telling myself that story of motherhood is retelling the pain, rather than awe, wonder and magic. 

This weeks sermon was a reflection on “being remade” (based on Jeremiah 18:1-10) As I sat listening, the memories of rebuilding my heart came up to be healed again and there I was - crying in the choir loft. 

In so many ways becoming a mother, like most life transitions, requires some “re-making” and yes that can be painful. But it can also be wonderful. And the fact that it happens at all? 


So, I’m going to work on remaking this story of motherhood for myself. Maybe motherhood is a “beautiful and painful process” of “holding on and letting go” Maybe that’s what it could be.

I’m going to try it on and I hope that if there is a story in your life that needs remaking, you find the encouragement and support to remake it.

Love, Katie

Dr. Katie Thomson Aitken ND standing outside Norfolk Wellness Centre in Guelph, Ontario

Dr. Katie Thomson Aitken ND standing outside Norfolk Wellness Centre in Guelph, Ontario

P.S. If you are looking for more mood support this fall I have some spaces open in my practice for new patients to work through my Tranquil Minds Program. If you are interested you can book a strategy session to find out if it’s the right fit for you.

Herbs for Anxiety: Turmeric

By: Andrea Moreau

Turmeric is an ancient herb for modern problem. In some studies, it has been shown to be as effective as an SSRI for treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. Turmeric acts on many different pathways in the brain and body to support mental health and wellbeing.

Is turmeric the right choice for you?

Tumeric Image by  Seksak Kerdkanno  from  Pixabay  

Tumeric Image by Seksak Kerdkanno from Pixabay 

Turmeric is a traditional herbal medicine

Turmeric is a spice that is instantly recognizable by its vivid, yellow colour. It has a rich history of use in cooking, as well as in traditional herbal medicine. It’s potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make it an immensely promising option for the treatment of a myriad of health concerns, ranging from skin conditions to diabetes (Hewlings & Kalman 2017) . It owes these capabilities to its active constituent, the phenolic compound curcumin.

Turmeric is effective in treating mental health concerns

In addition to the treatment of physical ailments, curcumin is also effective in the treatment of mental health disorders, namely anxiety and depression (Lopresti 2017). Circumin acts to regulate a number of pathways involved in the neurophysiology of anxiety disorders, and recent randomized controlled studies have concluded that curcumin extracts may offer an option for the treatment of mental illnesses that is as effective as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), without the side effects (Sanmukhani, Satodia & Trivedi 2014).

Turmeric works on many systems in the brain and body

Circumin’s anxiolytic effects can be attributed to a number of modes of action. For example, circumin subdues anxiety and improves overall mental wellbeing by acting as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, increasing levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, and norepinephrine (Lopresti 2017). As well, it decreases levels of the stress hormone, cortisol (Yu, Pei & Zhang 2015). Additionally, it significantly increases the synthesis of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid that is often scarce in Western diets. DHA deficiency is associated with the pathology of anxiety disorders, combatting oxidative stress and improving neural plasticity (Wu et al. 2015). As previously mentioned, oxidative stress and dysregulated inflammation are two very common causal factors of anxiety (Lopresti 2017). Circumin prevents oxidative stress via modulating antioxidant enzymes, and fights inflammation by regulating cytokine gene expression (Lopresti 2017).

HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal)-axis imbalances are another factor with a causal role in anxiety. This system controls mood, emotions, and stress response through hormonal output. Thus, HPA dysregulation results in an overactive sympathetic nervous system, and a constant state of stress and anxiety (Faravelli et al. 2012). Circumin is able to regulate the HPA-axis by influencing a number of genes, hormones, and receptors that play a role in the process in communication between the central nervous system and endocrine system (Lopresti 2017).

Turmeric Extracts have been shown to be as effective as taking an SSRI

In a randomized, controlled trial performed in 2013, taking curcumin was shown to be as effective as taking the SSRI, fluoxetine (Sanmukhani, Satodia & Trivedi 2014).  Circumin has also been shown to enhance the actions of other antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications when taken in addition to these drugs (Yu, Pei & Zhang 2015). While further research is needed regarding doses and conjunctive treatments, curcumin is proving to be a very effective anxiolytic, and a potential natural alternative to SSRIs.

Need a Natural Anxiety Solution

Prescribing Food

Did anyone else see the recent barrage of articles on prescribing food? This is because I recent study has shown that it’s more cost effective to help people consume more fruits and vegetables than it is to treat the downstream effects of lack of access to fruits and vegetables like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Fruits and Vegetables Decrease Risks of Heart Disease, Diabetes and Cancer and are essential for good physical and mental health

Fruits and Vegetables Decrease Risks of Heart Disease, Diabetes and Cancer and are essential for good physical and mental health

As a naturopathic doctor I look at this and try and hold myself back from unhelpful comments like “obvious” and “of course it is” When you start from a model of preventative care and working to keep people well, the idea of prescribing food is an obvious one. It’s something I do daily in my practice.

Never the less, it’s exciting to see it talked about more and even more exciting to hear conversations around making healthy eating more affordable to those who need it. We all need access to healthy fruits and vegetables, especially as it is now recommended to be the basis of your diet.

Luckily, many places have programs that help offer subsidized access to fruits and vegetables. I want to take a minute to highlight 2 options available in the city of Guelph.

The Seed

One of the groups of people doing amazing work to help people access and eat more vegetables are the folks at the seed. They have many amazing programs but I want to highlight their garden fresh box and community food market.

The Garden Fresh Box is an affordable food box that goes out to 17 locations in the city every month. It costs $15 or $20 (depending on the size of box you pick) and you receive $22-$30 worth of produce! It’s incredible value. When I picked up my box I was not only overwhelmed by the quantity of food I was getting, but also the quality. The produce was very fresh and was absolutely the quality of food I would pick for myself at the grocery store. I was really impressed.

The other program that I wanted to highlight is the Community Food Markets currently with 2 locations in Guelph. These sliding scale market allows you to purchase food at or below retail value (whatever feels right for you).

Using these services is great no matter what you can pay for your food. It’s actually important that we all use these services for a couple of reasons. One, it reduces stigma when everyone uses a service like this. Two, by paying mid to full price it directly subsidizes food for friends in our community.

Community Shared Agriculture (CSA)

Community Shared Agriculture (or CSA) is a model of supporting farmers where you pay for a season of produce at the beginning of the year, and then collect your produce each week based on what the farmers produce. There are many great CSA programs in Guelph but I wanted to share where I get my vegetables from because I think they are going above and beyond to make organic vegetables accessible to everyone.

Zocalo Organics is the only local CSA I know of that offers sliding scale prices for their CSA boxes. This means that at each size of food box, you can select a price option that best fits your budget. The produce Zocalo grows is some of the highest quality food I’ve ever eaten! And it’s so delicious.

If you want to know more about diet prescriptions…

Eating more vegetables is good for everyone! But maybe you want to know more about what specifically is best for you! When I prescribe I diet, it’s not just about eating more vegetables, it’s about helping you make food choices that are right for YOU.

In this video I explain the 3R’s of a Prescription Diet

Want to learn more? Come in and meet me for a complimentary meet and greet appointment! Naturopathic Medicine might be just the breath of fresh air you are looking for in healthcare ;)

Dr. Katie Thomson Aitken ND

What’s the opposite of a Disclaimer?

Also, I just want to clarify that these are NOT affiliate links, I’m not getting paid to share and no one gave me free food, I just really believe in what these organizations are doing. These are food programs I personally support with my own money and I wanted you to know about them so you could also access their awesome produce :)

Find Your Inner Peace

This time of year can be so chaotic. The business, the preparation, the lists, the presents, the parties, the obligations. I know some of you have found your groove, put up your boundaries and are riding this through with peace and joy. And I know at least some of you laughed so hard at that thought that you almost spat onto your screen.

This is for you..

This is the transcript, for those of you who would rather read than watch :)

Hey! It’s Dr. Katie here, and I just wanted to talk to you about finding a moment of peace in what can be a really busy holiday season.

So I know right now you are probably scrolling through your phone, and I just wanted to invite you to learn a technique that can bring you just a few minutes of peace this busy holiday season.

And so, I’m going to explain that to you now. So If you have a minute to grab a nice deep breath. Yes I’m going to do it too. And a second one.

And that’s it!

Just taking a few moments to take a few deep breaths is a lovely way to help you connect with that inner sense of peace and find a moment of peace this holiday season. It’s wonderful because you have this with you no matter where you go. You can always just take a minute to take two deep breaths and reconnect with yourself.

When you feel that peace in your heart, it doesn’t matter what’s going on around you or how busy things are. You can bring that tranquility with you and access it at any time.

The other thing about this is that when you bring calm and are calm in yourself other people will feel that in being around you and they will also experience peace.

Cannabis and Anxiety

For as long as I’ve been treating anxiety, I’ve had patients using cannabis. Some recreationally, some because they find that it helps them with sleep, social situations, anxiety or just to calm down. Sometimes their health goals involve using less cannabis, sometimes not. With recreational cannabis legal in Canada - I’ve noticed more of my patients disclosing their cannabis use, and asking for my thoughts.


It’s a complicated topic, one I’ve thought about a lot and done a lot of research on. Seriously, it took me almost 6 months to write this article. What I’m going to share is based the research on recreational cannabis use and anxiety.

I’m hoping that it’s obvious, but just to be clear, reading something on the internet does not constitute medical advice. If you are interested in medical use of cannabis you should speak to a medical doctor who prescribes medical cannabis.

So with that out of the way here is what I’ve learned:

People Suffering from Anxiety Disorders Use More Cannabis

A survey on recreational cannabis use showed higher levels of use in people with pre-existing anxiety conditions(1). First, individuals with anxiety used more cannabis at a time, and because of this had higher levels of “acute anxiety responses” to cannabis (so they were more likely to get anxiety from using cannabis(1)).

Also, individuals with anxiety who identified as self-medicating with cannabis were using it more frequently (1).

Looking for a natural solution for anxiety? Check out my Tranquil Minds anxiety program.

CBD Is A Potential Treatment For Anxiety Disorders

With all these people with anxiety using cannabis, a natural question is does it work to treat anxiety?

The answer, at this point, is that the Cannabidoil, also called CBD, might. There is a lot of what’s called “preclinical evidence” that CBD may be helpful in a variety of anxiety disorders and disorders related to anxiety such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (2).

This means that when you look at how CBD acts in the brain, how anxiety effects the brain and how mice respond to CBD and stress, it seems like CBD might be helpful.

The problem is that people are not mice and while there has been some research in Social Anxiety (3) and PTSD(4) and there has not yet been a lot of research in humans.

But it’s not all benefits when it comes to Cannabis and Anxiety in fact…

Anxiety is a Side Effect of Cannabis(5)


Yes, you read that right. While there is evidence that CBD might help with anxiety, there is also evidence of cannabis causing anxiety. Particularly in higher amounts, cannabis has been shown to cause episodes of aggravated anxiety and panic attacks(6,7). Not Fun.

The long term effects of cannabis and anxiety are a bit harder to tease out because it’s all based on reporting but we do know that individuals who use cannabis over the long term have higher rates of anxiety disorders, affective disorders and psychosis(6,7), particularly younger people(8).

Cannabis and Psychosis

There is a lot of research linking cannabis as a risk factor for psychosis (9,10). Unfortunately this strong association is a little challenging to understand. There has not yet been a strong biological link identified (11) and some researchers are concluding that cannabis does not cause psychosis but that early and heavy use of cannabis are more likely in people who are vulnerable to developing psychosis (12). Whether this is also true for the link in developing anxiety disorders remains to be seen (5).

While this was thought to be related to the TCH and not the CBD portion of cannabis, there is a report of a patient using CBD strains prior to the onset of their psychosis (13). Whether or not the strains were adulterated or mislabeled is not known.

At the end of the day there are lots of great herbs for treating anxiety

There are lots of great plants in this world that are wonderful for treating anxiety. Many with more evidence of benefit and less risk. You can watch or read about my favourites here.

If you are planning to use recreational cannabis you can read about best practices for safer consumption here.

Looking for a natural solution to your anxiety?

Herbs for Anxiety

Plant Medicine is one of the many tools I use in my naturopathic practice to treat anxiety. Watch or read below for some of my favourite anxiety herbs!


Looking for Expert Advice on natural Anxiety Treatments?

Hi everyone. Good evening and thanks for coming and joining me for tonight's Tranquil Tuesday. I'm really excited tonight. We're going to talk about a topic that I know a lot of you have been asking me about and are really curious about, which is herbal medicine for anxiety. I know it's one of those things there's a lot of different plants out there and you might hear different things about what's effective. So what I'm going to let you know about tonight are the top five herbs that I use in my clinical practice when treating anxiety.

I love plant medicine for like a lot of different reasons but whenever I'm making like a botanical prescription for someone, there's a lot of different factors that go into deciding what herbs to use, and that has to do with what their concerns are. So when we're talking about anxiety, each plant is not just used for anxiety as a symptom. But plants are dynamic and they have all kinds of different compounds in them. A lot of times we're choosing a plant remedy, we're choosing it not just for its use in calming the nervous system, but also for what else it does and for how that matches up with what else is happening in my patients life. So that's one factor that goes into choosing that.

Other factors are of course the patient's age, any medication that they might be on. It's really important if you are going to use herbal medicines, and you are on any kind of prescription drug that you have an expert helping you out and making sure that's safe to go together. Just because you can buy something over the counter doesn't mean that you can take it with your prescription drugs. That's something that I just encourage everybody to get some expert help with whether that's through their doctor, whether that's through a naturopathic doctor. Naturopathic doctors are trained in drug herb interactions and so they're able to help you safely figure out really what herb goes along with which concern and which condition. So with that being said, I'm going to get into my top five herbs.

5. Lemon balm

My number five verb for treating anxiety is lemon balm. Lemon balm is what we call unnerving, meaning it's really tonifying and calming for the nervous system. It's a beautiful nourishing herb. I love it because you can drink it in a tea and that's kind of nice throughout the day. Some people know grows in their garden, they can pick it and they make this tea and it's really healing and calming. The other thing I really love about lemon balm is great for the digestive system. So for someone who's anxiety manifests with digestive discomfort, lemon balm is something that I sort of turned to for that and look at for that reason.

4. Bacopa

My fourth herb that I want to talk about for anxiety tonight is the Bacopa. I was kind of like, do I put this in there? Do I not? Because it's not really an anxiety herb it's actually an herb for focus and concentration. But this actually can be really helpful for anxiety particularly for people who find that their anxiety, the way that that impacts their life is that they can't focus. I find this is a really big problem a lot people have with anxiety is that it impairs their focus and they feel like they can't do their job well. That's such a hit on your self-confidence when you feel like I'm not bringing my best self to this. So Bacopa can really help with that. It can help with coping, anxiety and focus. I use it a lot in students who just need that extra cognitive support, and Bacopa is definitely an herb that I think of when that focus is impaired.

3. Lavender

Herb number three that I'm going to talk about today is lavender. Lavender might be my personal favorite herb, but it's number three for use in anxiety. Lavender is really great. There's lots of different ways you can use lavender. It's really effective actually as aromatherapy. So the essential oil when you smell it or you put it in a carrier, oil on the skin, that's been shown to decrease blood pressure, decrease the stress response. It's just a really great calming scent that can really impact like blood pressure and there's like physiologic. Like things are happening in the body about stress, that is impacted by just smelling lavender. So that's kind of a cool thing. There's lots of teas that have lavender in it.

Lavender is one of those herbs that people use for sleep because it's calming in a way that's kind of sedative. So that's definitely something that I look at, is whether there's some sleep concerns as well and whether lavender makes the best sense is sometimes indicated by sleep issues. Then there's also just some really cool research out there on lavender essential oil actually given in a capsule. You want to make sure that you've got a proper quality product for this, but the research has been shown that it's equivalent to a benzodiazepine, which is the type of medication that a lot of people take in the moment to help them sleep. Benzodiazepine are really addictive and they have their own concerns with them, but the lavender essential oil has similar efficacy without the side effects. So it's non-addictive which is really awesome. So that's definitely something you'll use with sleep and anxiety.

2. Rhodiola

Number two on my list to talk about tonight is rhodiola. Rhodiola is really great for anxiety and stress. Rhodiola is actually not unnerving, it's not something you usually think of as more of something that calms the nervous system. But what it is, is from a class of herbs called adaptogens. What it's really great at is helping the body cope with stress. By doing that, rhodiola in particular of all the different adaptogens really seems to help calm people down. So it's a beautiful choice and one of my top choices for when anxiety is really because of stress and because of the stress response. It can be really calming for a lot of people. It's good for physical stress and also mental and emotional stress. Yeah, it's just it's a beautiful herb and I use it quite a lot.

1. Kava

The number one herb that I want to talk to you guys about tonight is kava. Kava kava is this herb from the Pacific Islands and it's traditionally consumed as a tea and it's very calming. Of all of the herbs out there, this is the one that has the most research for anxiety and it's definitely for that reason is my number one herb. People that really have a generalized anxiety disorder and need something on a daily basis, it's going to make a real big difference in their life and their calm, and how calm they feel.

If you start googling kava, which I find most people that are anxious start googling, you find a few things about it. I'm just going to address some of those right now because there was a time in Canada where we didn't have access to kava as an herb due to some safety concerns. So there were some people that took kava and had an increase in their liver enzymes and some problems with their liver. So this attributed to kava and it was taken off the market. Now, every herb, every pharmaceutical, anytime you take something there's always a chance that someone's liver enzymes are going to go up. That's just a response in a certain number of people.

Now, the kava extracts that were being used were extracted through alcohol. This is really like boring chemistry. But it's important because the way that you extract elements from a plant, that influences the type of compounds that are in there. When this solvent was being used rather than water to extract the kava, it was extracting compounds that weren't as safe. So kava is back on the market now and they realized that in those cases, kava was not the only thing to blame.

I am very picky about the kava sources that I recommend and I do like a water extract of kava because that actually extracts ... If you remember, I was just saying that the traditional way to consume this herb is actually in a tea. So historically, that's the appropriate way to extract it. But also when you get into like the boring chemistry again, the appropriate compounds are easily the things that are responsible for helping people be calm are more easily extracted with water and not so much with some of the solvents. Some of the more toxic compounds come out more in those other types of extraction methods. So long boring story short, kava water extract is something that I always look for. With any herb but particularly with kava. You want to be really careful with your sourcing from there.

Then the other thing that kava is really good at is pain and tension. I know for some people with anxiety, they get a lot of muscle pain. It's like tension headaches or like your body's up here, kava really helps with relaxing. But in a way, that's like so you can still drive your car. It doesn't impair your ability to operate heavy machinery. So that's a really awesome feature of kavas, that calming. That's really my number one herb as I get to the bottom of this list. I mean, there's so many other herbs that I could have included that I use all the time. I'm looking at this just wondering, why passion flower isn't on there? I played around with putting chamomile. I mean, there's just so many beautiful herbs for anxiety, it's just a matter of finding the right one for each person.

It's really about knowing what you're trying to achieve. Any time we're trying to add a plant remedy into someone's treatment protocol, what is that trying to do? What are you hoping to get from that? I think it's really important ... I mean, one of the things that I look at in my practice is lifestyle medicine. I think that what we do every day for ourselves and for health is way more important than what we take. But sometimes it can be hard to do things and that's why I love plant remedies. Is because when you're at a point where you should be eating better or you want to be doing this exercise program, but you can't get there because you're so anxious, you just can't even do it.

That is where I love to use herbs and plant medicine as a tool to help the body get into a place where they're calm enough or you're calm enough to actually tackle some of those bigger, bigger challenges. That is the role that I see of herbs in anxiety and I would love to answer any of the questions that you have about herbs for anxiety and like either in general or any specific herbs. So feel free to throw them up in the comments and I will do my best to answer them. If anybody's got one now, I can answer it now. Otherwise, if you're watching the replay, for sure add that in the comments. I'll come back and answer. Then next week on Tranquil Tuesdays, we're talking about panic attacks and what to do when you're having anxiety or a panic attack. I really hope you'll join me for this one, I think it's going to be really great and we'll see you next week.

Want One on One Anxiety Support from Dr. Katie?

Book Your Complimentary Consultation Today

Boosting Your Immune System

Fall. Warm Days. Crisp Mornings. One minute you need a jacket and the next you can’t find it because it’s on a park bench or at the office, because it’s so warm walking home you can’t imagine you needed your coat this morning. It’s a great time of year, especially if you are a virus!

Fall means the viruses are out and the immune system is often down, delayed by the cold weather. So what can we do to boost our own immune systems?

Watch this short video for one of my methods (and my current favourite shortcut!) and let me know in the comments what you do for your immune system!

Looking for some personal support finding natural solutions to boost your immune system? Book your complimentary consult with me and find out how naturopathic medicine can help you optimize your health!

Good afternoon, everyone. It is just afternoon, and I am sorry if you caught my previous video tech failure, but we are back up and running. What I just wanted to talk about today was these crazy temperatures that we have going on here.

I know in Guelph we're having a beautiful day of 26, and if you're catching this in a couple of days, it's supposed to be a lot cooler. That's been the case for the month of October, really.

It's been warm and cool, but it's really challenging for the immune system. I know my daughter's been sick. Getting lots of viruses from daycare. That's no fun for anyone. It's not fun for me. It's not fun for her.

What I really wanted to talk about is how we can do a little protection of ourselves through this time of year. In traditional Chinese medicine, this season of transition is really the Earth time, and this is when it's really important to nourish your immune system to keep yourself from getting sick.

One of the traditional ways to do this is to make a change of season soup. There's a bunch of herbs in there. Codonopsis, Astragalus, Dioscorea, and Chinese lychee berries. These are all decocted, or cooked in ... which just means boiled in water for a really long time. You imagine, in your kitchen, you've got a pot of water, and you're adding all these herbs, and then boiling them for a couple of hours to really pull all of the essences out of them.

I would love to sit here and tell you that I did this for my daughter, but I didn't, because I don't really ... I shouldn't say I don't have time, but I have not made the time to sit and decoct this out for her. What I did do was I went to the health food store next door to my office, the Stone Store, and I bought this: Deep Immune Kids.

This is something that I sometimes use in practice to help immune systems. Of those four herbs that I talked about, two of them, the ones that are most appropriate for children, are in this formula. They also have a Deep Immune Adults that has the adult versions of it, along with a couple of other immune herbs.

While decocting herbs in your kitchen is great if you can do it, and I totally think that if that's something you want to give a try, talk to your doctor, talk to your naturopath, make sure that those herbs are good for you, and not going to interact with any of your medications or medical conditions. Give that a try. But this is another option that I use. A little more convenient. A little better for me and my life right now.

Yeah. It's really is a time of a lot of temperature fluctuations, and there are options out there, from do-it-yourself options, to tinctures that someone else has made and you just administer to yourself or to your child. I guess I just want to know what you do to keep your and your family well this time of year. If you've got anything that you do at home that you feel like protects yourself and your family from these crazy temperature swings, I'd love to hear. Leave that in the comments, and I'll see you again next week.

Concussion Prevention

Can what we eat really impact how our bodies heal from a concussion? Watch for my thoughts on using nutrition as a preventative therapy for concussion / mild traumatic brain injury.

Do you want a Customized Concussion Prevention Plan?

Book Your Complimentary Consultation Today.

Good afternoon. Hello, everybody. I just wanted to pop on this afternoon and chat about a topic that I'm seeing pop up a lot in my Facebook news feed right now, which is hockey season starting. A lot of people getting their kids ready for that with skates and helmets and concussions clinics, where they're getting cognitive testing before the hockey season to make sure that if there's an accident, there's a baseline to compare to. I just see these parents doing everything that they can for their kids and to keep kids playing sports, whether that's hockey, whether that's another sport, to really minimize the impact of concussion.

One of the things that I don't see a lot of information out there on is nutrition and concussion prevention. This is a really, I mean to me, a really interesting field where there is this idea that we could prevent ... there's this idea that we could prevent concussion before it even happens. I mean we can't prevent an injury from happening. You can't prevent the trauma. That's why the protective gear is there for and there's lots of things that are addressing that, but what about when that happens?

What can we do beforehand to help the brain be in a place where it's going to be able to respond faster and can we minimize that impact? I think that the answer to this question is that we likely can and should definitely try. This is really debated in the literature because obviously we don't have randomized controlled trials where we give children injuries. That would be very inappropriate. What we're doing is looking at mouse models and looking at different situations. One of the things that comes up is omega-3 supplementation or having enough fatty acids for the brain, particularly really long-chain fatty acids.

This has been shown in most models of head trauma to improve recovery time and to really see less impact of the concussion. A lot of times when you're looking at something like a mouse study, you say, "Can we really apply this to humans?" There's a really great debate happening in the literature, which means strongly worded letters to the editor. But what I think is really the go-to for me, this takeaway, is that it's so safe. Fish oil is a very safe therapy and with very little risks of implementing. Something like a nutritional program to optimize brain health to prevent concussion. There's very little risk to this and the potential for so much benefit in terms of reduced harm.

Most of the research out there is on omega-3 fish oils and so definitely recommend as part of your hockey prep season to get a naturopathic doctor on your team and get an appropriate dose of fish oil for your child so that you know that you're doing that part to protect them. Then there's also some other research looking at prebiotic fibers to support what's going on in the gut because a lot of information moves back and forth from our gut to our brain and we want to be protecting that as well. There's also some research looking at antioxidant status. I mean in the research they're giving Resveratrol supplements, but I mean I look at that as they're giving antioxidants.

Is your child eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables? Are they getting lots of antioxidants from their diet, or is that something that you maybe want to look at improving or adding a supplement that's going to be high in antioxidants to help protect that way? There's lots of different pieces to this. I wanted to pop on today so that you know that this is something that can happen and this is something that you can take steps. Just like you might take steps with what you wear on the outside of your head, you can take steps on what happens on the inside of your head.

I hope that this video is helpful. If you did find it helpful, please share it with any other parents that are prepping for hockey season this year. Talk soon.

Do you want a Customized Concussion Prevention Plan?

Book Your Complimentary Consultation Today.

For Days When It's Hard...

Hi there. I'm going to be honest here for a minute, I'm not having a great week. I know I'm not the only one and I know that there are many other people out there that are having a week that's much worse. I know because I've had worse weeks and even on those weeks, I knew that for someone else it was worse.

Assuming you consume any kind of media or social media outside this blog you know about the Humbolt hockey team's bus accident. You've probably seen some #sticksoutforhumbolt. While it seems everyone feels sad about this terrible accident, there are always people who react to news stories more strongly because it triggers in them memories of their own past trauma. While this is pervasive in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, even individuals who do not meet the criteria for PTSD can experience upsetting memories, flashbacks, or emotional distress after being reminded of the trauma. 

I'm explaining this because while I saw many posts on self care when the #metoo hashtag was spreading like wildfire, I have not seen anything yet on coping with being triggered by the Humbolt bus accident; and this accident is triggering. It's triggering for me personally, because of my experience waiting for news while a loved one was in critical care, but I'm sure for many others as well. For people who have lost or came close to loosing loved ones, particularly if elements of this tragedy are similar to their own experience.

So it's out there. We've all had experiences in our lives that have been difficult, and we are all going to be reminded of them sometimes. So whether you landed on this page because the Humbolt's bus accident is affecting you, or you are feeling like today is just a bit much for another reason, here are my top tips for self care this week.

1. Name your emotions.

It's OK to be sad. I picked sad because it's how I'm feeling but really it's ok to feel whatever emotion is coming up for you. Anger. Regret. Shame. Fear. Despair. Whatever it is you are feeling, you are allowed to feel it. Acknowledge how you are feeling - without judgement -  and give yourself permission to express it. 

It's also important to remember that feelings aren't a competition and there is no "wrong" way to feel. If you are mad, don't feel like you can't be mad because someone else has more reason to be, or is even more upset. Everyone is entitled to their emotions, regardless of what other people are going through.

2. Enjoy the small things

When things are difficult it can be hard to feel like things are going well. Rather than hinge your happiness on the big moments, let yourself enjoy whatever you can - however small. Perhaps you've got a great tasting cup of coffee, a song you really like came on the radio, or you noticed the sun pouring in through a window. However fleeting - looking for - and enjoying these small moments help to keep you in the present and can be a small light moment in a dark day.

3. Eat / Sleep / Walk

Emotions effect us in ways that can make even the most basic tasks of living life seem enormous, impossible, or inconsequential. You may have little or no appetite, not be tired or be tired and unable to sleep, or feel lethargic. Even if you are not hungry your body needs food. Preferably some kind of fruit or vegetable every 4-6 hours. If it's been longer than that and you aren't hungry try and eat something anyway. Same goes for sleep and getting outside. It may be the last thing you feel like doing but your mind and body will feel better if you give it an opportunity to move and stretch and to rest.  

4. Unplug

This one seems obvious but it can be the hardest. If stories on social media are triggering you - maybe you need to take a day or two off? If you feel like you've been on your phone all day, maybe put it down in another room? This is a great time to replace the technology distraction with something that you love to do and feel like you never have time for whether thats woodworking, knitting, or meeting a friend. 

None of these things are magical. They don't change what has happened or what's happening right now but what they do is help you move through the present, because sometimes, that's the only goal.

Elimination Diet Dinners - Week Three Recipe Links

Week Three! It's the final stretch. Whether or not you've followed the diet 100% I hope you are feeling proud of your accomplishments so far and are feeling well in your body! While this is the last set of recipes I'm posting this time around I hope it's given you some guidance around making gluten and diary a less integral part of your diet. 

I find that as I reintroduce foods, I may find some that I don't do as well with than others. With the knowledge of what works for my body I can then make more informed choices about what I'm eating. Doing an elimination diet reminds me about foods I have forgotten about, and helps me remember healthy patterns (like snacking on rice cakes with avocado instead of chips) even when I've reintroduced other foods. 

Here they are - the final week's dinner recipes!

Roast Lamb

The last roast recipe I'm going to use is the roast lamb. If you don't eat red meat you can go back to the first week and roast another chicken but if you do I encourage you to give it a try. Like the previous "mothership" roast recipes, they are designed to give you leftovers, which I use up in the lamb curry recipe. Leave the bacon out of the cabbage for this one, or use your own favourite veggies.

Fish Tikka Curry

I know, there are a lot of curries in this menu plan. The reason is that they are super easy to make delicious curries that are OK on the elimination diet! This one is, again, from Save with Jamie. Just looking at the pictures has me excited to cook this one again. 

Leftover Lamb Curry

Jamie Oliver's "Save with Jamie" book one of my favourites right now. Especially over the winter, the idea of making a weekend roast and then having great recipes to transform the leftovers throughout the week really appeals to me. The lamb curry recipe in this cookbook is a biryani that involves making your own stock, cooking beautiful rice, and layering the yummy flavours into a dish that then gets baked for 40 minutes. The whole process takes 2.5 hours and I imagine that you - like me - do not have 2.5 hours to transform leftovers. So I've adapted it to a crock pot stew. Will it be "Incredible Lamb Biryani"? No. Will it be on plates 20-25 minutes after I've walked in door? Yes. And that is what I need on weeknights. 


  • 8 oz leftover lamb

  • 2 thumb size pieces of ginger

  • 4 cloves of garlic

  • 2 red onions

  • 2 TBSP olive oil

  • 2 tsp curry powder

  • 1/2 chopped mango

  • 1 fresh chile, finely chopped

  • 1 pkg frozen spinnach (16oz)

  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar

  • 2 cups stock

  • 1 cup basmati rice


Finely chop the ginger, garlic and onion. Put everything except the rice in the crock pot. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. When ready to eat steam 1 cup rice in 2 cups of water for 25 minutes. 

Cabbage Salad with Duck

This cabbage salad is so yummy. It's adapted from Donna Hay's "The New Easy". You're going to want to make this all the time, elimination diet or not!


  • 1/3 cup lime juice

  • 1/4 cup fish sauce

  • 2 Tbsp honey

  • 2 Tbsp shredded ginger

  • 6 kaffir lime leaves

  • 2 duck breast

  • 1 Tbsp Chinese 5 spice powder

  • 3 cups cabbage (shredded)

  • 2 chillies, finely sliced

  • 3 green onion, finely sliced

  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves

  • 1/2 cup mint leaves

  • 1/2 basil leaves

  • 1/3 cup cashews


Make sure all of your veggies are prepped before you start. Score the fat on duck breasts. Sprinkle with the 5 spice powder. Heat a pan on medium high heat. Cook the duck breast skin side down for 5 minutes, until skin is crispy and then flip and finish cooking (about 3 more minutes). Set the duck breasts aside to rest and turn down heat. Add lime juice, fish sauces, honey, ginger and lime leaves and stir. Remove from heat and set aside. Combine the cabbage, chilli, onion, cilantro, mint, and basil and divide between plates. Slice duck breast and toss in pan sauce. Top plates with duck and pan sauce. Sprinkle with the cashews and serve. 

Squash Pasta

I always think of this for "leftover" squash but that is a rare commodity in my house so I often roast a squash just for this pasta. 


  • 1/2 butternut squash (roasted)
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • pasta (I like the chick pea pasta with this sauce)


Cook you pasta as per package directions. While it's boiling slice the garlic. Get a heavy bottomed sauce pan on medium high heat with a few lugs of olive oil. Add the garlic and chilli to the hot oil and cook for about 1 minute to flavour the oil. Add the roasted squash and mash and stir. Add pasta water as needed to create a thick sauce texture. Drain pasta and mix with squash sauce. Enjoy!

Lime Fish Taco Salad

Donna Hay does some lovely and quick fish taco recipes like this one. To make it Elimination Diet friendly, leave out the taco shell and yoghurt and place fish on a bed of lettuce or cabbage with all the toppings!

Turkey Burgers

I know it's not the obvious choice but Gwyneth Paltrow is my go-to girl for out of the box burger recipes (which I need because I could eat burgers every week in the summer!) These turkey burger patties are great alongside some salad or roasted vegetables. Everywhere I found the recipe online they included a yoghurt sauce (which you want to leave out until you've reintroduced dairy) and a bun! Which was not in the original recipe and you probably want to leave it out until you reintroduce gluten! With that caveat here is the burger link. 

Well that's it for Elimination Diet Dinners this time around.

If you are thinking of doing an elimination-style diet and are looking for guidance and support - come chat with me! I'd be happy to help you! 

Book a Complimentary Meet and Greet Consultation with me here

Elimination Diet Dinners - Week Two Recipe Links

Hope your first week is going well! Mine is well.. going. I miss coffee and while I thought I had mastered the art of not being hungry on an Elimination Diet, the extra calories I'm loosing through breastfeeding have been a little harder to pick up, making me realize I was topping up with some empty calories. Time to pick up the smoothies I guess! On the plus side my skin is feeling great! 

Here are the links and/or recipes for this weeks dinners! Enjoy!

Roast Salmon

Again, this week starts out with a roast dinner from Jamie Oliver. I love doing this because it's simple, it looks nice on the table, and you get great leftovers for meals later in the week. This week's roast is for a Roast Side of Salmon. The recipe has some veggies along side it but feel free to use your own family favourites.

Veggie Korma with Mock Cauliflower Pilau

I'm so excited about this curry because it's such a hit at my house. It's something I pull out when I feel like my daughter hasn't been eating enough vegetables because, since it's all vegetables, she's bound to get some in. I usually cook it out of "Save with Jamie" but I found this really cool PDF that even has pictures! 

I wanted to let you know that I usually change a couple of things. First, if you are on the elimination diet you do want to leave out the optional feta cheese (and the yoghurt). Second, I don't like to use the liquid from canned beans (or the cooking liquid from beans) because it reduces the gas-causing carbohydrate raffinose in the final dish. Lastly - and this one is 100% optional - but my family is not 100% on board that cauliflower is a replacement for rice. In order to convince them (that sounds better than trick them right?!?!) I make "fancy rice". This means melting some oil / butter / ghee in a large pan, adding some flavours (such as lemon zest and juice, ginger root and turmeric) and then stirring the cooked rice through the yummy flavours. 

Chicken Curry

This is another one of my fav's from Donna Hay's cookbook The New Easy. As much as I like cooking it's nice to have a curry recipe you throw in the oven and forget about! This is that one.

Lamb Tagine

This is another recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow's "It's All Good." Lamb is an allowed red meat on the Elimination Diet as it is generally still raised grazing on pasture and is therefore less inflammatory a red meat choice. While some individuals do well on no red meat, many people require meat in their diet (and occasional red meat) to feel their best. I'm one of those people so there's a bit of lamb in my menu plan. This recipe has some preserved lemon on top; I generally don't have preserved lemon on had so I just leave them out (it's still good). 

Fish Burgers

I love these salmon burgers. The pickled ginger and cilantro go so well with salmon! They do have a bit of a challenge with them which is that they fall apart if you ignore the part where they are supposed to rest in the fridge. Now - normally something like that is enough for me to ignore a recipe forever but these are really yummy and on an elimination diet - I need healthy food that is really yummy. So it's best to suck it up and prep these the day before, then when you get home from work its really easy to just cook up the burgers and steam or sauté the vegetables. Make sure to make enough for lunch the next day - you are going to want to eat them again. 

Chinese Chicken Salad

I hate to say this, but if you hate salads you are probably making them wrong. This one is a prime example of how to do one well - so you'll actually want to eat it. It has a soft and a crunchy lettuce, extra veggies for sweetness and texture, lots of herbs, a seed, some protein and a killer homemade dressing you'll want to use over and over again. This version has poached chicken breast - just for the salad, but it also works well with leftover roast chicken (or one of those grocery store rotisserie chickens. Shhh.) 

Chicken Burgers

Making your own burgers is a sure fire way to avoid additives like gluten and soy as well as preservatives. It's also a great way to add in fun flavours and make the burgers you want to eat. I really love these chicken burgers. Keep them elimination diet friendly by pairing them with steamed our sautéed bok choy and some brown rice. Finished your elimination diet? Try them at your next BBQ on a bun with mayo.

Check back next week for new recipes! 

Elimination Diet Dinners - Week One Recipe Links

Happy Elimination Diet! These foods are things I love to eat ALL the time (whether I'm on an elimination diet or not!) I hope you LOVE these recipes as much as my family does!

Roast Chicken

My default for all roast dinners is the fabulous Jamie Oliver. He really gets family cooking and his recipes are often easy to learn and nutritionally sound. This roast chicken dinner is something I've been cooking forever and I'm sure it will become a regular at your house.

Vegan Shepherd's Pie

Is it a shepherd's pie if it's vegan? I'm not sure it is but this lentil dish is too good to leave out.

Kale and Cashew Pesto Pasta

This is one of my fav's from Donna Hay's cookbook The New Easy. True to it's name this cookbook is full of modern flavours in recipes that are incredibly easy.  In this version I'm swapping out spaghetti for this really cool pea pasta I found at Costco. It's gluten free and has way more protein than wheat pasta! Plus it has the best texture of any gluten free pasta I've tried to date.


  • 4 servings pea pasta

  • 1/2 bunch of kale 

  • 1/3 cup parsley

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 2/3 cup cashews

  • 1 lemon

  • 1/2 cup olive oil


Cook the pea pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking prepare pesto. Chop kale and parsley in a food processor. Add garlic, lemon zest, cashews, and olive oil and pulse until finely chopped and combined. Toss the pesto on the pasta and serve with lemon wedges. 

Chicken Tray Bake

I love this dinner because it's easy to prepare and it's so yummy - it seems like it should be more complicated but the oven really does all the work. What I like about this tray bake is that it's free of pre-made condiments but it still tastes really great.  

Roasted Trout

Trout is one of my favourite fish to eat. It's full of the long chain omega-3 fatty acids we all need more of, it's local to Ontario lakes, and it's usually quite affordable! One of my first blogs was a trout recipe, I hope you like this simple recipe for weeknight trout!

Cashew Chicken Satay

This is the kind of fun food I want to eat on a Friday night. Tasty, fun and it doesn't take too much brain power to put together. I often serve it as part of "dip-able dinner" with some chopped raw veggies. Check it out.

Check back next week for new recipes! 

How to Drink at a Holiday Party

How to Drink at a Holiday Party

Hey! It's December and that means it's time to CELEBRATE. If your celebrations are anything like mine that means that there is occasionally alcohol at them. Did I say "occasionally alcohol"? I meant "often wine." But if you were hoping for a list of tasting notes I'm sorry to disappoint! This how to guide is a little less "how to indulge" and a lot more "how am I going to manage my health risks since I'm for sure having some wine"

Let's Talk About Preventing Suicide

When it comes to suicide prevention, I think, because this topic is so stigmatized, that many people think "this isn't going to happen to me" or that their friends and family aren't affected, but I'm sure that's really not true. How likely is it someone will confront someone with suicidal thoughts? 

It's so true that many people think suicide or thoughts of suicide is something that happens to "other people." That's what I thought before life taught me that simply isn't true. Suicide is not a mental illness; it's a mental health issue. There's a difference...

“What’s Wrong with Me” What Disney’s Moana Teaches Us All About Anxiety and Identity

OK. So I know I’m a bit late to the game but I recently watched Disney’s Moana and I’m completely in love. In a wonderful departure from “waiting for the prince to save me” movies of my childhood, Moana depicts a true heroine. The movie is a great adventure journey but the true conflict in the story is one of identify. Moana struggles throughout the film with this central question “Who Am I?” This is a question many of us ask ourselves and when we are distant from the answer, it can fill us with anxiety. In fact, lack of connection to ourselves and our identity is, in my opinion, the leading spiritual cause of anxiety. In watching Moana tackle her own identity we can learn how we can better connect to our own higher selves and help our children find theirs.

So in this movie Moana has two duelling destinies. As a child, she is chosen to voyage across the ocean to restore the heart of Tafiti but as the daughter of the village chief, she is expected to take over as chief of the village. She feels drawn to the water but also a lot of shame and frustration about this desire which she expresses in “How Far I’ll Go.” Moana does what many of us do when confronted with this type of conflict, it’s so uncomfortable to hold two opposite positions at the same time, that she blames herself crying “what is wrong with me?”

This tension between others expectations and listening to our own inner voices is all to familiar. Watching Moana try and navigate this phase of self discovery can bring to light how we mange this role in our own journey and how we support the children in our lives as they discover theirs. Are we meeting this challenge with an authoritarian perspective, creating rigid rules like Moana’s father? Are we consolatory like Moana’s mother who cautions "Sometimes who we wish we were, what we wish we could do—it’s just not meant to be" Or are we meeting this conflicts with wisdom, trusting in the questioners ability to find their own answer?

In the end Moana is able to listen to herself and follow her calling. She finds her identity as a voyager and claims both her identity and her purpose. This culminates in the song “I AM MOANA” where she is able to acknowledge the voice was not something calling from outside of her but coming from inside her. In doing so is she able to loose her anxiety over her identity. She becomes the confident heroine who voyages across the ocean and in doing so is then better able to lead her village. Her anxiety is resolved because she is living in congruence with her purpose. Even though she faces challenges, she faces them confidently with a sense of purpose and identity.

This is what we all want for ourselves and our children. To feel confident in why we are here so that challenges placed in our path can be met from a place of purpose. This is what comes from creating space to listen to our higher selves and honouring the gifts we have received. Moana reminds us that we all have a calling, and that being separated from it can cause us a great sense of anxiety which can be resolved simply by reconnecting. 

Do’s and Don’ts for Feeding Your Anxious Child

anxious child

Nutrition can be challenging to understand. Nutrition and kids, even more so. There are so many things to consider - it can often be overwhelming. You want your child to grow and thrive, but you only have so much time and effort to put into nutrition. Often this can be made more complicated by picky eaters and kids who loves something one week and will not touch it the next. To make it worse, nutrition advice often gets divided into camps and everyone seems to believe their camp is best for everyone. Ever met someone following a vegan diet? Gluten-Free? Paleolithic? 

The truth is nutritional science is still young, and while we know some basic truths for sure (example - vegetables are in fact good for you) scientists are still uncovering the details in terms of which diet is BEST or BEST FOR AN INDIVIDUAL. So what I’ve done for you in this guide is waded through what we know about nutrition, and what we know about anxiety and put together my best recommendations. These are meant to help you navigate the world of nutrition and make better choices for your family. What they are not meant to do is create guilt, shame, or stress. So take what you can from these guidelines but please use them as just that, guidelines, not rigid rules.

Before I get into the recommendations themselves I want to explain WHY I’m making them. If you’re the type of person that wants to know the details the next few paragraphs are for you. If you are in a hurry, or would rather skip the nutritional science, feel free to skip ahead a few paragraphs. The nutritional recommendations below are there because they support one or more of the following principles: supporting a health microbiome; creating a balanced blood sugar response; ensuring appropriate nutrients for building the nervous system; and/or avoiding common nutrient deficiencies that cause anxiety. 

Background Science

Bacteria can influence our mental wellbeing

Bacteria can influence our mental wellbeing

Although we are still uncovering the details, it has become apparent that our microbiome (the bacteria living in our intestines) have a huge impact on many aspects of our health, including our mood. These bacteria can make neurotransmitters, and can communicate with the brain via the enteric nervous system (our nervous system in the gut). While we often think of our brain sending information to our bodies, when it comes to the digestive tract 80% of the nerves between it and the brain actually go from the digestive tract TO the brain(1). Probiotic supplements (good bacteria in a pill) have been shown to be beneficial for anxiety(2). It makes sense then to support a natural healthy microbiome with our diets. We can do this by increasing foods that contain healthy bacteria (probiotics), including foods that feed the probiotics (prebiotics), and reducing food for pathogenic or harmful bacteria / yeast (sugar).  

Sugar can disrupt our blood sugar response

Sugar can disrupt our blood sugar response

The next principle, creating a balanced blood sugar response, is something that is important for many people, but not always considered when discussing anxiety. This is unfortunate because individuals with anxiety are more likely to experience blood sugar imbalance (3). With an impaired response to the carbohydrates in their foods, people with anxiety may experience reactive hypoglycemia. This is because the body creates too much insulin in response to sugar and an individuals blood sugar goes too low, creating symptoms like shaking, increased heart rate, and nervousness. Many people experience this as anxiety. By balancing blood sugar, individuals can feel more calm. In fact, a study examining Glycemic Index (how quickly your blood sugar goes up) of breakfast foods and mood in healthy children found that a low glycemic index breakfast was associated with feeling more alert, more happy, and less nervous (4). Imagine the difference in children with anxiety who may be even more sensitive! I want to stress than in my practice I have seen anxiety completely resolve by changing diet; in these cases the body’s response to carbohydrates was the ROOT CAUSE OF THE ANXIETY.  

The last two principles I’m going to speak about together because they both come down to getting enough nutrients (not just calories, but nutrients) from your diet. This is important for both macronutrients like proteins and fats, and micronutrients like B vitamins and Magnesium. There are things you need to get from your food because they are essential. This means your body cannot make it on its own. If you do not consume enough of these building blocks, the thing your body is trying to make just doesn’t get made. You need amino acids from protein to build neurotransmitter. You need long chain omega-3 fatty acids to act as insulators to the wires your brain. The other important thing to consider is that if you are not getting enough of a nutrient your body you may have symptoms caused by that nutrient deficiency. A lack of vitamin B12 can cause numbness and tingling, both common symptoms in anxiety. A lack of magnesium is a known cause of anxiety, this is concerning because nutritional surveys consistently demonstrate that dietary magnesium is usually below the recommended daily allowance (5).

And so, with these principles in mind, here are the Do’s and Don’t for Feeding Your Anxious Child. 

Looking for more support?

Book a complimentary naturopathic strategy session and learn if my approach is the right fit for your family.

Do Include A Variety of Protein Sources 

Protein provides essential amino acids, the building blocks of neurotransmitters, compounds your brain uses to communicate. In addition to it’s essential role including protein at meals and snacks decreases the calories from carbohydrates which improves the glycemic index of the meal, helping to balance blood sugars. It’s best to include a variety of protein sources including more plant proteins (like legumes) and less red meats. 

  • Beans (black beans, kidney beans, chick peas)

  • Tofu, Tempeh, Soy Milk

  • Hummus

  • Eggs

  • Greek Yogurt (unsweetened)

  • Fish and Seafood

  • Chicken and other poultry

  • Beef, Lamb and Pork

  • Clean protein powders (whey, soy, hemp)

Do Include Sources of Healthy Fats

Our brain is made up of a lot of fat! It’s important to make sure we are building it with the best (and least inflammatory) fats as possible.

  • Fatty Fish (Salmon/Trout, Mackerel, Anchovy, Sardines, Herring)

  • Olives and Olive Oil

  • Raw Nuts and Seeds

  • Coconut, Coconut Oil

  • Avocado

  • Organic Full Fat Dairy Products

Don’t Include Processed Sugar

As most people know, processed sugar is devoid of nutrients. It also has a high glycemic index. While it’s obvious to exclude or limit things like candy and cookies there is a lot of sugar hidden in prepared foods like pasta sauces.  It is important to read labels and look for words like sugar, cane sugar, dehydrate cane juice, glucose, fructose, glucose-fructose, sucrose, dextrose, maltodextrin, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup solids are some of the more common words that mean “added sugar.” The labels you want to check most are:

  • Candy, Fruit Snacks, Chocolate

  • Cookies, Cakes, Muffins, “Breakfast Cookies”

  • Breakfast Cereals

  • Granola Bars

  • Yogurt / Yogurt Products (especially kids yogurts)

  • Pop, Fruit Drinks

  • Pasta Sauce, Canned Soups

  • Crackers

  • Condiments (Ketchup, Peanut butter) and Salad Dressings

Get Your Lunch Box Guide!

I'll send you my best recipes for packed lunches for kids with anxiety!

Marketing by

Do Include Lots of Fibre

Fibre reduces the glycemic index of our food. It also serves as a prebiotic to support a healthy microbiome.

  • Vegetables (Fresh or Frozen)

  • Fruits (Fresh or Frozen)

  • Whole Grains (brown rice, steel cut oats, polenta, spelt berries)

  • Seeds (Hemp, Chia, Sesame, Quinoa)

Do Include Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are a natural source of probiotics that help support a healthy microbiome. 

  • Yogurt, Kefir

  • Cultured Vegetables (Sauerkraut, Kimchee)

  • Miso, Tempeh

  • Salt pickles and brine-cured olives

  • Kombucha

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Don’t Include Preservatives

Preservatives are meant to kill bacteria. From a food safety / longevity standpoint it seems like a great idea. But when you consider the microbiome suddenly preservatives are not a good choice. Even if they are safe for humans, these compounds are designed to kill bacteria! And so it is important to limit these foods to support a healthy microbiome. Some major offenders include:

  • Processed Meat (Hot Dogs, Bacon, Lunch Meats, Smoked Fish)

  • Cereal

  • Potato Chips

  • Soft Drinks

  • Dried Fruit

  • Commercial Breads and Bread products

Do Provide High Amounts of Magnesium

It's important to prevent magnesium deficiency. In addition most of these whole foods are good for the microbiome and your blood sugar balance. When possible, choose organic vegetables, as they are generally higher in magnesium due to conservation of soil minerals compared with conventional farming practices.

  • Organic Leafy Greens (spinach and swiss chard)

  • Nuts and Seeds (pumpkin seeds, almonds)

  • Cheese and Yogurt

  • Beans and Legumes (black beans)

  • Some Fruits (Avocado, Fig, Banana)

Don’t Restrict or Vilify Food

While you as a parent are responsible for providing healthy choices, it is also important to model healthy food relationships. Unless your child is very ill after eating something, making something a “never” food is generally a bad idea. Cultivate an enjoyment of healthy food and a respect for all foods. Making something forbidden can create an unhealthy relationship with that food. Children with anxiety are at higher risk for eating disorders in their teens and twenties. Teach them to enjoy food and to eat mindfully.

Looking for some meal inspiration that meets these guidelines? Download my “Lunches for Anxious Tummies” for 18 School, Kid, and Naturopath Approved Recipes.  


  1. Browning and Travagli. Central Nervous System Control of Gastrointestinal Motility and Secretion and Modulation of Gastrointestinal Functions. Compr Physiol. 2014 Oct; 4(4): 1339-1368

  2. Pirbaglou et al. Probiotic supplementation can positively impact anxiety and depression symptoms: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition Research.

  3. Zhou et al. The Prevalence of impaired glucose regulation in anxiety disorder patients and the relationship with hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis activity. J Evid Based Med. 2016 Aug 29. [Abstract]

  4. Micha, Rogers and Nelson. Glyceamic index and glyceamic load of breakfast predict cognitive function and mood in school children: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2011 Nov;106(10):1552-61. [Abstract]

  5. Gaby. Nutritional Medicine. 2011. Concord NH. Magnesium. Ch 27. Pg 136.

Don't forget to grab your copy of my "Lunches for Anxious Tummies" for easy meal ideas and recipes that put these principles into practice. 

What to Consider When Choosing an Anxiety Supplement

"Dr. Katie, does magnesium work for anxiety?" This questions, and variations of it, is one of the most common off the cuff questions I get asked, both in my practice and when I'm out in the community. In some ways the answer is straightforward, the evidence of efficacy (or if something works) for a particular ingredient (say magnesium) is easy enough for me to assess. However, the full answer is more complicated. Many factors contribute to whether or not a particular supplement is effective for anxiety. This is complicated by the fact that when someone asks "does something work for anxiety?" they are almost always asking "will this work for me?" 

These are related but different questions. "Will this work for me?" is a more complicated question involving not only the efficacy of the supplement but an individualized assessment of each person's experience, and a deeper understanding of how each supplement effects an individuals mind body and spirit. This process doesn't lend it's self well to lists, but I've done my best, and so here it is, the seven things I always consider when answering "does this work for anxiety" for my patients.   


This is the first thing I consider when someone asks "does something work." Evidence comes in a variety of forms, which are graded in Evidence Based Medicine. Evidence ranges from historical use of a product, to our understanding of how something would support normal body functions, to case reports, clinical trials and meta-analysis (where the results of several clinical trials are amalgamated.) Some remedies have been studied in clinical trials, when that has been done it is important to include that information in assessing whether a supplement will work for an individual. Regardless of whether or not a meta analysis is available, the highest level of evidence available is used to determine the supplements efficacy.


The form of a supplement is something that can greatly impact efficacy, even between two of the "same" supplements. When it comes to herbal medicine there are a variety of ways to take different herbs. Some herbs may be available in a tea, some in a capsule, and others in an alcohol extract called a tincture. Different herbs are more effective when extracted in water vs alcohol or vice versa. Knowing what form is going to be effective is an important part of know which anxiety supplement is going to work. In nutrition supplementation, different forms of vitamins and minerals are more readily absorbed by the body. Some individuals may require or respond better to forms of vitamins that are in their most active form, especially if they are unable to activate them themselves. These factors are important, because the right dose of an effective ingredient is not helpful if it is not effectively absorbed. Form can greatly impact the efficacy of a supplement and is an important consideration when asking "does this supplement work?"


Dosing is another important factor when considering the effectiveness of a supplement. If an ingredient is effective, but a supplement does not have sufficient amounts of the at ingredient, the supplement may not work. This is not a fault of the ingredient it's self but a reflection of the amount of the ingredient in the product. Also dosing may be different for the same supplement for different conditions and for different individuals. For example, the dosing of NAC is not the same in OCD as it is for influenza, even though NAC is effective for both conditions. 


Quality of supplements is also a factor when determining if something is going to work. In herbal medicine, where and how the plant was grown, how it was harvested, stored and prepared can all impact the medicinal effects of the supplement. I am quite partial to herbs that have been wild harvested or grown organically. The struggle of the herbs to grow in their natural environment encourages the creation of the medicinal compounds in the plant. 


Anxiety doesn't look the same in everyone. Some people have difficulty breathing, Others experience more tension in their bodies, some may be unable to concentrate due to repetitive thoughts and worries. Some experience digestive discomfort. Each of these presentations can be labeled "anxiety", but different supplements are more indicated for certain presentations of anxiety. How severe someone's anxiety is informs the dosing and choice of a supplement. While some individuals may respond best to gentler treatment, others may need a more aggressive approach. Something that works well for someone may not be the best dose to work for someone else. Anxiety is something that encompasses a variety of different diagnosis. Some individuals experience anxiety all the time, such as in Generalized Anxiety Disorder, others may experience anxiety in only certain social situations. The supplement and dosing used in each of these situations is different, and should be different.


I almost didn't include this one because it is so obvious but it is the most important. If a supplement is going to be effective, it has to be safe for the patient to take. Safety in supplements is not something I take lightly. Just because you can pick something up off the shelf at a health food store does not mean it is without risk. We are lucky in Canada as all of our supplements are quite highly regulated and are unlikely to be contaminated however, just because a supplement is what it says on the bottle does not necessarily make it a good choice, or a good choice for you. A supplement may be safe for some people and not others. It's always a good idea to consult a health care provider when taking a new supplement especially if you have a disease or disorder, you are taking pharmaceutical or over the counter medication, or you are pregnant or breastfeeding. 


Lastly, I think it's very important to take into account your own intuition about what is happening in your body and what you think will help you. In my practice I value what my patients think about their bodies and acknowledge that they have access to their own bodies wisdom. I also consider my own intuition, not above issues of safety and evidence of efficacy, but alongside the patients experience. In this way I strive to find the supplement that matches the patient not only in their body, but is an energetic or spiritual match as well.

Massage for Tension Headaches

One of the side effects of stress is that a lot of people carry it in their bodies. One of the common places is in the neck and shoulders. I sat down with Leslie Brown RMT to discuss how massage can help with managing one of the most common physical side effects I see of stress in my practice - tension headaches.

What are tension headaches?

Tension headaches are trigger points that refer pain into your head. Trigger points are a tight hyper irritable spot that most people call knots. Each muscle has a different location and referral pattern. For example some one might experience pain behind their eyes and someone else might have pain in the back of the head. A massage therapist will know what muscles to treat based on where your tension headache is. Active trigger points will constantly refer pain into your head, while latent trigger points only create pain when you press on the trigger point. 

This picture shows some common referral patterns of the neck muscles.  The X's are trigger point locations in the muscles and the red areas show where the referral pain (tension headaches) are felt.

This picture shows some common referral patterns of the neck muscles.  The X's are trigger point locations in the muscles and the red areas show where the referral pain (tension headaches) are felt.

Why do people get them?

Neck problems are so prevalent. So many people have poor posture and are so stressed! Also repetitive computer and cell phone use affects posture and causes neck pain and headaches. These headaches are very prevalent and exhausting. They take away from your focus and energy and impact sleep because when you have pain you don't have restorative sleep, which impacts your overall healing. 

How do you treat tension headaches?

I have a lot of experience with treating headaches and neck pain because of my work with people who have been in motor vehicle accidents.  Many people do not only come in when they have a headache, they come in for prevention and maintenance. Typical treatment would be 1/month to counteract lifestyle factors such as ongoing postural and stress tension. It is also beneficial as time for self care and to help with relaxation. If you are getting more than 3 headaches a year, treatment can help reduce frequency and intensity of your headaches.

Leslie Brown is a Registered Massage Therapist at Norfolk Chiropractic Wellness Centre. To book a massage with Leslie, or chat with Dr. Katie about multidisciplinary headache care call 519 827-0040.