May 26

Persevering Through Grief

In my work with people, there are a wide variety of concerns brought to our sessions. The one area that I greatly appreciate and cherish working with is loss and grief. Deep grief and loss allow us to connect to our most vulnerable part of ourselves that is authentic and raw.

As long as we value something or someone, we will all experience grief and loss during our lifetime. Loss is the unwanted change or an absence of someone or something (i.e., person, situation or an object) we value and cherish. Loss can be perceived or an actual loss. Perceived loss is when the grieving person experiences loss that is unique to that person and is less obvious to others. For example, loss of identity, financial independence, or self-esteem.

Grief is an internal reaction and an emotional response to loss. Often grief is a strong emotional pain that is hard to put into words. Grief does not only occur due to a loss of a loved one through death, but can also occur from relationship breakdown, loss of job, loss of identity and anything that is significant to a person.

Stages of Grief

There are 5 stages of grief that was introduced back in 1969 by an American psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

Stage 1: Denial

In order to cope with the overwhelming emotion from a loss, one might be in denial or be in a state of shock. During this stage, one feels life becomes meaningless and often goes numb, or unable to see themselves going on with life. Focus is on getting through each day as it comes. Denial serves a purpose. It allows us to pace how much we can cope with the feelings of grief and helps us manage by letting in what we can handle gradually. We begin the healing process once we start to accept the reality and as we move out of denial, the emotions we were denying or pushed aside during this stage begin to surface, which is also a part of the grieving process.

Stage 2: Anger

Anger is a necessary emotion to our healing process. It is often known as a secondary emotion because it is used to mask other vulnerable feelings such as underlying emotions of deep pain, abandonment, rejection, and fear. Anger can be directed to people, situation, or objects. Some may not experience this stage, and some may linger here longer than others. Anger can be experienced as feelings of resentment or bitterness. As anger eventually diminishes, we create space to process other vulnerable emotions that we’ve been pushing away.

Stage 3: Bargaining

In the stage of bargaining, people often find themselves with “if only” and “what if” statements. Often in grief, we feel helpless and out of control in our situation. As a result, we do what we can to try to regain control. It is common for someone who is religious or believes in higher power to bargain for a different outcome or for healing and relief from pain and grief. It is a defense to help us cope with vulnerable emotions of grief like pain, hurt and deep sadness.

Stage 4: Depression

Depression is an appropriate response to great loss. After anger and bargaining stages, we settle into quiet and empty feelings of sadness. Withdrawing from life and wondering what the point is in going on with life. Depression is not a state to be fixed or snap out of, it is a necessary step towards the process of healing. It is important to note the distinction between depression from grief with clinical depression. In grief, feelings of sadness and depression lessens in intensity and frequency over time but with clinical depression, mood remains negative or might worsen over time without treatment and can impact self-esteem and sense of joy and pleasure in the long run. That being said, there is also the possibility of developing clinical depression during grieving process if left unchecked which can also lead to complicated grief.

Stage 5: Acceptance

This stage is not the same as feeling happy or being “okay” with what has happened. Rather, it is a stage of acceptance and coming to terms with reality of loss. Through acceptance we may experience more good days than bad, and as we begin to enjoy life again, often one might feel guilty. We are never truly okay with this new reality, but we make peace with it and accept it. We can never go back to the way things were and find ourselves living with our new “normal” – we readjust.

The Grieving Process

It is natural and normal to experience these emotions after a loss. In fact, not everyone will go through all of these stages, and that is okay too. Each person experiences grief in their own unique way; there is no right or wrong way of grieving. How a person grieves depends on their culture, personality, life experiences, and coping mechanisms. While grief may be experienced differently by people and culture, there are aspects of grief that is universal. The intensity of grief is determined by the level of significance and meaning attached to the loss. The different stages of grief happen in a non-linear manner and there is no timeline to one’s healing process. No matter how you grief, it’s important to be gentle and patient with yourself to allow your healing process to unfold naturally.

Seeking Help

During this time of loss and grief, you might want to withdraw from others. But connecting with your loved ones during this difficult time is vital and helpful for healing process. The comfort of those who care about you and sharing your loss with others can help you carry the burden of grief.

If you are someone who has experienced a loss and is having a difficult time grieving, please reach out for help. You can book a free meet and greet with Jennifer, before getting started on your healing journey.

To connect with Jennifer please click below to book a free meet and greet, before getting started on your therapy journey.

Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational purposes only. It is not to be used for diagnosing or replacing treatment from medical and mental health professionals.

Jennifer Leong is a registered social worker and psychotherapist with a professional goal to help improve and maintain good mental health for anyone who is willing to seek supports. She has a great interest in working with people from all walks of life who are facing difficulty with various life adjustments, stresses, and loss. She also works with people struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, abuse, issues with boundaries, issues with self-esteem and self-worth, past difficulties and interpersonal relationships.

She would love to hear from you, connect on Instagram @jenniferleong.msw

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May 26

3 Ways Stress Can Impact Digestion, & What You Can Do About It

How stressed are you?  You may not think you are that stressed because many people function at a high level of stress on a daily basis and this becomes their new normal.  Stress is a natural response to pressure when faced with challenges. Illness, work deadlines, or misfortune are examples but it can be brought on by, or anticipation of, any physical or emotional disturbance.  Being very busy, having lots to do and not enough time to do it, high workload, parenting, road traffic, worrying, watching news or violent shows are some other examples. 

In small doses stress is a good thing. It keeps us focused and alert and gives us the push we need to do our best.   Chronic stress, which is what most of our society is experiencing, is the problem.  The sympathetic nervous system, our fight, flight or freeze mode, is constantly on. Since stress affects the entire body, you can bet your digestive health is taking a major hit.   It diverts blood, oxygen and energy away from the digestive system and to the brain, heart and limbs.  Digestion slows down and focuses on storing fat as energy.  Relaxion is the switch to turning on your digestive system.  

Whether or not you feel stressed, your digestion will let you know.  Our emotional state is directly linked to our gut health via the enteric nervous system, or second brain.  Gut motility and fluid secretion increases with stress.  This can show up as diarrhea or frequent urges to urinate before, during or following a challenging event.  Changes in bowel patterns, abdominal pain, bloating or indigestion after meals and the need to always know where to find a bathroom are signs something is not right. 

It has been found that stressful life events are associated with the onset of symptoms, or worsening of symptoms, in several digestive conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  Not to mention that having a digestive condition can be a source of stress and anxiety in itself.  

3 ways stress impacts your digestion

Reduced stomach acid (HCl) and digestive enzymes:  Food is meant to be chewed well as this act releases digestive enzymes in your mouth and that stimulates your stomach to release the necessary HCl and more digestive enzymes to help break down your food.   When we are eating in a rush and otherwise stressed, we tend to eat too quickly and miss this step, which means we produce much less of these substances.   Stress hormones such as cortisol, noradrenaline and adrenaline are released when we are in this state and this halts digestion and the release of these secretions. When food cannot be broken down properly it increased bloating, indigestion, heartburn and nausea. 

Compromised nutrient absorption:  The impact of not having enough HCl and digestive enzymes is that your food cannot break down enough to properly absorb nutrients.  Optimal levels of HCl are needed to separate minerals from protein and not having enough can hinder the absorption of iron and magnesium for example.   This can contribute to many different symptoms such as feeling tired all the time, hair loss, muscle cramps, mood changes and high blood pressure.

Gut dysbiosis: Stress leads to a decrease in the diversity of gut microbes in the intestines, the gut microbiome, and increases the number of potentially disruptive bad bacteria.  This increases gsatrointestinal permeability and inflammation, psychological impairments and increased susceptibility to illness and infection.  This can manifest as a plethora of gut symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, heartburn, stomach cramps, joint pain, anxiety, depression, acne, eczema, brain fog and more.

3 tips to ease into relaxation and turn on the switch to your digestion

Relaxation therapy:  Mediation, progressive body scanning, yoga, breathwork are ways to incorporate more relaxing activities into your day.  In addition to it switching on your parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for optimal digestive function, it will provide an opportunity to check in with yourself.   Observe how stress affects you.  Does it settle in your shoulders, perhaps you clench your jaw or have stomach aches?  The more you can connect to your body, the more you can learn how to help yourself.  

Try sour or bitter flavours:  Bitter herbs are used to stimulate the digestive system, liver, intestines and stomach.  Sour tastes stimulate acid and enzyme production.   This can aid in relieving constipation as it improves sluggish digestion.  Try adding bitter foods to your diet such as watercress, chicory, roasted dandelion tea and artichokes.  Lemon is the perfect sour taste and easy to add some to warm water.  Just remember to use a straw to protect your teeth enamel. 

Mindful eating:  Taking some deep breaths before you start eating helps to turn on that switch for your rest and digest mode of your nervous system.   Be mindful of eating slowly, perhaps putting down your cutlery in between bites can help tap into this.   Do not underestimate the power of chewing your food.  Chewing thoroughly until it is almost a paste really cuts down on the work the rest of your digestive system has to do.  It is one of the first stages of digestion and if it is not being done well enough, your stomach and intestines are under even more pressure when they’re already under functioning.

If you notice any change in your digestive function it is important to speak to a healthcare practitioner who will ask the right questions and perform the necessary testing to determine the cause.  If stress is considered to be a major factor, which most of the time it is, addressing the source of the stress is a priority.  If you have tried these tips or know something is off and you still need help, I am here to help you.  Take action by booking a complimentary discovery call so we can discuss a plan to get you feeling your best.

Take action by booking a complimentary discovery call so we can discuss a plan to get you feeling your best.

Click below to book an appointment with Dr. Ramlal.

Dr. Ramlal believes that we can all be the best version of ourselves and this starts with taking care of our health.  We are worthy of having the life we want and doing all the amazing things we want to do.  She is passionate about looking at the bigger picture of the factors that shape our health and curating strategies to help others reach their greatest potential. Dr. Ramlal has a strong belief in creating a space to cultivate growth, awareness and fostering the mind-body connection to nourish the foundations of health. As a clinician, her area of focus is helping those with digestive concerns such as irritable bowel syndrome, break free from the constraints of diarrhea, bloating and constipation that are keeping them from living and feeling their best.

I would love to hear from you, let’s connect on Instagram @drroxanneramlal

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May 2

TCM and Brain Health

If we want to know how acupuncture can help improve brain health, it is important to first understand how the brain is viewed in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). When I first started studying acupuncture, I struggled to reconcile my existing knowledge of common Western medicine theories with those of classical Eastern medicine. I was often perplexed by how differently each science communicates their understanding of the human condition. While Western medicine is firmly rooted in neat, textbook style theories, Eastern medicine is more conceptual in nature, with an almost poetic twist to it. However, there are many similarities between them, and we only need dig deeper to find that the underlining message is very much the same and has been echoed through time, again and again.

The TCM brain is considered one of the six Extraordinary Organs. It is often referred to as “The Sea of Marrow” and like in Western medicine, is responsible for:

  • Intellect
  • Concentration
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • The five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing)

Also, similar to Western medicine, the healthy functioning of the brain is largely dependant on an abundant supply of blood, oxygen, energy, nutrition, and rest.

Establishing these similarities, we may now begin expanding our understanding of how TCM’s understanding of the brain begins to diverge from its western counterpart. According to Chinese medicine, the TCM brain has its origins in “essence” (closely related to DNA from a Western perspective). We receive our “essence” from our parents at the time of conception, i.e., the semen and egg. It is stored in our kidneys and is the original source of life-giving or “Pre-heaven” (before birth) energy or qi. It is finite and begins to decrease from our very first breath. “Essence” plays a vital role in many of the body’s functions and is a major contributor to the creation of marrow, which fills our bones and brain. In short, healthy “essence” leads to a healthy brain!  

The TCM brain is also closely dependant on three other organs, i.e., the spleen, heart, and liver.

Where the TCM kidneys are the source of “Pre-Heaven “qi, which is sadly finite and not replenishable, the TCM spleen is considered the primary source of “Post- heaven” qi or energy we receive from the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Post- heaven qi can be replenished, and its quality can be controlled through our lifestyle choices, such as a healthy well-balanced diet, exercise, and sleep. The TCM heart plays an important part in creating and supplying fresh blood to the brain. It also nourishes the spirit (Shen), which in housed in the mind.

Last, but not the least, the TCM liver is responsible for ensuring the free flow of qi in the body. When qi is allowed to flow unobstructed, it results in sufficient blood circulation to the body and mind, easy conversion of nutrition to energy and the healthy functioning of all organ systems. Therefore, a healthy liver makes for a healthy brain.

For me, brain health encompasses not only the ability to learn and communicate knowledge, but also how well we can process complex emotions and environmental stressors, in order to maintain our mental and emotional wellbeing.

TCM and acupuncture can help achieve both these goals through a variety of modalities and techniques. Acupuncture is the insertion of fine, sterilized needles into the body at specific areas called “acupoints” with the aim to bring balance to the mind and body. The amazing thing about acupuncture is that because it works closely with the nervous system. Many conditions can be treated by applying needle therapy at both the area of concern, but also at points that are further away from the site of injury or trauma.  For example, a headache can be treated by working with the scalp but also by working with areas on the hands, arms, legs and feet. In fact, your TCM practitioner will often combine local and distal points when creating your treatment plan.

Here are a few ways in which acupuncture can help with brain wellbeing:

  1. Physical pain management: Acupuncture works closely with the brain and nervous system to release endorphins (the body’s pain-killing chemicals). It can also control the body’s release of adrenaline and return the body to a state of rest and digest. It has had clinical success in treating any type of headache and migraine.
  2. Knowledge processing, retention, and communication: As explained above, the heart, liver, kidneys, and spleen all play an integral part in the formation and maintenance of brain health. Each organ is further involved in the development of its own type of intelligence. For example, the TCM heart is in charge of long-term memory, while the TCM kidneys are responsible for short term memory. The TCM spleen, being the source of “Post- heaven” qi is responsible for cognition and intelligence, and the TCM liver ensures that the other three organs have enough qi and blood supplied to them to function smoothly. A recent article published by the Journal of Neural Regeneration Research found acupuncture treatments can lead to improved cognitive function. Functional brain MRIs showed an increase in activity in the areas of the brain connected to cognitive function and memory. Strong cognitive functioning increases our ability to stay focused and alert.
  3. Emotional and spiritual wellbeing: Acupuncture can help regulate moods, by boosting the production of serotonin (the brain’s “happy hormone”) and thereby contributes to a feeling of relaxation. It effects the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is responsible for the “rest and digest” functions of the body. In this way acupuncture can help with anxiety, stress, insomnia, frustration etc.
  4. Increased blood flow to the brain: While acupuncture has long been believed to improve general blood flow in the body, making it a useful tool to alleviate musculoskeletal pain, it can also improve the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, helping you function better overall.

The next time you visit your acupuncturist, with concerns about brain fog or fatigue, forgetfulness or a lack of concentration, insomnia, or anxiety or even a headache, they might use points such as Tai Yang or GV20 (Hundred Meetings) to ease your headache or migraine. SP 06 (Three Yin Intersection) or ST36 (Leg Three Miles) to invigorate blood generation and circulation. Or perhaps, HT 07 (Spirit Gate) and Yin Tang to calm your heart. They might even throw in the Four Gates- LI 04 (Joining Valley) and LV03 (Great Rushing) to regulate qi flow for good measure! In reality there are hundreds of point combinations to choose from, your acupuncturist is there to help you find your custom fit therapy. In addition, they might use cupping therapy, or massage or gua sha to manually sooth the nervous system, or moxibustion to warm and nourish the body.  Traditional Chinese medicine is a rich and complex science that takes a holistic approach to healing. It is wonderful because, just like you brain, your treatment will be unique to you and your needs.

Click below to book an appointment with Desiree.

Desiree is a licensed Registered Acupuncturist (R.Ac) in good standing with the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO). She completed her acupuncture training at Eight Branches Academy of Eastern Medicine, Toronto. Her practice is governed by the understanding that we each have a right to invest in our health and well being, and that the path to healing is never linear but instead is constantly evolving based on our unique experiences.

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May 1

Managing Anxiety

Anxiety is certainly at the top of our minds during these unprecedented times. Life is unpredictable and uncertain – this creates anxiety and stress in people. But when there are collective world experiences that bring greater uncertainty in our daily lives, this can fuel and perpetuate our anxieties even further. During these times of heightened doubt and constant change, coping can be challenging for many.

What Anxiety Can Feel Like

Anxiety can manifest in different ways for different people. Essentially, anxiety is an unpleasant feeling that we all experience from time-to-time but for some, it is a constant feeling of fear and dread that can be all too consuming. When suffering from anxiety, we experience a variety of uncomfortable symptoms and sensations:

  • Psychologically – rapid negative thoughts and constant worrying over extended periods of time
  • Emotionally – feeling nervous, stressed, irritable or uptight
  • Physiologically – tense body, heart racing/palpitations, tension in chest or stomach, dizziness, or shortness of breath
  • Behaviourally – pacing around, difficulty relaxing, getting flustered and snapping at people

Almost always, our way of coping with anxiety is avoidance – we’ve all done this.

Understanding Anxiety – What Causes it and Keeps it Going?

Life Experiences. We experience anxiety when life is stressful and when there are multiple pressures that occur at once. For instance, someone who might be experiencing difficulties at work, financial issues and interpersonal conflicts might be at a higher risk of suffering from anxiety. Adding the complex stresses we all face during this pandemic into the mix can often amplify stress and anxiety. We can also develop anxiety based on past aversive life experiences. For example, when someone gets into a car accident, they are more likely to be afraid to get back into the car.

Thought Patterns. Anxiety can develop and be maintained through our thinking styles. People who are anxious often have patterns of thoughts that resemble worst case scenarios and have excessive worries. This thinking style also allows us to focus on things that aren’t going well, which makes us hypersensitive to situations and experiences that don’t go according to plan. As a result, people often feel on edge, and are unable to relax.

Basic Survival Mechanism. As evolutionary creatures, anxiety serves a purpose in protecting us. Perceived threat or danger triggers fear, which signals our bodies for a fight or flight response to help us respond to that perceived threat. These responses served us back in the days when there were constant threats to our primitive selves; however, modern humans do not experience the same threats and often we cannot run away or fight them (i.e., relationship, work or financial issues), thus we are left feeling stuck and in a ‘freeze’ state.

All these factors and how you cope determines the intensity and frequency of anxiety and negative effects of stress.

Anxiety and stress can feel overwhelming when too much is happening too quickly. Managing your anxiety can be more effective when you put these skills into practice regularly, even when things are good so that you are better able to use your tools when things don’t go so well. Key here is consistency.

Managing Your Anxiety

Learning to Tolerate Uncertainty

The nature of life is such that it is unpredictable, and we can never see what our future holds. This is an unavoidable part of life – scary, I know! The key to being more tolerant is to start acting “as if” you are tolerant of uncertainty; easier said than done! It’s about putting yourself in situations where you force yourself to tolerate the unknown. The more you do something and expose yourself to certain situations, the more you learn something new about yourself and that the situation isn’t too bad. Life will not go accordingly as planned if you allow some uncertainty into your life, but this is not an indication of failure – far from it. In fact, practicing tolerating uncertainty allows us to learn that even when things do not go as planned, and something bad happens, that we can cope with it and we can deal with things even if they don’t go perfectly.

Radical Acceptance

“What you resist, persists.” This idea tells us that when we struggle and push away what is happening to us that we find terrible, it makes the problem worse. Radical acceptance teaches us simply to accept and acknowledge our reality, without judgement. It’s an attitude of “it is, what it is.” Radical acceptance does NOT mean that you approve of what is happening and that you have to like it. Acceptance is not waving our hands up in defeat and giving up. Instead, acceptance allows us to focus our energy and strength on how to move forward and what we need to do to handle our situation better. It teaches us to accept the anxiety and work through those feelings rather than avoiding it or fighting it. Oddly enough, accepting our anxiety often leads to decreased anxiety.

You Always Have a Choice

Anxiety is the culmination of your beliefs around overestimating risks and underestimating your resources to cope. Risk of anxiety increases when someone believes their probability and severity of risk/threat is high and they do not have the internal or external resources to cope. When we believe we don’t have a choice in our situation this makes us feel stuck and helpless. The truth is, people are resilient and are very capable of coping with difficult situations. Find ways to remind yourself that you can cope and that you have the internal and external resources to help you manage difficult situations.

STOPP Technique

STOPP is a mindfulness-based technique that is used in different models of therapy. It that can be useful in reducing stress, anxiety or distressing emotions. Being able to pause, slow down and come back to the present has proven helpful in dealing with stress and anxiety.

S – Stop

Stop what you are doing when you become aware of your automatic negative thoughts or caught up in rumination or noticing your anxiety setting in.

T – Take a breath

Taking a deep breath and notice your breathing. Breathe in through the nose, expanding your belly and breathe out through your mouth. Do this until you feel calmer and have collected yourself.

O – Observe

Once you feel calm and collected, spend some time observing different aspects of yourself. Observing yourself enhances your self-awareness and mindfulness over time.

Thoughts – What am I thinking right now? What’s on my mind? What am I telling myself?

Feelings – What am I feeling? What emotions are coming up?

Bodily Sensations – What physical sensations am I feeling? Where in my body do I experience it?

Behaviours – How am I acting and reacting? What am I doing?

P – Perspective/Pull Back

Bringing in some perspective will allow us to see the situation differently and help us see the bigger picture. We don’t have to believe every thought that pops up. How else can I see this situation? What is another way of looking at this problem? Fact or opinion? What would someone I trust say to me right now? What would I say to them? What are some reasonable explanations for what’s happening?

P – Plan and Proceed

Proceeding with more awareness and being mindful with how you want to respond.

What are my options? What is the most important thing for me? What is the most appropriate and effective course of action? What are some of the things I can do that aligns with my principles/values/beliefs? What are the consequences of my action?

Taking it moment by moment, one step at a time.

Extra “P” in the STOPP technique

P – Practice

It is a simple skill to use but it does take some practice – practice makes progress. Just like a habit, the more you do something, the more engrained it will be. The best time to practice this is when you are not feeling anxious or overwhelmed and in a calm state. This will allow you to access the skills quicker when you experience intense emotions. Key is consistency and practicing daily even on your good days.

Seeking Help

If you are someone who is suffering from anxiety and going through a lot of stress, major life transitions, experiencing a loss and/or struggling with mental health concerns, please reach out for help from a mental health professional.

It is a sign of strength, not weakness, when we admit that we are stuck and suffering. Everyone – including yourself – deserves to live a meaningful life.

To connect with Jennifer please click below to book a free meet and greet, before getting started on your therapy journey.

Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational purposes only. It is not to be used for diagnosing or replacing treatment from medical and mental health professionals.

Jennifer Leong is a registered social worker and psychotherapist with a professional goal to help improve and maintain good mental health for anyone who is willing to seek supports. She has a great interest in working with people from all walks of life who are facing difficulty with various life adjustments, stresses, and loss. She also works with people struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, abuse, issues with boundaries, issues with self-esteem and self-worth, past difficulties and interpersonal relationships.

She would love to hear from you, connect on Instagram @jenniferleong.msw

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May 1

Understanding Pain

The fastest and most predictable response to an injury is how fast the system responds to it. In the acute phase, the body does its job to heal itself. The most complicated and least predictable response is how much pain you are going to experience from it. Pain scientist, Lorimer Moseley, says that pain never tells you how much is damage, it just tells you to protect the area.

When we think about the information that our bodies have to interpret, 30% of it is through nociception, which is your danger detection signal, and 70% is mechanoreception which, broadly said, allows you to move and navigate yourself. There is a constant conversation that exists within the body to address everything that we are sensing and perceiving, however, if we have an acute trauma or injury or we get a viral infection, there is a lack of mechanoreceptor input as all we get is the nociceptive signal that something is wrong. The danger signals hijack the system and, when we try to decode it, we can run into a problem; all it says is that something is wrong here. The system is on high alert and it is always being revved up, so we are unable to recalibrate.

There is a common group of disorders that are misunderstood and difficult to comprehend because they have no organic or structural cause. Classified as functional neurological disorders, they include such conditions as fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome, and chronic fatigue, and they are among the most common and least known diseases out there.

When pain occurs in these seemingly inexplicable situations, patients are often given medication, sometimes in the form of opioids. This can become detrimental because of the two circuits that influence our experience of pain. There is one circuit that sends the pain signal, and a separate system that re-shuffles the pain when the system has made its point. Opioids mess with the re-shuffling system so that we don’t integrate the signal and can’t move on from the pain. In that sense, it is like using noise-cancelling headphones when you have a screaming baby, rather than calming the baby. When the system can’t re-shuffle and integrate, the screaming continues.

What I want to make clear, is under no circumstance am I stating that your symptoms aren’t real. You need to be validated for the experience you are having that is going haywire in your system, and no clinician or doctor should ever dismiss it.

The thing about these particular disorders is that the brain is working too hard to do something that it usually does involuntarily. Successful treatment requires a practice that allows you to give yourself a better buffer to handle situational stresses and traumas that may come your way. Spending time driving those pathways now, rather than when you are in the eye of the storm, is more difficult to convince yourself to do, but is beneficial when they are ultimately needed.

There is a certain amount of fear that arises when we realize how the system can go offline. But, if we give the brain a simple task to do, such as counting backwards in increments of 7 or 9, such low level activity of the brain can allow things to re-calibrate and come back online. Even when dealing with symptoms like tremors or dissociative episodes. Engaging with art, sound, or music can also be beneficial in bringing the brain back to task. That is the beauty of this concept of bioplasticity— through the process of sensory substitution, the system can adapt.

Hands on treatment from a skilled practitioner also stimulates the sensory system and can provide the therapeutic touch that elicits a greater feeling of neurophysiological safety. Additionally, you still want to be able to exercise and move to your tolerance to gain that input to the system. If the pain is constant, I acknowledge that relationship changes and it can be a challenge to navigate.

Much of health care is largely based on structural pathology and anatomical systems, leaving some of these functional and less explainable issues on the periphery of care. In the organic tissue model, there are problems to be fixed and we go from there. Yet the real challenge is in knowing what is predictable and what is not, and empowering people to make better decisions, giving them freedom from obsessing over the wrong things.

But the brain and behaviour and body is not a puzzle to be solved, it is a mystery that you embrace.
In medicine, if we don’t find a structural issue, we dismiss it; but there is a beautiful mystery that exists in terms of how you function as a whole. And finding a clinician that allows you to explore and expand the buffer with connection, understanding, and shared outcome can lead to greater healing.

Click below to book an appointment with Dr. Tabrizi.

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.Check out his instagram at @drt_toronto or visit his website at https://www.brainfullness.org/

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May 1

Neuroplasticity & Mental Wellness

In the past, the scientific community believed that by early adulthood, the adult brain structures were primarily fixed and permanent with a set number of brain cells. They once thought that changes to the brain structures only occurred during infancy and childhood. More recently, our understanding of the most complex machine – our brain – underwent a revolutionary paradigm shift.

The term neuroplasticity (aka brain plasticity) suggests that our brain and nervous system, which is made up of billions of nerve cells and neurons (neuro), is malleable and can change to help adapt to our experiences (plasticity). Neuroplasticity occurs when our brain is exercised to help us retain and learn new skills, tools, techniques, languages, habits, and making lifestyle changes.

Understanding Neuroplasticity and How it Impacts Mental Health

  1. Neurons that fire together, wire together.

The more you practice something, the brain strengthens the neural connections that are engaged together. These connections become stronger when you learn and practice something new. Neural pathways are formed by doing something repeatedly and becomes a shortcut. Just like habits, whether good or bad. Re-learning something new may initially be difficult but overtime it becomes second nature. This is important to remember when practicing skills or tools that can help manage anxiety, stress and regulate emotions. Practice makes progress.

  • Change mainly occurs when the brain is engaged.

When you are focused, alert, and motivated, the brain produces and releases necessary neurochemicals that facilitate new learning and change to occur in your brain. When you are distracted, disengaged and do something without your full attention or interest, the chemicals in your brain and the process of change is turned “off.” This is perhaps why people who experience anxiety, stress and depression often express their difficulty with remembering something new. Likewise, when you are in a heightened state of anxiety or emotional distress, you will have trouble putting skills into use if you have never practiced them before when things were calmer, which can set you up for failure. It is beneficial to learn and practice something when things are going well so that you are better able to focus and stay attentive. Grounding yourself in mindfulness strategies can help you regroup and refocus on the task at hand.

  • The stronger the focus on something, the greater the brain change.

The more effort you put into something and the more you focus on something, the bigger the brain change. This is also true the other way around – if you focus on something negative and engaged in unhelpful behaviours, those neural pathways are strengthened. This is why they say, habits are hard to break – but it’s not impossible. Ask yourself: what are you focused on right now? Where do you want to shift your attention to? Is it helpful or unhelpful?

  • Use it or lose it.

Every new opportunity of learning and putting new things into practice allows the brain to stabilize and solidify neural pathways to help advance skill mastery. Similarly, this also weakens neural connections that were not implemented in that exact moment. This is extremely helpful with unlearning old unhealthy behaviours and patterns. Additionally, if healthy practices are not maintained, negative changes and negative plasticity can also occur. You always have a choice on what you can do and what you focus on!

How to Enhance Brain Plasticity

Below are some beneficial ways you can help promote your brain to kickstart the change and adaptation process.

  1. Enriching Environment

Creating enriched learning experiences encourage positive changes in the brain. Find opportunities that allow you to challenge yourself and enhance focus attention, such as: reading, practicing new skills or instruments, teaching yourself a new language, traveling, and exploring.

  • Emotional Health

Enhancing emotional health can provide enriching experiences with ourselves and in relationships with others, which promotes positive neuroplasticity. Feeling safe and secure, trust and love serves as a strong foundation for bonding and thriving relationships with ourselves and others. Emotional health can be cultivated through emotional awareness, and mindfully expressing and communicating our feelings. Engaging in activities like socializing, volunteering, emotionally bonding, journaling and doing psychotherapy all contribute to healthy brain plasticity.

  • Exercise

Moving our body through regular physical activity helps us better manage and overcome negative effects of stress and anxiety through the body’s natural physiological response – like endorphins, which would otherwise be turned off due to physical inactivity. When stress and anxiety is managed, you are in a better state of mind to learn and focus on new and novel experiences. Additionally, exercising and movement allows us to feel more empowered and in control of our body thus giving us some agency over our environment.

  • Relaxation and Rest

Getting plenty of sleep promotes dendritic growth in our brain. Dendrites are the roots of neurons that transmits neural information from one neuron to another, thus encouraging stronger connections for positive plasticity. Deep breathing and meditation helps with relaxation and better managing our stress-induced activity of fight/flight/freeze responses which fosters healthy brain changes.

*Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational purposes only. It is not to be used for diagnosing or replacing treatment from medical and mental health professionals.

Click below to book an appointment with Jennifer Leong, RSW.

Jennifer Leong is a registered social worker and psychotherapist with a professional goal to help improve and maintain good mental health for anyone who is willing to seek supports. She has a great interest in working with people from all walks of life who are facing difficulty with various life adjustments, stresses, and loss. She also works with people struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, abuse, issues with boundaries, issues with self-esteem and self-worth, past difficulties and interpersonal relationships.

She would love to hear from you, connect on Instagram @jenniferleong.msw

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May 1

A healthy gut means a healthy brain, and that means a healthy you!

Have you ever experienced that sensation of butterflies in your stomach?  Or feeling a pit in your stomach when you are upset or stressed?  These are simple ways we can see the gut-brain axis (GBA) in action.  Our digestive system is known as our second brain because it has its own nervous system, called the enteric nervous system (ENS) which along with the vagus nerve creates a two-way stress for the gut and brain, our central nervous system, to communicate with each other. 

The ENS has millions of nerve cells within the lining of the digestive tract running from the esophagus to the rectum that influences gut motility (how food moves through the digestive tract), absorption of nutrients and gut secretions, that help with breaking down our food and more.   The vagus nerve is associated with our “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which you can think of as a parachute that slows things down and takes us out of the stimulated “fight or flight” state of our sympathetic nervous system.  This is a healing state that we need to have optimal digestion function and immune system and hormone function and more. 

Gut microbiome impacts our happiness and mood

Up to 90% of the cells involved in the gut-brain axis send information from the gut to our brain rather than receiving information.  This means what is happening in our gut has significant influences over what is going on in our brain and so it impacts mood and behaviour.   Our gut microbiome, bacteria in our gut, produce up to 95% of serotonin, our happy hormone.  It also produces gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an important calming neurotransmitter, helpful in the reduction of anxiety and stress.  These chemicals also affect gut motility and nutrient absorption.  Gut bacteria produce many other hormones and neurotransmitters that influence mental processes such as learning and memory. 


When something is off with the gut-brain axis, this can show up as various symptoms.  Some of the more common symptoms may include, but are not exclusive to:

  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, acid reflux/heartburn
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Depression and/or anxiety 
  • Excess weight gain or weight loss
  • Low energy
  • Insomnia
  • Mood changes
  • Increased sadness or anger
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Difficulty concentrating or brain fog
  • Problems with memory

Many of these symptoms can be related to other underlying causes, but the importance is to consider the root cause and not to ignore these signs of disharmony in the body. 

Strategies to support the gut-brain axis

Stressors will always be present, but our perception of stress is an area that we can work on to reduce the physiological and psychological effects.  We know that stress and anxiety change the diversity of bacteria in our gut and impairs optimal digestive function and has impacts on gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.  It can cause the symptoms of acid reflux, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and indigestion.   Since we are aware that the health of our gut bacteria influences our mood and brain health, let’s discuss ways to support both directions of the gut-brain axis.

Box Breathing

Using the technique of box breathing activates our PNS can be used at anytime as a stress management tool and is especially helpful before meals to promote optimal digestion.   Picture a box by inhaling for a count of 4, holding that breath for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four and holding that breath for a count of four.  This can be repeated for 5-10 cycles. 

Nourishing foods:

A health microbiome rich in beneficial bacteria will help foster healthy brain function.  Some gut and brain nourishing foods to eat regularly include:

Omega 3 fats: nuts, seeds, cold-water fish like salmon are great sources of these fats that are anti-inflammatory for the brain and gut. 

Prebiotic foods:  fibre rich foods such as asparagus, chicory root, apples, dark leafy greens are great sources as well as soluble fibres such as legumes and oats.   Oats are also a nervine, meaning they calm and nourish the nervous system, making them very supportive to stress and anxiety management.   

Choosing whole foods over processed and packaged foods:   Refined sugars and processed foods feed the bad bacteria in your microbiome and lead to more inflammation in the gut and the body in general.  Choosing whole foods that are nutrient dense will provide abundant sources of nutrients for your gut and overall health. 

References:

Martin CR, Osadchiy V, Kalani A, Mayer EA. The brain-gut-microbiome axis. Cellular and molecular gastroenterology and hepatology. 2018 Jan 1;6(2):133-48.

Osadchiy V, Martin CR, Mayer EA. The gut–brain axis and the microbiome: mechanisms and clinical implications. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2019 Jan 1;17(2):322-32.

Suganya K, Koo BS. Gut–Brain Axis: Role of Gut Microbiota on Neurological Disorders and How Probiotics/Prebiotics Beneficially Modulate Microbial and Immune Pathways to Improve Brain Functions. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2020 Jan;21(20):7551.

Strandwitz P. Neurotransmitter modulation by the gut microbiota. Brain research. 2018 Aug 15;1693:128-33.

If you are looking for ways to optimize your gut and brain health or you are wondering if some of your symptoms are related to dysregulation of the gut-brain axis discussed here, I am here to help you.  Take action by booking a complimentary discovery call so we can discuss a plan to get you feeling your best.

Click below to book an appointment with Dr. Ramlal.

Dr. Ramlal believes that we can all be the best version of ourselves and this starts with taking care of our health.  We are worthy of having the life we want and doing all the amazing things we want to do.  She is passionate about looking at the bigger picture of the factors that shape our health and curating strategies to help others reach their greatest potential. Dr. Ramlal has a strong belief in creating a space to cultivate growth, awareness and fostering the mind-body connection to nourish the foundations of health. As a clinician, her area of focus is helping those with digestive concerns such as irritable bowel syndrome, break free from the constraints of diarrhea, bloating and constipation that are keeping them from living and feeling their best.

She would love to hear from you, connect on Instagram @drroxanneramlal

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Apr 10

What Do Your Gut Microbes Have to Do with Estrogen Detox?

The digestive system is connected to every other system in the body.   When we are working on optimizing our digestion, this means more than just keeping our gut happy.  Digestive health is inherently linked to our overall health and hormone balance, estrogen in particular. 

Our gut microbes and the estrobolome

Our gut microbiome, the collection of trillions of microbes that live in our gastrointestinal tract, has far reaching impacts on our health such as

  • influencing our mood
  • absorption of nutrients
  • vital role in the immune system
  • production and regulation of neurotransmitters and hormones

To add to the list of amazing functions of our microbiome, we also have a collection of bacteria in our gut with the ability to metabolise and modulate the circulating estrogen in the body.  This collection is called the estrobolome.  The bacteria in our gut and the estrobolome affect our estrogen levels and has influences on weight, mood, menstrual cycles, heart and bone health and more. 

The liver metabolises estrogen and sends conjugated estrogen to the bile which is excreted in the gut.  These gut microbes produce the enzyme beta glucuronidase which is responsible for changing estrogen to its active form.  Estrogen levels are increased and reabsorbed by the gut, sent into the bloodstream and then binds to estrogen receptor sites in the body and produce hormonal physiological processes. 

In other words, the more beta glucuronidase is produced the less estrogen is excreted from the body through stool and urine and so more remains in the body to be recirculated and have influence on various physiological processes. 

A healthy gut microbiome is essential for optimal hormonal balance

A healthy microbiome with diverse bacteria produces optimal levels of beta glucuronidase and minimises the reabsorption of estrogen and allows for the safe removal via stool and urine.  A happy microbiome is essential for hormone balance.  Dysbiosis of the digestive system, meaning there is an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria, or a reduction in the diversity of the bacteria in the microbiome can lead to more or less production of this enzyme, which means it can lead to increased or decreased levels of estrogen in the body. 

Some signs of estrogen imbalance include:

  • heavy, light or irregular periods
  • painful periods
  • acne
  • bloating and digestive upset
  • premenstrual symptoms
  • weight gain
  • libido changes
  • changes in mood
  • endometriosis
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • headaches
  • breast tenderness or fibrocystic breasts

Keep those bowels moving

When estrogen is eliminated through the bowels and urine this is phase 3 of detoxification.  It is a very important step because if the bowels are not moving well and there is constipation or sluggishness of the bowels, then this can also lead to hormonal imbalances.  Having a bowel movement at least once per day is the goal to ensure excess hormones are leaving the body.  If you are experiencing constipation speak to your healthcare professional to get to the root cause and get some relief.

Tips to improve gut health and hormonal balance

Hormone balancing diet

Diet impacts the diversity of our gut microbes and therefore impacts our estrobolome and hormones.  Foods that support this are

  • Probiotic foods that includes fermented foods such as kimchi, pickled vegetables, miso, kefir
  • Prebiotic foods which are high in fiber and feed our good bacteria such as garlic, leeks, asparagus, dandelion greens, chicory, green bananas
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts help to detoxify hormones including estrogen and provide an abundance of fiber for our microbiome
  • Array of fruit and vegetables and whole foods that are high in fiber such as nuts, legumes. Grapefruit, oranges and apples are beneficial for hormone detoxification as well

Exercise

Physical activity is a great way to aid in our body’s natural detoxification processes.   It also helps to manage stress which is needed to keeping our hormones balanced.    Exercise balances circulating levels of estrogen in both the short-term and long-term so know that you are doing wonders for your hormones when you are moving your body

Be mindful of your exposure to toxins

Xenoestrogens are synthetic compounds found in plastics, pesticides and fragrances to name a few.  They are hormone disruptors that mimic estrogen in the body and can alter the microbiome. 

  • Minimize use of plastics especially when heated such as food containers and plastic water bottles
  • Eat organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible
  • Read the ingredients of your personal care items and avoid parabens and fragrances

If you are struggling with symptoms of hormonal imbalance and confused about the next step to take to find a solution, you are not alone.  Speak to a naturopathic doctor that will take into account oof unique needs and create a strategic plan to get you being the best version of yourself. 

References:   PMID: 28778332, PMID: 26541144, PMID: 31636122

Click below to book an appointment with Dr. Ramlal.

Dr. Ramlal believes that we can all be the best version of ourselves and this starts with taking care of our health.  We are worthy of having the life we want and doing all the amazing things we want to do.  She is passionate about looking at the bigger picture of the factors that shape our health and curating strategies to help others reach their greatest potential. Dr. Ramlal has a strong belief in creating a space to cultivate growth, awareness and fostering the mind-body connection to nourish the foundations of health. As a clinician, her area of focus is helping those with digestive concerns such as irritable bowel syndrome, break free from the constraints of diarrhea, bloating and constipation that are keeping them from living and feeling their best.

She would love to hear from you, connect on Instagram @drroxanneramlal

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Apr 7

Facing the Long Journey

I am sitting in the same place as one year ago, a year older. The trees I see are the same trees. In the lock-down’s “new normal” mode, life seems to have boiled down to a long wait. The cycles of nature have continued through our lockdown. This is reinforced by noticing that my garden has thawed now, and tiny green leaves are beginning to emerge from the ground. Is this emergence of the young leaves a time to rejoice?

I am not sure how to feel about it. I am reminded of the Greek myth of the goddess Persephone, that explains the barrenness of winter and the return of life in Spring. What is the story teaching us?

Persephone was believed by the ancient Greeks to be the Queen of the Underworld. Her name means “Bringer of Death”. She did not start as the Queen of the Underworld, however, she started as a Goddess of agriculture.

The story tells that she was abducted by Zeus’s triplet brother Hades, who ruled the Underworld, to force her to be his wife. (Yes, quite a #MeToo moment!) The myth mysteriously layers connections between creativity, life returning, and the realm of death.

Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, grains, and fertility. When her mother, the powerful Demeter, angered by the abduction, negotiated with Zeus her return, Hades tricked Persephone. He fed her pomegranate seeds from his realm so she would have to return to his dark realm every year for an extended period.

So the rhythms began. She spent part of the year in the world of the living, and part in Hades’ Underworld. When she was in Hades, she ruled the souls of the dead and was the Queen of the Underworld. When she would return to the world of the living, Demeter was the Goddess of Spring and renewal. There is a poetic connection here between death and renewal that we can use to inspire us.

I find that the myth reflects the sense of I have about this Spring, that our liveliness, like Persephone’s,  has been abducted to a hellish realm. COVID has felt, for the ones who have remained healthy, a lot like I imagine the souls of the Dead might have felt, all our desires alive but not a way to express them. We wait.

This wait may hold a hidden treasure, I hope. If we think of the wait as Winter, when Persephone is in the Underworld, then it is time to nurture the seeds of what will emerge in the Spring. When Spring finally comes metaphorically at the end of this COVID imprisonment, I hope most of us will emerge ready to bloom.

When we emerge, I want to have learned something and become better at living, at being human. In a sense, I want this journey to the darkness of COVID count for some form of renewal. I have tried to convince as many people as I can to embrace this.

Knowing that we will definitely emerge at some point, lets nurture the seeds of our future by making small shifts for the better. Let’s tend to the energies we will need to harness a better life when we start being in the open world again. There are all these things we ignore when we are busy, but which need tending. What are those for you?

We all know that tending to the body is a given. It is a must. We do get mushy if we stay inactive. Our bodies need movement and exercise. We all know that inactivity leads to low mood. It leads to poor self-image. It leads to ill health. How about our psyches?

Tending to our psyches is something we often do not know we can do. The psyche, which some understand as the soul, others as the mind, needs tending to as well. Like the body it needs exercise, skills and training.

For some, tending the psyche means learning how to use one’s moods and personalities for success. For others, it means to learn to understand or regulate emotions that distract us. For others is to learn to see gifts where we only see burdens, or learn how to tackle obstacles. For others, it means to pay attention to the images of ourselves and to the longings we have, and maybe find a way to embrace our full selves as we go through this precious life.

Like seeds, each one of us is unique and gifted, so each one of us has to figure out how to root one’s life on this earth. My colleagues at IHI and myself are here to help you do that, physically and mentally. During this COVID winter, I invite you to look for small steps you can take to let this year count, to move forward, to emerge in full bloom when the time comes to emerge again.

Click below to book an appointment with Ariel!

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.

Check him out on instagram at @arielblaumsw or visit his website at https://www.arielblau.com/

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Apr 7

Let’s Make Your Posture Great Again

That is a delicate question. We know posture matters, but how much?

There are different lenses through which we can look at posture and its effects. When it comes to training and heavy loading, posture really matters to have that stable base and alignment from which to begin.

If we are to look at it from a strictly biomechanical perspective, we can liken it to the most basic and fundamental component of mechanization: the wheel.

The wheel was the most evolutionary invention of mankind that really shifted society. It came about in 3500BC as a potters wheel, yet it was 300 years before the axle was invented and someone used it on a chariot. How we consider our posture requires a similarly sophisticated upgrade. Being able to identify an ideal zone for one joint is much easier than thinking about how the whole works; yet, if we are to really be able to maximize how we move and what we can carry, we have to think about the totality of the system.

Though it is crucial to have an eye on how the whole body is affected, it is very difficult to train this way. There are literally too many moving parts! So, for the purposes of posture correction, we think global but train local.

Joint centration is a biomechanical concept that describes the sweet spot of positioning of a joint for optimal movement. While we can explore different ranges through movement practices, we can also pay more attention to positions that translate into more efficient use of our bodies and can help prevent injury.

It is also worthwhile to consider that, beyond simply chasing optimum position, being able to maintain certain capacities throughout your lifespan is a more functional and realistic goal. This notion gives us an opportunity to relax, resist the tyranny of misplaced precision, and explore isometric holds and other subtle movements.

Isometric contraction is when we activate a muscle without changing its length—resistance within a static position. While this mode of training doesn’t necessarily fit the typical fitness model, 91% of muscle fibres are recruited in isometric contraction. We can take 10-40 seconds in one position, incorporate our breathing, and be present and strategic in our application of this approach.

We know that complication is a road bump to execution, and one of the goals of Brainfullness is to organize the body. We can make biomechanics and kinematics as complicated as we want, but I think it is more important to focus on making it user-friendly.

There are different ways that we can work with our posture in different areas of our bodies. With that in mind and in looking at the basic foundations, here are some things to do…

  • Statically supinate and pronate your feet. That is to roll from the outside of your foot to the inside and feel the effect on your arch and your balance.
  • Untether your big toe from your other four toes. This fires up your intrinsic foot muscles and creates more motion within the 33 joints of the foot—separate from the typical motions of gait.

Functionally, the foot is connected to the hip, so there is also an upstream effect for the health of the hip and longevity of walking.

  • Fire up your quads at equal strength to feel greater balance in how you are loading your body.
  • Anterior and posterior rotation of the pelvis. This mobilizes the spine and explores a variability of movement, while also drawing attention to our postural tendencies.
  • Stacking up your thorax on your pelvis allows you to activate your core and have a more balanced posture that does not put unnecessary stress on other areas of your body.
  • Reaching your arms up. There is a compressive load in the rotator cuff just from having our arms hanging down at our sides all the time which we can counter by exploring overhead ranges of motion. If we don’t practice the movement of reaching overhead, not only do we run the risk of losing the range but, if we then go to the gym and try chin ups, adding load to an unfamiliar movement, we may be asking too much of our bodies. It is more important to focus on the details in these types of activities. You don’t have to do all of them —even just doing one of these things and practicing active awareness in what happens in the rest of your body can be a gateway to improving your posture. It should be noted that when we sustain injuries we develop protective postures and compensatory movement patterns based on a particular pattern of pain. It is equally important to explore these altered positions and appreciate their value as we heal, but also to exercise that awareness to ensure that we do not carry them forward beyond recovery. And we must also acknowledge that there is a big sociocultural aspect to posture, and there is a challenge between looking at the cultural aesthetic expectation of posture versus the physiological energy efficiency of it. There is also an emotional tag that creates posture and there is a certain vigilance that goes into monitoring those cues for ourselves as well. You tend to shrug and exhibit a more protective posture if you have just received a nasty email from your boss, versus having the more open posture that you may exhibit when playing with your kids. Even being open to new ideas has a posture… We can be nuanced in our approach to health, being more targeted and consistent in how we practice. There is no perfect posture—but there are benefits to complex movements and an importance in how we load our bodies. Just as there is no perfect way to be, just the complexity of our experience and the value in how we live it. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just maintain it. And make sure we are driving in the right direction.

Click below to book an appointment with Dr. Tabrizi.

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.Check out his instagram at @drt_toronto or visit his website at https://www.brainfullness.org/

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