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  • Ask an expert

    Pose a question to one of our health-care professionals.

    Every two weeks we'll feature a column from one of our health-care experts:

    • Registered dietitian Andrea Holwegner.
    • Associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine Brett Taylor.
    • Registered psychologist Melanie Barwick, specializing in children's mental health.
    • Certified athletic therapist Russell Gunner.
    • Naturopathic doctor Lorne Swetlikoff.

    They're also here to answer your questions and deal with the issues you want dealt with.

    This site is intended for informational purposes only — it is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have specific questions about specific symptoms, treatments or nutritional issues see your medical professional.



  • Regulating natural health products

    Unsubstantiated health claims, misrepresentation of content, and shady manufacturing and importation practices, do not enhance the health of Canadians and can pose a health risk, says naturopathic doctor Lorne Swetlikoff. Regulating natural products to make sure they're safe makes sense. But, he says, a closer look at Bill C-51 raises concerns like reduced public access to certain natural medicines that naturopathic doctors recommend and that Canadians depend on.

    Do you see the proposed legislation as a threat to your access to natural health products — or a welcome effort to make sure Canadians have access to safe products?



  • Gardening injuries

    It's that time of year again - gardeners are invading the big box stores. But don't let their carts loaded with plants and gardening goodies intimidate you. There's a good chance the not-so-careful gardener could end up on the injured list.

    All that lifting and digging can put a lot of stress on your back and other muscles. The morning after an all-day planting session will surely reveal that you have muscles you never knew you had.

    Athletic therapist Russell Gunner offers these tips on avoiding gardening injuries.

    Have you woken up the morning after a long day of gardening to find out you couldn't get out of bed?

    Tell us your tales of gardening ouch.



  • Kids and 'frienemies"

    A frienemy is a "toxic" person who poses as a friend but secretly wishes you harm. Frienemies represent the push and pull between love and hate and, for most women, are something we have learned to contend with at some point or other. For school-aged girls, the lessons can be tough.

    Child psychologist Melanie Barwick offered some tips on guiding parents and kids through a difficult stage.

    How do you handle your child's difficult relationships with friends?



  • The healing body

    For most people, a routine medical checkup can be an anxiety-ridden experience. Anticipating being told that something is "wrong" can conjure up stressful feelings. When a checkup comes back normal, we rejoice and, for the most part, continue life as usual. Lorne Swetlikoff, a Vancouver-based doctor of naturopathic medicine, says "normal" may not explain why we don't quite feel right and the absence of disease may not necessarily constitute good health.

    Do you turn to alternatives when traditional medicine fails you?



  • Fear of failing?

    Calgary nutritionist Andrea Holwegner wonders why some people are so repelled by the idea of dietitians and the field of nutrition. Is it because the diet industry and many so-called health professionals have them believing that in order to be healthy, food must taste awful, be part of some special product or be difficult to prepare? Or could it be that they feel guilty that this is one area of their lives they value tremendously but can?t seem to figure out? Holwegner says people need to realize that you don't have to be perfect to make change.

    Does the fear of failing keep you from good nutrition habits?



  • Back to spring

    Been cooped up indoors the past few months? As winter fades to spring, Canadians will be returning to the great outdoors in droves. Certified athletic therapist Russell Gunner suggests a go-easy approach, if you've spent much of the winter a little less active than you'd prefer.

    What's your strategy for getting back into spring shape?



  • Kids and cash

    Child psychologist Melanie Barwick says as soon as kids are old enough to consciously observe their parents' spending habits, they begin to form similar impressions of the value of money. Essentially, what kids need to learn about saving money, making it grow and spending it wisely begins at home. Here are some tips on guiding your child through the money maze.

    How do you teach your children the value of money? Did your parents teach you how to handle money?

    Share your thoughts.



  • The cost of child abuse

    When it comes to child abuse, Halifax pediatrician Dr. Brett Taylor says there is a lot of emotion and precious little logic, in our approach. Just over two children per 100 in Canada are investigated for signs of possible child abuse or neglect each year, according to the Canadian Incidence Study published in 2005. Taylor wonders why ? as a country ? we're not taking action to dramatically decrease the number of children hurt.

    In the United States, a study in 2001 found that child abuse and maltreatment costs as much as $258 million per day. That includes direct costs such as hospitalization, chronic health problems, increased burden on child welfare systems and indirect costs such as juvenile delinquency and adult criminality.

    What do you think shoud be done to decrease incidences of child abuse?



  • The magnetic pull of the scale

    Your weight is a reflection of your nutrition and exercise habits and not necessarily just a product of ?calories in? versus ?calories out?. Your weight is a reflection of many complex factors above and beyond your food and activity habits such as genetics, family history, age, gender, body composition, sleep habits, hormones and stress levels.

    Some of these factors we can change. Others are stubborn unchangeable parts we are stuck with.

    Despite that many of us appear to be slaves to the scale, groaning when it says we're at the same weight we were a week ago, despite all that hard work in the gym or the restraint at the dinner table.

    What's your barometer for a healthy weight?



  • Kids and cellphones

    Some people believe cellphones are a must-have gadget for children these days to help ensure their safety. Others worry about the potential health effects of wireless technology, and the the kind of mischief kids can get into when they're toting a cellphone. Would you provide a child with his or her own mobile phone?



  • Disease, risk and community

    It is just before midnight. The ambulance is five minutes out, carrying a four-year-old with a known history of asthma who awoke with marked respiratory distress. The ambulance personnel have reported that the child is alert but breathing 50 to 60 times per minute, working hard, and that the O2Sat (the amount of oxygen in her blood stream) is abnormally low.

    The charge nurse has cleared a bed and another nurse has been pre-assigned.

    Sounds like a good opening for a TV show, right? Except that, like a TV show, it's a construct, a fabrication. There really isn't much of an emergency here.



  • Energy levels and diet

    What would change in your life if you raised your energy by 10, 20, or even 30 per cent by taking a closer look at your nutrition?



  • Winter exercise

    Whatever your outdoor activity, exercising in the winter presents challenges in this country. So much so that some of us would rather spend those long winter evenings comfortably planted on the couch.

    Are we better off staying indoors as the temperature drops or is there no substitute for getting out and getting the blood flowing?

    What do you do to make sure you're comfortable in the winter — while steering clear of possible injuries?



  • Leaving the nest

    Getting your teenager ready to make that transition to post-secondary education doesn't need to be full of anxiety, indecision, procrastination, or even tears. Toronto psychologist Dr. Melanie Barwick says approaching this milestone in an orderly and organized fashion can ease parental tensions and keep teens on a charted course toward success.

    How are you approaching your teen's move from high school to post-secondary life? Will it differ from your own experience?




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