Winter blues, Seasonal affective disorder and happy lights

I had a hard time picking a title for this blog post

Lots of people have the winter blues and/or actual diagnosed Seasonal affective disorder that starts around this time of year…  some postulate that decreased amounts of sunlight exposure per day is the culprit.

Symptoms can include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

If this sound familiar please talk to your doctor.  Once you have done that and gotten some help and if you are still looking for more help please read on!

One thing that may help is using a very bright light that simulates daylight coming at you indirectly for 30-60 minutes per day while you are doing something else. You know, like typing a blog article.

I blogged a bit about this last year and recommended a light that some of my patients have gotten from a company called Northern Lights.

Here is the link to my previous article for fun:

The patients that have gotten this one, and my awesome friend and chiropractor extraordinaire Emily who also uses it ,  love this brand. (Yes, I guess lots of my friends are chiropractors… school and life and stuff is where I met them).

One draw back – the price tag…  the desk version cost around $200

Good news!

So fall year I was at Costco and what do I see?  I giant pile of a product called “Happy Light” retailing for about $60.00

Cool, I thought and then walked by.

About a week later I felt kinda blah and down.  It had been really grey outside and I thought to myself (for about the 250th time) that I should buy a light for my desk for the winter blues… maybe it would help.

Off to Costco I went.   I couldn’t find the stupid happy light anywhere.  You know how Costco is,  if you don’t buy it when you see it you may never get it again.  Luckily after much searching,  I did find several in the pharmacy.

Consumer report of one

I decided to buy it to test it on me and do a consumer report of one so that I could advise patients (and all of you) to buy it if it works.   If we can help the winter blues for $60 why not?

One of the reasons I sent people to the Northern Lights site was because a family doctor that Emily knows referred her to it originally having said that the wavelengths used in those lights are the ones that help the most.

I did some research.  Apparently it is not agreed upon in the scientific community which light wavelengths are the most helpful.  It should just be a strong white light. Preferably with no harmful UV.

The Happy Light checks both boxes.

How I did with it

I got it back to my clinic and set it up immediately.

Put it around 18 inches away and turned it on to the strong setting.

Had a headache in 3 minutes.

Turned it off.

Headache gone shortly after.

Turned it on to low setting (for afternoon use apparently).

Headache in 5 minutes.


Hmmmm maybe the other light would be better?


Put it farther away from me on the desk – about 2 feet and angled it more away from my eyes.

Turned it on.

ok after 5 mintues but decided to build on it…


I am happy to report that with it about 2 feet away and angled on low I can have it on with no irritation or bother for 30 minutes.  AND I think my mood is better in general.

So I think this one has Costco for the win.  I do recommend it.

I also recommend reading the instructions in the box (which I did not do) and doing the test on yourself for light sensitivity (which apparently I may be so the reading of the instructions would probably have been helpful).

Hope this is helpful!

My favorite Essential Oils

I fell in love with essential oils

Sometime last fall (it was October) I was introduced to the world of essential oils.  A little late to the party maybe but I have made up for it with enthusiasm.  Since then my collection and understanding of these beautiful oils has grown and I have incorporated their use in my practice in several ways.  I like to diffuse different oils almost daily, I use some specific oils for sore achey muscles of my patients, and other oils for protection against the spread of cough/cold and flu.

I will talk in this quick blog post about some of my faves so you get a taste – a very small one) of what is out there in the world of oils…

A word on purity

So as it was explained to me when I started using and learning about essential oils, our laws here in Canada that govern them is …. odd.  Because they are classed as a beauty product you really need to be careful what and where you choose the brand of oil you use.

Bottom line – do your research.

Just because a bottle says it is 100% pure doesn’t mean that it is what you think it is.  By law, in order to say that on the bottle, apparently only 5% of the contents of that bottle must actually be 100% pure.  Weird and aggravating right?

So, do your research and find some companies that are actually putting 100% pure oil in the whole bottle, not just 5%.  Otherwise you may have reactions and or allergies to the oil, and who want to breath in more chemicals or put them on your skin?

I use Young Living which but there are some other brands out there that are good as well (I just feel YL is the best in my opinion).


Ok with that out of the way, here are some of my faves:

Theives:  A mixture that smells like Christmas – I diffuse this all winter to help ward off cold/flu transmission in the clinic – and amazingly I didn’t get sick at all last winter.

Lemon: A high frequency oil that never ceases to make me feel happy – its a lovely light scent and who doesn’t like some citrus?

Deep Relief: great for sore muscles – I use this on patients sometimes when I need to get deep into their muscles.  Patients love this one – it feels cool and tingly and smells peppermint-y and lovely at the same time.

Lavender – great for relaxation and to induce a sense of peace and calm.  Try placing a couple drops in a spray bottle full of water.  Spray your pillow before bed and it will help you relax into sleep and sleep better.

Cedarwood:  This one is good for people with trouble sleeping.  Diffuse this as you are trying to fall asleep.  Has a musky scent that men may prefer over the flowery lavender scent.


Some more things about oils

There are even some oils that are specifically classed here in Canada that can be used in food and baking – they undergo different standards for this process.  Young living has several in this class including peppermint and lavender – Lavender brownies anyone?


Poor Posture and Pro Pointers

Posture – good, bad and ugly

As a chiropractor I get a lot of questions about posture.  Many times I have patients coming to see me specifically for help with their posture.  Unfortunately there is no quick fix.  In this post we will go over some of the reasons for poor posture and some trick, tips and tools you can use to help to correct or improve it.

Poor posture reasons

So most of us sit way way way too long – in front of computers, in the car or on the commute, at home in front of the TV  – and when we do it we don’t always have the greatest way of sitting either.  We tend to slouch, poke our heads forward and round our shoulders as well as lose the natural curvature of our lower backs.

Add to this looking down all the time at cell phones and tablets (and typing blog posts on your laptop on the couch in front of the TV) and we have a recipe for pretty awful posture.

You end up looking like how you sit or stand most of the time.  Here is how it looks – rounded shoulders, gut protruding and chin protruding… not pretty and not healthy for your spine.

Image result for poor posture

we end up with short muscles in certain spots, and locked joints…and it makes it difficult then to straighten up.


So what can you do about poor posture?

  • make sure that your desk at work is ergonomically as correct as possible
  • limit use of phone and tablet
  • do exercises to correct shortened muscles and strenghten weak ones (these need to be specific for you – if there were generic ones I would list them for you here)
  • get chiropractic adjustments so you have a chance of moving the stuck spinal joints
  • use devices for retraining at your desk or at home – a good example of this is a Posture Medic- I recommend these for my patients but there are others out there

Image result for posture medic device

Here is a quick video I made about this cool contraption and how I instruct patients how to use it.


Life’s a Beach: the health benefits of going to the beach

Beach day! Yay!

Today’s post is a bit different.  It is the eve of the long weekend and it has me thinking of fun and sun and beach… so today I decided to write about some of the health benefits about going to the beach.  You can even use this blog post as an excuse to get to the beach – hey, Doctors orders!

Image may contain: ocean, water, outdoor and nature 

(art by Allyson Schmidt-Reeves )

Health benefits of going to the beach

So we all know we as humans, for the most part, like the beach or waterfront for some reason.  There must be some good reasons… actually there are and many of them have huge health benefits.  So here we have it, in no particular order my list of the health benefits of the beach:

Stress relief

Ok, I lied – this one is definitely number one.  Many of the people who will eventually receive or read this post met me at first because I gave a talk in front of them at work about stress.

Nature (like the beach, ocean/water or lake and forests) have calming effects on us human people.  Listening to the surf, sticking your toes in the sand and playing in the sun have stress relieving benefits for sure.  Ever been totally stressed out after a beach day? Ya, doesn’t happen much…


speaking of sticking your toes in the sand… ever heard of earthing?  It is the act of walking barefoot on the earth.  The number one place we all do this because it is socially acceptable is on the beach.  (But this can be done anywhere).  Walking on the earth is purported to facilitate a negative ion exchange between the ground and the person which apparently has health benefits.  Whatever, its relaxing.  I always feel distressed when I do it and the sand is good for your rough calloused feet. So give it a shot!

Vitamin D levels

In just a few minutes on the beach in a bathing suit you can get your daily vitamin D replenished by your skin.  Your skin makes cholesterol into vitamin D with UV exposure so get out there – not too long with out sunscreen though – be sensible!


Lots of opportunity to exercise on the beach – lovely for long walks, great for jogging, splashing, playing Frisbee, throwing a ball, digging, making sand castles (lifting some and bending), swimming, playing volleyball… the opportunity to exercise is endless and super varied – don’t just sit there (at least not for all of the time – some of the time definitely sit there and unwind!!!)


Big bodies of water and nature and surf provide opportunity for gratitude and connectedness to something larger than ourselves.  Take a minute to meditate and feel like you are part of something larger than yourself…

Babies and Chiropractic

Ever thought of taking your baby to a chiropractor?

Babies and Chiropractic  – Did the thought ever occur to you?

I am always treating several babies at my office –  most of the time Moms bring in their babies because they have noticed something that is either odd or that they may interpret as pain in the baby’s behaviour.

Generally they have already consulted the pediatrician and found out that nothing serious is going on.  Usually the pediatrician reassures the parent that ‘it’s nothing’ or ‘they will grow out of it’.

More and more us Moms are trusting our guts… and this advice, while reassuring, isn’t always fully satisfying.  So Mom goes in search of answers and hence we have Babies and Chiropractic stories to share!

A word on a baby chiro examination

As with any patient, a full history is taken – in my office this means an extensive (maybe too long) 4 page intake questionnaire.  I sit with Mom or Dad and ask a ton of questions about the baby, behaviour, breast feeding, health, pregnancy and  birth etc…

I then do a through exam (including but not limited to:  a physical observation, infant reflexes, palpation of the spine and musculature.  I will also often listen to the lungs and heart as well – if there is a specific problem that the baby is coming in about there is also a focused exam regarding that.

Here are some cute pics and instructions on how to check some infant reflexes – now don’t panic if they are not on your baby, chances are that the pediatrician has checked them so far and if they haven’t flagged anything for you the baby is fine.  Got it?  Also, never Google stuff.  Bad for the mental health.  Also don’t do #7 if you haven’t been trained – too easy to drop baby!

A word on chiro adjustments for baby

Ever been to a chiro and had an adjustment?  If so you may not be able to imagine Babies and Chiropractic – I mean really Karen, I am not letting you do that to my baby how could they stand the force?

So the youngest baby I have adjusted was a few days old…. It’s not the same force as we use on adults – don’t be cray cray!

We use what we call eyeball pressure – that is exactly as it sounds: close your eyelid and put your index finger on your lid and push gently down on your eye – just a comfortable amount.  That is eyeball pressure and that is what we use on babies.

I mean really, the poor teeny things don’t even have ossified spinal segments yet we gotta be gentle!

The amazing thing is that babies respond really really fast.  I had a baby in the office for a check up and she happened to have a buch of sinus congestion so I did a few sinus trigger points and within about 10 minutes here nose was running like a faucet. Her mom said that previously all the junk just stay stuck up there and made it hard for her to breathe.

I love treating babies for that reason (and because I always steal a cuddle and hug because who can resist really!  Yes, its always with permission)


Babies and Chiropractic – some of the whys

Here is why some parents bring in their babies in general:

-well baby check (just for a check up)

-torticollis (head tilted to one side)

-colic – sometimes I really think this is baby back pain / digestion issues

-behaviours like putting something under their back at rest time – can indicate pain

-pulling on the ears or rubbing a body part

-chronic congestion (sometimes mechanical things we can do can help drainage happen)

Let’s Talk – about anxiety

So I have anxiety

Many of my patients, friends and family already know this about me – I have battled anxiety. I try to be really open about this and talk about it.  Not only to help remove stigma (what that successful doctor person has anxiety?) but also, selfishly, to help myself.

In this blog I am going to tell parts of my story and journey and give some tips on what has worked… for me.

Hopefully you will find it helpful if this is also one of your struggles.

My Story

I think I have always tended towards anxiety. But the first time it really hit me in a debilitating way was 7 months after my son was born in the form of post partum depression and anxiety.

At that time I stopped sleeping, eating, enjoying life and knew I had a problem when I was thinking about turning the car wheel while driving on the busy highway and wondering if it would really matter.

I needed help and got it in the form of medication, therapy and exercise.

Since then I have gone through ups and downs but did not need the medication for most of the 6 or 7 years in between.   Then last summer, I did again.  Unfortunately I think that once you have had a serious episode of anxiety and/or depression you are more likely to experience another one.

What I have learned is that the medication can be helpful but for me, it is only one part of the story. I have learned that I need to do several other things to help myself and I do hope that I will never need it again.  This is a continuing journey for me but I am always learning, refining and adding to what I do for myself.  Here is some of what I do and, amazingly, now also what I teach my patients:

Things I find helpful for my own and my patients anxiety

meditation (daily)

reading personal development books

listening to inspiring audio books


probiotic supplements

proper nutrition


breathing techniques

practicing mindfulness

practicing gratitude (journals or thank you notes- HEY KAREN!!! Note to self: please get better at doing this more!!)




positive self-talk

practicing feeling connected to everything around me


I try to do most of these things daily and the self care techniques (like massage and chiropractic) regularly.  While it is a process to learn to do some of these things I have found them extremely helpful in my life and in changing my outlook on life and developing a sense of inner peace.  I watched a great TedTalk yesterday though about this that I thought was spot on so I will attach that link here:


I hope you find this blog post helpful – I have lots more tricks and tips and I honestly think that my challenges have made me a better doctor.

Contact me anytime if you have questions or want to chat about any of this.





The Benefits of Self Care part Deux

So I promised a Sequel

Last weekend I wrote a blog post about self care.  It’s importance, ways to do it: expensive and free.

I also went for the first time to Ste. Anne’s Spa last weekend.

Ya. This is the expensive version.

Ya. It’s worth it.  (Occasionally)

So here is my review and what I learned, and what I would do differently.

So first, why I needed self care – a review

Ok, well who doesn’t?

In case you missed it – here is an internal link to last week’s blog post:

The Benefits of Self Care

So I needed this really badly for a bunch of reasons:  Very busy life (check), busy mom (check), sandwich generation and taking care of my dad who has been ill and in hospital (check), as a result of prior mentioned stuff and other life stuff we had to cancel our last two vacations (check).  So as a result I have been feeling extra tired.

I decided to take some of the money that I would have spent on vacation and take myself to Ste. Anne’s Spa for the day with a girlfriend. It was pricey but totally TOTALLY worth it.

What I loved and what I would do differently


Things I wouldn’t change:

So the food at Ste. Anne’s is amazing.  The whole day I felt well cared for, nourished and pampered.  I ate stuff too fast and forgot to take pictures…. oops sorry.

My first treatment on arrival at 9 am was Reflexology – my first foray into this treatment – basically foot massage based on acupuncture principles.

Would I do this one again? Oh ya.

I also had a chance to enjoy the beautiful grounds with my friend Adit- we sat in the sun (got a tiny burn on my leg at some point eventhough it was early spring) and had the front yard to ourselves at one point.  Got to listen to the birds and watch these pretty orange dudes while I was landed upon by a butterfly. What magical place did we drive into today?

Things I would do differently:

I wore a one piece bathing suit.  This was a mistake.  Too hard to change to pee – and because of the treatments, tea, water etc… there was a lot of peeing.  Wear a two piece.

The second treatment I chose was a Eucalyptus Wrap.  While this thing was great – it is likely the HOTTEST wrap at Ste. Anne’s.  I think that I booked this when it was winter and I was cold.  The treatment was amazing – they wrap you in hot damp blankets that have been steamed with Eucalyptus oil.  Then they wrap you in plastic to keep the heat in.  Then they put ice cooled cloths on your face and neck and do an ice cooled facial. The contrast between hot and cold is amazing.

Would I do this one again? Personally no.  I really don’t know why I booked this one for myself, I don’t do great with lots of heat so it was a bit of a miscalculation on my part.  Super hot.  I like it but it took a bit for me to cool down and recover.

Final thoughts

If you have a chance and can get out once in a blue moon to Ste. Anne’s for a day spa and some fancy self care go for it.  It was a great rest, a great treat, a wonderful day and I came back feeling quite recharged.

Here are some more pics






Kombucha Recipe

Ever heard of Kombucha?

You may very well have as it is all the rage right now.  It is a fizzy tasty fermented tea that you can buy in bottles at many health food stores and upscale markets… even Costco sells it now because it has become so popular.

One issue it is $4 a bottle on average (ouch)

Wanna learn to make it for pennies a bottle?  Ok maybe a nickel since we don’t have pennies anymore…

If so read on…

What you’ll need:

This kombucha recipe (and my first scoby) came from a patient’s girlfriend so thank you so much Candace!  This is posted with permission…

-Black tea (you can experiment with other teas but always have a back up scoby incase it gets mold, I’ve only used black tea and never had mold)

-Cane Sugar (can use other sugar but this one works best for the majority of brewers)

-Flavouring of your choice (berries, ginger, hibiscus, orange are some examples. This part is experimenting and finding what you like best)

-Non-metal spoon

-Kombucha starter

-Filtered water






What the hell is a Scoby?

According to the Google:

Image result for scoby

Scoby” is actually an acronym: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. And that’s exactly what it is! A scoby is the living home for the bacteria and yeast that transform sweet tea into tangy, fizzy kombucha — think of the scoby as the coral reef of the bacteria and yeast world.
You can make your own scoby and if you want to see this article:
It is easier to get one from someone – that is how I started. Each batch or two of Kombucha you should have a baby scoby and can give away your older one (though I suggest keeping a back up scoby in a ‘hotel’  (vessel with the scoby and some of the post brew tea and yeast) in case you somehow grow mould.

Why is Kombucha so popular

So, it is fizzy and tasty.  On top of that it is very healthy.  A way way better option than pop.

Kombucha is a fermented tea so it comes by its bubbles all naturally – fermented products have probiotics in them. Probiotics are important for gut health and their lack or imbalance in the microbiome of the gut have been tied to obesity, anxiety and depression and many more health related problems.  So, we should all be taking probiotics and eating probiotic rich foods like fermented one (kombucha, sauerkraut, kim chi, apple cider vinegar to name a few) as well as pre-biotic foods (foods that feed the microbiome like dandelion greens, onions and jicama).

Ok, on to the fun stuff…. the recipe.

Here is a Helpful chart


Kombucha Instructions


  1. Make sweet tea according to chart on page 3 depending on the size of your container and starter given (you can add majority of the water directly to the container, just keep some to make the tea).
  2. Steep the tea for 10 minutes, add the sugar to dissolve.
  3. Allow tea/sugar mixture to cool before adding to the container.
  4. Add the kombucha starter to the container.
  5. Add the scoby to the container.
  6. Cover with breathable cloth and secure with rubber band.
  7. Let sit for approximately 7 days (this varies depending on the temperature of your house and sweetness preference).
  8. At day 7 you should see a baby scoby has formed on the top of the brew (looks like a thin cloudy white layer).
  9. Remove the scobies and set aside in a container (the mother scoby will always be thicker than the baby scoby).
  10. Taste test the brew (should taste similar to apple cider, if it is too sweet put the scobies back in and allow it to sit for a couple more days. If it tastes too vinegary, shorten the ferment time next brew).
  11. When you are happy with how it tastes its time to bottle.
  12. Give the brew a big stir with a non-metal spoon to distribute the yeast evenly (this will help with carbonation).
  13. Remove kombucha starter for the next brew if using a 2-gallon jar this would be 4 cups worth.
  14. Bottle the remaining kombucha leaving about an inch of headspace on the bottles. (swing top bottles are preferred, if using another type of bottle be sure to check on it during the second ferment).
  15. During the second ferment is where you can experiment with different types of flavours. Keep in mind the sugar content of what flavours you decide to use. (for example: if using mango and ginger, the mango will be ready before the ginger)
  16. Secure the bottles with an airtight seal, if using screw top bottles make sure they are as tight as possible or your kombucha will be flat.
  17. Allow to sit on the counter for 2-4 days (swing top bottles are safe to leave, screw top bottles will need to be checked. You can leave the bottles longer but they may need to be burped, you can do this by slightly opening the cap and sealing it again to release some of the air)
  18. Once the bottles are ready, transfer to the fridge.
  19. The bottles will have formed little baby scobies in them; I personally strain them out before I drink it. They are safe to swallow if you don’t mind the texture.
  20. Make a new brew and repeat the steps, add the baby scoby to your new brew.
  21. Mother scobies can be stored in a hotel (separate container of backups). Store in cupboard put enough kombucha tea in to cover the scoby. If you do get mold you can use the starter tea in your hotel to make a new batch.



The Benefits of Self Care

Self Care the buzz words

So I tend to see articles about self care all over the place these days.  On facebook groups, the internet, tv commercials, radio ads – really these buzz words seem to be everywhere lately.

Maybe I am just noticing it because I need some of my own?

So today I am going to talk about why I need to do some of my own self care, what I am going to do/have done, and some recommendations from me the person and me the doctor.

Why I need to do some self care around here

So, if you have been following me for a while on this blog or on facebook you may know my Dad has been ill.  Today as I write this he has been in hospital for almost 3 months.  One week ago he was transferred (finally) to a rehabilitation hospital after suffering a subdural haematoma (brain bleed).  It has been a long road and as I write this I know he will be in rehab until at least June 18 and probably longer.  In addition, when he was in the hospital I went every day to see him, had to advocate (and really fight every step of the way) in order to get him to rehab.  The whole experience left me quite jaded towards the medical system and extremely tired.  And we have a long long way to go.

Fortunately, he is finally where he needs to be and the care he is receiving seems to be terrific (remember I’m currently jaded and distrustful).

Ok, so in the mean time – I haven’t had a vacation since last March (2017) – one got cancelled due to my husband taking a new job and the last one we couldn’t go because Dad needed us here.

So what am I going to do about getting myself some self care?

I booked a day at the spa (St. Annes’s) and I have never been before… I was supposed to go April 15 and…. Ice storm. Of course.  Luckily, my friend and I were able to reschedule for May 6 which as I write this is tomorrow.   Yay!

I have always wanted to go to this place and a whole day at the spa sounds like great self care to me! I will update this section after I attend tomorrow!

Not to be all advertisy like but here is Ste. Anne’s website in case you want to check it out… I hope I like it!


After Ste. Anne’s Spa

Back from my day spa experience. It was amazing. so relaxed.   Whose idea was it to write some stuff tonight? Bad idea.  Too relaxed. Instead I will do a whole post on what it was like and what I learned as well as stuff you can incorporate at home for self care next week.

Going to bed and doing a reverse sleep in instead (see below).  Night night!



Other things that are great for self care

Ok, so we all can’t go running off to the spa all the time – for two reasons: Cost and time.  So what other self care can you do if you just have a little time?

Me the doctor says:

take care of yourself physically and mentally –

get adjusted

get a massage

have a reverse sleep in (go to bed really early)

make sure to eat regularly and consume healthy food

take a hot Epsom saltz bath

do some exercise

do yoga


Me the person says:

hang out with a friend (no kids allowed)

have a glass of wine

read a fun book

get some quiet time to yourself (even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom)


Core stability week 1 – Brace

Over the next 5 weeks I will be posting one exercise per week via video to show you how to build a strong back and core stability.

I only like teaching one exercise at a time because that way you are much more likely to incorporate that exercise into your daily routine, get good at it, and be ready to add another one in a week.

So we will start with the Brace which I think I have blogged about before but you need to do this exercise and be good at it to do the following 4 weeks of exercises.

Please click on the underlined words “Brace2”  below to watch a quick video of how to do this.  I made this video for a lifting post I did but the exercise is the same (yes by the way you should do this when you lift too!)


Try doing this every time you stop in your car at a red light or stop sign and hold it as long as you can.  Remember you should be able to breathe normally during this exercise or you are doing it wrong.  Just engage your abdominal muscles and hold.   It helps build strength in your abdominals and even some deep layers of the lower back muscles.

That’s it for now  – call, email or text me If you have any questions!

Happy bracing!