We’re all familiar with phrases like “gut feeling” and “go with your gut.” As every ND knows, patients really should listen to their gut, because its symptoms are important indicators of overall health, and the functioning of the digestive system. If you’re experiencing symptoms like bloating, gas, cramps and irregularity, it’s time to take a look at what’s causing your digestive distress.
The Traveling Naturopath has some helpful advice about the natural, preventative health factors that may be affecting your gut health. Here are three important behaviours for keeping a balanced, healthy digestive system.
1. Practising good food hygiene. This is an essential practice for every meal. Practising good food hygiene requires many things. Most obviously, ensure that your food is safe and kept free from avoidable contaminants. Store and prepare food with careful attention paid to temperature, sealing of containers, shelf life, and the cleanliness of your storage environment. Rinse all produce thoroughly and be sure to keep an extremely sanitary food prep area. As the Traveling Naturopath emphasizes, good food hygiene also includes chewing your food thoroughly and carefully, and taking time to eat slowly.
2. Cultivating gut flora. Antibiotics strip the intestinal tract of healthy gut flora, which are necessary to facilitate digestion, avoid stomach upset and boost immunity. These probiotics or “good bacteria” are multi-functional. They secrete substances that aid cell function and protect your digestive system from harmful bacteria. They also suppress the attachment of disease-causing bacteria to the walls of the intestines. Talk to a naturopathic doctor to determine which probiotics would benefit your diet, as there are a number of different types, each with their own specific health functions.
Image source: http://ow.ly/lxKod
3. Identifying food intolerances: Food intolerances and sensitivities exist in varying degrees. A sensitivity to a certain food (or group of foods) can often go ignored however, because it doesn’t produce symptoms severe enough to be immediately identified as an allergy or dietary problem. Just because you don’t break into hives or have a violent reaction, doesn’t mean that you are immune to food sensitivities. Many of your mild but unpleasant symptoms like digestive distress may be attributed to a certain food or ingredient. An elimination diet is an easy first step at figuring out which foods may be causing you those unwanted symptoms. Food sensitivity testing is also commonly used, via a blood prick test, to easily determine problem foods. A consultation with a naturopathic doctor can help you better understand the biological causes for your intolerance, and how you can continue meeting your nutrition needs while limiting or eliminating the problem foods from your diet.
So if you’re experiencing unwanted health-related symptoms, take that familiar advice: listen to your gut!
There are many seemingly insignificant, overlooked lifestyle factors that can affect your alignment and physiological wellness. We’ve already mentioned the potential outcomes of practicing poor pillow posture, but what about poor purse posture?
Many of us are guilty of it: we wear a purse, bag or computer case without giving proper consideration to its weight and positioning on the body. Over time, an overpacked bag can affect your gait, posture and comfort. A heavy purse could also be the root cause of ongoing unidentified neck and shoulder pain.
This helpful article from Prevention.com offers some advice about what your purse could be doing for your posture and muscle health- and how you can correct it. Read on for some simple strategies to avoid shoulder bag strain.
1. Switch sides: Chances are you habitually sling your purse over the same arm (likely your dominant side). This is part of the problem- by only wearing your purse on one shoulder, you’re constantly overworking those muscles. Depending on how heavy your bag is, you’re also forcing one side of your upper body to be the load-bearing side, which can affect your gait and mobility.
2. Avoid the crook of your arm: You’ve probably done this one too –stuck your purse strap right in the inside of your elbow. This can cause injury, including tendonitis. It also forces you to hold your arm at a right angle, resulting in more muscle strain and poor circulation.
For more information check out this article: “Are you hurting your health in the name of fashion?” http://ow.ly/lr8UW
3. Wear your strap diagonally. Rather than pulling your laptop carrier, bag or purse over one arm, pull it over your head so that the strap is stretched diagonally across your chest. This will distribute the weight of the bag more effectively and result in less of a heavy downward pull on one side- sparing your shoulder and lower back and engaging more of your torso muscles instead.
4. Choose an appropriate carrier or bag. This is an important consideration we’d add to the list. Consider what accessory might better suit you and save you from neck, shoulder and back strain. If you have a lot to pack for a walk to the gym, try a backpack and be sure to wear both straps. For your computer, consider a briefcase or bag on wheels. For an evening out, swap your carry-all for a small clutch.
5. Lighten your load! The last and most obvious solution we offer is to simply take stock of your purse before leaving the house- particularly if you plan to be walking with it for any extended period of time. What can you reasonably leave behind? Remove spare change and roll it at home to exchange for bills. Take out chargers, extra keys and any other heavy objects that you can do without for a few hours. And every few days clean out your purse – you’d be surprised at how much weight accumulates from simple garbage, junk and forgotten items that could be left at home.
Fess up: How heavy is your purse?
The following is a guest post from Aviva Allen, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and newest member of the Thrive Health team! Aviva has authored two cookbooks and completed a health-supportive chef training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. She specializes in helping children and young families adopt healthy eating practices through nutrition counselling. This article was reprinted with permission from Aviva’s blog.
My Son the Neophobe
by Aviva Allen
I wouldn’t label my son a picky eater. He loves beans, whole grains, all fruits…even enjoys Indian and Ethiopian cuisines. Certainly not your typical four year old. That being said, he is not the most adventurous in the vegetable department. The biggest roadblock we have been dealing with for the last two years is his stubbornness when it comes to trying new foods. There is actually a term for this.FOOD NEOPHOBIA: The fear of new or novel foods. Believe it or not, food neophobia is actually a naturally occurring reaction in humans that protects us from consuming potentially poisonous things. He’s just following his instincts.
I’ve had success using my Healthy Eating Reward Chart with my clients for a while now, but only recently have I been able to try it out on my own son, since prior to age four I find they cannot really understand the concept. While my son has been completing many of the food categories with ease, he had yet to receive any bonus points for “trying something new.” Day after day, I would suggest that he try something new to get those extra points, but he would politely decline.
I am not quite sure how it happened, but all of the sudden he really wanted those bonus points. Tonight he was determined to get one. There were two new foods sitting on his plate. He stared at them for a minute or so and decided on the red pepper. He popped it into his mouth and slowly began to chew it, although he looked as if he wasn’t sure he wanted to keep in in there. At last, he swallowed it. Success! Well that was just the beginning for him. He NEEDED to get another point. In went a piece of sautéed kale. What??!! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Chewed and swallowed….and followed by a huge smile. He was so proud of himself, as was I, but for me, the best part was actually listening to him brag about what he had eaten to his little brother at bath time.
I can’t wait to see what he tries tomorrow!
Springtime has finally arrived and after a long, cold winter we’re all rejoicing. While the weather is still inconsistent, overall warmer temperatures mean that many people are experiencing the unwelcome return of seasonal allergies.
Seasonal allergies occur when your body reacts to airborne particles, most commonly pollen. At this time of year so many different things are in bloom- flowers, trees, weeds, plants- that a whole new host of spores and particles have been reintroduced into the air we breathe. For those who are allergic, these substances are met with a defensive reaction by the body. Upon contact with the allergen, allergy sufferers will experience a release of histamine as the body tries to shut out the particles that it perceives as harmful. The result is any combination of a runny nose, sinus congestion, itchy ears, nose, throat, and watery eyes. All of these symptoms are your body’s way of keeping airborne toxins out.
As adults we know to brace ourselves for allergy season, and it’s a time of year when many will reach for over-the-counter relief. As Modern Mom reminds us however, babies and children suffer from allergies too, and require safe and gentle forms of treatment. If your child is showing symptoms of an allergy, take a look at the different environmental factors that could be to blame.
Allergy symptoms in children
Springtime allergies can produce many of the same symptoms in young children and infants as adults, along with hives, fussiness, and impaired breathing. You may notice your child rubbing his or her face and presenting with a red nose and red, swollen eyes. A common sign of allergies in children that Dr. Heins notes is a palmed wipe up the nose- this is commonly referred to as the “allergy salute.” Children with allergies may also present with darkening around the eyes, which we’ve dubbed “allergic shiners.”
Dr. Heins’ best preventative health tip for allergy sufferers is nasal rinsing after school or before bed. This helps to literally wash out the allergens and reduce the histamine response in your child. Companies like HydraSense make baby-safe saltwater misting sprays and nasal rinses that are gentle and effective.
Use a vaporizer to keep air moist in your nursery or child’s bedroom, and consider elevating one end of your crib mattress to help with congestion during naps and at night. For an older child, encourage that they sleep on an extra pillow to slightly elevate the head. Just be sure that the neck is supported and doesn’t sit at an extreme angle.
You can also limit allergy symptoms by minimizing your outdoor time and keeping windows shut when the pollen count is high. Depending on the severity of the allergies, Baby Center recommends washing hands and faces when your child comes in the house from outdoors and removing clothing so it can be added to the laundry immediately.
Remember that babies are very sensitive and haven’t had as much exposure to various airborne substances, so keep a close eye on your child to avoid mistaking allergy symptoms for a cold. If your baby has hives or a rash, consult with a health care practitioner who can help you determine if the allergen is more likely airborne or ingested. Naturopaths can run allergy testing panels and use modalities like homeopathics to great effect- these are safe in infants and children, and can help push the immune system to better handle environmental aggravants.
Wishing you a safe and sniffle free spring!
Embracing Health produced an interesting blog post titled “Deadly Legal Addictions,” discussing a recent publicized death that occurred as the result of an extremely unhealthy diet. It raises an interesting suggestion that instead of thinking of unhealthy foods and habits as indulgences, we should take them to be much more serious and dangerous dependencies that have real consequences for our long-term health.
While you may not be surprised by the culprit soft drink named in the article, the characterization of familiar vices like Coca Cola as “addictions” is perhaps jarring. Yet to a large degree, that’s what they are. In fact, a recent study mentioned in Time suggests that as we increase our consumption of unhealthy, high-fat, high-sugar foods, our “reward-threshold” decreases. Much like the pattern we see among drug users, repeated ingestion of these substances makes it more difficult to get the same satisfaction that the “user” or consumer initially enjoyed. In other words: over time, eating addictive, unhealthy foods becomes similar to chasing a high.
Our consciousness regarding portion size or guilt can be affected in a similar way as well. While we may initially feel like a small serving of a “cheat food” is a luxury, treat, or even something to feel guilty about, eventually those sensibilities erode. If we don’t feel the same rush or satiety that junk food once brought us, it’s easy to lose sight of how much of it we’re consuming. Eventually a large allowance for junk food begins to feel like the new “normal.”
It’s certainly a dangerous trajectory. One way to address common food “addictions” mentioned by Embracing Health is to include warning labels on certain junk foods. Ultimately however, resistance to food addiction and its prevention have much more to do with a holistic dialogue with our bodies. The article stresses the importance of listening to our physiological messages by paying close attention to how we feel, look, and react to our diet. The body gives so many signs when something is wrong that there’s no reason to leave them ignored.
If your diet is leaving you with constant cravings for sugar and salt, uncontrollable appetite, or physical symptoms like headaches and nausea, it’s time to tune in more closely. A health care practitioner can help you refine your diet and avoid experiencing that all-too-common cycle of a diminishing reward threshold. Food should always be satisfying, rewarding and nourishing!
What do you think: Should warning labels be printed on certain unhealthy foods?
There are many reasons to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Chronic inflammation has been identified as a contributing factor for a number of diseases, as well as chronic pain. Additionally, the most inflammatory foods are those that carry the highest risk for allergic reactions. So how can you reduce inflammation without reaching for over-the-counter medications? A preventative diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods is a start.
The Conscious Life offers a great list of top anti-inflammatory foods. Here are some of the best natural ingredients for your diet:
Seaweed: Kelp is rich in the complex-carbohydrate fucoidan. Fucoidan has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It’s also high in fibre, meaning that seaweed can help optimize digestion and fat absorption for the maintenance of a healthy weight.
Wild salmon: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA, salmon is an anti-inflammatory and may also prevent heart disease and certain cancers. Studies suggest omega-3’s may also reduce symptoms of autoimmune disease. This is a definite powerhouse food, so try to include salmon in your weekly meal plan. If you find it too “fishy” try dressing it up with powerful flavours like lemon and dill.
Green tea: Choc-full of anti-inflammatory flavonoids, green tea is great for reducing risk of heart disease and cancer. It’s also the perfect guilt-free hot beverage if you’re trying to lose weight, because the polyphenol found in green tea helps to boost metabolism and fat oxidation.
Broccoli: This green veggie contains the phytonutrient sulforaphane, which helps the body kick potentially cancer-causing compounds. Broccoli is also rich in magnesium and calcium to regulate blood pressure, and its high potassium content helps maintain the functioning of a healthy nervous system.
Sweet potato: This is a powerful potato! Versatile and mild-flavoured, sweet potatoes are becoming a nutritious favourite with many people. They contain a whole host of nutrients, including fibre, vitamin C and B6, and beta-carotene. Together, all of these powerful components work to reduce inflammation and purify the body.
While there are many anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant foods, without thoughtful meal planning you’d be surprised at how easy they are to overlook. Challenge yourself by including one anti-inflammatory food in all of your major meals!
New moms wonder how to best adjust their eating habits while breastfeeding in order to optimize their baby’s nutrition, maintain a healthy weight, and navigate the new demands on their bodies. While you don’t have to drastically change the menu of healthy foods that you already enjoy, here are some of the adjustments you’ll likely need to make as a breastfeeding mother.
Managing a big appetite: Breastfeeding women will often notice a significant increase in hunger as the result of their increased metabolic rate. It’s important that you nourish and listen to your body. If you fail to give yourself enough nutrients from your diet, your body will draw upon reserves you can’t afford to lose. Eat balanced meals and healthy, portion-controlled snacks to find balance between maintaining a healthy postpartum weight and keeping your energy up.
Changing your perspective on postpartum weight loss: While your pregnancy weight may fall away quickly, it’s important to have a realistic idea about returning to your pre-pregnancy shape, size and fitness levels. Plan for gradual weight loss, and only diet and exercise with approval from your physician. Instead of being preoccupied with a short-term weight or size goal, focus on eating healthily and keeping your energy high- not only for physical exercise, but also for the demands of new parenting.
Thinking about fat: You’ll want to focus on healthy fats contained in olive oil, avocados, olives, nuts, and fatty fish. While this is always an important dietary concern, you should be particularly mindful to avoid saturated and trans fats while breastfeeding. These can change the composition of your breast milk and have potentially adverse effects on your infant’s health.
Being critical of contaminants: In addition to unhealthy fats, many environmental and food contaminants can find their way into breast milk and negatively affect your baby. Have an understanding of which fruit and vegetables harbour the most pesticides, or choose organic options. Consider buying locally and in-season, in addition to choosing lean meat and filtered water.
Watching for baby’s reaction: While many nursing mothers eat a wide variety of foods and flavours, it’s important to keep an eye out for any patterns between your eating habits and unwanted symptoms your baby experiences. If you notice changes in your infant’s stool or mucous, look for cues in your eating. Sometimes babies have sensitivities to certain components of their breastfeeding mother’s diet.
For more tips about breastfeeding nutrition, check out this neat “A to Z guide to physical and nutritional needs while breastfeeding.”
When people experience pain and discomfort, they will often first assume a muscle-related problem such as strain, tightness or micro-tears is responsible. As the Chiropractic Blog points out however, soreness and numbness are also often caused by a nerve-related problem. Without a proper diagnosis and treatment from a chiropractor, the root cause of your pain can go overlooked.
What causes nerve irritation and pain?
From SpineUniverse: “Why Pinched Nerves Cause Neck and Back Pain” http://ow.ly/kNgAN
You’re most likely experiencing trapped or pinched nerve fibres. This is one of the most common nerve-related conditions that clients present with. Essentially a nerve in the spine becomes compressed between two bones or discs, resulting in the pinched, tingling or numb sensation you may be familiar with. A chiropractor will locate the trapped nerve and make careful manual adjustments to ease the pressure, realign the discs and free the nerve.
Another common condition is a trapped nerve. This occurs when a nerve has adhered itself to surrounding soft tissue, likely as the result of a certain repetitive movement. The motion causes friction between the nerve and nearby muscles or ligaments, creating sticky scar tissue. Consistent muscle contractions can also deprive the nerve of oxygen.
Although this could be taking place in your own body for a long time, you might not notice symptoms until the condition has worsened significantly. At the onset of symptoms you don’t want to further delay treatment by mistaking the problem for something else- so don’t assume anything. It’s always best to see a specialized practitioner who can properly identify whether your pain can be traced to a muscle problem, a pinched or trapped nerve, or both.
Your chiropractor will use gentle chiropractic adjustments to restore motion to the joints, which will relieve pressure from the nerves and allow muscles to function more effectively and without nerve-related discomfort. It may take several treatments to fully treat the problem, to eliminate pain, and to regain full mobility. Since the site of a compressed nerve is often very sensitive, a chiropractic treatment may be slightly uncomfortable at first. Your practitioner will be gentle however, and you’ll soon find that accurately diagnosing and treating the problem site results in major pain relief.
Regardless of whether you have a muscle or nerve problem, it’s important that you seek the right treatment to see lasting results and avoid long-term adverse effects.
by Maya Hammer, M.A., Counselling Psychology
In Canada it is typical for women to take a year-long maternity leave, with some variation amongst those who are self-employed or sharing the leave with a partner. While parental leave is a great opportunity to take a break from your professional life to raise your child, the day-to-day experience of mat leave can be lonely, boring, and exhausting. Being a mother is hard work as you are in high demand and have limited control over your schedule. Feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger, irritability, and exhaustion are common, especially for high achieving Type A individuals who adhere to a rigid schedule and time management structure. Spending 10 or more hours on your own, five days a week, is quite removed from traditional ways of raising children in community, extended family households, or tribes.
It is important to find ways to support yourself during this time. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself as you grow into your new role. Take time to identify what you need in order to feel good on a day–to-day basis, specifically addressing times that feel most difficult, such as first thing in the morning or the final hours in the afternoon before your partner comes home from work. Stay connected to your partner, family, and friends while seeking out new mom friends so that you do not feel isolated. Connect with people by phone or online when it is too difficult to leave the house. Use your support network to help with childcare or hire a babysitter for 3-4 hours so you can nap, exercise, do something fun, or catch up on errands and other responsibilities. Involve your partner/spouse as much as possible with care for the baby.
Learning to be flexible, creative, and let go will serve you well on maternity leave. This requires a paradigm shift from being productive, organized, and ambitious- qualities that may have been integral to your life pre-baby. Making the switch from ‘doing’ to ‘being’ is not always easy. In the book Momma Zen, Zen Buddhist priest and mother Karen Maezen Miller describes her relentless path towards letting go of expectations, welcoming mistakes, and reconnecting with her innermost self. Maezen Miller reminds us that being a parent is an excellent opportunity for growth and transformation if you accept what is happening, without judgment, on a moment to moment basis.
Maya Hammer is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in women’s mental health, prenatal and postpartum mental health, infertility support, pregnancy loss and infant death, and couples counselling.
www.mayahammer.ca | email@example.com | 416.597.0015
We often only think about hormones in terms of side effects. Despite their importance to our body’s functioning, they tend to go unacknowledged until they begin to cause us grief.
Hormones are key to the performance of many processes and capabilities of the body, including our fertility, digestion processes, and thyroid function. Since they play such a multi-faceted and important role, a number of unpleasant side effects can present themselves when our hormones fluctuate.
So what causes our hormones to get out of sync or off the charts? Human hormone levels are highly sensitive to a variety of factors. These include oral medications you may be taking, the things you’re eating, and lifestyle factors such as stress. Hormonal imbalances can also result from major physical changes that are facilitated by hormonal releases (such as reproductive process and the onset of puberty). When these factors come into play against your natural hormone levels, eventually your body may struggle with overall hormone regulation and control. At this point, a treatment method is often needed to restore balance.
Symptoms of hormonal imbalances include:
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Changes in appetite
If you’re consistently experiencing these symptoms, a saliva or blood test can determine whether you have a hormone imbalance and its severity. While many people fear they’ll have to take synthetic hormone doses to treat an imbalance, this isn’t always a necessary or ideal solution, particularly when an imbalance has been triggered by lifestyle factors.
Some of the dietary strategies used to treat hormone imbalances include:
- Enriching meals with protein, fibre and iron by incorporating more lentils and beans.
- Eating more foods that contain phytoestrogens, a compound in plants that resembles the human hormone estrogen. Soy and flaxseed are great choices.
- Increasing soluble fibre intake.
- Ensuring that you’re getting enough vitamin D and calcium.
If you think you may have a hormonal imbalance, have a consultation to find out if a natural, nutrition-based approach is best for you.