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.
In her blog post “Why Feed Kids Healthy NOW?” nutritionist Lauren Talbot points out how lucky parents are to have the opportunity to instill good eating habits in their children right from infancy. As she reminds readers- and as we’ve mentioned on our blog before- not only is a baby’s development affected directly by prenatal diet, but newborn infants begin to develop taste preferences from their earliest feedings. From birth, we have a responsibility to guide and direct our children’s diet- this is a big responsibility, but we’re fortunate to have it.
Raising a child from infancy can offer an opportunity to encourage certain tastes, food preferences and understandings of nutrition… but what about when we want to influence eating habits at a later stage in development? Talbot mentions how challenging it can be to break the ingrained eating habits of older children and adolescents, which she’s experienced firsthand as a stepmother. At this point, children have already come to expect and crave certain unhealthy foods because they’re such a regular part of their lifestyle. This doesn’t just apply to particularly lackadaisical families either- let’s face it: most of us have an appetite for foods we could certainly do without. We recall craving unhealthy food as children, as adolescents, and even as nutritionally-minded adults.
So how do processed, sugary, high-fat and junky foods sneak into so many children’s diets? A large part of it is our own leniency. In order to truly adopt the cleanest, most healthful eating habits, Talbot says we need to make a critical shift in our attitudes. She suggests that we redefine how we conceive of “normal” eating, and stop making allowances for unhealthy foods on account of how mainstream they may be. She stresses the importance of adult guidance, reminding us that “it’s okay for children to be different from the norm.”
It’s true that the “norm” is far from optimal. Just think of the many factors that contribute to our conceptions of customary eating behaviours: we see other families eating a typical North American diet; we find the same packaged foods lining our grocery store shelves; we are surrounded by cheap and readily accessible fast food options. These things all shape our views of acceptable eating patterns and make healthy, organic eating seem different, difficult, and deviant.
We need to set a positive example for our children to help make healthy eating habits seem (and in fact become) more common. Let’s strive for a culture in which healthy, whole food choices are what’s normal. In the meantime however, it’s important that we make the choices that are best for our health, regardless of how irregular and inconvenient they may seem in comparison to those around us.
Teach your family to share your priority of clean eating. Teach them to choose fresh, whole foods. Teach them the value of food preparation and empower them with the skills to nourish their bodies. By doing these things, together we can help to create a new “normal.”
Recent news has made the disconcerting report that women often have misguided ideas about their caloric requirements during pregnancy.
The findings of numerous studies continue to prove that moms-to-be need to be careful about what they’re eating and avoid some dangerous behaviours like over-indulging their cravings. Why? Because what you eat can directly affect the development of your child, in both the fetal stage and infancy.
For example, research shows that women who eat a higher sugar diet may have bigger babies. The sugar consumption triggers the baby to produce more insulin, which in turn promotes growth.
The reason for this- and one of the key “takeaways” from this article- is the fact that everything in a mother’s diet has a collective impact on her child’s development. While medical science used to believe that the placenta could filter out unwanted or unneeded nutrients, we now know this isn’t the case. So when a pregnant woman chooses to eat things that are high in sugar and low in nutritional value, those decisions are also being made for her child. And when these decisions are made consistently, your baby’s body will react and develop accordingly. A poor prenatal diet can even affect the infant’s eventual likelihood of developing chronic disease.
The nutrients that babies feed on and physically process in the womb also help determine the types of cravings they’ll have in infancy, because the mother’s diet shapes her baby’s sensitivity and receptiveness to certain tastes. So skip the sugar and greasy, processed foods. Make it a strict habit to exercise dietary balance, high nutrient density, and moderation.
Yes, moderation. As the article points out, it’s important to understand what it means to be “eating for two.” This is a misleading expression because the volume of food you need to consume while pregnant is never going to double. In fact the view that pregnancy is a time to “let go” contributes to the problem of compromised fetal nutrition. When women eat empty calories, avoid exercise, and indulge repeatedly in high-sugar, high-sodium or high-fat food cravings, their pregnancy weight gain begins to exceed the targeted and healthy range of 25 to 35 pounds.
Of course pregnancies are subjective and body weight, nutritional needs, and gestational health concerns vary. However, understanding your personal needs is a good place to start. Consult Health Canada’s pregnancy weight gain guide, set up a diet plan based on your own cravings and aversions, and try to remind yourself that the right combination of nutrition knowledge and discipline could go a long way in keeping your child healthy.
If your child is a fussy eater with a limited palate, it can be tough to tell if they’re getting the nutrients they need. While children’s vitamins are a common choice for parents with picky eaters, there are also plenty of creative ways to sneak nutritious foods into tasty, kid-friendly foods. Here are some tricks that might work for you:
Tasting plate: Chop foods into tasty bite-size portions and put them into a bento box or a partitioned plate. This gives the meal variety and colour while making the foods less overwhelming. This type of meal also encourages healthy food play. If your child gets tired of munching on one item, it’s easy to move to the next section, or to combine flavors, textures and tastes.
Smoothies: These are a big hit with many children, and a great way to sneak in lots of fruit and veggies. Try blending spinach, avocado, beets or carrot juice with your child’s favourite fruits and some yogurt. This will produce a tasty and hearty smoothie with lots of hidden nutrition. Try to mix fun colours and experiment with different ingredients and thicknesses to find what works for your family.
Sauces: Another great hiding spot for healthy foods! Puree vegetables right into your sauces so that they can’t be picked out by little fingers. Add some spinach, squash, carrots, pumpkin or nutritional yeast to the blend.
Modified sweet treats: Find a recipe that offers a healthier take on a treat your kids love. If you know they’ll be biased, don’t bother telling them what’s inside! Here are three recipes that people swear by:
Instead of chocolate pudding try avocado chocolate pudding
Instead of ice cream try banana soft serve
Instead of cake try sweet potato brownies
For a frozen treat try these peanut butter, jam, banana popsicles
Give them a try! Last but not least- check out our Picky Eater Workshop, led by the newest member of the Thrive Health team, Nutritionist Aviva Allen! Details below:
Picky Eater Workshop with Aviva Allen:
Date: Thursday April 25
Location: Thrive Health
110 Eglinton Avenue East
Join Nutritionist Aviva Allen as she discusses how to best support your picky eater(s): learn how to support them to try new foods, avoid conflict and stress at the table, incorporate more nutrients into their diet and choose appropriate supplementation. Cost is $30.00. To register call Thrive Health at 647.352.7911 or visit www.avivaallen.com
Mothers put their children before anything-if you’re a parent, this probably isn’t news to you! The love, commitment and protectiveness we feel toward our children is truly transformative. But how much are moms sacrificing in the name of maternal love?
The degree to which moms are neglecting their own needs in favour of their families’ is impacting both their day-to-day wellness and long-term health goals. The worrisome results of a recent survey reveal that Canadian moms are not taking great care of themselves, instead prioritizing other responsibilities and the health of their children at a personal cost.
So what are moms foregoing in favour of their family duties? The research found that mothers will put off visits to the doctor, exercise and personal pursuits to better serve their children. Moms also make healthy eating a bigger priority for their families than they do for their own diets.
These are troubling findings- though easy enough to believe and understand. What’s important for moms to remember however, is that self-care is an important part of being a good parent. Here are some reasons why.
1. Taking care of yourself will lower your stress. Getting too wrapped up in your maternal duties can cause major burnout. Between bake sales, daycare, soccer lessons and laundry, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Without planned breaks you not only lose some of your personal fulfillment and pursuits- you can also begin to feel like you’re on a hamster wheel with no end in sight. The tasks and chores and everyday trials will never stop- so you need to. Instead of waiting for a break, take one. This will help you calm down, refocus, and return to your other tasks with more clarity and balance.
2. You’ll boost your energy. When you stop making things like nutrition, sleep and exercise priorities in your life, your energy is (unsurprisingly) going to dip. So don’t think of these things as sacrifices for the greater good- see them for what they are: unfair denials to yourself that will prevent you from being an active and energized parent. You need to fuel and strengthen your body properly for one of your most important jobs: being a mother.
3. You’ll see a rise in your mood and an increase in your patience. A rested mom is a calm, rational and patient one. You may not realize how a lack of sleep, a sore back, or low blood sugar are affecting your mood –and by extension, your parenting. Prioritizing your health will help you to keep a clear head, which is important in your role as disciplinarian, adjudicator and teacher.
4. You’ll set a positive example. Think about what your personal neglect is communicating to your children. By making their health a priority but not your own, you may be unknowingly teaching them double standards, or suggesting that their learned behaviours end with adulthood. Try taking a more holistic approach by demonstrating that things like good nutrition and sleep schedules are important for kids and grown-ups alike. In adulthood we also often mimic the parenting styles with which we were brought up. If you’re stretched too thin your children may come to view this as a normal expectation of parents and adults.
5. You have a responsibility to yourself and your family. Being an active, available, present parent requires that you be healthy. If you want to be around for your children for many years to come, it’s never too early to start taking your health seriously.
If, in spite of your very best efforts, you, a partner or your child has come down with a cold or the flu this winter, diet will play an important role in recovery. For this reason you need to be conscious of a few key nutritional guidelines to speed up recovery and continue to strengthen the immune system. Here are some general best practices for diet and nutrition during recovery.
The obvious: drink those fluids! As most people know, taking in plenty of fluids is key for flushing out toxins, staying hydrated and eliminating the by-products of your illness. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of water and pure fruit juices. Avoid diuretics such as tea and coffee, and you may wish to avoid dairy which can trigger congestion and produce phlegm.
Eat easily digestible proteins. This will help to keep your energy up, and help to give you strength for recovery. If you don’t have much of an appetite, nut butters or eggs are easy-to-eat choices and are also great for kids. Avoid anything high in fat like cheese or red meat, or things that may trigger an upset stomach.
Avoid alcoholic drinks, even as you start to feel better. Chances are you won’t be doing any drinking while you’re sick, but even in the early or late stages of illness, alcohol should be avoided. Not only does it dehydrate, alcohol is also a strain on your liver which is busy doing the work of detoxifying your body.
Eat vitamin-rich foods. Aim to get plenty of vitamin C and zinc. You will also want to maintain your usual levels of regular minerals and nutrients as much as possible by eating salads, vegetable soups and antioxidant-rich foods. Fruit and vegetables may not be palatable to you, so try a smoothie instead. Consider using spinach, kale, beets, berries, bananas and oranges. Add a scoop of protein powder or nut butter if you haven’t had much else to eat. This will go down smoothly, and won’t irritate a sore throat.
When you’re feeling better, remember to eat smart to boost your immune system. Yogurt is a great choice, as its probiotics can help to fight off disease-causing germs in the intestinal track, and maintain healthy gut bacteria. Garlic is thought to be another immune-booster. Its key ingredient allicin fights infection, and it may ward off certain intestinal cancers. Omega-3, found in salmon, mackerel and other fish, is a great anti-inflammatory that also protects the lungs.
In addition to a carefully planned and nutritious diet, make sure to get plenty of rest, avoid strenuous activity and monitor symptoms closely. If you’d like more information on immune-boosting protocols, Dr. Heins works with families to help them find a nutrition plan to optimize health and wellbeing at any age. Winter may be on its way out soon, but frequent changes in temperatures and unpredictable weather can make many anybody a target for illness. Prioritizing a nutrient-rich diet is one of the best ways to keep your family healthy.
You’ve been there. You walk out of the office feeling as if you might not live to see another day. In spite of feeling fresh and energized when you started your day, you might notice that by the late afternoon you are exhausted, sluggish, sore or nauseous. You don’t skip meals, you try to get a good night’s sleep and you don’t smoke or drink excessively. So what gives?
Some of the most common cause-and-effect health factors could be to blame. You might not see the harm you’re doing to your wellbeing and energy levels with every day habits. See if any of these behaviours could be taking a toll on your health or mood during the weekdays.
#1. Caffeine crashes: If you’re overindulging in coffee as a way to stay awake and alert, you might wind up feeling tired and lethargic. When you consume caffeine, it stimulates your adrenal glands. Adrenalin produces the boost in energy that you experience after enjoying your coffee-likely first thing in the morning. The caffeine also causes a slight increase in dopamine levels. When these effects wear off however- usually right in the middle of your work day- you might notice a marked drop in your energy and mood.
#2. Low blood sugar: When you’re working a full day, even if you’re seated for most of it, you need to properly fuel your body. Drops in your blood sugar could be making you feel tired, irritable, light-headed and unfocused. Try to remain very conscious of the nutritional quality of what you eat, and ensure that you get enough protein. You probably know by now that if you reach for something sugary as a pick-me-up, you won’t feel full for a sustained period of time. But beware- sugary doesn’t just mean candy. Take a hard look at your snacks- granola bars, juice cocktails, crackers and cereals can be very high in sugar. These simple carbohydrates won’t keep you full for long or provide you with any real nutritional value. Instead, opt for a high-impact snack that is low in sugar and contains protein and healthy fats. You might also try breaking up your munchies into several small meals throughout the day. This way you avoid the extremes of feeling drowsy or uncomfortably full after a large lunch, or experiencing a dip in your blood sugar mid-afternoon.
#3. Misunderstanding your sleep needs: Not everyone’s optimal night’s sleep is 8 hours. Many people require more, and others need less. Quality counts too. If you go to bed at 11 but keep the television on and drift in and out of consciousness for an hour, you aren’t benefiting in the same way as you would if you’d slept soundly for that same time period. Unplugging fully and getting the requisite number of z’s can be difficult, but when you make it a priority, you’ll notice the difference in your day.
#4. Poor ergonomics: Feeling stiff? Achy? Tight? Make sure that your office furniture is properly adjusted for optimal ergonomics! By following a basic office ergonomics guide, you can help reduce strain to your upper and lower back, neck, hips and wrists. You may not notice discomfort right away with a poorly arranged set-up. Over time however, muscle strain from distortions in your body’s positioning combined with the effects of poor posture will take its toll. Spare yourself long-term damage to your alignment and avoid sore muscles by taking the time to adjust your desk and computer.
#5. Eye strain + immobility: Too much of a good thing just isn’t good. No matter how focused you are on your projects, or how attentive you remain to your inbox, it’s always a wise idea to give your eyes a rest and your legs a stretch. Make sure your screen is about an arm’s length from your face, and adjust your screen brightness settings so that you aren’t squinting. Ensure your work environment is properly lit, and try to look up and away from the screen about every 20 minutes, even if it’s just for 15 seconds. Every hour you should aim to stand and stretch your legs. Take a walk to the washroom or water fountain to improve circulation, or stand and stretch for 30 seconds to loosen your muscles.
These practices have the potential to grow into habit. Implementing these manageable changes to your daily practices on the job can drastically improve the way you feel at the end of the day. When you leave work still feeling healthy and energized, you’re far more likely to have a productive evening. With the momentum to make a home-cooked meal, hit the gym, or tackle a household project, you’ll keep your energy flow up, your metabolism humming, and your body happy right until bedtime.
So think about your habits and empower yourself with small changes. We guarantee you’ll feel better for it!
Many mothers know that colic can be a new-parent nightmare. Not only does the condition create a fussier baby, but it also stresses and worries parents who don’t know what to do to relieve their infant. Colic can make anyone feel completely overwhelmed and helpless.
Ditch the guilt
Jen Singer’s article “5 Ways to Get Through Colic” has some effective pointers to keep you sane during this challenging time in your life as a new parent. First, she reminds us, give yourself credit. Colic isn’t personal. Aligning your child’s health problems with a personal sense of worth is a dangerous mistake that can lead to shame, doubt and self-deprecation. The simple truth? Colic is common and has nothing to do with what kind of caregiver you are. How you deal with it however, most certainly does! So make an effective plan to help your baby and to help yourself.
Turn to family and friends
Singer recommends turning to other parents who have experience with colic. This is a good idea for many parenting issues: find families in the same boat as you. They can offer you support and advice, or at least some commiseration. Otherwise you may feel as though nobody understands what you’re going through.
She also suggests enlisting the help of family if you’re uncertain about the source of your baby’s crying, or wondering if you’re making things worse in your mind. Leave your child with someone you trust and see if the same symptoms and patterns manifest themselves. This is a good diagnostic strategy.
Speaking of making diagnoses: be careful when you’re trying to assess your baby’s triggers. You can drive yourself crazy wondering if something you’re doing is worsening or encouraging the colic. Singer is right to tell you not to bother questioning everything- even researchers and medical professionals disagree on the source of colic. You’re better off putting your faith in methods of relieving discomfort. You can experiment with treatments and see which ones work best for your baby.
This too shall pass!
Let it out!
Finally, the article emphasizes how important it is to acknowledge anger and frustration. These are perfectly normal emotions and you’ll do much better to address them than to deny or ignore them. Being a new parent is hard work; you’ve already undergone massive changes and upheaval and you’re totally entitled to want to yell or cry! When you feel overwhelmed, call someone you trust and take a much needed break. This gives you a chance to work through your emotions and have a proper time-out. Emotions are never a sign of weakness; they are a sign of humanity.
You might also consider talking to a therapist to discuss some of the emotional overload you have experienced as a new mother with a fussy baby. That hour will give you a break and a chance to speak with another adult who is familiar with what you’re going through.
(you knew it was coming)
…how about alternative health therapies to combat colic? Infant massage has been a highly effective method for coping with babies’ discomfort and helping to facilitate the digestive process. Take a workshop and discover how you may be able to sooth your baby through massage. This is also a great practice for de-stressing, connecting and bonding.
Chiropractic has been shown to provide relief to infants with colic, since adjustments remove stress on the nervous system. When there is stress on a child’s nervous system, they can be difficult to soothe, as they have trouble with sleeping and digestion which causes discomfort. Seeing your family chiropractor to have your baby checked for nervous system stress is a gentle and very effective first-line strategy to help your child’s body heal from the inside out.
You’ll also want to watch your baby’s symptoms and consult with a physician to determine whether you’re dealing with colic or a different health issue like intolerances and allergies. If your baby has general digestive distress, many forms of health counselling may help. Consider talking to a nutrition specialist to see if gentle supplementation can be used to help your baby during the breastfeeding or formula stage. You may be unknowingly eating an aggravating food that is affecting your infant. Tailoring your diet, switching formulas or making a personalized diet plan for when you start solids. Your practitioner will also help you try changing other feeding practices like pace, intervals, and burping breaks.
To all you moms out there: did you have to battle colic?