Healthy, Happy Kids

Our kids deserve the best in life, including the best health possible. Too many kids struggle with health issues such as allergies and chronic infections, weight management problems and stress. With proper diet, exercise, and support, they become happier, healthier and can grow up to realize their full potential. Naturopathic treatments, including proper supplementation, homeopathic and botanicals, work great for most kids and are gentle but effective. Bring in your child for a “well child” exam or about a specific health problem and see what we have to offer!

Healthy Aging

Do you want to live a longer and healthier life? Are you over 40 and want to know how to prevent chronic disease or live a better life with one? Are you on medications which cause as many problems as they solve? Worried about herb-drug interactions? Come and find out what diet, exercise, proper supplementation and lifestyle changes can do to help your later years be your best years!

Acute Care

Did you know your naturopathic doctor is fully trained in acute care? Whether it is a sudden cold or flu, or an injury, we can treat your complaint and get you feeling better quickly. Naturopaths have many “tools” to treat acute cases, from herbal medicines, to acupuncture and homeopathy, to lifestyle changes which will not only treat your symptoms, but also prevent recurrences. With prescriptive rights for most pharmaceuticals, we can also prescribe you the antibiotic you need if necessary. Skip the long walk-in clinic wait, and see an ND instead!

An alternative to walk-in clinics?

Have you gotten sick with a cold, flu, sinus or bladder infection and faced a two to three hour wait at the local walk-in clinic? Why not consider a brief visit to your local ND instead?

With reasonable prices for a 15 minute consult, (I charge $40, for example), prescription rights, and four years of training in diagnosis and treatment of acute problems, BC NDs make a great alternative to the walk-in.

Many people do not know that as primary care physicians, naturopathic doctors spend a lot of time in school learning about acute illnesses as well as chronic ones. What’s more, we have a wide range of natural treatments that don’t just mask the symptoms, to help our patients feel better quickly and prevent complications. We can also teach you what “red flags” to look for which may indicate the need for more intensive treatments like antibiotics or a visit to the hospital emergency room. Our training in appropriate prescribing means that we can prescribe those antibiotics etc, while looking for allergies, drug-drug or drug-herb interactions.

Finally, we teach our patients self-care and prevention to reduce recurrence of illness and keep you healthy for years to come. All while reducing the cost of unnecessary ER visits to our overwhelmed health care system! Sounds like everyone wins.

2014 is here! Are you ready?

Happy New Year! Have you made any resolutions? How are they working so far? It is the third week of January and many of you may have already struggled to maintain your resolutions to be more healthy in 2014.

Studies show that keeping up new habits and stopping old ones takes between 3 to 4 weeks of consistent effort to be effective. I have supported my patients through a lot of their health commitments and I agree that the “magic” where the new habit becomes a way of life is at the one month mark.

When I am talking to someone about changing unhealthy habits or starting new, healthier ones, I always like to use the metaphor of a watch. At first, when you put on a watch after not wearing one for a while, you notice the watch on your arm, and you have to consciously remember to put it on when you get dressed. But after a while, you will only notice when the watch is not there, and your brain will remind you to put it on.

This is the way our brains work when it comes to routines: at first the brain is not used to it, and will forget the new activity if not reminded in a consistent manner. Then, after about a month, new activities or habits become part of the routine and if they are not done, the brain notices and sends signals to your conscious mind, prompting you to do the activity or new habit.

The take-home message here is that if you can be consistent for about a month, putting conscious effort into remembering and practicing your new routine, then it will get a lot easier to keep it going long-term. This is also why I see my patients more at the beginning of our relationship, when they need the extra support to create better health.
Good luck with your healthy habits, and all my best wishes for the new year!

How to cope with life’s changes

As we enter the melancholy of fall, I have been reflecting on the concept of Transformation. Many of my patients visit me for help during times of upheaval and transition, to keep their bodies healthy and to cope with the emotional stress of Transformation. In fact, I often joke that my “calling” is to support and guide people through life’s transitions, whether that be a health challenge, a move to a new place, or more difficult transitions like divorce or the loss of a loved one. Transformation is a big concept, and I will be writing more in depth about it in future posts. In the meantime, here are some ideas from my patients to help cope with the good and bad sides of Transformation:
1. Even though routines (especially healthy ones) tend to disappear during changes, regular meals and sleep can help you survive the tough times.
2. Make a special effort to do “self-care”. Whether it is a pedicure, time with friends, reading a good book, or a walk in the woods, self-care will decrease stress.
3. Go into “crisis mode” as my dear aunt Dari Rank, a psychologist and writer, would say. This is not the time to start new projects, take on additional work or worry too much about the future or the past. Instead, focus on getting through each day step by step, prioritize tasks into “critical” vs “this can wait” and congratulate yourself for each critical task completed. Don’t “should” yourself to death. Now is the time to stay present and breathe.
4. Know that you will survive 99.9 % of Transformation. Things will be different, but you will survive.
I hope to share more of my reflections on coping with Transformation in the future. Have a healthy day!
Dr Handford

Alta Vista Naturopathic has a new location in 2013!

Welcome to our website! After months of problems due to our server being attacked by professional hacks, we are finally back online and excited to share our new clinic location and info with you. It has been an eventful year for Alta Vista, culminating in our move to the Fairmont Medical Building in front of Vancouver General Hospital. We are sharing clinic space with a great TCM clinic called Red Tree Wellness, and are really enjoying the bright, clean and attractive treatment rooms which feature southeastern exposure and windows that open for fresh air. The rooms have also been arranged according to the principles of Feng Shui, and we are enjoying the benefits of improved energy flow to support our patients’ healing journeys. Please feel free to come by during our office hours (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9:30 am to 4 pm, and Thursdays from 9 am to 1 pm) and check out our new space and improved services. in addition, we are excited to welcome back Amanda George, ND (Cand) from her extended maternity leave. She will be working on Thursday mornings.
As always, we focus on creating personalized wellness plans for our patients, using the best of both current research and time-honoured healing traditions and techniques. Whether you need a wellness check up, or support for a chronic disease, Alta Vista can provide solutions for your health concerns. We emphasize quality customer service for our patients and their families, including prompt responses to your questions, supplements and naturopathic services at reasonable prices, and validated parking for the length of your visit.
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2013!

Prescription Rights Granted

As we head into another busy fall season, I wanted to update everyone on the changes to our BC naturopathic scope of practice. After much sustained effort from the ND community, we have been granted prescription rights in BC. While there are some exceptions to our rights, we are able to prescribe antibiotics, bio-identical hormones, blood pressure medications and many other common prescription items. This does not mean NDs are giving up natural medicine! Because of changes in regulations over the years, we have lost access to many of our traditional items, and only by changing our scope to include prescription rights can we regain access to these items. I am proud to have passed the rigorous and gruelling exam (it took over 7 hours to complete!) and am looking forward to having access to a wider range of products and procedures through which I can help my patients achieve optimum health. Many people seem worried that having access to these pharmaceuticals will mean that we will automatically start prescribing these items instead of our usual products. I can tell you, having gone through the process, that I am again struck by how effective and safe naturopathic medicinal products are as contrasted with many pharmaceutical items, and that it has only renewed my commitment to and love for naturopathic medicine.  Along with the exciting changes and improvements in service at my clinic (Alta Vista Naturopathic), it is an exciting time to be an ND! Should you have any questions about how our increased scope of practice will affect you, please email me, call or come in for an appointment.

Yours in good health

Dr. Handford

Seven habits for a long and healthy life

Recently, I was excited to read about the work of Dan Buettner, an author who has researched the world’s “hot spots” of longevity and written a book summarizing his findings (The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest”). Each of the areas he examined have much higher rates of people reaching 100 years. It is a fascinating look at what helps us age gracefully and healthily, and what I found most interesting were the crucial roles played by community and spirituality, as well as more typical healthy behaviours. Here is a brief summary of what he discovered:

1. A primarily plant-based diet with few to no processed foods is common to all regions examined. In Okinawa, a Japanese island, people eat an average of 7 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, seven servings of grains and two of soy products, with weekly fish and sporadic meat and dairy consumption. Loma Linda, CA, the only US city included, is primarily made up of Seventh Day Adventists, who advocate vegetarianism. In addition, many zones’ inhabitants eat their larger meals earlier in the day, with only small meals at night.

2. Regular, low-intensity exercise. Rather than going to the gym for an intense workout interspersed with long periods of sitting, people get out for regular walks, gardening etc. They make exercise a low-key part of every day.

3. Sense of purpose. Having a reason to get up in the morning, be that a fulfilling job, passion for a hobby, or caring for grandchildren is key for long life. This is in contrast with North America’s habits of overwork for much of a career, followed by a purposeless retirement.

4. Community support. Each area has a strong sense of community, including all members in activities and supporting each other through good times and bad. Contrast this with our age-segregated approach to life and emphasis on the “nuclear” family unit.

5. Red wine in small doses. Research has found repeatedly that one to two glasses (5 oz, not half a bottle) of red wine has been associated with better health and longer life. Purple grape juice seems to have some of the same benefits for those who don’t drink.

6. Having spiritual beliefs emphasizing love and universal compassion. These hot spots are also areas of strong spirituality, finding meaning in life and a higher purpose to existence.

7. Being optimistic. People who live longer tend to have more positive anticipation of the future and more hope for positive changes.

Spring is the best time to start something new!

Although we have decided that January 1 is the start of a new year, many cultures have and do celebrate the beginning of Spring as the true new year. It makes sense: On January 1st, we are still in the doldrums of a Canadian winter, making resolutions harder to stick to. Why not choose April 1 as a start date for your commitment to a healthier and happier you instead? With the longer days and better weather, you may be better able to stick to that new exercise routine or dietary change. It is also a great time to get rid of leftover holiday treats and junk foods in your cupboards and fill your fridge with delicious spring fruits and vegetables such as asparagus or baby lettuces. Many people choose Spring as a good time to do a “cleanse”, cutting out alcohol and processed and sugary foods and replacing them with whole foods and water. Some choose a prepackaged cleanse product to support their efforts: make sure to read the label for ingredients you may be allergic to, and assess the dietary suggestions to ensure you are getting enough nutrition to support your cleanse. Research has shown that 7-10 day cleanses are not sufficient to change most chronic health problems: three weeks is usually the minimum time needed to see results that will last, and to change unhealthy habits over the long term.  Most people will feel some discomfort at the beginning of a cleanse: common symptoms are headache, morning nausea, bowel changes,  flu-like symptoms such as aches, mild fever and fatigue, and food cravings, especially for sugar or junk food. However, consult your naturopathic doctor if these symptoms persist for more than one week, as they may be indications that a given cleanse is not right for you.

In the Traditional Chinese Medicine system, Spring is a time for the element Earth, and its associated organ, the Stomach. Efforts to improve your diet will have most success at this time, as the Earth element holds dominance over the other organs of the body. Earth is also associated with emotional states of tranquility (if healthy) and anxiety/ungroundedness if unhealthy. Therefore Spring is also a good time to work on removing those elements of your life or thought patterns which cause you the most anxiety or stress. Acupuncture and cognitive therapies are both effective at reducing anxiety, as are specific herbal formulas and homeopathics available from your ND.

Why not make this Spring a New Year for your health?