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sugar-free, big-pharma, adaptogens. and what they all have in common! advocacy.

My health journey began as a kid in the early nineties and plant-based, vegan, sugar-free and adaptogens weren’t even a topic and it wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I started to explore these options, because...


my health was rapidly declining,

I was desperate for change,

paired with a health scare and a curious mind,


it set me on the path to explore the wellness industry and here’s what I learned so far along my journey!


It’s complicated. Let’s start there. The body is complicated and every body reacts differently to substances and situations and only YOU really know how you’re feeling and what works for your body. So don’t let the noise steer you away from listening to your body.


sugar-free.

When my health started to rapidly decline about 3 years ago at the start of the pandemic, the doctors suspected I had a rare tumor. This spooked me and instantly, I knew if this was the case, cancer thrives off sugar and I could make a difference right away to help myself, so I eliminated refined sugar.


Let's face it, you can’t avoid refined sugar entirely. That SHIT is everywhere. And when you start to notice how much you’re consuming, which comes with mindfulness, you might do a backflip. However, I knew the benefits of removing even a tiny bit of sugar, it would ‘starve’ the tumor. Good news is I didn’t have the tumor, but I do have a rare and progressive disease along with other comorbidities. Either way, the sugar is gone and I haven’t looked back.


It’s entirely possible to kick-sugar with the support of brands like SmartSweets that are thinking big with people's best interests at heart and not just about profits. I also stay hydrated with Roar drinks, they are a way tastier version of Gatorade and have electrolytes with vitamins and are low in sugar. Don’t be fooled, I still get my ice cream fix with Halo ice cream! It was a health scare that pushed me in a smart direction that I didn’t even know existed and I’m curious to keep exploring. I’m looking for a sweet sugar-free bakery in Toronto and recommendations are welcome!



big-pharm.

Speaking of profits, big-pharma does have a place at the table, in my opinion. As a patient, I know it’s my responsibility to take care of my body and eat healthy, for example removing refined sugar like I mentioned above, but when I’ve done what I can do, that’s when we sometimes still need the support of potent chemicals to tell the body what to do. And that’s okay, that’s why science exists and I’m grateful for it.


The body is a complicated web of multiple systems and while my comprehensive medical team of doctors have been working to investigate and determine which rare disease I have, they have ‘stabilized’ me on too many medications that my symptoms otherwise couldn’t be managed through other means.


For context, a quarter of patients with a rare disease, the time from first symptom to diagnosis is 5 to 30 years and during this interval, rates of initial misdiagnosis may be as high as 40%. (source Rare Genomics Institute) and only 60% of treatments for rare diseases make it to Canada (source: Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders) which is why unfortunately Doctors treat and manage symptoms for RareX patients.


That said, I’m so thankful for my family doctor who has persevered and worked collaboratively with my many specialists and pharmacists to help provide a bit of relief!


adaptogens.

Adapto-what?! According to the Cleveland Clinic “Adaptogens are active ingredients in certain plants and mushrooms that may impact how your body deals with stress, anxiety and fatigue.”


As I mentioned above, the doctors have stabilized me on multiple pharmaceutical medications and while there isn’t a magic number of too many medications to be on, I would say there is a personal comfort level. And we all know there is a booklet of side effects that come with each medication you’re put on. This is exactly what led me to explore the adaptogen world.


I knew there had to be healthier alternatives to some of the chemical medications I was on and wanted alternatives that would support my healing and eliminate the number of pharmaceutical medications I was taking.

My mental health has always been a struggle, which you can read about here, and from a young age I started therapy to learn the tools to try and protect my mental health, it’s hard and like they say, it’s a lifelong journey.


When I started to explore adaptogens, ashwagandha was a trending topic for brain support, when I dug into it more, I found that it's best known for its stress relieving benefits along with reducing cortisol levels among many other benefits. As I continued to explore, I learned L-Theanine helps to reduce blood pressure and increase relaxation which I thought could also aid in supporting my mental health.


I’ve started to make little changes in my daily routine like incorporating Four Sigmatic coffee that's made with functional mushrooms that supports immune health and removes the caffeine jitters and sugar highs!


However I thought, I’m going to have to consume a lot of (expensive) foods and/or product supplements that have enough of these plant-based nutrients for me to properly feel the effects. This is what led me to Shine Health!


In a serendipitous way, I connected with the Canadian co-founders Phil Desrochers and Greg Leger of Shine Health and we shared our health stories. They have brilliantly packed these plant-based adaptogens into one tiny capsule that can be conveniently taken daily to support your mental health routine. Brilliant!


This is just the start of my exploration and adventure into the wellness world and my eyes are wide with hope for what I will find next. Stay tuned on my instagram where I share my latest finds.


advocacy.

Overall, I think the biggest takeaway is that you know your body the best and know how your body feels, reacts and interacts with what you put in it and what you get from it. Even when the doctors recommend something to you, it’s just that, a recommendation.


Which is why advocacy and sometimes difficult conversations need to be had, because you know your body the best and it’s the information you provide to the professionals that allows them to help you better. So I encourage you to do your best (and push them), so they can do theirs.


In my next blog, I talk about Webster's dictionary 2022 Word of the Year “Gaslighting”, and how it’s a form of emotional abuse that leads you to question your own reality! Sadly, this is something I have struggled with along my journey and it’s not uncommon for someone to experience through a complicated medical journey.


In the meantime, let me know if you’ve explored sugar-free or adaptogens and what benefits you’ve seen. Or, if you have or are being worked-up for a rare disease, has advocacy been part of your journey, send me a note and let me know what you’ve experienced.


Stay well,



Emily xo

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mental health emergency resources  

For a medical emergency please call 911

CAMH or Canadian Government Mental Health Support Page

Kids Help Phone: 1 800 668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868.

 

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