Katie's Thoughts

“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. 

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.

The Major Men's Health Problem No One Talks About

I know why it gets ignored. It's hard to talk about. It's hard to write blog posts about. For some reason it seems like it's in another place. It's not a tangible like cardiovascular disease and cancer.  You don't know which of your friends' dad's have had it. Or at what age your uncle did. And because of this it can seem like it's not a big deal. But the truth is it's common, one in ten Canadian men get it over the course of their life, and it's deadly - disproportionately killing men, one every minute.

If you haven't guessed, I'm talking about depression. Yes one in ten men and if you are doing the math, you know someone even if you don't know who. For some reason we don't talk as much about "mental health" Something that is so confusing to me because from my perspective depression, well all mental health concerns really, aren't just about our minds. In fact, no disease or disorder is "just mental" or "just physical."

Mental Health is inseparable from our physical health. So why don't we talk about it? Sometimes I find men are afraid that identifying the problem means having to hash out all the gory details. LIke acknowledging that there is some shit going on in their life and that it's making everything else a whole lot less fun means having to talk about it in detail. But there are lots of ways to heal from depression and talking is only one component. Sometimes men need to be heard, but sometimes they need to run more, or learn about mindfulness, or spend some time having fun with friends.

This month, in honour of Movember and in support of men's mental health, I'm donating $40 from each men's initial naturopathic visit to The Movember Foundation. If you know of someone going through a hard time right now who might be helped by this article, please share it with them. If that person is you, and you want to talk more about naturopathic support for mental wellness, I'm happy to listen. 


On Feeling Overwhelmed: The #1 way to know what you need to feel at peace again

This morning I felt a little off. I didn't sleep well last night and as I prepared to go to work I felt sad and tired, like I'd rather have a day in bed than head into work. It's been a busy few weeks for me. We ran 2 workshops the past 2 Tuesday evenings, I traveled for work over the past weekend, and in general had just put in more hours than usual. This week is looking like more of the same with extra work things booked into hours I usually use to take care of myself and my home. 

I took a breath and checked in with myself; I found I was feeling overwhelmed. Knowing I had some time booked off soon,  I checked my calendar and discovered I just had to keep this up until... Easter. My face fell and I wanted to cry. I knew I needed some space before then and so I made up my mind - I would take a day off. As soon as the thought of this came into my mind I felt more peaceful. 

I arrived at work, checked my schedule and booked off the next available day. I felt a weight lift. To me this is the radical self love I encourage in my work, and work to practice for myself. When you love what you do, it's hard to remember you can't spend all your waking hours working on it. Your mindbody needs rest, and when I didn't schedule enough of it in, my mindbody let me know. 

These messages from our bodies are gifts. What is your body telling you? How can you honour its needs today?

Love, Dr. Katie

What You Missed @ The Tranquil Mind Seminar

Last night I had a wonderful time chatting with some great people about stress, anxiety and insomnia management. I know you all really wanted to come so I thought I'd share all the best bit for those of you who live too far away, or couldn't make a 7:30pm talk on a Tuesday!

One topic we spent a bunch of time on was nutrients you might be missing. Did you know that nutritional studies show half of American women were getting less than 75% of the recommended daily amount of magnesium. Magnesium, which is found in vegetables and whole grains, can relieve symptoms of anxiety and insomnia when they are caused by a magnesium deficiency. 

Another topic that came up frequently was different types of mindfulness practices. Many people shared their experiences from everything from walking in natures, to exercise, to meditation. We discussed how the practice of being present can ease anxiety and bring more enjoyment to life by allowing your consciousness to surrender to what's happening in the moment. 

Thank you to everyone who came out and shared last night!

Still feeling like you missed out? Book your calendars for Tuesday November 17th, 7:30pm @ Norfolk Chiropractic Wellness Centre in Guelph because I'm running this talk one more time this year! See you there!

Dr. Katie

Safety, Evidence, and Natural Health Product Regulations

Do you watch CBC marketplace? I don’t. But enough of my social media is wrapped up health and wellness that I saw a lot about last Friday's episode on the natural health product regulations. Although the episode sensationalized their results (It’s television, what were you expecting) as a whole, it raised a single important question; how much evidence do we need for a natural health product to be available on our pharmacy and health food store shelves? 

In Canada, natural health products (NHPs) have their own set of regulations under our Food and Drug Act. If you are a policy nerd like me, you might like to read the full text of the regulations here http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2003-196/page-1.html. The regulations outline what information is needed to receive a license for a natural health care product. It’s a fairly straightforward list with things like the product’s name, ingredients, conditions used for, as well as “information that supports the safety and efficacy of the natural health product when it is used in accordance with the recommended conditions of use.” 

Most people are happy with the fact that there are regulations in place that govern what health products can be sold in Canada. I know I find it reassuring. So what’s all the fuss? CBC marketplace, and others critical of natural health product regulation in Canada, feel that the standards are not high enough. On CBC marketplace, their made-up homeopathic fever remedy is backed only by photocopied pages from a Materia Medica, a type homeopathic textbook that summarizes homeopathic evidence. The episode claims that this is insufficient; they even interview a medical doctor who explains that natural health product regulations fall short of what we expect for prescription medications. 

But is that a surprise? Getting a new pharmaceutical approved is a big production. Is the CBC truly positing that consumers need the same level of evidence for chamomile tea that is required for Dulcolax? Chamomile has been used medicinally since the 1st century AD (http://traditionalroots.org/backyard-medicine-chamomile/). Dolcolax’s active ingredient, Bisacodyl, was synthesized in 1953 (http://gut.bmj.com/content/5/3/271.full.pdf). I point this out not to mock pharmaceutical development, or the rigorous process that puts new, safe and effective pharmaceuticals on our shelves, but from a place of opening up our conversation about evidence. A two thousand year history of safe and effective use is nothing to ignore, whether or not the remedy has been able to scare up some funding for randomized controlled trial. 

Our natural health products, and their regulations, don’t look a lot like our pharmaceutical regulations, and there is a reason for that. As I mentioned above, NHPs are regulated under the Food and Drug Act. They are treated differently than pharmaceuticals because they are different, with a different history. NHPs live in the grey area between food and drugs, and are regulated appropriately. Are these regulations perfect? No, I don’t think any regulations are. But to say that a Materia Medica is not a good source of information on homeopathy is simply not true. To say that natural products require pharmaceutical level evidence to be proven safe and effective ignores the base of our (recently developed) evidence pyramid. 

In the case of natural health products, or any products for that matter, I think we can agree that more evidence is better. In our drive to use the best possible evidence, lets not ignore the information we already have on our traditional medicines. Let’s strive to be open-minded in our conversations about evidence. Let’s look at the body of evidence as a whole and avoid skimming off the top. Ask yourself again; how much evidence do we need for a natural health product to be available on our pharmacy and health food store shelves? 

I Worked with the Lunar Cycle for 2 Months: this is what I learned

I’m always intrigued at anything that claims it will help increase your productivity by working with your body. As an accidental entrepreneur I’d rather spend my time working with patients than working on the business side of my business. So when a friend passed on this info graphic on working with the lunar cycle I was intrigued. I added the lunar calendar to my google cal and did my best to schedule myself with the cycle in mind. Here’s what I learned.

  1. I had the most energy around the full moon. The full moon filled me with the type of energy that made me feel like getting anything done was possible. Going to bed seemed like a nuisance because once there I hardly slept. My head was full of thoughts and I just wanted to do something about them.

  2. I needed the most sleep at the new moon. The lack of sleep didn’t bother me at the full moon but come new moon I switched to full restoration mode. After 8 hours in bed I still wanted to sleep. I also found myself retreating to my room for some rest and quite. 
  3. Clutter and mess became unbearable before the new moon. Things that could exist outside my awareness for weeks, suddenly became irritating sources of distraction and interrupting my peace. I hate housekeeping, but suddenly laundry got put away, floors were being swept twice as often, a stacks of paper got filed out of sight.
  4. My introvert and extrovert tendencies changed. I’ve always suspected I was more in between being an introvert or an extrovert. I love being with friends, I hate eating alone, but I’d also rather do something on my own than hang out with a group at times. What I didn’t realize is that, for me, these tendencies changed in predictable ways. With all my full moon energy, I wanted nothing more than to go out with friends and be social. Come the new moon I craved more alone time and deeper connections.
  5. My patient flow changed during the lunar cycle. Although I wasn’t shocked to find that my behaviour changed with the moon I wasn’t expecting to find a noticeable difference in the behaviours of others. I had more new bookings around the full moon, it was as if people in general were feeling more motivated. During the new moon, my practice was quieter and had more cancellations than at other times of the lunar cycle. 

The most helpful part of this exercise for me was the turning in; I had to look inside myself and identify my feelings, energy, and the projects I could be most productive with. I also wondered about how hormone changes through the menstrual cycle, which for many women is the same length as the lunar cycle, may also contribute to the changes in mood and energy I experienced. Working with the lunar cycle was a positive experience, and something I will probably keep in mind in the future. Overall it was a success, I only wish I had found when the best time to do bookkeeping is! If anybody has figured out that one, let me know!