Mar 2

Sitting is the New Smoking

By Melanie Gillians, RMT

There is a movement happening, a movement on moving! Recently I have read countless articles, dedicated to the importance of movement for optimal health. As a society, we have become stationary. Our careers and lifestyles in North America have become directed by technology. This keeps us sitting for long periods of time. Getting up and moving is becoming increasingly less required. More notably, the hour workout after work is not enough to counter the effects of being immobile for the majority of our days. Some of the terrifying effects associated with immobility range from aches and pains to an increase risk in cancer and diabetes. The evidence is clear, “sitting is the new smoking”. So how do we counter these negative effects if our lifestyles are becoming less conducive to movement?

As a massage therapist working downtown Toronto I have become very familiar with the aches, pains, and ailments associated with lack of movement. Hectic work hours, exhaustion from working too much, and lack of physical stimulation as a result of the chronic usage of electronic devices, are often the root cause of the problem. I wish that a cure for these aches and pains were as simple as a regular massage. While massage can be very beneficial, the answer to the problem is going to require a deeper understanding of our culture of movement.

So what happens to our body when we are stationary the majority of the day?

First off, the circulation is slowed. The musculoskeletal pump that encourages movement of blood and lymph throughout our body is not being utilized as efficiently as needed. This forces our heart to work harder, making the correlation between immobility and cardiovascular disease apparent. Our musculoskeletal system is built for movement, when we spend our days seated, certain muscles become contracted and short while others become lengthened and weak, creating an imbalance. This imbalance causes an increase in the normal curvature of the thoracic spine and rib cage. This can lead to a common condition I regularly see in practice, shoulder-cross syndrome. Shoulder-cross syndrome is due to one set of muscles shortening due to a contracted tight posture, while the opposing group gets weak due to disuse. For example, the Pectoralis muscles and the lateral neck muscles become short and tight from rounding forward and extending the neck forward. Adaptively the Rhomboids, Thoracic Erector Spinae and anterior neck muscles become weak and inhibited from being lengthened. These muscles fatigue very easily as they have become weak, which results in what we are seeing more frequently as severely rounded shoulders, a head forward posture, and an increase in the thoracic curvature of the spine, known as hyperkyphosis.

How can massage help?

Massage mechanically increases circulation throughout the body and therefore will help to move lymph and metabolites back into the circulatory system. This is not a preventative measure for cardiovascular issues however it helps to maintain tissue health. Massage can help to relieve the hypertonicity in short and tight muscles, stimulate underused weak muscles, and decrease the discomfort associated with hyperkyphosis and shoulder-cross syndrome. My approach to treatment is focused on mobilizing the scapulas, releasing the muscles surrounding the scapulas, decreasing tension in the pecs and neck, stretching out tight muscles, and mobilizing stiff joints. This treatment has proven to be successful in combination with the clients self-care and dedication to one’s own wellness. Massage can get you back into a position where you can move more fluidly with less discomfort and stiffness, but it is up to you to keep moving.

In addition, there are many exercises that can alleviate muscle imbalance and help to maintain a rebalanced system. Generally these include simple stretches for the Pecs and neck in combination with isometric muscle activation of the Rhomboids and scapula retractors. Every massage therapist is knowledgeable of these exercises and should be willing to properly demonstrate how to perform them simply, correctly, and effectively. However, the most simplistic way of curing hyperkyphosis and shoulder-cross syndrome is movement. Movement doesn’t have to entail a high-intensity work out or a crazy body building regiment. Movement is as simple as walking or standing up and stretching, but doing so more frequently. I try and encourage my clients to schedule a reminder in their phone calendar that goes off every hour to encourage a movement break. Or incorporate a core stability ball into the office setting and rotating it to every ones desk at some point in the day. The core stability ball encourages engaging the core muscles, creating a more erect posture. It utilizes the muscles that get weakened from disuse in a slouchy posture. In turn this alleviates the increased kyphotic posture. Standing desks are also becoming more popular, however we need to be aware that postural dysfunctions can be associated with standing still for long periods of time. So, for every one with a standing desk, it is also very important to move around and take a regular break to stretch the shoulders and bend the knees. That natural pump our muscles and bones create for our circulatory system needs movement and contraction to achieve its maximum benefit.

Becoming self-aware and listening to our body is a major step in implementing wellness into our lifestyles. Massage therapy is a very physically and emotionally challenging career. It has forced me to become self-aware and really focus on my own health and wellness. I have to counter the postural effects of giving massage and stay mentally strong in order to be the best I can be for my clients. Without physical activity, there would be no longevity to my career. I would not be able to physically treat my clients without injuring myself or block the energy shared in such an engaging practice. I encourage you to push yourselves to be physical. To be active. To be healthy. I am blessed to be apart of a wonderful team at the Integrative Health Institute that push me to live and breathe the embodiment of health. Good health enables empowered, authentic living.

MelanieGMelanie Gillians is a Registered Massage Therapist who graduated from the Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy. She is registered with the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario and is a member of the Registered Massage Therapist Association of Ontario. She has completed continuing education in pregnancy massage, infant massage, and sports massage.

For more information, feel free to contact Melanie at mgillians@integrativehealthinstitute.ca

Upcoming seminar:

Movement is Medicine
Presented by Melanie Gillians, RMT
Sunday, March 29th, 2015
12:30pm-1:30pm
Complimentary

Register here

 

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Feb 23

Winter Detox

Dr. Wiley - Winter Fun

Dr. Wiley – Winter Fun

 

Dr. Wiley’s Top 4 Winter Detox Strategies

Detoxification does not have to mean following a strict diet or cleansing plan. In fact, it is best if we make detoxification an easy part of our lifestyle. The key is to change our mindset by focusing on the health behaviors we want to embrace, instead of focusing on those we want to avoid. This can be a very motivating mental shift. After all, what we think about we bring about. Here are my top four detoxification strategies that will fuel your metabolism!

Embrace your winter greens!

Your liver loves green veggies. As an organ of elimination, the liver is constantly challenged by stress, alcohol, sugar, saturated fats, and chemicals in our environment. Eating a little more green vegetables can go along way to help you feel your best. I recommend eating green veggies with every meal. Breakfast is a great place to start. An easy low carbohydrate green smoothie is the perfect accompaniment to a high protein breakfast. Simple affordable Broccoli is one of the top detoxification veggies on the planet. It can be cooked in an instant and enjoyed as a soup, side or salad. Cabbage is a wonderful stir-fry companion. Try loading your stir-fry with so much cabbage that you won’t need any rice. Kale makes a great long lasting salad that once prepped can be easily accessed for a few days from the fridge. Greens are trendy, cauliflower is the new mashed potato, zucchini is the new pasta, and every health-hipster loves their roasted brussel sprouts. When it comes to greens, the detoxification secret is simple. Load ½ your plate with green veggies and enjoy!

Soups, stews and the winter magic of your slow cooker!

Nothing says warm winter nourishment better than the smell of homemade chicken soup. Soups and stews provide some time saving leverage. It is easy to make a large batch that will last for a few days. Soup broth and slow cooked food is very easy for your body to digest. The micronutrients are dissolved in the broth and readily accessible to your body for detoxification and optimal hydration. Easy digestion also makes for better elimination and health bowel movements.

Simple and soothing Green tea!

Do not underestimate the health benefits of simple green tea. Green tea is loaded with anti-oxidants. It has anti-cancer and anti-aging properties. It is great for your brain and metabolism, and it has more research and positive health benefits than any other food I have ever studied. Relative to supplements and other Superfoods it is extremely affordable and easy to consume. Unlike coffee, it improves focus and concentration while having a relaxing effect on the brain. It is also great way to warm up in the winter.

 Warming winter spices are delicious and even more nutritious!

Natural spices don’t just add flavor they significantly enhance nutrition. Culturally we have removed spices from many processed foods and replaced them with artificial flavour sugar and salt, ingredients that are void of nutritional value. Turmeric is loaded with anti-oxidants and is a great anti-inflammatory. It is especially amazing because it genetically signals your body to make more glutathione, a very powerful internal anti-oxidant. Tasty Ginger is also very rich in anti-oxidants, warming to the soul, and calming to the digestive system. Delicious Cocoa is so full of flavinoids that it reduces risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Anti-oxidants help your body to detoxify. It’s time to put that turmeric curry, delicious ginger chicken, and a dark cup of hot cocoa on your meal plan and savour!

May these simple health promoting tips help you cultivate your detoxification lifestyle.

Dr. Erin Wiley is a naturopathic doctor with a strong focus on preventative and integrative medicine. She is the Owner and Clinic Director of the Integrative Health Institute, an integrative medical clinic located in downtown Toronto. Erin has a strong clinical emphasis on stress related illness, anxiety, depression and hormone balance. As a naturopathic doctor, Erin is passionate about working with people to help them better understand their health and achieve their health goals.

 

 

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Feb 17

Welcome To The Month Of Love

by Corinne K., Authentic Living Coach & Reiki Practitioner

From Hallmark cards, to chocolate hearts, long-stem roses and romantic dinners, February is often marked as the Month of Love – the perfect time to profess our undying devotion.

We’ve all watched cheesy romantic movies with storybook happy endings. From Bridget Jones and her diary to Katherine Hiegl’s endless pursuit of love, we’re programmed to believe that real love is something we can find from someone else. It’s something that we have to search for from Mr. or Miss. Right. As if loving someone else suddenly makes us more loveable and worthy.

Now don’t get me wrong. Someone loving you unconditionally, despite all your weird habits, past mistakes and eccentricities is magical. But when we find that kind of love, it needs to be an extension – a reflection of the love we feel for ourselves. The whole Jerry Maguire “you complete me” mentality is all wrong.

We have to start with really loving ourselves.

Loving ourselves is about knowing what we value so that we’re surrounded with the right people, places and things.

Loving ourselves is about recognizing and maintaining healthy boundaries so that we invest energy in what counts.

Loving ourselves is about speaking kindly to ourselves when we make a mistake. We take a breath, learn the lesson and move on.

Loving ourselves is about standing up for what we believe in even when others shoot us down.

Loving ourselves is knowing that there’s no such thing as perfection. It’s about seeing us in the mirror everyday, proud to be exactly who and what we are, flaws and all.

Loving ourselves is about chasing our dreams despite the stories that we may come up with that convince us not to. We all tell ourselves stories. We convince ourselves that we can’t do or be something because:

A) Someone told us so.
B) We tried something and it didn’t work the first time.
C) It’s too hard.
D) It’ll take too long.
E) Other people do it better or easier.
F) X event happened X years ago and because of that, we’re stuck.

For the longest time, my story went something like this:

Who am I to have a love that accepts me as I am? Who am I to really love my job? Who am I to shine? Who am I to chase my dreams? Who am I to expect that I can create a full life when there are so many people out there without what I’m wishing for?

Who am I not to? Cue Marianne Williamsom. Note – she refers to G-O-D in this quote. God can be anything you want it to be – the universe, your soul, your angels, whatever you like – this is not about religion. This is about being freaking fabulous.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

So what’s your story? What are you telling yourself that’s holding you back? What excuses are you using to keep yourself stuck?

You’re the only one who can rewrite that story to get closer and closer to who you want to be in this world. Rewrite your story. Tell yourself why you deserve everything you want.

And go get it.

Much love, XXX

Corinne K.
Change Catalyst. Reiki Practitioner. Soul Healer.

I help my clients live more authentic and full lives by encouraging them to embrace change and life holistically.  My coaching is a mix of straight-up conversations, goal setting, Reiki, creativity and fun. For more information on Corinne, please check out her website.

Corinne is hosting a seminar, ‘February Lovin’’ at IHI this Thursday, February 19th 6:30-7:30pm. Sign up here!

 

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Feb 9

Menstrual Cramps – A Real Pain in the… Uterus

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By Dr. Shannon Vander Doelen, ND

One of our favourite sayings here at IHI is “just because something is common, doesn’t mean it’s normal.” This statement is definitely applicable to dysmenorrhea, which is the medical term for painful menstruation. If I were a betting kind of gal, I would bet that you know a few women who suffer with severe pain each time they get their period.

Common? Yes.
Normal? Debatable.

Menstruation is a normal physiological process that women experience cyclically (approximately every 28 days, but this varies from woman to woman). It is governed by a series of hormonal signals and inflammatory chemicals that predictably rise and fall throughout the cycle. The whole process is set up so that the uterus is prepared to be the perfect environment for a fertilized egg to develop and grow. However, if fertilization doesn’t occur, the result is menstruation. For some women this occurs with minimal and manageable discomfort, or no pain at all (awesome!) For others, the pain is so intense that pain medications, or even staying home from school or work are required. Month after month, this can become exhausting and stressful. Traditional medical interventions like prescription pain medication and the birth control pill aim to treat the symptoms. However, to nip the pain in the bud once and for all it is important to address the underlying cause. Here are 5 possible causes of dysmenorrhea.

  1. Endometriosis or Fibroids

Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrial tissue that normally grows inside of the uterus is found outside of the uterus (in the pelvic or abdominal cavity, attached to your ovaries, etc.). Fibroids are benign growths within or on the uterus. Both can cause severe menstrual pain.

  1. Hormonal Imbalance

Remember I said that the menstrual cycle is governed by hormones? If these hormones are out of balance, or rise and fall at the wrong time during the cycle, they can contribute to pain. Furthermore, if the hormonal detoxification pathways are compromised in anyway, an excess of hormones like estrogen may develop which can also lead to dysmenorrhea.

  1. Nutrient Deficiencies

Our uterus is a muscle, and like all muscles it can contract and relax. This is necessary for the endometrial tissue to get out of the uterus if it is no longer needed. Muscles need particular nutrients like calcium and magnesium to allow full relaxation after contraction. We also need certain vitamins and minerals for our detoxification pathways to work properly to prevent that build up of hormones in our body.

  1. Excessive Inflammation

Those contractions I was talking about – they are due to inflammatory chemicals our body releases called prostaglandins and leukotrienes. When these chemicals are present in large quantities, they are going to cause more intense contractions that can starve the uterine muscle itself of oxygen, and therefore cause more pain.

  1. Stagnation

I often look to Traditional Chinese Medicine to give me clues as to the underlying cause of different symptoms. In TCM, menstrual cramps may be due to something called Qi Stagnation. Qi (“chee”), akin to energy, is supposed to flow freely through the body. When the flow isn’t smooth as it related to the menstrual cycle and the movement of endometrial tissue out of the uterus, it can lead to cramping and pain. Why does Qi stagnate? From anger, worry and stress, inactivity, poor diet, and poor sleep, among other things.

Want to learn more? Join me this Thursday, February 12th at 6:30pm for my Menstrual Cramps 101 Seminar. Sign up HERE or by contacting reception.

 

IMG_2905_2Shannon will work with you to help you live your healthiest and happiest life. Since this means something different to everyone, she is excited about exploring your individual needs and working with you to create a treatment plan that is unique and sustainable for you and your busy lifestyle. Shannon is passionate about health and happiness and believes that the two go hand-in-hand.

Clinically, Shannon practices functional medicine. She maintains a general family practice, with a special interest in managing fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression; digestive health; skin health; irregular or painful menstruation; and endocrine/hormonal disorders.

Photo Credit: Vanessa Bazzano via Flickr CC

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Feb 2

Don’t Trust the Toucan, Holy Crap vs Froot Loops

By Dr. Jen Newell, ND

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, MD recently posted a blog revealing the “healthwashing” surrounding Holy Crap cereal and compared this cereal to Froot Loops. While I love Dr. Freedhoff’s intention of educating people about nutrition, I think some nutrition myths and misinformation were provided in this instance. Dr. Freedhoff, if you happen to stumble across this blog I encourage you to continue with your mission but I also suggest you look a little deeper.

Don’t trust the Toucan
I would strongly encourage people to eat Holy Crap over Froot Loops any day. Let’s compare the two:

 

 

Holy Crap vs Froot Loops

Holy Crap vs Froot Loops

 

Dr. Freedhoff’s primary concern with Holy Crap cereal is the small serving size of just 2 tbsp and the price. However, I am not sure he has tried this cereal because if he had he would be aware of how filling 2 tbsp of chia seeds and other sources of soluble fibre and protein can be. I would be concerned if someone were to have more than this 2 tbsp serving because without sufficient water intake they may become incredibly and uncomfortably constipated and with sufficient hydration you may not leave your bathroom all day. Those 2 tbsp contain 6 g of fibre as well as 5 g of protein, making this cereal really filling. Also, had he tried this cereal he would see that 2 tbsp of this cereal when mixed with a liquid becomes a much more substantial serving as the chia seeds plump and develop their slippery slimy coating.
The other thing that Dr. Freedhoff failed to mention is the significant research on the value of soluble fibre in the diet. The recommended daily intake of fibre is a minimum of 25 g/day; however, the average North American only consumes ~15 g/day. Dietary fibre has been shown to promote healthy weight loss, stabilize blood glucose levels, prevent cardiovascular disease and reduce unhealthy cholesterol values.
He also failed to mention anything about the ingredient quality of both cereals. Its like comparing apples to donuts. The Holy Crap cereal is jam-packed with high quality, non-GMO, organic, unprocessed, real food ingredients. Froot Loops are a minefield of nutrient void, heavily processed, food-like ingredients offering little to no health benefits.
I don’t think its fair to compare Holy Crap and Froot Loops “spoon-for-spoon”. Just by looking at the ingredients and the nutrient quality of both cereals I know which one I would choose for breakfast.

Have an awesome day!
Dr. Jen Newell

Dr. Jen Newell is passionate about helping people embrace health, feel amazing and easily incorporate “real” food into their busy lives. Her mission is to make health accessible and achievable, and to inspire patients to live an active, vibrant and healthy life.

Jen has a clinical focus on digestive health, food sensitivities and healthy nutrition; mental health and stress-related illness; women’s health, hormone balance and fertility; optimal aging; and dermatology. She focuses on integrating healthy foods into one’s diet in a medicinal and therapeutic capacity and providing individuals with nutritional support that is easy to incorporate into a busy day. Dr. Newell practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.

 

 

 

 

Research:

Ali, et al. (2012, Nov 21). The Promising Future of Chia, Salvia hispanica L. J Biomed Biotechnol .

Brown, et al. (1999). Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr , 69, 30-42.

Fuchs, et al. (1999). Dietary Fiber and the Risk of Colorectal Cancer and Adenoma in Women. N Engl J Med , 340, 169-176.

Krishnan S, et al. (2007). Glycemic index, glycemic load, and cereal fiber intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in US black women. Arch Intern Med , 167, 2304-2309.

Mellen PB, et al. (2007). Whole grain intake and cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis .

Park, et al. (2005). Dietary Fiber Intake and Risk of Colorectal Cancer: A Pooled Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. JAMA , 294, 2849-2857.

Pereira, et al. (2004). Dietary Fiber and risk of coronary heart disease: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. Arch Intern Med , 164, 370-376.

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Jan 26

Five Key Nutrients for Headaches

2332755401_091ac67b7c_oby Dr Lisa Watson, ND

Almost half of all adults suffer from headaches and the mental, emotional and physical impacts of headaches are often under recognized and under-treated by medical professionals.

The majority (90%) of headaches are vascular or tension-type, or a mixture of the two. Vascular headaches include both migraines and cluster headaches. The remaining 10% of headaches are due to other conditions such as trauma, dental pain, visual strain, TMJ disorders, neck disorders, sinus inflammation or tumours.

As a Naturopathic Doctor it is important that each person with a headache receive an appropriate intake and assessment to determine underlying causes and precipitating factors impacting their headaches.

In addition to understanding the possible causes of headache, understanding the impact of five key nutrients on headaches allows your Naturopath to assess your diet and recommend supplements where needed.

Magnesium

Low levels of magnesium are typically found in patients with vascular (migraine and cluster headache) and tension type headaches. Increasing dietary magnesium, or using a magnesium supplement can decrease the pain associated with magnesium.

Magnesium also acts as a muscle relaxant and can decrease the tension associated with tension headaches.

Foods that are rich in magnesium include pumpkin and sesame seeds, leafy green vegetables, soy beans, black beans, quinoa, cashews, squash, brown rice, barley, millet and oats.

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

One of the suspected underlying causes of migraine headaches is impaired mitochondrial function in the brain and in muscles. Riboflavin is necessary for the function of two enzymes involved in this process and can improve the energy reserves of the mitochondria without altering the excitability of neurons.

Riboflavin is used as a prevention for migraine headaches but will not change headache duration or intensity once it is occurring.

Food sources of riboflavin include soy beans, leafy green vegetables, yogurt, mushrooms, eggs, asparagus, almonds, turkey, broccoli, green beans, bell peppers, green peas and sea vegetables.

CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10, Ubiquinone)

Similar to riboflavin, CoQ10 also enhances the energy-related mitochondrial processes that are impaired in patients with migraine headaches. Taking a daily CoQ10 supplement can prevent migraines but will not impact a headache once it is occurring. Digestive upset can occur with CoQ10 supplements and they should only be taken under supervision by a Naturopathic Doctor.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

One of the best things you can do for headaches is to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats, found in cold water fish and flax seeds, have many benefits for both vascular and tension headaches. Omega-3s are powerful anti-inflammatories, decreasing the production of inflammatory molecules in your body. They are also vasorelaxant and decrease platelet aggregation – two of the underlying physiological changes in migraine headaches.

Clinical studies have suggested that fish oil can reduce headache frequency dramatically as well and decreasing duration and severity.

Omega-3 supplements are readily available and food sources include flaxseeds, walnuts, sardines, salmon, soy beans, fortified eggs and grass fed beef.

Vitamin D

Many more Canadians are becoming aware of the importance of vitamin D. It is necessary for immune function, bone health, diabetes and cancer prevention. It is also required for the production and response to serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter with multiple influences on headaches. Altered serotonin release is known to be one of the many physiological results of migraine headaches and low serotonin production, or low response to serotonin can decrease pain threshold.

All Canadians should be taking a vitamin D supplement during the winter months, but those suffering with headaches should be sure to have their vitamin D levels tested and take a supplement based on their individual needs. Often the recommended daily allowance (600-800IU) is inadequate for people suffering with headaches.

Putting It Together

Working with a Naturopathic Doctor is your best chance for successful management of headaches. Focusing on lifestyle, diet, exercise, nutrients and integrating other therapies such as massage therapy, chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture and botanical medicines can turn your life around and stop the headache cycle once and for all.

 

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

 

LwatsonDr. Lisa Watson delivers health care that supports balanced and attainable health at all ages and stages of life. Of primary importance is health care that nurtures the body, mind, spirit, family and community.  As a Naturopathic Doctor and mother, Lisa believes that health care and a healthy lifestyle are intrinsically linked and that each serves to support the other. Dr. Watson practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.

Follow Dr. Watson on Twitter
Check out Dr Watson’s blog: www.drlisawatson.com

Photo Credit: aldoaldoz via Compfight cc

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Jan 19

4 Reasons Your Thyroid May Contributing to Infertility

8515615966_abf608b976_oBy Dr Jen Newell, ND

Since my recent experience at the Restorative Medicine conference in Santa Fe, I have been seeing more and more professional women at my office suffering from the symptoms associated with low thyroid function. These driven, successful women are most often concerned about of fatigue, increased body fat (especially around their stomachs), low mood, menstrual irregularities and difficulty conceiving. They just “don’t feel like themselves” anymore. I recently saw a very successful woman in a highly stressful career who was struggling to get pregnant; this has become an all too common concern of the women I regularly see so my focus recently has been on optimizing their adrenal and thyroid health to support fertility.

Underactive thyroid symptoms and infertility symptoms are very similar; women having fertility challenges may have underlying thyroid dysfunction even when lab values of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) are normal.

Here are 4 reasons your thyroid may be keeping you from getting pregnant:

  1. Anovulation

The inability to ovulate midway through the menstrual cycle (typically around day 14) is a very common symptom of hypothyroidism.

  1. Luteal Phase Defect

Often with subclinical and clinical hypothyroidism the second half of the cycle, after ovulation, is too short. This prevents a fertilized egg from implanting securely within the uterine lining. Often this results in the period that follows to be heavy and later than expected.

  1. Elevated Prolactin

Thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) is released from the hypothalamus and acts on the pituitary. When TRH levels are high it drives an elevation of prolactin (produced in the pituitary gland) which suppresses ovulation.

  1. Estrogen Dominance

Hormonal imbalances can affect the efficiency of the thyroid. Having a relative excess of estrogen inhibits the ability of the thyroid to produce hormones. This is a double whammy affecting fertility as estrogen dominance often is paired with low levels of progesterone, which is necessary for a successful pregnancy.

Signs of estrogen dominance (these look a lot like the symptoms of subclinical hypothyroidism):

–       weight gain

–       PMS (painful cramps especially)

–       mood swings

–       heavy flow with periods

–       breast tenderness

–       decreased libido

–       headaches and migraines

–       insomnia

Check your thyroid function here.

 

Dr. Jen Newell is passionate about helping people embrace health, feel amazing and easily incorporate “real” food into their busy lives. Her mission is to make health accessible and achievable, and to inspire patients to live an active, vibrant and healthy life.

Jen has a clinical focus on digestive health, food sensitivities and healthy nutrition; mental health and stress-related illness; women’s health, hormone balance and fertility; optimal aging; and dermatology. She focuses on integrating healthy foods into one’s diet in a medicinal and therapeutic capacity and providing individuals with nutritional support that is easy to incorporate into a busy day. Dr. Newell practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.

Photo Credit: VinothChandar via Compfight cc

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Jan 12

Eight Benefits of Hula Hooping

IMG_0265Dr Lisa Watson, ND

Exercise crazes come and go. One year you are sweating to the oldies, the next you are Zumba dancing your heart out. You may have tried kick boxing, tae bo, the ab roller, or even the thigh master. But have you tried hula hooping?

Hula hooping began as a child’s toy in 1958 and enjoyed a brief heyday through the late fifties and early sixties. But adults and teens around the world have taken this wonderful toy and given it a renaissance. We are hoopers!

I want to share with you eight reasons you should try hula hooping. It goes far beyond exercise and I want to tell you why.

  1. It’s a Full Body Workout

You may think that hula hooping is done mostly on your waist, and while that may be true for beginners, most hula hoopers enjoy using the hoop on their whole body. You can hoop on your chest, shoulders, hips, knees, arms, hands, feet and more. Even just hooping on your waist works as many as 30 different muscles!

 

  1. It Builds a Killer Core

Waist hooping works your core like no other exercise. Using muscles both in your abdomen (upper and lower abdominal muscles) as well as muscles in your back you can strengthen the core as well as burn nasty abdominal fat.

 

  1. Hooping Burns a Crazy Amount of Calories

The amazing team over at the American Council on Exercise did a study that showed waist hooping can burn over 400 calories per hour. To give you some perspective that’s similar to an hour of tennis, hiking, stationary rowing or elliptical training.

 

  1. Hooping Gets Your Heart Pumping

Cardiovascular exercise (aka “cardio”, aka “aerobic exercise”) results in improved heart health by both strengthening and enlarging the heart muscle, allowing it to pump more efficiently and reducing both heart rate and blood pressure. Engaging in cardiovascular exercise has been shown to have many benefits for lifelong health and can reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Who knew a hoop could do all that?

 

  1. Hooping Improves Hand-Eye Coordination

I don’t know about you, but this was something I was not expecting when I picked up my first hoop! But looking around at all the amazing hoopers in my hoop class I knew I needed to learn some tricks!   From hand hooping to doubles and escalators and vortexes, you really challenge your brain and your body and build those connections that will last you a lifetime. It’s just like riding a bike!

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  1. Improves Flexibility

Hula hooping can improve flexibility of your spine, hips and entire body. Waist hooping is a rhythmic movement requiring purposeful (but not rigid!) back and forward, or side to side, movements. As you progress in your skill as a hooper you improve flexibility, not just through your core but through your hips, chest, shoulders and extremities.

 

  1. Connect Your Mind and Body

The relaxation response that is elicited during yoga and meditation can also be achieved with rhythmic aerobic exercise – like hula hooping! The movement of hooping can be very meditative and it’s easy to spend 30 minutes with your hoop, connecting to your body and the music while relaxing and de-stressing your mind.

 

  1. Hula Hooping Brings Happiness

There is no better reason to try hula hooping than that it is fun. There may be many many health benefits to hooping, but the reason that most of us pick up our hoops day after day is that we feel happy while we’re hooping. For me hula hooping brings out a spontaneous playful side that I’ve brought into my life as a mother, wife and doctor. I tell people that hooping boosts my Qi – the life force inside all of us. I feel more happy and more alive when I’m hooping regularly.

And the hooping community is amazing as well! I’ve made friends from Toronto and around the world through hula hooping. I dare you to try it and not love it!

References:

Holthusen, Jordan, John Porcari, Carl Foster, Scott Doberstein, and Mark Anders. “ACE-sponsored Research: HOOPING– Effective Workout or Child’s Play?.” American Council on Exercise: Fitness. Available online at: http://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/1094/

 

LwatsonDr. Lisa Watson delivers health care that supports balanced and attainable health at all ages and stages of life. Of primary importance is health care that nurtures the body, mind, spirit, family and community.  As a Naturopathic Doctor and mother, Lisa believes that health care and a healthy lifestyle are intrinsically linked and that each serves to support the other. Dr. Watson practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.

Follow Dr. Watson on Twitter
Check out Dr Watson’s blog: www.drlisawatson.com

 

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Jan 5

Pilates: An Approach for Low Back Pain

6449976919_1c25f489cb_bBy Yvette Marcek, Pilates Instructor, RMT

Current studies continue to show that low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, with the majority of cases considered ‘nonspecific’ low back pain. Many experts are suggesting that core strength (abdominal muscles, muscles of the low back, pelvic floor and hips) and flexibility are important to maintain back health.

[Enter] [drum roll]
PILATES

Pilates has benefits for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. Conscious movement, stability, and alignment of the spine and pelvis are an essential focus in Pilates – precisely what is involved in strengthening the core, as the experts suggest. With Pilates you won’t break into a sweat to fast pumping music, and the weights you use (if any) won’t be more than five pounds. Pilates is based on concentration, control, and breathing, to help activate the deep core stabilizing muscles.

Think about your muscles based on what they do — their function. Muscles can be grouped into two functional categories: stabilizers (local and global) and movers. The stabilizers make up our core musculature, and strengthening the stabilizers provides more support for the spine and pelvis. One very important core stabilizer, highlighted in the Pilates method, is the deepest of the four abdominal muscles: the transversus abdominis, whose fibers run horizontally across the abdomen acting as a corset of support.

Pilates is a holistic method for back health by not only strengthening the core, but working on overall body awareness and proper alignment for the rest of the body. Pilates was developed for spinal rehabilitation during World War I. Its founder, Joseph Pilates, was so successful at getting bedridden soldiers to move that he was asked to train German and British military.

In Pilates the exercises are not rigid, so they can and must be modified to avoid aggravating positions and exercises, and put more emphasis on relieving positions. General group Pilates classes may not be suitable for people with back pain, since they may involve positions, exercises, and progressions that are not appropriate for back pain. Consider some private instruction for exercises tailored to your needs, or consider joining with a friend for semi-private classes. If the private lesson route is not right for you our small group classes are no larger than 5 students, and still provide some personal attention. Take advantage of our Pilates expertise.

 

Integrative-017-199x300Yvette Marcek is a Registered Massage Therapist, Pilates Practitioner and Reiki Practitioner; she often incorporates each of these modalities with her clients. Recognizing that each person who comes in the treatment room has unique requirements and goals, her priority is to create a therapeutic environment that is safe, healing, and positive.

Despite viewing laughter as the best form of medicine, Yvette sees the healing of massage therapy and touch as an international language, spoken without barriers and greatly benefiting anyone. She is particularly passionate about increasing body awareness, believing that consciousness of our physical body and the world around us is an integral part of maintaining our health and happiness.

You can email Yvette for more info on her Pilates classes, Reiki or her RMT practice here

Photo Credit: Robert Bejil Productions via Compfight cc

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Dec 29

Natural Beauty – Dude Edition

UntitledBy Dr Jen Newell, ND

I am a beauty product junkie and by association the men in my life have become the guinea pigs for natural products for men. There has been an influx of personal care products marketed towards men in the last few years…there is even a small corner at Sephora for men. Unfortunately, many of these products contain ingredients that I don’t want my loved ones using such as parabens, artificial fragrances and colours, chemical preservatives, and petrochemicals. What I have found is that the easiest way to get men on-board with natural grooming products is to provide them with products that have neutral, masculine packaging and don’t reek of flowers. Below are a few of my favourite personal care products that I have given to my favourite men:

Body:

This is a great, inexpensive alternative to Axe body wash and comes in an unscented variety as well as a number of different scents such as almond, peppermint and citrus….I would pass on the lavender or rose scents though J.

This is product has an invigorating scent of citrus and fir and leaves skin feeling fresh all day. It is slightly astringent so, ladies, I wouldn’t recommend stealing this product from your man.

This aluminum-free deodorant pray has a natural, somewhat herbal scent that eliminates odor all day and it doesn’t stain clothes. This is a great product when transitioning from antiperspirants to natural products.

This deodorant is also aluminum- and propylene glycol- free but comes as a stick like traditional deodorants rather than as a spray. Tom’s is very transparent about their ingredients and their sources.

This is a product that anyone can use. It’s a 100% plant-based fragrance-free body lotion that is gentle enough for those with sensitive skin. Its vegan, gluten-free and non-toxic. The packaging is a bit more feminine than the previous products but is chic enough to display on a bathroom shelf without a man feeling self-conscious.

Face:

I love the products from this company and this cleanser is a favourite for men as the sage oil reduces sebum production while the willow bark, licorice root and witch hazel reduce redness and inflammation. It leaves your face feeling squeaky clean.

This is a great product for men who want multi-tasking products that reduce the number of steps in their grooming routine. It calms and moisturizes dry, sensitive skin and also foams to prevent irritation from shaving.

This moisturizer hydrates dry, tough skin but also absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a greasy feeling. Men like this product because it doesn’t leave a shine on the skin.

This is my personal favourite moisturizer because it absorbs quickly and leaves a sheer matte finish without any residue on the skin. It also helps to decongest and unclog pores.

Hair:

This 2-in-1 helps to fight flakes and alleviates itchy scalp. This is a particularly useful product for the cold, dry winter months.

This is shampoo designed to address thinning hair. It eliminates debris and excess sebum that block hair follicles and also stimulates the scalp to promote hair growth.

What are your favourite men’s or unisex natural personal care products? Do the men in your life steal your products?

Dr. Jen Newell is passionate about helping people embrace health, feel amazing and easily incorporate “real” food into their busy lives. Her mission is to make health accessible and achievable, and to inspire patients to live an active, vibrant and healthy life.

Jen has a clinical focus on digestive health, food sensitivities and healthy nutrition; mental health and stress-related illness; women’s health, hormone balance and fertility; optimal aging; and dermatology. She focuses on integrating healthy foods into one’s diet in a medicinal and therapeutic capacity and providing individuals with nutritional support that is easy to incorporate into a busy day. Dr. Newell practices at the Integrative Health Institute in Downtown Toronto.

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