Jun 24

Racism & Me

By Dr. Tabrizi BA, DC, DO

As someone who likes to make sense of things, the world is a difficult place right now. On the topic of systemic racism, I neither want to preach nor project, but can only speak from my own experience.

I could easily be accused of making a judgement error. That I am virtual signalling and that I should lend this platform to African American people. But I do not feel that I am making a normative mistake.

I don’t feel that shame, or fear of feeling stupid or not woke enough can lead to anything positive. It is important to not be complacent, and to take an honest inventory of our own behavior.

As part of a visible minority myself, I have experienced racism in my own life, yet I realize that does not give me a free pass in terms of checking my own biases with regards to other people. Having lived in parts of Asia and the Middle East, I have seen how global this issue is in the systems of inequality and the attitudes of superiority between different cultural groups.

Growing up in my dad’s village when I was very young, there were a lot of refugees and, as the locals, there was the sense that we were somehow ‘higher’. But as the travels of my youth took me to various places, I always felt like an imposter myself—like I had to adapt to fit in. When I first came to this country, being surrounded by the overwhelming positive messaging about being white, it felt like I had to apologize for everything I was not. In looking different and not speaking English, I was not immune to racial slurs and even being physically beaten.

In going to school in the U.S., I remember being in anatomy lab late one night with friends, and seeing the security guard ask for the ID of only my black friend.

And I have come to realize the effects this can have across a lifespan. The ways that it shrinks you as an adult and makes you feel small. Bruises heal, but losing your voice and being marginalized is a much bigger price to pay.

This is not meant to elicit pity. Or even empathy or understanding. It’s not about comparative suffering. It is about being able to learn to trust each other, and in recognition of a pain that we can all connect to in some shape or form.

Because without trust, we continue to jump to immediate judgement.

Those experiences prime your nervous system and make you hyper-aware. Whether they are physical or emotional, blatant or subtle, once or repeatedly—racism is not a monolith, but a spectrum of beliefs and behaviors that show up in many ways. And they leave a mark on how we see ourselves.

If I could have a conversation with my younger self, I would say the things I wish I would have known back then. As children we see things. Your parents tried to shield you, but didn’t teach you how to deal with it. I wish you had someone tell you, not just the empty words of ‘it gets better’, but show you how to metabolize it.

As an adult, I try to have the discipline to not reduce this issue to blaming colonialism or even white privilege without truly understanding it. I try to acknowledge the complexity of how we got here without being distracted from what we need to do to move forward.

In recognizing that our brains focus on the negative over the positive, we tend to recognize only our headwind and not our tailwind. Examining the ways in which we have privilege and acknowledging that, sadly, we are not alone in our suffering can generate the awareness needed for change.

There will be awkward conversations ahead, including the ones we have with ourselves. They are imperative for the wellness of our community and society. As we neither discount nor reduce our own experiences, while being courteous, open-minded, and human in recognizing someone else’s struggles.

The challenge is to try to be open to what is happening in life now. We can forgive ourselves for the technical errors and the judgement errors—those being the errors we make from not quite understanding the scope of the issue or in misjudging a moment. As long as we are honest with ourselves and proceed with the intention to learn and be better.

I believe people should not be defined by their mistakes and, as long as we continue to evolve, it’s a good thing.

But we must be committed to examining and eliminating the normative errors. The ones in which we over-generalize and make assumptions and try to cover up for what we don’t know. There are times when we don’t have the bandwidth to fully understand or simply don’t want to feel stupid. Even though it may not be based on malice, the capacity for harm remains. Anytime we index ourselves against someone or something, we may, consciously or unconsciously, exercise micro-aggressions or injustices against other people.

We have often chosen self-preservation over doing the right thing but, in this case, they are both the same. Because when we lose trust in the basic constructs of civility and society, no one wins.

Historically, humans have been very tribal beings, with a tribe being defined as a group of people that are self-sufficient. But that level of tribalism or romanticism of the past has little value to where we are now, as we have seen through the pandemic how we need each other.

It is not about giving lip service to the term ‘ally’, but doing the personal work so we can exercise sovereignty in our actions. Supporting those people and organizations that really understand and have lived this experience so that trust can be regained.

For a better understanding and more education around this complex issue, joincampaignzero.org is one of many resources.

Join our Virtual Town Hall this week on Tuesday June 30th at 12pm to continue this important discussion: Click Here

Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.

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Apr 13

Anxiety Action Plan: Coronavirus Edition

By Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW

The topic on everyone’s lips around the world is Coronavirus and, if you’re like me, you might be finding it all a tad overwhelming.  Widespread health care scares can induce anxiety symptoms in the most chilled out people, so those who regularly experience anxiety may not be feeling so hot right now.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed or helpless, know that you’re not alone.  I’ve got some strategies that can help you breathe a little easier while we move through this funky time.  Keep reading for my top tips on reducing anxiety amidst COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

1. Remember: You are not powerless

The idea that you’re definitely going to contract COVID-19 (or have your business or social life suffer as a result of quarantines) no matter what you do is incredibly defeating.  While curling into a ball and waiting for the world to end may seem like all that’s left to do, it’s not.  There are ways to take control that help minimize your risk, and therefore minimize your anxiety to healthy levels.  The simplest measures can be the most empowering.  The advice agreed upon by most health care professionals right now is to wash your hands well and avoid touching your face.  This is a concrete action you can take, and that makes you more powerful.  Avoiding touching others in business settings (bub bye, cold fish hand shake) or social settings (see ya, uncomfortable cheek kiss) seems very wise now.  How to get around these social norms?  Use your words.  Again, this is a way to exercise your power and feel in control.  Here’s your script: “Hello, it’s such a pleasure to meet you!  Please excuse me for not shaking hands today, but I think we’re all trying to avoid extra touching right now.”  This is direct and to-the-point, and I bet you that the other person will feel just as relieved as you.  Picking up a few extra canned or frozen goods when at the grocery store helps feeling prepared in case of a quarantine situation.  Preparedness leads to empowerment, as it reminds us there is a plan in place.  Planning ahead relieves anxiety symptoms, especially if you use your self-talk (your inner dialogue) to remind yourself of your plan. 

2. Turn off the news.

Ah, the media.  While we depend on media to, you know, give us the news, it’s not a secret that media outlets have a way of catastrophizing everything.  While COVID-19 is not something to be taken lightly, many agree that the extent to which the news may be causing fear is heightened.  Regardless, there is a difference between being informed and being bombarded.  Checking in on the updates twice a day seems very reasonable.  Checking Twitter every 15 minutes is not.  This just keeps the issue top of mind when your brainpower is likely better spent on other tasks, such as your work, your hobbies, and keeping up with you friends and family.  If you find the conversation is frequently turning to Coronavirus as a substitute for small talk or gossip, feel free to direct the conversation away (again, this puts you in a position of power over what you’re consuming and therefore puts you in control of your mental health).  This also applies to social media.  Take more tech breaks in your day to reduce exposure to the bombardment.

3. Let’s get physical.

Your body is more than just a willing host for a virus.  It is a crazy awesome machine with systems in place to help you stave off illness, stay mentally healthy, and thrive.  Tap into these resources!  My personal fave is to engage in deep breathing.  This is a quick and effective way to calm the mind and body by reminding us to relax and release excess tension.  Focus on inhaling for a count of 4 and exhaling for a count of 6.  Feel your belly expand as your lungs fill with fresh air.  Feel your belly contract slightly as it expels old air and energy.  Try this for about a minute and notice how you feel.  Now that you’ve set the stage for calmness, connect with a physical exercise that you enjoy.  Dance, hike, lift, or yoga pose your way to some relieving endorphins.  Show yourself how strong and powerful your body is.

4. Clear out the clutter.

When panic seeps in, logic goes out the window.  If your mind is feeling cluttered with overexposure and anxiety is riding high, just pause for a moment.  Take a breath.  Imagine your mind is like an Etch-A-Sketch.  Now give your head a good shake, and imagine that Etch-A-Sketch is now completely clear – a clean slate.  With another deep breath, remind yourself that you are a person who is capable of handling tough things.  Find a mantra that serves you during this time and reminds you that you are in charge of your thoughts.  My suggestions? “Precaution over panic.” “I am safe.”  “My mind and body are strong.”   This brings us back to my first point of reminding ourselves that we are not powerless here.  Whenever thoughts seem overwhelming, remember that they are just thoughts – they are not truths.  Bust out the Etch-A-Sketch imagery as necessary to clear your mind so you can replace the clutter with simple, soothing words instead.

5. Be social – safely.

As the recommendations have been changing daily regarding being in public places, we can quickly become isolated.  While some physical isolation may be prudent now, we’re fortunate to be in an age when technology can keep us connected.  Humans are inherently social creatures, so finding alternatives to the usual get-togethers is crucial.  Phone a friend.  Text.  FaceTime.  Take funny videos and send them to your friends and family.  Frequently check in on those more likely to feel isolated and lonely, such as elderly grandparents.  Not only will this help keep up your morale, but it will give you the same positive feeling as doing a good deed.  Remember: even if physical isolation is needed, we do not need to shut down communication.  Engaging in your relationships safely reduce lower depression symptoms and can even boost immunity (bonus!). 

6. Find the positives. 

They are there.  A great way to remember that there are good things in your life is to record them in a gratitude journal or list them to yourself at the end of the day.  These positives may include anything that makes you feel good, such as a favourite new song on the radio, holding a plank for 60 seconds, feeling accomplished in a work task, getting laughs after telling a good joke… if it brings a smile to your face, then it was a positive in your day; and it had nothing to do with Coronavirus. 

While concern is natural and our daily routines may temporarily change, consider how you’re handling your mental health.  My rule of thumb?  Consider if your thoughts and actions are helpful or unhelpful.  By categorizing them this way, you’ll be able to find what works for you.  If you’re really struggling to cope, reach out to your mental health professionals.  I personally am offering online counselling to provide people with support and individualized psychological solutions to make it through this time feeling strong.  Try out my top tips and notice how empowered and mentally strong you feel.

**Disclaimer:  The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the diagnosis/treatment of a licensed medical or mental health professional.**

Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker Psychotherapist providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI.  Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at lauren@laurenberger.ca, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.

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Apr 13

Keep Calm, Wash Your Hands, and Clean Your Cellphone

Our brains are primed to notice everything going wrong. The diagnosis of athletes and celebrities, and being out of toilet paper.

In times of fear, our brains like certainty and can send us on the search for more information. Yet research shows that being obsessed with the news can create anxiety and stress that can be damaging to the immune system.

In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, it is times like these that we are challenged to practice enhancing our self-management skills to manage any symptoms and also to gain some degree of control.

In light of that, I wanted to provide a bit of information about what we know about the virus, and some steps that we can take to soothe our brains and boost our immunity.

This COVID-19 virus binds to receptors in our bodies known as ACE-2 receptors, found in the kidneys, blood vessels, heart, lungs, epithelial cells, and gastrointestinal tract. Outside of the body, it can live on multiple surfaces for 8-72 hours—about 24 hours on plastic, copper, or iron.

Data in Holland shows most people getting it are under the age of 50, but those most at risk are people over 70, and people with co-morbid conditions such as metabolic diseases, diabetes, hypertension, heart conditions, and those on immuno-suppressive therapy. Likewise, health care professionals and first responders who care for the sick are more likely to be infected.

The mortality rate is 4-20% higher than influenza for most people and 10-20% higher in the elderly population. According to research out of Johns Hopkins University, 97.5% of people will develop symptoms within 11.5 days of contracting the virus, so that is the idea behind the 14 day isolation period.

While none of this is great news, in order to step back from the fear and into responsible vigilance, it is important to give our brains simple, actionable steps that give us somewhere to turn our focus.

We have all heard about hand washing and covering your cough, but we can also be more aware of ourselves in our immediate environment. Being more conscious of what we are touching if we are outside of our homes and the cleanliness of items that we are bringing in is helpful. Things like cleaning your cellphone and not putting your bags on your table or countertop can also help prevent the spread of germs.

And there are also some very basic things that we can do to boost our immunity.

Nasal breathing helps to filter the air and also helps with calmness. Getting enough sleep is important to give our bodies and brains enough rest to recover and regenerate, particularly in times of extra stress. Protecting your gut keeps a healthy balance of the good bacteria to ward off these other things.

Research by Ronald Pero from the Preventive Medicine Institute in New York also suggests that, generally speaking, getting treatment and especially spinal care can also contribute to greater immune system competence.

Movement is very important. Pathogens, inflammatory substances, and metabolic waste are removed via the closed system circuits of the lymphatic system and the circulatory system. As 90% is removed by the venous system, being able to do some form of exercise to get your heart rate up is physiologically beneficial.

But when we keep moving we are also able to have better thoughts and manage our anxiety. When we engage in movement in which we hold our muscles, myokines (otherwise known as ‘hope molecules’) are released into the bloodstream, which is one of the reasons exercise is helpful in the recovery from trauma, as well as for stress and mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

This is a time to move in a way that is going to positively influence our inner ocean, both from an emotional and a circulatory perspective, to enhance the performance of our immune system. Rhythmic movement, such as dancing, has a calming effect and can be done with others virtually to create a social bonding effect.

Because although social distancing is recommended, that is not the same as social isolation, and there are still many ways to stay connected with friends, family, and reliable sources of information as needed. In times like this we must be creative in our social interactions, as it is our civic duty to think of the more at risk populations, and be more community-conscious in our behaviors to try to prevent the spread—more in the South Korea and Singapore model of containment.

Like viruses, hope, calmness, and love can also spread. We are not helpless or alone. And we are in this situation together even though we are apart.

Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.

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Apr 13

Vitamin D and Immune Health

Vitamin D, often called the “sunshine vitamin” has a lot more to do with our health than just improving our mood on sunny summer days.  It is actually an incredibly important nutrient with impacts on just about every cell in our bodies.

Actions of Vitamin D

While we think of vitamin D as a vitamin, it actually acts in our bodies as a hormone!  We call it a vitamin because we can’t make it ourselves – at least not without sunlight.  But in our bodies it acts as a hormone – influencing bone health, insulin secretion, skin health and immune function.  But our heart, muscles, breasts, liver, and lungs all need vitamin D as well.

Vitamin D and the Immune System

The impact that vitamin D has on the immune system cannot be understated.  Without adequate vitamin D both the innate immune system and the acquired immune system cannot function normally.  Most of our immune cells have receptors for vitamin D and we recognize that vitamin D can regulate the function of these cells – as well as influencing how many of these cells our body makes. 

One of the most important things vitamin D does, especially notable during times of COVID 19 and other viral infections, is increase the production of defensins.  Defensins are small peptides on our skin and mucous membranes, that are involved in our first line of immune defense.  Defensins have both direct antimicrobial activity, and increase signaling amongst cells, alerting them to the presence of the invading virus.  Having high levels of defensins can help our immune system to destroy a virus on contact. 

Research is being done worldwide looking at the impact of vitamin D on preventing viral infections, and lessening severity of those infections.  Animal studies have shown significant benefit and human studies consistently show that low vitamin D is a risk factor for viral infections. 

Getting Enough D

For most Canadians our primary source of vitamin D is through supplements, or foods containing added vitamin D (mainly dairy).  In the winter months, I strongly suggest every Canadian, big and small, take a vitamin D supplement to support their immune health.  A general rule of thumb is to take 35IU per kg of body weight and to have your levels tested every winter to ensure you are getting enough.  Speak to your Naturopathic Doctor about increasing this dose during cold and flu season or during times when there is an increased risk of viral infections. 

Selected Resources

De Sa Del Fiol F, Barberato S, et al. Vitamin D and respiratory infections J Infect Dev Ctries 2015; 9(4):355-361. doi:10.3855/jidc.5711 https://jidc.org/index.php/journal/article/view/25881523

Bilkle D. Vitamin D: Production, Metabolism, and Mechanisms of Action.  Endotext. 2017.  Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278935/

Teymoori-Rad M, Shokri F, Salimi V, Marashi SM. The interplay between vitamin D and viral infections.  Rev Med Virol. 2019 Mar;29(2):e2032. doi: 10.1002/rmv.2032. Epub 2019 Jan 6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30614127

Dr. Lisa Watson believes that you don’t have to be perfect to be healthy.  Lisa encourages her patients to take a proactive approach to their health – taking meaningful steps towards achieving their goals for balanced and vibrant health.  An expert in women’s health and hormones, Lisa is a passionate advocate for women’s health and strives to educate all the women in her practice on how to achieve lifelong abundant health.  Dr. Watson practices at the Integrative Health Institute in downtown Toronto and writes regularly about women’s health on her website at www.drlisawatson.com

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Apr 13

Soothe Your Stress Levels in an Epsom Salt Bath

As we work together in our time of self isolation to flatten the curve,  I invite you to consider an Epsom salt bath is one simple solution to help ease heightened stress levels for you and your loved ones!

Heightened stress levels in the body causes a depletion of the body’s magnesium levels.  An Epsom salt bath is a relaxing way to increase your body’s healthy levels of magnesium and sulfate.  Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant while sulfate draws out toxins.

According to a study from the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham, the magnesium and sulfate found in Epsom salt are absorbed through your skin.Named for the spring in the town of Epsom in Surrey, England, these naturally occurring minerals offer a passive self-care option. Of course, it might not be so passive if you have to clean out your tub first, persevere, it’s so worth the effort!

As a Registered Massage Therapist, I rely on the healing powers of Epsom salt as one of many ways to assist a challenged body, mind and spirit to let go of tension. Doctors and researchers agree that a nurturing warm bath with Epsom salt envelops the body, mind and spirit to safely replenish magnesium levels, which in turn assists in easing stress. As an added bonus, the presence of magnesium aids in the chemical release of the mood elevating hormone serotonin, which promotes a state of well-being and relaxation.

 If you struggle with cardiovascular issues or are pregnant before your soak it up in an Epsom salt bath, please consult with your doctor. Once you’ve got the green light to salt it up, dump 2 cups of Epsom salt (purchased from your local pharmacy or health food store) into hot running water and let the soaking begin! Relax in the bath for 10 to 20 minutes. While in the bath, I invite you to drink some water from a non-breakable glass to keep hydrated and spend some time visualizing all the stresses of your day just melting away!The IHI team is here for you!  Please contact us if you need support during this weird and challenging time.  

I love helping people and I love a challenge! Experience has taught me that by therapeutically listening to my patients, the craft of Massage Therapy profoundly aids in the relief of physical, emotional and spiritual tension and fosters consciousness of the self. I have developed this holistic philosophy of treatment by combining the dual diversities of my professional training. There are many tools in my therapeutic toolbox that can be uniquely applied to your specific condition. With your expressed consent, it’s my pleasure to be in touch with other members of your self-care team to contribute to the big picture of your health journey. Together, we can form an alliance for your well-being!

Nancy J Brooks RMT nbrooks@integrativehealthinstitute.ca


Daniluk, Julie RHN, NNCP: Meals That Heal Inflammation p.259





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Mar 31

Immune Food Shopping List

Grocery stores right now can be a bit intense to navigate, Dr. Tanner has put together a list of Immune boosting foods to help support your immune system. With some tips on how to incorporate each of these foods in your meals.

Root Veggies

Root vegetables have an extended shelf life in comparison to other vegetables. Onions are high in Vitamin C, fiber and anti-oxidants. Sweet potatoes offer Vitamin A. Turnips also have Vitamin C which has been shown to shorten the severity of respiratory infections. Beets can help dilate blood vessels lowering blood pressure. Other root veggies to stock up on: garlic, ginger, celeriac, carrots and rutabaga.

Purple Cabbage

Purple cabbage can improve your immune defenses by stimulating the activity of white blood cells. You can shred a few strips and add to salads, coleslaw, stir fries, or make fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi. Fermented foods are chocked full of probiotics. These health microbes provide support for your immune system and tummy. Besides, I don’t think there is a line up of people waiting to buy cabbage!


Frozen blueberries can allow you to buy in bulk. Blueberries are rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, potassium, dietary fiber and mangnanese. Blueberries also have an antioxidant called flavonoids. This feature can help reduce damage to cells and boost your immune system. Add 1/2 cup to smoothies, yoghurt parfaits, breakfast foods or just as a snack on their own. I use them to make eyeballs on my kids pancakes.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds offer a source of plant based protein, zinc, and magnesium. Zinc plays a central role in the development of neutrophils and natural killer cells – crucial for ideal immune functioning. Add 2 tbsp to a trail mix or salad and spread pumpkin seed butter on toast. If you are ambitious roast the pumpkin and harvest the seeds for roasting! Add 1 cup of pumpkin puree to smoothies, pancakes and muffins for additional nutrition.

Dr. Jennifer Tanner, has a broad, evidence-based practice with a focus on sports and performance-based medicine. Being a marathon runner and having been a competitive equestrian, an active lifestyle is important. Dr. Tanner uses a variety of tools including Acupuncture and Clinical Nutrition, putting an emphasis on “food as medicine” and addressing the root causes of inflammation. In conjunction with the Integrative Health team, Dr. Tanner is thrilled to help people achieve an optimal state of health and pursue their performance based health goals!

Follow Dr. Tanner @DrJenniferTannerND  

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Mar 2

Moving Forward

One of the recurring themes that my patients bring to our work together is the idea of feeling stuck. Rather than feeling that they are actively moving in the direction of their life goals, they experience the opposite. They experience a feeling of stagnation. My motto is to “get my patients out of the trunk and into the driver’s seat.”

There is something wrong when previously ambitious, talented and motivated individuals feel they are motionless, lacking energy, and that they are spectators to their own life. If they wish things could be different but are not finding a way of acting on it, getting help is a great idea! Taking the first step, they start the journey by getting the help of a psychotherapist to find the tools to get into motion. How do I help?

The reasons why people lose their inspiration and energy are many, so the first thing is to ask many questions. My belief is that we all have a deep source of wisdom that guides us through life, yet sometimes life pushes us in directions that we lose touch with the source. My goal sis to align you with the internal wisdom and to help you see and remove encumbrances. 

James Hillman, in his book “The Soul’s Code,” writes that each one of us comes to the world with a unique combination of gifts. He reminds us that the ancient Greeks called that source of gifts, drive and inspiration the “daimon.” It has nothing to do with the idea of a demon. You can think of this daimon is a sort of metaphor for what drives us and acts as a source of liveliness. It is a huge source of energy and what pushes us towards movement in life.

As we go through life, the challenge is to anchor that image into the living world and make it “real.” This means that for each person, the path is unique, and that the embodied image can take many different manifestations. This is where circumstances and life paths impact the outcomes.

Often, individuals come to get my help because they somehow are no longer in touch with the internal force that drives them. Sometimes, burnout is the culprit. Many folks have the wrong image of what burnout is. 

Many younger professionals imagine a person with burnout as someone who is “down and out”, old, dressed in tired clothing and haggard. The truth could not be different. Most burnt-out people I know are young, good looking and incredibly well-dressed. Inside, they are lost.

Burnout is what happens to anyone after undergoing relentless and continued stress. It is gradual, so most people do not realize they in the throes of it. The condition results in feelings akin to depression, lack of energy, moderate anxiety, and a sort of existential crisis. 

It also results in feeling trapped and jaded, often losing track of one’s internal sources of motivation, thanks to the feelings of doubt and insecurity it creates. Many who suffer burnout do not even recognize themselves. A common goal I hear is “I want to feel like myself again.” I see that as good news. Something brings them to therapy, and that something is their internal drive.

Once they come to seek my help, we start moving. There is nothing more stagnating than not trying. The first thing is to actually start exercising and doing active things to engage in radical self-care. 

Radical self-care is an attitude of putting yourself first so you can be of service to your goals and to others. It requires to be militant about caring for your health, what you eat, how much you sleep and getting the help you need when it is available. While I did not invent the idea, I have become a fan of it not only for myself but for any ambitious individuals who want to stay in the game of achieving their goals.

Once we manage the level of stress using mindfulness practices and other easy techniques, and connect with other health providers that may have useful contributions (think acupuncture, naturopathy, massage, physio…) we engage in value clarification to bring the person back from the land of confusion and hopelessness. Each one of us has a set of values that guides us in life and making those clear helps a lot. We then look at what is going on and whether what is going on is in line with those values.

We look at habits of mind, at work habits, and at any behaviours and psychological mindsets that are obstacles to the individual’s goals. If we find any that need adjustment, we fine tune them and redirect efforts in the right direction. 

The idea is optimizing life habits so life becomes sustainable, rewarding, and fully enjoyable. The idea is to help each person to recover from inaction, feeling lost, and unhappy and find joy and rewards in the motion of moving towards one’s life goals. That is what we are here for.

Ariel Blau has a formidable passion for helping his clients energize a joyful, loving and creative life. He has more than 30 years of experience helping people bloom. His formal education includes a Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, a Master’s in Fine Arts from Brandeis University, and a great number of workshops, certificates and seminars. He has been studying mindfulness and how to bring compassion into the world for more than 15 years. His passion for helping others is matched by his enormous drive for continuous learning. Ariel completed his professional clinical training at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and served as  Lead Clinician at the Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven.

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Mar 2

Successful Life and Aging Starts With Movement

Movement is medicine.


Movement is life.

Movement is what separates us from plants. While they exogenously produce chemicals to keep predators away, we have the freedom to move.

In our most primitive form, we had the flight or freeze response—that is something that we share with other mammals. The fight response emerged later as it was learned to be evolutionarily beneficial; however, fighting is a high risk, high reward behavior.

Beyond our most primal system, though, humans are more complicated in terms of our thinking, in that we can have a direction and intentionality with regards to our metaphorical or actual movement. In terms of our health, we are capable of setting targets and planning the actions to meet them.

Exercise is generally viewed as a subset of movement, yet this highlights a mismatch between how our bodies were evolved and the environment we are living in. We evolved with the necessity of movement for survival, but that is no longer the case in terms of having our basic needs met. We have a dopaminergic system which rewards us and combats our tendency for inaction, yet, if we look at our bodies with the flow of blood and the lymphatic system, we see that movement is always occurring within us.

When considering types of movement and exercise there are some areas that are non-negotiable for prehabilitation, and also some extra considerations:

1. Stengthening

Lean muscle mass is predictive of longevity. While it is important to strengthen our large muscle groups for general mobility, it is also good to be strategic. Strengthening the posterior rotator cuff, for example, can help combat our usual protracted postures where our shoulders round in.

2. Endurance

To meet our cardiovascular demand for function and health, anything that gets your heart rate up will do. It can either be in short bursts of high intensity, like doing 10 sprints; or longer duration of lower intensity, like a half hour conversational jog. Bearing in mind that everyone starts at a different level of fitness, and small, incremental progress is good!

3. Subtractive Movement

This is about being aware of our habitual movements and minimizing unnecessary compensation. For example, using your arms to push up from a chair. Do you need the boost, or are you unnecessarily straining your shoulders? These are things to notice.

4. Sociogenomic Axis

This refers to the social aspect of health. Whether in organized sports or dancing, playing with friends can also be beneficial to our overall well-being.

5. The X-Moves

These are the moves that test your limits. The goals that may scare you a little and may even seem unattainable. They allow you to expand your idea of what your body is capable of, and experience gratitude for it. Climbing that mountain, running the half marathon, or being seen in a bathing suit, everyone has different lines that they feel they cannot cross that are worthy of working towards.

This is the buffet of options—feel free to take a bite. But instead of singular sophistication in one thing, become a generalist virtuoso in which you try new things.

The term ‘movement is medicine’, is used in the context of our musculoskeletal system, in keeping our bodies healthy, but it is a concept that can be expanded even further to the totality of the human experience as a way to intellectual curiosity, creativity, and emotional stabilization.

When we look at movement metaphorically, in terms of moving forward in life, we note that momentum and friction play a role in the obstacles that we face and the friction within our emotions as we move toward a goal. As we become more self-aware, we can see emotions as a way to inform us rather than simply reacting negatively toward them.

From a Brainfullness perspective, we can think about movement as anything that regenerates, optimizes, and allows you to organize your thoughts. While this is a brain-centric view, we can also include that the mind or soul is embodied, and that the mind emerges as the interaction in the brain, body, environment interface.

And, when we formulate a wellness model for ourselves where movement is embodied and our notion of health expanded, we can even recognize forgiveness as a way to moving on for inherent peace for ourselves.

Medicine is usually something that you take externally, but movement must become something that is your natural state and is generated internally. We are made to move. If you stop someone’s eyeballs from moving, they will go blind because they can’t perceive the world. Likewise, if we stop moving, we can gain no new perspective to view the world or to see the possibilities for our lives.

As the brain works as an action-perception system, movement is required if we are to reach the targets that we set to create a new reality for ourselves. Understanding how deliberately you can do your daily activities is going to be the spring board from which you can be more clear in your thoughts, more focused on your goals, and more able to move through life’s challenges with confidence and resilience.

People generally do things either out of fear or because they want to be more. Getting you to experience minimal disability and fluid movement would be a starting point I could help you with.

Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.

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Feb 1

Teens and Fertility

No I am not here to promote teens trying to conceive! But what I would like to discuss is what are the signs of fertility and why are they so important for our female teens?  (even when NOT looking to conceive)

Why should you care? You’ve heard of vital signs before – Key indicators that you are alive and well – blood pressure, heart beat/rate, breathing rate, and temperature…..they sound important right? Well signs of fertility (ie ovulating) IS a vital sign for females of all ages. The female cycle is complex and involves numerous systems in the body working together – when we have signs of fertility we have a very clear indicator of health.

Plus I am a firm believer that the more a person knows about fertility and how to assess it, the more control and empowerment they also have. Education really is power!

SO let’s look over the signs that your teen is having a healthy cycle.

1. Signs of a healthy cycle:

Regularity: Your period should show up on a ‘regular’ cycle…meaning that it comes at the same time interval. The interval will vary between individuals  – but it can range from 21 to 35 days. Anything longer or shorter means there is an irregularity that needs to be talked about with your healthcare provider. HOWEVER in teenagers (especially in the first 2 years of menstruating) cycles can be much longer – and it is still considered healthy up to 45 days long, but still no shorter than 21days.

Spotting: this is when you have blood spotting in between your periods – light spotting on the day of ovulation is common and normal – but if there is spotting between periods that is not related to ovulation then it needs to be investigated and could be indicative of a gynecological condition.

Flow: meaning the amount of blood in which you lose during your period. The total amount from start to finish should be about 50mL (3 tablespoons). Less than 25mL is considered scanty, more than 80mL is considered heavy; both should be brought to the attention of your health care provider. Unless you are using a diva cup, these measurements are hard to decipher. You can estimate though by the number of pads or tampons you use: one soaked regular pad or tampon holds 5mL (1 teaspoon). A super tampon holds 10mL.

2. Signs of Ovulation:

Cervical Mucus: So here is where we talk about vaginal discharge (aka Cervical Fluid), you know that white stuff in your underwear….it is supposed to be there! Fluid is made by your cervix, it has a huge role in fertility, but also vaginal discharge keeps your vagina moist and healthy and free from infection!

Healthy discharge is white or light yellow and can have a mild salty odor.

If your discharge has a bad smell or causes discomfort or itching, you may have an infection and should see your healthcare provider.

Your cervical fluid changes throughout the course of your cycle – and how it changes is one main indicator of ovulation. After your period you may have some dry days or you may have sticky or creamy discharge – as you approach ovulation (roughly mid-cylce) this will change to what is known as fertile mucus – it has the consistency of raw egg white – it feels wet and slippery. It can sometimes occur in fairly large quantities. This fertile mucus is actually essential for sperm survival!

Other signs of ovulation: a regular period, a rise in basal body temperature and an increase in progesterone (measured by blood test) or a surge in luteinizing hormone (measured in urine)

BUT a period is not a definite sign of ovulation – you can still have a period without ovulating – this is known as an anovulatory cycle. Hence why we look at all the factors listed above to predict the health of your cycle.

3. PMS

“Premenstrual syndrome” – cramps, irritability, breast pain, acne, headaches, anxiety, depression, weepiness….these are the commonly reported symptoms associated with menses. These are COMMON, but they are not a sign of a normal or health cycle. If you suffer from any of these symptoms it’s time to come in and get your cycle assessed! PMS does not need to be a part of your cycle!!

PMS has been used to trivialize women’s emotions – this is a problem. Your emotions should not be dismissed by anyone as simply ‘hormonal’.


Having a regular, healthy, ovulatory cycle is a KEY indicator in female health. Understanding what a true healthy cycle looks like is the first step. Identifying trouble areas is the next. The final step is where some big issues lie: how do we regulate or treat menstrual complaints. It has become VERY commonplace that young females with ANY complaint are immediately prescribed hormonal birth control. Here are the issues with this:

  1. The birth control pill does not CURE any of these complaints – it simply masks them.
  2. It actually shuts down key hormones necessary for a healthy female body – which then leads to the following symptoms/side effects: depression, loss of libido, hair loss, weight gain, high blood pressure, nutrient deficiencies, reduced thyroid function, digestive problems, yeast infections and abnormal PAP smears, and it can prevent young females from forming healthy bones.

Having a Health Cycle means increase chances of:

  • Healthy Metabolism and Body Weight
  • Healthy Hair
  • Healthy Bones
  • Healthy Mood

Disclaimer: This does not mean I don’t support the use of birth control – there is a time and a place, and for some it’s the right choice. But it needs to be made from an informed perspective. Understand the ramifications of using it. If it’s something that is needed than work with your naturopath to build a plan that can at least help support some of the negative effects that come with the hormonal birth control pill.

Join Dr. TeWinkel for another Webinar this Thursday February 6th at 8pm alllll about teenage periods! We will talk more about:
-what a healthy period looks like
-birth control
-period products

Also please email us at info@integrativehealthinstitute.ca if you have specific concerns/questions you would Dr. TeWinkel to cover.

Dr. TeWinkel is on a mission to improve teen health and build it’s foundations so they can own their health for the rest of their life.

When a teen is supported in their health early on, the stage for success can really be set.

Teens and their families are often given limited choices to deal with their health concerns. Whether it be hormonal struggles, acne, painful periods, anxiety and depression, dieting and healthy weight management or sexual health – all of these can be addressed with a tailored plan to each teen.

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Feb 1

Be A Hero In Tri-Zero: Exploring Men’s Health In Fertility

They say that you can’t pick your parents—including their behaviors and habits, not just the genes.

Procreation and survival have been the common thread throughout human history, so it is natural that we apply what we know now to optimize these most basic elements of life.

In considering fertility and fetal development, the focus is most often on the mother for obvious reasons. Trying to optimize the mother’s health and environment of the uterus is important as this is our first home, and her behavior and lifestyle during pregnancy are key drivers for brain development. From birth to around age two, from a neurodevelopmental standpoint, the cultural environment and the relationship to the mother are key in how the brain decides to wire itself.

But the role of the father is less often discussed in the fertility conversation, beyond sperm count and motility. Research by Sergio Pecorelli has shown that in the 90-104 days pre-conception—referred to as the zero trimester—the man’s health-related activities can affect the genes that are expressed, and 24 weeks of exercising for 150 minutes a week impacts genes that influence schizophrenia and Parkinson’s.

While that news certainly provides incentive for exercise, I think it can also be a diving board from which we consider how basic nutrition and stress management may also make a difference in sperm quality. In addition to the disease aspect, research also shows there are links to other aspects of self, including self-control, perseverance, educational attainment, and longevity, that are also impacted by the father’s state of health.

When we look at health and wellness across the lifespan, we often are considering successful aging. But, if we are to broaden our lens in viewing health optimization and lifespan, we can apply some of this knowledge to the earliest phase of life as well. The brain’s primary role is to predict and protect, yet if we can use it to become predictive and protective of our genetic expression, that is the ultimate in proactive health action.

This is not about putting additional pressure on prospective parents, rather looking at the agency that you have in maximizing your genetic potential. The pre-conception period can be a time when you fully put yourself in the center of all experiences, looking at how your health behaviours can contribute to your ‘reproductive fitness’, while considering a more 360o wellness model where we can look at other aspects that may be contributing factors.

In considering that, these are some basic tips for men to improve your own environment for reproduction:

1. Move often

As mentioned above, there is research-backed evidence for exercise. Pick what you enjoy and what works for your level of fitness.

2. Eat well

Even basic nutritional improvements are an actionable way to create better health.

3. Address any unhealthy habits

Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol consumption are always good health decisions.

4. Embrace the process

Creating healthy habits for yourself is a process itself. Fertility is also a process for many couples, so being able to apply that approach to both can be beneficial in managing the ups and downs.

It is refreshingly optimistic to take this vantage point as it democratizes the outcomes for everyone. There are a lot of considerations and stressors that come with approaching parenthood, whether it be the process of fertility, the financial aspects, or the responsibility, yet having the multi-pronged approach to your own health is going to be key to your own adaptability in these circumstances.

The practices you build in this pre-conception period also creates a scaffolding for better bonding. Using this time in the zero trimester to build better health habits sets you up for, not only a better life for yourself, but equips you with the capacity for the growth and resilience that parenting requires. Rather than making it about whether your kid goes to the fanciest school, you can look at things that are more within your immediate control in terms of making it an empowering process that develops your own anti-fragility and manages your own anxiety—and it is important and reassuring to note that managing even that aspect of the process can help you to have a healthy child.

Where men may have previously wondered about our contribution to the earliest phases of life, we have more influence than we may have thought, and our efforts in improving our own physical and mental landscape can be very impactful in optimizing the potential of future offspring. The better your baseline of health, the better you are able to perform at anything, and I am here to help with that.

Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.

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