Practitioners’ Insights

Some words of wisdom from the Vitallife team.

Tips for Getting Kids (and parents!) Ready for Back to School

Getting back into the routine of school can be tough on kids and parents alike. Setting everyone up for an easy transition makes going back to school a fun and exciting time of year. Here are some tips and tricks to make it easier for everyone.


  1. Sleep is essential –It’s surprising to know how much sleep kids need to function optimally. Sleep allows kids’ bodies and minds to grow and thrive and when they aren’t getting enough it affects them in ways that are detrimental to their health on so many levels. According to the National Sleep Foundation school age kids need an average of 8-12 hours of sleep every night to be healthy. (See chart below and (1)) Not sleeping well or enough can impact kids energy, their ability to think and remember, and their emotional well-being. If your child isn’t sleeping well for any reason, this needs to be addressed early as it is likely to become a chronic problem that affects them for the rest of their lives. One of the most important aspects of sleep for kids (and adults) is routine. Getting to bed at a regular time every night helps their body to know that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Having bedtime rituals also really helps with the preparation for sleep. Having a bath, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas are all good ways for kids to start winding down their day. I also recommend getting them to put away their “screens” an hour before bed. As the electo-magnetic field is disruptive to the hormones the body produces for relaxation and sleep. (2)


While every child is slightly different in terms of how much sleep they need, most require the following to be fully rested:

Age Recommended May be appropriate Not recommended

0-3 months


14 to 17 hours 11 to 13 hours

18 to 19 hours

Less than 11 hours

More than 19 hours


4-11 months 


12 to 15 hours 10 to 11 hours

16 to 18 hours

Less than 10 hours

More than 18 hours


1-2 years 


11 to 14 hours 9 to 10 hours

15 to 16 hours

Less than 9 hours

More than 16 hours


3-5 years 


10 to 13 hours 8 to 9 hours

14 hours

Less than 8 hours

More than 14 hours

School-aged Children

6-13 years 


9 to 11 hours 7 to 8 hours

12 hours

Less than 7 hours

More than 12 hours


14-17 years


8 to 10 hours 7 hours

11 hours

Less than 7 hours

More than 11 hours

Young Adults

18-25 years


7 to 9 hours 6 hours

10 to 11 hours

Less than 6 hours

More than 11 hours



  1. Immune Support – One of the constant complaints that I deal with in the fall is kids getting sick when they head back to school. In addition to them being inside more, they are also exposed to more infectious germs that, unless their immune systems are strong, will result in them getting sick. Once they are sick and their immune system is compromised it sets them up for getting sick more often throughout the school year.

One of the most important supplements to give kids before they start back to school is probiotics. A review of research on probiotics specific to immune health concludes that they have an immunomodulatory effect in the body meaning that they can have a direct affect on several immune response-related diseases including allergies, eczema, viral infections and potentiating the vaccination response. (3)

Another way to provide great immune system support for kids is to give them medicinal mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane and Shiitake have been used for millennia in Chinese Medicine to support the immune system and prevent illness. When given in proper doses, they can make all the difference for kids to stay healthy throughout the year. An added bonus is that there is more research showing that they are also good for brain function and nervous system development.(4) They can be given to kids in a smoothie or mixed into yogurt or apple sauce to make it easy for them to take. They don’t even need to know that they’re there!


  1. Brain Power – The list of health benefits from Omega-3 fatty acids is long (5) but, most importantly Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to brain and neurological development and most kids (and adults) aren’t getting enough. There are both animal and plant based omega 3 fatty acids and both have been shown to be beneficial for health. Some of the key sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold water fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, herring), walnuts, ground flax seeds and flax oil, sea vegetables, grass-fed meat, soy, cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts), spinach, watercress and herbs such as parsley and mint.


  1. Diet – What kids eat has a direct impact on their ability to function. If kids are eating foods that are nutrient dense and healthy they will have lots of energy and brain power to get through the demands of their day with ease. Alternately, if they are eating foods with poor nutrient density (sugar, fat and processed foods) they’ll struggle to get through their days. This, of course will add to any other stress they may already have going on at school.


One of the best ways to pack some super nutrients for their energy, brain and immune system function into your kids is to start them out with a smoothie in the morning. Here is one of my kids favourite smoothie recipes:


Per person:

1/2 Frozen Banana (I peel the bananas before I freeze them)

1/2 tbsp. Vege Pro

2 Pitted Dates

1 tablespoon of Nut Butter (Almond Butter or Peanut Butter or any other nut butter)

1 teaspoon of Greens Powder or ½ cup of Greens

1 teaspoon of Omega 3 Oil (Fish or Flax)

1 teaspoon Liquid Multivitamin


Get your kids off to a great start this year by using these simple tips for ensuring that they have everything they need to be smart, healthy and happy!



How to Detoxify Your Body and Feel Great

Everyday ways to detoxify your body for better health

Detoxification should be an essential part of everyone’s health plan. While our bodies are able to neutralize and eliminate toxins on their own, our systems can become overwhelmed by the amount of toxins we’re exposed to. We get overloaded by toxins in our environment through our food, water and air. When toxins build up in our body, they cause damage to our tissues and serve as an obstacle for the body to function optimally.

Click the following link for the full article:


Embracing Change

Embracing Change


There’s a familiar quote by Saint Francis of Assisi that says:


“Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can, and

the wisdom to know the difference.”


There are only 3 things in life that are guaranteed taxes, death and change. Since it’s certain that there’s not much we can do about death and taxes, then the one thing we do have some control over is how we respond to change. Even though we know that change is inevitable, some people still resist change and get caught up in the difficulty and emotions that life’s challenges bring.


Every day in my practice I see people that are faced with change. Obviously, some life changes are more challenging than others and it’s normal and expected to experience some stress in the face of big life changes, good or bad. Even in the face of difficult challenges some people just seem to ride through the wave of changes as they happen and others get caught in the storm.


For some reason, it always seems like change come in waves. I’m sure you’ve all been in this situation where things seem to happen all at once. This has certainly been my experience. Every time I am faced with a wave of change, I think that there’s a lesson to be learned or wisdom to be gained that will propel me forward in my life.


Those who seem to be better at riding the wave of change seem to embrace this way of thinking as well. Of course, this also takes time and practice. I find that those who have been through a lot of changes and challenges are better at riding through it than those who haven’t.


The other important factor to keep in mind is perception. People who have been through different experiences and faced the challenge of a situation will not respond the same way as someone who hasn’t faced the same or a similar situation because it’s more familiar to them and they know that they will come out on the other side feeling stronger.


I have personally been faced with lots of changes throughout my life. At times I sit back and wonder why my life seems to be so filled with change while other people lives are so “quiet”. I’m sure that part of this is because I invite change into my life. I see change as an opportunity to learn and grow and become a better person, partner, mother and naturopathic doctor.


Lately, I have been faced with more change than usual. With my recent leave of absence from my practice and move to Canmore, I have been faced with another wave of change in my life. Although it’s been hard leaving my family, friends, patients and colleagues behind, I am embracing the opportunity to expand myself into new places in my life and career. I’m very excited about the next phase of my life and career.


Similar to the way our body deteriorates if we are stagnant, I believe that we are faced with change to keep our spirit from becoming stagnant. I also believe that change comes to us when we are ready to learn a lesson or move to a deeper understanding of ourselves, whether we feel like we are ready or not.


Life is short. Change happens. There are many lessons to be learned and much wisdom to be gained in the face of change. Embrace change and look at it as an opportunity to grow and learn about yourself and those around you. Your spirit will thank you.


“It is not the strongest of the species
that survives, nor the most intelligent, 

but the one most responsive to change.”
~ Charles Darwin


Some of my favourite books on embracing change:

Mending the Mind, Minding the Body by Joan Boreschenko

Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser

The Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin

Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn


Wishing you abundant health, happiness and peace!

Dr. Cheryl

The TOP 10 reasons you need a Naturopathic Doctor

Naturopathic Doctors…

1. Prevent illness before it happens.

2. Take time with you to understand all aspects of your health.

3. Treat all health and medical conditions using natural, non-invasive methods.

4. Restore balance to your body by strengthening the foundation of your health.

5. Educate you on how your body works and how to stay healthy at all ages and stages of life.

6. Provide long-lasting solutions to your health issues.

7. Encourage and empower you to take charge of your health.

8. Identify potential deficiencies and provide guidance on the best and highest quality supplements for you.

9. Guide you on the best diet for you to obtain and maintain a healthy weight and optimal digestion to be able to effectively absorb essential nutrients.

10. Provide you with an individualized health plan that is designed to meet your specific health needs.

11. Identify the underlying cause of your health issues.

Naturopathic Medicine and Pain Management

by Dr Cheryl Cooper, ND

Naturopathic medicine always seeks to identify and correct the root cause of any condition being treated. When a patient has pain, there are certain clues which help us to identify its cause. Bilateral pain in multiple locations usually indicates a systemic problem and unilateral pain is generally associated with musculoskeletal imbalances or injuries. In the case of pain, regardless of the cause, there are many treatment options to help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, which frequently accompanies pain.

Supplements such as proteolytic enzymes and curcumin (derived from turmeric) are well known to help reduce inflammation in the body. Dietary recommendations can help to reduce the foods that are known to cause inflammation and increase the foods that help to reduce it. Acupuncture is one of the best tools to manage pain and can even provide permanent relief from pain. Homeopathic preparations such as Traumeel, arnica and hypericum can help to heal tissue damage and speed the healing process.

Abdominal Massage: Not always brought to the table

by Erin Whyte, Registered Massage Therapist

It’s not a topic that often comes up in a massage room. It can be mildly embarrassing and may seem inappropriate to share as part of your health history. But did you know that your Registered Massage Therapist is trained to help with digestive issues, in particular constipation?

As we all know, elimination is (or at least should be) a regular and important part of our digestive cycle. Byproducts of the breakdown of our food become waste and need to exit our bodies, as they can be toxic and uncomfortable if they remain in our intestines. Our bodies are built to protect our bowels from harmful agents as they pass through, but when the bowels become blocked, these toxins begin to accumulate. The accumulation creates an unbalanced environment in our intestines which can lead to more difficult situations.

For reasons ranging from low fibre intake to inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), the elimination of waste can be slowed down or even briefly stopped altogether. It can leave the belly feeling bloated and cramped and the entire body may feel sluggish or mildly unwell.

Massage works in two ways: As the smooth muscle that surrounds the intestines becomes more relaxed and less “gripping,” the coordinated movements of the therapist’s hands encourage the natural movement and flow of material to be eliminated.

As your therapist, I am more than happy to discuss whether you might benefit from this type of massage as part of your treatment and to ensure that you feel comfortable at all times. Comfort is likely what you seek and it can be addressed if brought to the table.

Summer Allergies – How To Beat Them So You Can Have More Fun

By Priya Prakash, ND

It’s almost ragweed and mould allergy season, and to many allergy sufferers, that means a lot of sneezing, itching, congestion, runny nose, fatigue, and generally feeling unwell. Instead of being able to enjoy the last month of nice hot summer weather, most ragweed sufferers are dreaming of the colder months and wishing for the first frost to hit us to put them out of their misery.

Is there a natural solution?

Naturopathic medicine looks at balancing the immune system instead of just suppressing the allergic response. While antihistamine medications are very useful, chronic use leaves us feeling drained.  Even the non-drowsy formulas have this effect over time.

There are many natural options available, including botanicals, nutritional supplements, homeopathic remedies and dietary changes, all aimed at balancing and modulating the immune system. Naturopathic treatments for allergies are generally more effective when done preventatively – a few weeks to a few months prior to the season. There are also some things that can be done acutely to help reduce symptoms.

While it’s always best to be evaluated by a Naturopathic Doctor before taking any supplements or herbs, here are a few very safe and effective natural allergy treatments (most effective when combined):

Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found primarily in onions and apples. It acts to stabilize mast cells, the immune cells that release histamine into the bloodstream in response to an allergen, thereby preventing the allergic response. A dose of 1500 – 2000 mg is effective at reducing allergic symptoms, and works best when started a few weeks before the season hits.

Vitamin C acts as a natural anti-histamine and prevents the release of histamine by mast cells. A dose of 1000 mg – 3000 mg daily has been shown to reduce allergy symptoms.

Stinging Nettle is a plant that grows as a weed across North America. The leaf has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, and studies have shown a significant reduction of seasonal allergic symptoms. It can be taken as a tea, and works best when 2 cups of a strong infusion are consumed daily a few weeks prior to and during the allergy season; however, it can also have an acute effect.  It actually contains histamine, which may seem counterintuitive, but this small amount of histamine works as a negative feedback signal, preventing further histamine release by the body.  

Saline nasal rinsing through a neti pot filled with a buffered saline solution, can help flush out inhaled pollens and spores, thereby reducing nasal symptoms like congestion, runny nose, sneezing and itching. 

Food sensitivity elimination (through a hypoallergenic/elimination diet or food sensitivity testing) is effective at reducing hay fever symptoms.  There is research showing that in some people, a hypoallergenic diet alone during allergy season was enough to remain symptom-free, without the use of any other allergy medications. Food sensitivities can trigger immune reactions that can predispose an individual to reacting to other environmental allergens, such as pollen. The biggest culprits seem to be dairy, wheat, corn, eggs, soy and citrus fruits.

The immune system is a complex body system that requires knowledge and specialized skill to bring back to balance.  Naturopathic doctors can guide you through the proper individualized dietary program, nutritional and botanical supplementation, as well as provide food sensitivity testing and more for allergy prevention and relief. If you want to be symptom-free this allergy season, so you can enjoy your summer, an early assessment and treatment is the best solution.

Top Ten Foods for Detoxification

by Heather Resvick, RHN, ROHP

With the prospect of warmer weather and lots of glorious sunshine always has me anxious to do some spring cleaning. I am not only referring to those items around the house and the yard that need some revitalization! I am also referring to ourselves, and removing the build-up and excesses from the long winter season. We are exposed to toxins daily from food, water, air, the products we use and even as a by-product of our metabolism.

I often recommend detoxification in the spring (and the fall) as a means of getting a jump start on health and wellness. I could chat for pages on the various detoxification programs but today I would like to focus on those foods that support our liver and its natural ability to detoxify.

To begin, water, preferably filtered, is a must to aid in the elimination of toxins. Here are my top 10 picks:

1. Lemons – these sunny fruits stimulate digestion, are alkalizing to the body and stimulate liver enzymes responsible for the conversion of toxins to water soluble wastes. Start your morning with a large glass of room temperature water with the juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon.

2. Beets – deep red and yellow delights that are nutrient dense with B vitamins (B3 & B6), vitamin C and beta-carotene. They are also good sources of iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium. These nutrients support the liver and gallbladder as well as the detoxification process and promote elimination. Beets are also high in fibre and aid in digestion and elimination. Try adding roasted or steamed beets to your next salad.

3. Garlic – a staple in any kitchen, the pungent garlic has multiple benefits. Garlic has antibacterial, anti fungal and antiviral properties giving the immune system support and by ridding the body of these microbes you eliminate the toxins they produce. Garlic also contains sulfur which is highly supportive to the detoxification process. Use liberally!

4. Green Tea – the antioxidant rich beverage is a welcome alternative to your cup of coffee, rich in the phytonutrient catechin that rev-up liver enzyme activity and the detoxification process.

5. Brassica Family of vegetables – this family includes some of my favourites such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, collards, cabbage, watercress and the list goes on. These vegetables are among the most beneficial foods you can eat. They contain the potent anti-cancer compounds sulfuraphane and indoles. These powerhouse vegetables are low in calories, nutrient dense, high in fibre and support both phases of liver detoxification. Aim for 2-3 1/2 cup servings of these veggies/day.

6. Sea Vegetables – loaded with minerals and a have powerful antioxidant properties while they are alkalizing to the body and support thyroid function. Compounds called aligns found in sea vegetables absorb toxins in the digestive tract. Dulse is my personal favourite.

7. Apples – ” an apple a day”. These high fibre nutrient dense fruits have many phytochemicals that are necessary for the detoxification process. Pectin is a soluble fibre found in apples that is helpful in the detoxification and removal of heavy metals and food additives from the body. With so many varieties it is easy to enjoy every day.

8. Tumeric – contains curcumin which gives it the bright yellow colour and has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antioxidant properties. Curcumin has a positive effect on the liver by speading up the detoxification process and stimulating the production of bile which is necessary for the elimination of toxins.

9. Dandelion – while some believe it is trouble for your lawn, dandelion has a many benefits for your liver and detoxification. As a powerful antioxidant and full of nutrients like B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin C, try dandelion in the form of fresh leaves on your salad or steeped in tea. Dandelions acts to cleanse the blood and liver while increasing bile production important for the elimination of toxins.

10. Flax Seeds – These tiny seeds are a great source of the health smart Omega 3 essential fatty acids and a perfect combination of soluble and insoluble fibre. Fibre in the diet is great not only for hormone, blood sugar and cholesterol balance but also for the elimination of toxins. Enjoy ground flax in your breakfast soomthie, on your oatmeal or yogurt as a great way to start your day.

The addition of some or all of these foods in your diet on a regular basis with go a long way to supporting your liver and the detoxification process. Yours in good health….

Summer Activity Adjustments, Part Two

by Erin Whyte, RMT

Biking: There are many aspects of bike positioning that will ensure a comfortable ride. To start, make sure you are buying a bike that actually fits you. Go to a reputable store with knowledgeable sales people who can fit you properly. The most common thing that I see while out biking is people who have their seat too low. This may be because they don’t want to be leaning forward or down onto their handle bars in the mistaken belief that this position might protect their lower back, but in fact it does the opposite. Having the seat too low puts a great deal of added force on the hamstrings, quadriceps and hip flexors, all of which affect the low back when standing.

Try this to ensure the proper height for your seat: with shoes on, put your heel on the pedal and pedal backwards to the lowest point. Your leg should be straight. Now with the ball of your foot on the pedal (normal cycling position), pedal forward and you should have a slight bend in your knee. This is exactly what you want.

Paddling: Paddling, whether in a canoe or kayak, is all about upper body strength. This does not mean just the arms; it is more about pulling and rotating through your torso. The muscles in your abdomen are larger than the muscles your arms and can therefore supply more force than your arms alone. As you are initiating your stroke, think about winding your body to the opposite side of your reach; then as you pull through the water, unwind towards the paddle. Feel your abs (specifically your obliques) as you do this. Yes, your arms are still part of the process, but less so, which will allow you to paddle further and with less muscle fatigue the next day.

Summer Activity Adjustments, Part One

by Erin Whyte, RMT

Summer is here! Like heating molecules, we are starting to vibrate with activity and are getting the urge to move, move, move! Here are some tips to having a safe, fun-filled summer with your friends and family.

Camping: Do you love getting out into nature but dread coming home with a stiff lower back or sore neck from lying on the hard ground with minimal cushioning? Ease the strain on your lower back by tucking clothes into a bag and then under your knees. Sleeping on your side? Use the same bag to prop your upper arm and reduce shoulder strain. Ensure good neck support. If you are back-country camping and don’t have your cushy pillow, bring a pillow case and again, stuff it with your fleece or other bulky clothing items. On cold nights, this also keeps your change of clothes for the morning nice and toasty!

I would be remiss not to mention that in all your outdoor activities you need to stay hydrated and be protected from the sun. Both are safeguards from the onset of muscle cramping, headaches, fatigue, and the dangers of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Check out the blog next week for adjustments for biking and paddling.

Have fun this summer and be safe!