Dr. Amy Punké is a member in good standing with the Nova Scotia Association of Naturopathic Doctors (NSAND) and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND). Licensed with the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta (CNDA).
Ancient and traditional medicines have long honoured the change of seasons and the effect they have on our health. Have you ever noticed how your digestive function changes throughout the year? This is often reflected in the foods we are drawn to. Our desire to consume raw and fresh produce in the summer months tends to shift to craving warming soups and stews come fall. How about a shift in your energy, quality of sleep, or mood?
Our bodies, minds and spirits respond to seasonal changes. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I am fascinated by how these natural cycles impact our health, and how disease can arise when we become disconnected and fall out of sync with these rhythms. I am reminded of the teachings of one of our elders, Naturopathic Doctor Sat Dharam Kaur, who says, “The solar seasons, the lunar phases, our daily waking and sleeping, our menstrual cycle, our breathing pattern and even our heart rate… these natural rhythms are encoded in our cells and in our genes.” From the changing seasons, to our own hormone levels, we are all connected.
Dr. Kaur explains, “Spring is a time of new beginnings, fertility, conceiving ideas, and laying the groundwork for things to come.” However, this year, just as we were starting to feel this inherent shift in energy, everything came to a grinding halt because of the global health crisis. Our basic instincts to spend more time in nature to shake off the ‘winter blues’, start new projects, travel and connect with friends near and far during the warmer months, all have been put on hold.
I had an intense headache for the first two weeks of lockdown. The things I relied on in the past for relieving my headaches were closed – seeing my massage therapist, my chiropractor and swimming at the Wellness Centre. On a professional level, I’ve had waves of despair and helplessness wash over me. At a time when I felt like patients would most benefit from seeing their Naturopathic Doctor, access has been severely restricted. I’ve really struggled with what my role should be as a naturopath and also as a member in our community during this crisis; how could I better use my training in naturopathic medicine to support my own health and that of the people around me?
While it has been difficult, this ‘great pause’ has been an important reminder – health is not external to us — the best place to find health is inside ourselves. I truly believe in the healing power of nature and our body’s innate ability to heal when given the chance – the guiding principles of naturopathic medicine.
For me, health and healing is really all about our connection to ourselves, our community and the Earth that sustains us. And we all have access to this. The irony is that during this time of social isolation I feel connected more now than ever. I have started stretching more to relieve the tension headaches I’m prone to, I’ve committed to a home yoga practice and I’m spending more time with my dog. I have signed up for a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) membership from a local farm and I’m focusing more on cooking recipes that are ‘in season’. I even reached out to a local charity I’ve been meaning to contact for some time and I am hoping to volunteer with them.
While it has been difficult, this ‘great pause’ has been an important reminder – health is not external to us — the best place to find health is inside ourselves.
I was curious to see how other entrepreneurs and small businesses were navigating through this crisis, too. Keltie and Michael from Small Holdings Farm are heading into their fourth season on the farm in Scotsburn. “We offer a weekly vegetable subscription program – our unique take on “Community-Supported Agriculture,” aka CSA. It’s a great way to connect with our farm and eat very (very!) well all season long,” explains Keltie. It’s all about supporting one another, “Local eaters buying vegetables from their local farmer and local farmers growing food for their community.”
Sustainable practices and connecting with the land is a way of life on the farm. “We eat a pretty seasonal diet here on the farm and this time of year,” explain Keltie and Michael. “We are slowly moving from storage vegetables and preserves to fresh greens and radishes. Spring crops are not necessarily glamorous but they come with so much anticipation after a long winter. They are delicious – a first taste of the world waking up. Eating with the seasons certainly has its challenges but it is also very rewarding and grounding.”
Dr. Erin MacKenzie, Naturopathic Doctor, hails from the North Shore of Nova Scotia and now runs a busy naturopathic clinic in Cape Breton and is a mother to her young son. She too, has had to adapt her practice to continue to offer support to her patients during this difficult time.
Leading by example and to support her own health, Dr. MacKenzie practices and teaches ‘Earthing’ (also known as grounding). Earthing refers to walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping outdoors to connect to the conductive systems that transfer the Earth’s electrons from the ground into the body.
“Your body is an bio-electric organism that runs on energy generated through the flow of electrons – tiny units of matter that move around elements – the smallest units of material here on Earth,” explains Dr. MacKenzie. “Electrons are used to create the energy currency of your body. So, extra free electrons will help your body make energy. The Earth’s surface is actually electron-rich so when you are in contact with it – bare feet or with a thin layer of conductive natural material like leather – electrons will flow in the direction they are needed and your body will connect like a circuit to the Earth.”
According to an article published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health in 2012, researchers reported, “A surprisingly beneficial, yet overlooked global resource for health maintenance, disease prevention, and clinical therapy is the surface of the Earth itself.” So much of our modern lifestyle disconnects us with this important contact with the Earth. Emerging research suggests that this disconnect may be a major contributor to chronic disease. Reconnection with the Earth’s electrons though Earthing has been found to promote better sleep, reduce pain and inflammation and may improve immune function.
Jill Wintersteen, Astrologist and Yogi reminds us, “Summer is the time to develop faith in our life, squash the darkness with light, and trust that just like the Sun, we will rise each day no matter what life brings us.” As the leaves open to the sunlight and warmth, and as nature in all its profusion leaps into the light and warmth, let us take space and time, as best we can, to join in the great dance to which we are invited.