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Steps Towards Healing: It’s All in your Head

The last part of our philosophical discussion is focusing on mental/emotional health which refers to our overall psychological well-being.  Most are familiar with this part of the triad but may not realize what a profound influence challenges to this area can cause.


                                                          Chemical                Structural

Stress is ever present. Experiencing some short term stress is actually helpful since it is stimulating and provides an impetus for productivity. When we are under chronic mental emotional stress or chronic over stimulation, it can begin to take a toll on our overall health.

We all fall somewhere in the continuum of the emotional spectrum. During different times of life we may be more or less capable of managing emotions.  It is part of life to experience mental emotional distress. The difference is, people with good emotional health have an ability to bounce

back from adversity, trauma, and stress. They remain focused, flexible, and creative in bad times as well as good.  The capacity to recognize emotions and express them appropriately helps us avoid getting stuck in depression, anxiety, or other negative mood states. It is when we get stuck in an emotional state that it starts to have more of a negative effect on our health.

There are several factors that can positively or negatively influence our psychological well-being. The following are important in supporting mental emotional balance.

  • Having our basic needs met (food, shelter, clothing)
    Feeling connected to others/ having a supportive community

  • Having enough time for leisure activities and fun

  • Having a purpose whether that is in the context of meaningful work, hobbies or relationships

  • Maintaining a good level of physical health

Sometimes, there is an opportunity because of a stressful episode, for change (relationship, work environment, etc). When chronic stress can not be avoided, it is imperative to engage in managing the stress until the situation can change. This may include more rest, exercise, meditation, massage, acupuncture, naturopathic care and support from a mental health practitioner. Commonly the knee-jerk reaction is to reach for a quick fix be it alcohol or food to help manage the situation; unfortunately this is not really a solution and may lead to deteriorating health.

Don’t forget that mind and body are linked. When you improve your physical health, you may also experience improved mental and emotional well-being. For example, exercise not only strengthens our heart and lungs, but also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that energize us and lift our mood.

Your outlook on life, attitude and  emotional health greatly influence your quality of life.  Whatever internal or external factors have shaped your mental and emotional health, it is possible to make changes that will improve your psychological well-being. Positive influences such as strong relationships, a healthy lifestyle, and coping strategies for managing stress and negative emotions can profoundly affect this part of the triad and therefore influence overall health.

Nina Paroo, ND

Steps Toward Healing: How your Structure Influences how you Function

Continuing our discussion of some Naturopathic concepts,  this post I am focusing on structural health.  The simple way to think about your structure is your bones and muscles but our structure is more than that. It is musculoskeletal (muscles, bones and attachments), dura (the envelope around brain and spinal cord), fascia (layer of fibrous tissue that surrounds most nerves, bones, muscles, blood vessels and organs) and viscera (internal organs). What is most important to keep in mind is that structure dictates function on all levels

                                                                    Mental/Emotional                                                         Chemical                Structural

Our bodies are built to move, but all day long most of us  sedentary in our chairs.  Moving your body regularly even if it is only walking affects your health profoundly.  Engaging in appropriate exercise has a huge effects on all systems in the body, from improving cardiovascular capacity to balancing hormones to improving energy.  It also provides an irreplaceable outlet for managing mental/emotional stress.

Often we don’t think about getting regular body work (massage, acupuncture, chiropractic) unless we have pain, but structural misalignment will affect long term health.  Imbalances will affect our nervous system, immune system, hormonal system and overtime can contribute to lack of adaptability or dis-ease.  Sometimes in practice we see people with structural stress contributing to digestive issues or even the ability to take a deep breath. To this end, if you are not digesting properly oPosturer your breathing capacity is affected two major routes of elimination are being compromised which will lead to overall system congestion, Relieving structural burden will improve overall communication all the way down to your cells.

Another way to think about it is if you are structurally misaligned or have poor posture it will take a lot of energy to defend against these misalignment instead of allowing your body to focus on other vital functions. Chronic stress interferes with health. If constantly stressed, the less you can rest, digest and heal.

Nina Paroo, ND

Steps Towards Healing: Chemical Imbalances

When thinking about your health it is common to focus on the name of the condition or diagnosis that you have been given. While this can provide information about symptoms, it doesn’t often speak to the “why or how” this condition arose and ultimately, what to do about it.

All chronic conditions have three main areas of underlying distress or imbalance:


                 Chemical                     Structural

How much imbalance will vary from person to person, but all are affected to some degree.  This is because everything is interrelated. If one area of the triangle is affected, it is affecting the whole. Our tendency is to compartmentalize our condition, and think, “oh, I have indigestion, it must be something that I ate”, when it could be more an issue with the amount of emotional strain or stress that you are experiencing that is at the root of the digestive distress. It is important to take a step back and look at all the influencing factors that could be contributing to health imbalances and not just the ‘tip of the iceberg’

The Chemical piece of the triangle refers to the processes occurring in the body influenced by internal and external factors. Some of the external factors include diet, environmental exposures, medications, supplements, viruses, bacteria etc. Keep in mind that everything your body comes into contact with, it has to process and your ability to do this efficiently can vary greatly.  Internal factors mainly refer to how your cells, tissues and organs function and the subsequent byproducts that are produced. These byproducts also have to get removed so that they don’t accumulate in your tissues. In light of this, improving your body’s biochemical ability involves: 

  • reduce our exposures (ex. eat organic, fresh, seasonal food) 
  • make organ systems work better (ex. improve how you digest and absorb nutrients from food)
  • Efficiently remove what we don’t need (ex. eliminate waste products regularly)

Often, in order to improve your internal functioning requires that you avoid something (ex foods that you react to) for a certain amount of time, or, that you add something into daily regimen such as drinking more water to help kidney function.  I may suggest something for you to do such as castor oil packs or hydrotherapy which encourage the removal of impurities from your body.  The bottom line is that whatever the condition, as we focus on improving how your body’s chemical processes, you will move towards improved health. But this isn’t the whole story. In future posts I will discuss how mental/emotional and structural imbalances affect your over all health.

Nina Paroo, ND

Monkey Mind

We live in the Age of Distraction. Yet ironically, the success of our future is influenced by the ability to pay attention to the present.

The behaviors of being still and slowing down are not only dismissed but carry the reputation of being unproductive, a waste of time, even lazy. Nothing could be further from the truth. By slowing down and being present, our ability to see our situations with more clarity improves, as does our mental resilience and flexibility. Some of the most profound moments come from watching the grass grow.

Mindfulness is in part about observing the ‘monkey mind’, the constant chatter that is ever present. Instead of directly trying to quiet or calm the mind (because lets face it, this is very difficult to do), it is more about looking at the spaces between thoughts. Living in the moment is a very active state. It is the the practice of being active, open, and placing intentional attention on the present, so that you are not dwelling on the past or projecting into the future. When this is practiced you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judgment, neither grasping a thought or pushing it away.

Road in the ForestMost of us are constantly running away from something or towards something. For example, not wanting to deal with argument that you got into yesterday with your partner or counting down the days left before you leave for vacation. Of course we all have mundane tasks that we would rather not do, as well as having things we look forward to. If you are able to stay in the present moment, accept what is in front of you, take some deep breaths, re-center your attention, watch your thoughts as they rise and fall, you will be able tend to the task at hand in this moment, rather than being caught up in the past or the imaginings of the future.

So why do we want to do this? This non-judgmental awareness of the present imparts several benefits. It has been shown that mindful people are happier, more enthusiastic, more empathetic, and more secure. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces the impulsiveness and reactivity that may underlie attention problems and binge eating. Mindfulness reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, boosts immune functioning, and reduces chronic pain. An article in the  Washington Post taught the beneficial effects of mindful meditation for war veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

water dropletWe need to keep in mind that mindfulness is not an end goal. We don’t achieve mindfulness, we practice it.  There are more formal ways of practice such as mindful meditation, but don’t let this intimidate you. Simply set your intention to pay attention to what is happening right now. You can perform any task in a mindful way. You are basically doing the opposite of multi-tasking (which none of us can really do efficiently anyway). The very act of being present, focusing on the here and now, will paradoxically improve your ability to manage more things with less effort.

Here are here are a few ways to practice being in the present.

Embrace Fretting

Who doesn’t worry about the future? As Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Anxiety about the future is often driven by imaginings and fear. Some suggest setting aside to ‘just worry’ in a non-judgmental accepting way. If you can sit with the sensation in the here and now, usually the anxiety will start to dissipate.

Breathe Deep

When you find yourself feeling consumed with thoughts of the present or past focus on your breath. This is a centering exercise that will bring you into the present and into your body. there are several breathing techniques. One of my favorites is belly breathing: Put one hand on your belly and the other on chest. Breath in through your nose and feel your belly expand and your hand rise. Hold for a few seconds and exhale.

Give your self a break

This doesn’t need to take up hours in your day. For as little as 15 minutes, set aside some time where there is little distraction. Turn off anything that beeps, rings or buzzes. Stop the knee jerk reaction to check your cell phone/computer or electronic devises. Tend to yourself verses others around you. What are your senses telling you? If you tap into your senses you will be amazed as to how often you perform things on auto-pilot. A common habit is to eat meals while surfing the Internet, working or watching TV. Try not doing this. Eating mindfully will no only improve your digestion, but you will enjoy your food in a completely different way.

Nina Paroo, ND