Dietary Recommendations for Patients with Cancer

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Further to our last post, we are addressing lifestyle and dietary recommendations for patients with cancer. The last post focused primarily on lifestyle recommendations. In this one, we examine how diet can be crucial to cancer treatment.

It may be surprising to know that diet can assist in recovery from surgery and in improving tolerance to radiation and chemotherapy as specific dietary nutrients have properties that help to prevent or slow the development of tumours. There is evidence to suggest that patients who undergo conventional treatments without receiving nutritional support through diet have higher complication rates. Diet has been shown to prevent weight loss during treatment, to support bowel regularity; and to reduce localized areas of inflammation and pain.

DIETARY PATTERNS

Plant-based diets have been shown to be very important in cancer treatment. Fruits, vegetables and certain components of plant foods, such as fibre and polyphenols, have research supporting a protective effect against cancer. Research has been strong in certain types of cancers; particularly breast, colon and prostate cancers. There are key dietary changes that patients can make that will slow or reverse cancer.

A high fiber and low-fat diet can help with the proper circulation of estrogen in patients with breast cancer. This has been seen to decrease the risk for additional breast cancer events by 25% to 30%.

A dietary pattern characterized by significant reduction in the consumption of saturated fat, increased consumption of vegetable proteins with accompanying reductions in animal proteins and dairy products has been shown to significantly decrease prostate cancer progression.

Colon cancer development and progression is also influenced by diet. A diet that is rich in red meats, refined carbohydrates, dairy and eggs is associated with an increased risk for developing colorectal cancer compared to infrequent consumption. Additionally, vegetable fibre (even more so than fibre from grains or fruit) has been shown to protect against colorectal cancer.

Losing weight is also a very positive consequence of switching to a diet that is rich in plant-based foods. As we know from the previous article, obesity not only increases our risk of cancer but overweight individuals die sooner from cancer.

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ANTI-INFLAMMATORY NUTRIENTS

Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response; without it, we can’t heal. But when it’s out of control, it can damage the body.

Foods high in sugar and saturated fat can spur inflammation. They cause overactivity in the immune system, which can lead to joint pain, fatigue, and damage to the blood vessels.

Polyphenols are found in plant foods and spices and possess uniquely potent anti-inflammatory effects. In a study done with lung cancer patients, along with conventional treatments including radiation, surgery and chemotherapy, some patients were given a freeze-dried medicinal soup (made with soybean, shiitake mushroom, mung bean, red date, scallion, garlic, lentil bean, leek, hawthorn fruit, onion, ginseng, angelica root, licorice, dandelion root, senegal root, ginger, olive, sesame seed and parsley). Those patients who ate the vegetable soup had a median survival of 15.5 months compared to a median survival time of 4.5 months for those who didn’t eat the soup.

Anti-inflammatory supplements have been shown to decrease reoccurrence rates in patients with colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer as well.

INSULIN RESISTANCE

Much research shows that it is sugar’s relationship to higher insulin levels and related growth factors that may influence cancer cell growth the most, and increase risk of other chronic diseases. Many types of cancer cells have plenty of insulin receptors, making them respond more than normal cells to insulin’s ability to promote growth. In fact, some cancers rely exclusively on insulin for their growth, including an estimated 27% of breast cancers.

All carbohydrates you eat are broken down to simple sugars in the intestine, where they are absorbed into the blood, increasing blood sugar levels. The pancreas releases insulin in response, which travels throughout the blood stream, and performs several important jobs. Firstly, insulin signals glucose to enter the cell to be used for energy. Secondly, insulin increases the storage of calories as fat. When insulin levels are high, it is a signal to the body that there is plenty of food available, and that these bonus calories should be used to grow and build reserves.

Eating a lot of simple carbohydrate at once can raise insulin levels quickly. High insulin levels can lead to a rapid fall in blood sugar, in a sort of “rebound” effect. Low blood sugar levels then signal the body that it is low on fuel. This triggers appetite, encouraging you to eat again, to bring blood sugar levels back up again. While levels are bottoming out, people are hungry, irritable and prone to overeating. This can become a vicious cycle, with the body’s blood sugar and insulin levels going up and down rapidly and can result to insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance has been associated with lower survival rates in both breast and colon cancer. This data supports the use of a low glycemic, nutrient dense diet in people diagnosed with both breast and colon cancer.

Adopting a low-fat, plant-based diet is great for overall health and prevention of many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Please note that like most things, you will want to find the dietary program that works best for you. Not every treatment program works the same way for everyone, and consultation with your Naturopathic Doctor will be needed.

Lifestyle Recommendations for Patients with Cancer

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Conventional cancer treatments (surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy) preserve and prolong the lives of many. However, these treatments present challenges for patients such as adverse side effects and lack the holistic elements that a patient may require for remission and survival.  Integrating naturopathic treatment strategies (integrative oncology) can improve the overall effectiveness of conventional cancer treatment, help to minimize negative side effects and symptoms, decrease suffering and distress and improve survival and remission. In this post, we address lifestyle strategies for patients with cancer. Watch for the next post, in which we will complete this two-part article with dietary strategies.

The two most fundamental lifestyle-related naturopathic approaches are exercise and stress management.

EXERCISE.

Exercise is a vital component of any healthy lifestyle and has been well-documented as a cancer prevention strategy. But it has also been found to be of critical importance in life-style based treatment programs for patients who are fighting cancer.

Studies conducted in both the United States and Denmark found that women diagnosed with breast cancer who had a high body mass index (obesity) were significantly correlated to lower overall survival than women with an average to low body mass index. Furthermore, M. Irwin et al., 2008, analyzed 933 women with breast cancer and found that women who did moderate-intensity exercise (a brisk walk 2-3 hours per week) either before or after diagnosis had a 45% lower risk of death compared with women who were inactive both before and after diagnosis. They also found that women that decreased their level of activity when diagnosed had a 4-fold increase in risk of death.

Exercise has also been shown to slow the spread of cancer cells. Regular exercise reduces insulin levels and since cancer thrives on sugar, exercise has been proven to reduce the risk of cancer, slow the spread of cancer cells and help to keep it from returning.
Exercise also improves the circulation of immune cells in your blood. The job of these cells is to neutralize pathogens throughout your body. The better these cells circulate, the more efficient your immune system is at locating and defending against viruses and diseases, including cancer, trying to attack your body.
Increasing evidence is showing that regular exercise can lead to a number of health improvements for cancer patients beyond survival including better aerobic fitness, increased muscular strength, improved quality of life and less fatigue.

While there are many reasons for being physically active during cancer treatment, each person’s exercise program should be based on what is safe, effective, and enjoyable for them. Your exercise plan should take into account any exercise program you already follow, what you can do now, and any physical problems or limits you have.

STRESS MANAGEMENT.

The word “cancer” alone can trigger a stress response, and for those undergoing cancer treatment, the experience can easily be the most stressful they ever endure. After all, research has shown that roughly half of people with advanced or terminal cancer struggle with mental health conditions including depression, anxiety and adjustment disorders.

Elevated and prolonged stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine have been associated with shortened survival in cancer patients.  Decreased survival time has also been associated with depression, poor quality of life and social isolation.

A good deal of research has examined the impacts of both mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on cancer treatment. A 2012 Danish review of studies found that mindfulness-based therapies — which include yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and mental training — are an effective way to manage depression and anxiety in cancer patients resulting in overall improvements in psychological and physical quality of life

A 2011 study published in the journal Cancer Nursing also found that the majority of cancer patients who participated in mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy experienced positive effects including increased calm and well-being, better sleep quality, more energy and decreased physical pain.

We can’t forget that exercise is also a form of stress management. Physical activity helps bump up the production of the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling. Regular exercise can increase self-confidence, aid in relaxation, and decrease the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body, your life and your illness.

Please note that like most things, you will want to find the lifestyle program that works for you.  Not every treatment program works the same way for everyone, and a consultation with your Naturopathic Doctor will be needed.

The Truth About Chronic Pain

Acute pain in a woman back

Acute pain in a woman back

Experiencing chronic pain and attempting to manage it can be an exhausting and overwhelming endeavor. Individuals who suffer from chronic pain are hit with a double whammy: both having to endure the chronic pain as well as having to suffer through attempts to manage that pain. For those who are dependent on medication to manage their pain, an entirely separate layer of frustration enters the picture. People who are in pain are left to ingest medicines that are supposed to alleviate their pain, but instead cause an entirely different set of side effects.

Here are some of our favorite natural and holistic pain management treatments that can free you or the chronic pain sufferer in your life from big medicine.

PROLOTHERAPY.

“Prolo” means to proliferate or grow, and it does this in the formation ofnew tissue at t he molecular level. Prolotherapy treats a wide variety of musculoskeletal and tendonous injuries that occur in the body. These may include torn or overstretched tendons in many areas of the body, including the shoulder, elbow, neck, knee, ribs, ankle, low back etc. Prolotherapy has also been shown to have the beneficial effects of lowering pain and promoting the proliferation of joint spaces in degenerative conditions such as herniated discs, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. So how does it work? Prolotherapy is a minimally invasive injection technique using a simple solution of dextrose and lidocaine (a local anesthetic). This solution is injected into the torn tendon, ligament, or damaged joint capsule. From there your own body does the rest of the work. Prolotherapy initiates the body’s immune response to the site of injection leading to the formation of more collagen, fibroblasts and growth factors and leads to the formation of new connective tissue thus alleviating pain and helping to heal the area. Prolotherapy is not for everyone, but should be considered in all cases of joint and ligament damage or even chronic pain. There is much research being done currently to solidify Prolotherapy in mainstream medicine.

GET YOUR BLOOD PUMPING.

The release of endorphins is easily one of the most effective and instantaneous treatments for pain management. While we all know that exercise can help shrink your waistline, it is also incredibly effective in reducing pain and alleviating anxiety and depression (two symptoms that are often exacerbated by chronic pain). The natural endorphins that are released when the blood starts pumping causes your body to block the pain signals from ever reaching your brain. Studies have repeatedly shown that endorphins are as effective, if not more effective, than many modern day pain reliever medicines. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way: You don’t have to run ten miles or lift heavy weights. Simply taking a ten minute walk can result in huge outcomes.

REVERE THE RESVERATROL.

A recent study at Rush Medical University found that resveratrol has
the ability to block enzymes that are responsible for tissue degeneration. This powerful compound that is found in red grapes, blueberries, and cranberries has been shown to slow down tissue degeneration and has shown very promising data to suggest that it slows down disc degradation. The studies are ongoing, but as your Naturopathic Doctor will tell you, there are so many other reasons to keep these fruits in your diet that there is no reason not to include these to help reduce chronic pain. Other supplements such as zinc, vitamin C, glucosamine sulfate, calcium and adequate intake of protein can also aid in healing.

HEAT THINGS UP.

Heat therapy is a simple and incredibly effective method of pain management. Whether you use a rice pack, hot bath, heating pad, or sauna, heat therap is filled with so many benefits that it boggles the mind that it is not the first option sought out by modern medicine. Heat therapy works by increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the damaged area, all while suppressing pain signals that are being distributed to your brain. The increased oxygen that flows to the affected area has major healing properties, so you are repairing the damaged area while reducing your pain. It is a two fold solution.

BE READY TO CHILL OUT.

Just as heat can send healing oxygen to an area, ice can reduce inflammation and work as a natural anesthetic for a body in pain. Ice not only is the most effective natural method to reduce inflammation, but the cold ice also slows down nerve impulses which interrupts the pain signals being sent to the brain.

JUST BREATHE.

As we mentioned when discussing heat therapy as an incredibly effective method of pain management, oxygen is a powerful healing tool for the human body. Practicing deep rhythmic breathing will allow an added flow of oxygen into your blood stream, which will greatly promote healing. Additionally, deep breathing exercises and meditation have been proven to reduce pain by calming the central nervous system and yes, releasing calming and healing chemicals into your blood stream.

SLEEP ON IT.

This might seem like a tall order to someone with chronic pain. To tell an individual who can’t sleep due to chronic pain that one of the best methods of pain management
is to get some rest can seem counterproductive, if not downright cruel. However, the studies show us again and again that the practice of getting restorative sleep has one of the most lasting and profound effects on pain reduction. If falling asleep seems like an impossible task for you, try employing some of the above methods to aid you on your mission for restorative sleep. Exercise will lead to exhaustion which will help sleep. Eating a good diet of restorative foods will allow your body to heal from within and promote healthy sleep. Heat can be a soothing an easy way to enter into rest. The numbing effect of ice on the pained area can help alleviate the pain just long enough to allow the body to enter into sleep. Deep breathing and meditation will allow you to fall asleep and increase the quality of your sleep greatly. Employ all the methods at your disposal – but get some shut eye! (And yes, naps count!)

Please note that like most things, you will want to find the solution that works for you. Not every remedy works the same way for everyone, and a consultation with your Naturopathic Doctor will be needed. The great news is that these are easy to try and better yet, relief is on the way.

What You Need to Know About Vitamin D

Chances are, you have probably been hearing about the “sunshine vitamin” in recent years; how it promotes your health in various ways and how we obtain this vitamin from the sun. It seems very evident from most research that we don’t seem to be getting enough. What do you really know about this vitamin and how it works inside our body?

Vitamin D is provided to us via either sun exposure, food or supplements and is biologically inert. This means it must undergo two conversions in the body, first from the liver and then from the kidney before it is physiologically active and can be utilized. This active form is known as calcitrol.

Apart from promoting a good mood, vitamin D’s most important role is probably that of its ability to remodel bone. Without it, bones will become very thin and brittle, even misshapen. It prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. It can protect older adults from osteoporosis in conjunction with calcium.

In addition, vitamin D promotes calcium absorption at the gastrointestinal system as well as reabsorption of calcium at the kidneys. Both result in more calcium in the body to add to bone. Apart from this, it is also important in promoting cellular growth, neuromuscular and immune function.

Vitamin D has also been shown to have a protective effect against colon, prostate and breast cancer and decrease inflammation in your body. There is even some data recently to suggest that vitamin D plays a role in type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis.

So are you deficient?

There are a few ways of testing for vitamin D status in the body. The most common is testing for  the serum concentration of 25 hydroxyvitamin D (the first converted stage by the liver, and inactive form). This value reflects the vitamin D produced by the skin and that is obtained by food and supplements. It is not yet clear however, to what effect this relates to our health status or outcomes. Furthermore, serum levels do not indicate the amount of vitamin D that is stored in the tissues.

The second method of testing is to test for the serum concentration of 1, 25 dihydroxyvitamin D (the active form of vitamin D, having been converted by both the liver and kidney). This form has a very short half life which makes it difficult to test for and get accurate results.

There is considerable discussion as to whether testing for an inactive form of vitamin D (25 hydroxyvitamin) is associated with any sort of deficiency (ie. Rickets), or is indicative of bone health or optimal health. There are further problems with testing for vitamin D status which relates to how each laboratory conducts the analyses, depending on the lab it may lead to false  values.

Daily reference values for vitamin D intake include a tolerable upper intake level of 4000IU/day for adults and children 9 years of age and older.

More on Vitamin D

 

Vitamin D Containing Foods:

Few foods contain vitamin D in nature. The flesh of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are among the best sources. Some small amounts are found in beef liver, and egg yolks. These foods contain mostly the active form of vitamin D. Some mushrooms will also provide some vitamin D, but in an inactive form.

 

Fortified foods such as dairy milk, almond milk, soy milk, and orange juice provide the most vitamin D in our diets. In Canada roughly 40 IU’s of vitamin D are in 100ml of liquid milk products. Even cereals often contain added vitamin D now! Cod liver oil contains the highest per serving amount of vitamin D at over 1000IU per serving!

 

Sun Exposure

The sun is an essential part in us forming vitamin D within our bodies. You probably have also heard that we are not getting enough sun exposure to provide us with sufficient vitamin D. But what if you live in a tropical area or travel there regularly? Surprisingly, geographic latitude has not consistently predicted average vitamin levels in a population. This suggests that there are ample opportunities to form vitamin D and store it in the liver and fat even in the northern latitudes. It is also known that most people do meet at least some of their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight (specifically UV–B rays) but it is essential that light penetrates uncovered or unprotected (i.e. no sunscreen) skin. When sunscreen is used correctly an SPF of 15 deflects about 90 percent of the UVB rays. Remember, that although these rays do produce the helpful vitamin D, they also can induce sunburn, DNA damage, and skin concerns. You cannot separate the wanted from unwanted effects when it comes to sun exposure. Therefore, it is recommended you protect your skin from excessive exposure and sunburn and obtain vitamin D through other methods (i.e. supplements and food).

 

Groups at Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency

Infants: Breastfeeding is by far the best way to ensure your baby gets the nutrients it needs; however, vitamin D status in the mother is directly correlated to vitamin D status in breast milk. It is essential that mothers supplement with vitamin D during breast feeding. The government of Canada suggests that 400IU/day in infants be supplemented.

Older adults: Older adults cannot synthesize vitamin D as well from their skin. They are likely to spend more time indoors as well as have lower nutritional intake from their diet. Since vitamin D is essential to bone health and reduction of risk of osteoporosis, it is important to make sure these levels are kept high.

People with dark skin: Dark skin means there is more of a pigment melanin in the epidermal layer. This can reduce the skins ability to produce vitamin D from the sun, although there is no conclusive evidence that darker skinned peoples suffer more health consequences. Studies that have been done actually suggest that there are lower rates of osteoporosis among those of African Amercian ancestry compared to those that are Caucasian.

 

Tips To Avoid Dehydration This Summer

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Warmer weather coupled with longer days means you’ll be likely spending more time outside. This is caused by the undeniable association between the warmth of the sun and the desire to be active. We all know however, that as the temperature rises there is a larger demand for fluids to increase. So, are you doing enough to

prevent dehydration?

The thirst sensation is triggered by our “thirst center” located in the hypothalamus of the brain. It is commonly believed that once the thirst sensation begins, it is a warning for pending dehydration and a trigger to drink water. In reality however, it is actually triggered by dehydration. You see, the hypothalamus (specifically the periventricular nucleus) is responsible for gathering information from the body such as dry mouth, low saliva, increased osmolarity (concentration) of the blood and decreased blood pressure from decreased blood volume (since blood is largely made of water). In addition, exercise may suppress the thirst mechanism.

So why does it matter if we get dehydrated? Water is the largest component in the body. On average, it comprises 60% of total body mass in an adult. It is an essential component of all fluids in our body (lymph, blood, synovial fluid, cerebrospinal fluid) and is in and between every cell.  It is needed for digestion, lubrication of joints, removal of toxins from our body, it permits respiration, and is vital to delivery of oxygen to tissues.

When we exercise, the demands on the body change and our need for water increases. It is recommended to:

  1. · Drink 2 cups approximately 1-2 hours prior to exercise to properly hydrate the tissues
  2. · Drink 1.5 cups every 20 minutes during your exercise
  3. · Drink 3 cups for every pound lost after you exercise to rehydrate adequately.
  4. · Make sure you drink on a schedule
  5. · Bring a water bottle with you when you exercise.

As with anything, it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Although rate, water intoxication is a very serious medical problem. You would need to over consume a vast amount to be affected and it has been shown that exceeding water intake each day is far safer than under hydrating chronically. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, especially with your heart or kidneys, always seek the guidance of a medical professional before making large changes to your fluid intake.

Optimizing Heart Health

 

 

 

 

 

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the leading causes of death in Canadians. The risk of developing CVD can be significantly reduced or even prevented if we  educate ourselves and others to recognize the warning signs and follow the right footsteps towards a healthier life.

In order to understand how to prevent CVD, we first must understand what it is and how it affects our body.

4 Categories of CVD:

1. Atherosclerosis: an accumulation of cholesterol and platelets which form plaques that plug arteries and prevent blood flow.

2. Arteriosclerosis: calcification and hardening of the arteries.

3. Myocardial infarction: death of heart tissue due to insufficient oxygen flow to the heart (often related to atherosclerosis and usually preceded by angina or pain in the chest).

4. Cerebrovascular Accident or Stroke: loss of brain function due to either ischemia (no blood flow) or hemorrhage (bleeding) in the brain.

There are large influential factors that can contribute to the development of CVD. The best part is, you can control and reverse these effects, before its too late. Here are two of the largest contributors:

1. DIET

Excess simple carbohydrates (refined sugar, packaged snacks and deserts) act like razor blades on the arteries creating microscopic tears which need to be repaired. As fat floats through your body it binds to these areas to heal them. Unfortunately, with many tears comes many fat molecules and over time, these can build up and lead to atherosclerosis. Diets high in excess fats  such as saturated, trans, and “animal fats” have been shown to increase LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and stick to the arteries better than good fats, such as Omega 3 fatty acids.

It is important to increase your vegetable protein consumption and reduce animal protein intake by replacing saturated and trans fats with essential fatty acids from cold water fish (such as Omega 3’s, nuts and seeds). Replace simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, sprouted grains and avoid candy and excess sugar. Choose bright coloured fruits and veggies, which are high in flavonoids and keep harmful oxidation low in your blood vessels.

Some heart healthy foods include:

    • Walnuts: decrease inflammation in arteries of the heart.
    • Black beans: high in folate and antioxidants that lower blood pressure and are also high in fiber that lower cholesterol and maintain blood sugar
    • Almonds: high in plant sterols, calcium, and fiber and may reduce bad LDL cholesterol.

2. LIFESTYLE

Sedentary lifestyle, as well as exposure to environmental toxins and heavy metals also increase your risk. Smoking greatly increases your risk of developing CVD.

Tip: Avoid smoking and exposure to environmental toxins, reduce stress levels and exercise regularly 3-5 times a week

Make sure to discuss these factors with your doctor, as heart disease is largely preventable and it is important to find the right program for you.

Tips to Achieving Your New Years Resolution!

 

 

It’s that time of the year again where we try once and for all to ditch those old habits and introduce some good ones. We may try to begin the year healthier by exercising more, eating right, sleeping more or shedding some of those extra holiday pounds. So, how do we make our New Years resolutions successful? Below are some SMART tips to help achieve your goals so that they last a lifetime!

SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

1. Set Specific goals: Create a goal that is specific. For example, pick a specific number of pounds you would like to lose in a specific time frame whether it is 5 lbs in 1 month or 20 lbs in 4 months.

2. Track and Measure progress: Write down your progress and track short term goals. They are easier to attain and provide constant motivation and positive reinforcement. Journaling is very important. Another way to measure your progress is to make you more conscious about your goals is to talk about it. Make sure you tell your family and friends what your goal. This way they can help you achieve it. If weight loss is your goal, you could join a gym with a friend to keep each other motivated. If better nutrition is your goal, then your partner could support you better by not bringing home certain foods you are trying to avoid. Developing a support system is key to attaining your goal!

3. Plan ahead and make it attainable: Make sure you are ready for this change mentally. You really have to want to attain the goal! Know that there are going to be barriers or obstacles that you may have to overcome. It’s also important to record potential temptations or situations may move you off track from your goal. Knowing what your up against is a big step to staying on track.

4. Stick to your timeline: It can take up to 6 months for this new goal to become ingrained into your lifestyle. Keep pushing forward!

 

A few other tips to helping your achieve your New Years Resolution Success is:

1. Reward yourself: Make sure you don’t get in the habit early on that this goal is “punishment.” This is a lifestyle change that will maintain for the rest of your life. You may slip up along the way, but the key is to recognize your mistakes and get right back on track.

2. Keep trying: If you are down because it didn’t work out the first time, then try, try again. You can start back up at any time!

Dr. Clayton Koganow BSc, ND