Up In Flames

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - May 28, 2005
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Dr. Laurie Steelsmith offers Denise
Grayzell a mixture of steaming herbs

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always on the go. My calendar is usually filled with meetings, functions, errands, and I rarely ever have a day off.

But I love being busy. My friends are always telling me to slow down and relax. That my high energy is not normal. And my lack of sleep not healthy. And they’re right.

A recent visit with Dr. Laurie Steelsmith, a licensed naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist and practitioner of Chinese medicine, made me realize the importance of having balance in life.

“Somebody who has lots of energy, who gets energy off other people, who has a bubbly personality and loves to communicate, tends to have more of a fire element in them,” explains Steelsmith. “And some of the things that may help you create better health in your life is to create time to nurture yourself. Although you get a lot of energy and excitement from interacting with other people, it’s important for you to go and be alone, whether it’s exercising, meditating or yoga — things that are very quieting.”

At my age, 26, I can kind of get away with it now, but Steelsmith says it’ll eventually catch up to me.

“What will happen is your blood sugar tends to drop, and when your blood sugar drops you end up having a higher level of stress hormone,” she explains. “Ultimately it can affect your immune system and aging. Your bones and skin aren’t as healthy as they can be.”

According to Steelsmith’s new book, Natural Choices for Women’s Health, we each have all of the five elements — wood, fire, earth, metal and water — within us, but one element can dominate.

For me, it’s the fire element, which “symbolizes love and rules summer, the months of intense growth and heat.”

Fire types are people who enjoy expressing themselves verbally, speaking rapidly, doing just about everything quickly, and thrive on sports involving constant motion.

But like a burning candle, fire types can also burn out. The solution: Nourish your heart, keep your energy focused on what’s really important in your life, make time to nurture yourself, eat regular meals and don’t allow yourself to get hungry, limit your intake of hot and spicy foods, practice deep breathing on a regular basis, maintain healthy emotional boundaries with others, engage in activities that bring you joy, and quiet your mind through meditation, visualization and peaceful thoughts.

According to Steelsmith, knowing your personality type in Chinese medicine’s five element system is vital to your health.

Her new book is a step-by-step guide to promoting optimal wellness.

It can help you figure out your personality type, and how to prevent illness and support wellness. For example, it lists which foods and nutrients are most beneficial for your type, and how your element influences your moods and emotions.

You can learn how to use herbs such as garlic, oregano oil, berberine and olive leaf extract. There’s a guide to treating a cold or flu with natural medicine, as well as a section on Chinese herbal aphrodisiacs.

And it offers countless tips and solutions for problems such as insomnia, anxiety and depression.

“This book comes from wanting to help more women achieve optimal health,” says Steelsmith. “I work with a lot of women, and it’s almost like I hear the same stories over and over again. There are some very basic tools that women need to be able to achieve. These basic tools have to do with their lifestyle.

“I do call a lifestyle here a Naturally Healthy Lifestyle, and I’ve also, within that, created what I call a Naturally Healthy Diet, which is a diet that’s really sound. It’s not vegetarian. It’s not vegan. It’s just a really basic, wholesome diet.”

The book also features healthy diet and exercise strategies, symptoms checklists, tips, at-aglance self-care recommendations that address the most common health conditions for women of all ages, and self-quizzes which Steelsmith says are important in figuring out what’s going on with a person.

“One of the themes of this book is that no drug can replace a lifetime of healthy choices,” says Steelsmith. “And one thing that makes this book unique is that it uses natural medicine, incorporating both Western naturopathic and Chinese medicine.”

Natural Choices for Women’s Health is available now at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com. Upcoming book signings with Steelsmith: Borders (Waikele) May 28 from noon to 1 p.m., Borders (Ward Centre) May 29 from noon to 1 p.m., and Bestsellers (Downtown, Bishop Square) June 9 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

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