Healthy Tips

picture top tips to stay healthy

Healthy Holiday Guide for Mind, Body, and Spirit

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc, ND

For many, the holiday season is the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ because it brings about family and social gatherings, opportunities to bring people together, outings and events, parties, and presents! At the same time, the holiday season also brings added stress, pressured work deadlines, the year ends, extra household and entertaining duties, changes to your nutrition and alcohol habits, and even a lack of sleep!

So, the most wonderful time of the year can also be accompanied by many factors that can put your health at risk – physically, emotionally, and mentally.

We all want to enjoy this time of year. Here are our healthy tips on how to manage all of the extra demands being made is critical to being able to relax, have fun, and truly be present this holiday season.

Body

Wash your hands often to help prevent the spread of germs.

The holiday season is also cold and flu season. And with all of your family and friends in close proximity, regular hand washing isn’t just a good health practice for yourself, but it’s also a way to help your most vulnerable loved ones (children and the elderly) stay clear of viral and bacterial germs. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds and follow up with an emollient hand cream to keep your skin moisturized and free of harmful dryness and cracks.

Bundle up to stay dry and warm.

Even if you’re just running outside to toss out the recycling, or picking up the kids from school, be sure to wear appropriate outdoor clothing: light, warm, loose layers keep you comfortable and insulated, while winter accessories like gloves, hats, scarves, and waterproof boots prevent you from rapid loss of body heat.

Be food aware, choose wisely.

Holiday foods tend to be full of extra delicious things like butter, sugar and wheat and while indulging in this festive season is not altogether bad, you must learn to choose your indulgences wisely to prevent bloating, weight gain, hormonal imbalance, dehydration, and digestion issues.

Make holiday treats healthy by sneaking in veggies

It might sound strange, but we love finding ways to hide vegetables in sweet treats. Feel better about serving your family their favourite cookies and cakes by finding recipes that use healthy pumpkin, zucchini, avocado, or even almond meal to replace wheat flour and/or sugar. You won’t taste the difference but you’ll all be healthier as a result!

Mind

Set limits

Performing well at work, caring for yourself and your family, AND pulling off a holiday feast can become extra daunting over the holiday season when more demands both personally and professionally are made on you. It’s time to learn that it’s good to say “No” to some things that spread you too thin, make you anxious, put you on edge, or stress you out. Concentrate on doing fewer things – and ask others to take on tasks to support the bigger picture – and not only will they come out better, but you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour too!

Take a break

When you feel stressed out, overwhelmed, or out of control – it’s time to breathe deeply and take a break. When all of the tasks at hand seem to carry the same weight and gravity, stepping back to get some perspective is a healthy and supportive way to manage stress. Figure out what you can let go of, find support for others that need to get done (but maybe not by you, this time), take time for social connection, and get plenty of sleep and don’t forget to breathe! Deep breathing and paying attention to your breath is a great way to lower stress and balance the body.

Wander

Let your mind wander! Turn on some of your favourite music, make yourself a hot bath and close the door, read a novel just for the pleasure of it. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes, giving your mind time to wander off allows your brain and body to process everything you’re experiencing throughout the day and leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Spirit

Block off time for fitness and sleep – and make it non-negotiable

Extra stressors may not seem like a big deal at the beginning of the season but I bet you remember how harried and exhausted you were by the end of the season last year! NO-ONE can sustain a holiday rush without taking time for themselves to regenerate. This time is just for you. Make a promise to take yourself to the gym or on a run at least three times a week, and set a sleep schedule to make sure you have enough nighttime rest. Then? Keep that promise!

Get a head start on the new year with Holiday Resolutions!

There’s no need to wait for January 1st to start looking forward to the year ahead. In fact, when life is stressful, looking forward is a great way to increase your feelings of optimism and hope. In fact, you could try committing to just one or two of the suggestions in this post to help you feel your best during the holidays and you’ll already be on your way! We suggest the practice of gratitude for what you have now in the present and remind yourself of all the things that are amazing in your life. We waste too much time waiting for the next thing to make us happy when real happiness starts with you every single day.

Give yourself the gift of self-compassion

You deserve to enjoy the holidays as much as anyone in your family but it can be hard to accept that our realities rarely mimic a ‘Very Martha Stewart Holiday.’ Focus on self-kindness instead of self- judgement and accept imperfections with sympathy rather than critique or shame them. Let go of notions of perfection and enjoy what has been accomplished.

Make time for reflection and worship

This is a common time of year for reflection, but making a habit of it can help keep our mind and spirit connected and content. If you hold faith near, make time to experience community-based worship. The feeling of being together with your community is unparalleled for feeling connected, safe, and spiritually sound.

From our practice to you and your family, we wish you all the best for a healthy and happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year.

happy holidays

 

The Trouble with Stress


woman with stress

Why is Stress a Problem?

We often underestimate the power of stress. We like to see it as natural, and even helpful, in being productive in our day-to-day lives. But the positive effects of stress, like goal orientation, motivation, and even intensified memory or cognitive responses are most beneficial in small doses.

Many of us have built up tolerances to living with constant, heightened stress levels, and the temptation to see this as a positive or heroic trait has reduced our natural desire to respond to it. Instead of recognizing and reacting to the core ‘fight or flight’ survival response that it provides, many of us function with long durations of heightened stress without realizing that living under continued high levels can have dire health consequences.

How Stress works:

You’ve probably heard this before, and you’ve certainly felt it: the pounding heart, the rushing sounds in your ears, and an acute and intense desire for action when something has caught you completely off guard.

When your brain perceives some kind of stress, be it your move in a basketball game, a heated argument, or stepping off a busy street, it starts producing an influx of epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol hormones. This flood of chemicals produces a variety of reactions: increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and an acute focus on taking whatever action is necessary to stay safe.

Stress can be brought on by a variety of internal and external factors, and it can be a very healthy reaction and necessary to maintain our survival. It’s when you remain in a heightened state for prolonged periods of time, that the effects of stress on your system can become a real medical problem.

How much stress is too much?

Life events, changes in lifestyle, work, family, or even shifting responsibilities such as child or parent care, relationships, and work can directly affect feelings of overwhelm. When the amount on our plate reaches a place of critical mass, we experience overwhelm. That experience can present itself in many ways. Emotional stressors like these, that remain for a period of weeks, months, or even years, can become detrimental to your immune system, and your overall health. Being able to recognize our own stress signals is the first step to finding ways to cope with and dissipate it, to return to a healthy state that will enable you to work through the demands placed on you.

Recognizing Stress Responses:

There are many ways that stress expresses itself. While some might be more familiar to you than others, a person can experience some or all of these at different times. But, multiplied sources of ongoing stress can lead to larger health issues. If chronic stress is not dealt with effectively, it can become debilitating, leading to an inability of what we want to do most: thrive at work, and in life with our family and friends.

Being able to recognize the sensations of stress is the first step to being able to discuss them with your family doctor and your personal health team. Then, they can help you find ways to cope more effectively.

Stress can feel like:

  • Frenetic energy or restlessness
  • Fatigue, or trouble sleeping or staying awake
  • Digestive issues, changes in appetite, over or under eating
  • Change in use of addictive substances like alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
  • Inability to concentrate or complete tasks
  • Increased frequency of colds or other illnesses like autoimmune disease flares
  • Heightened anger or impatience
  • Headaches, migraines, body aches
  • Increased irritability, anger, or anxiety
  • Lack of motivation, depression, sadness
  • Inability to catch your breath, panic attacks
  • Change in sex drive, social withdrawal
  • Feelings of being ‘burnt out’

That’s me! What should I do?

First, know that everyone experiences high stress at one time or another. You are not alone.

Second, understand that it is manageable and that there are many tools that Dr. Pamela Frank, ND  Dr. Rachel Vong, ND and Ichih Wang, therapist in training, have at their disposal to help hone in on treatments and and actions that will support you in managing yours. If stress is creating muscle tension, back pain or neck pain, see one of our massage therapists, Helen Bhavnani or CJ Paterson, our acupuncture/TCMP Joy Walraven and Dr. Farnaz Najm, our chiropractor.

There’s no need to wait until stress is overwhelming to start practicing some simple management techniques. In fact, the Mayo Clinic recommends including a few key practices to help manage everyday stress, so that if a major issue should arise, you’ll have a few great tools already in your tool box.

Some people find great benefit in:

  • Effective, gentle breathing and stretching techniques
  • Tai Chi or gentle yoga (such as Hatha, Yin, or Restorative not Vinyasa, Ashtanga, or Power)
  • Exercising regularly, choosing gentle forms of movement and temporarily reducing or eliminating cardio intensive exercise (which increases the cortisol response)
  • Allotting quiet time for yourself, to think, journal, meditate, or engage in a creative activity that you enjoy
  • Implement a restful sleep routine that makes a conscious effort towards reducing screen-time and stimulants before bed, and gives you the opportunity to regulate the amount and timing of your sleep hours – the mind and body heal when at rest

Let the mind and body work together:

Remember that stress starts in the brain, and then exhibits in the body. It is not a form of weakness; rather, it is a normal psychological and physical response to situations that require our attention. The way that we can best manage stress is by paying attention and caring for the mind as well as the body, holistically. Some potential stress diagnostic and stress management tools your practitioner could suggest include:

  • Hormone testing and re-balancing
  • Methods of identifying and eliminating stressors
  • Natural, non-addictive, sleep training
  • Building inroads to create family support
  • Natural nutritional supplements such as:
    • Magnesium glycinate
    • B vitamins
    • Adrenal support and adaptogenic supplements (like ashwaganda, Korean ginseng, licorice root, or schisandra)
  • Properly administered essential oil blends, such as:
    • Chamomile
    • Frankincense
    • Lavender
    • Lemon balm
    • Rose
    • Vanilla
    • Valerian

It’s never too early to start learning how to identify and copy better with stress. After all, life is full of surprises. Have you tried any of these tools? Which ones have worked best for you? Which new ones will you try?

Your Forces of Nature Wellness Team is here to help you. If you find that your stress management toolkit isn’t providing what you need, please call us. We would love to support you to finding your best health.

 

Stress and Diabetes

woman with job stress and diabetes

Job Stress and Diabetes

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Are you a slave to your job?  Do you work long hours? Have little support? Feel that you have no control over the situation? Is there a link between your stress and diabetes?  You may want to read this.

In a 2010 study, white, middle-aged women reporting high levels of job strain and little work-related social support appear to be at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.  Among the women, about 10 percent of all type 2 diabetes cases could have been prevented had the job-related stressors of little control, high demands, and little social support been eliminated.

When I see a patient with type II diabetes, we always address the 3 foundations of healthy blood sugar: diet, stress reduction and exercise. Women that I have seen with blood sugar problems have often already cleaned up their diet and started exercising, but may still struggle with blood sugar issues when stress is high. In those patients, we focus on reducing stress where we can and adding in some stress reduction techniques like yoga, meditation or tai chi.

Stress is a part of everyone’s life, and a certain amount of stress is good as it can help motivate action and positive change.  Where stress seems to be particularly damaging is where women feel out of control of the stress.  Given this data, perhaps we should consider out of control work stress as another unhealthy lifestyle factor similar to obesity, low physical activity, smoking and poor diet.  Working oneself to death is sometimes lauded as an achievement and considered admirable, there are limits and taking control of your stress and seeking social support may be more deserving of merit.

I would add that it’s particularly important for women with any reproductive health or hormonal issue to be cognizant of negative stress since that type of stress obviously has a major influence on blood sugar and insulin levels which ultimately creates hormonal imbalances as well as type II diabetes.

Our naturopathic doctors can help with lifestyle counselling, diet advice, and natural remedies to help you relax and manage blood sugar better.  And of course, our massage therapists have the most amazing remedy for stress at their fingertips.  Book now.

Boost Metabolism

woman exercising to boost metabolism

Rev Up Your Engines! 3 Effective Ways to Boost Metabolism

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Your metabolism dictates how quickly and efficiently you burn calories to use for fuel and maintaining your body temperature.  The higher your metabolism, the more calories you can consume in a day without gaining weight.  Many of the patients that I see, complain of a sluggish metabolism – they don’t feel like they overeat, they consume healthy food, exercise regularly and yet they gain weight easily.  Let’s take a look at three ways you can boost metabolism to help with weight loss.

Nourish Your Thyroid

Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in your neck that regulates your metabolism.  Think of it like the gas pedal for your body.  A sluggish thyroid means a slow metabolism  In order to do it’s job, your thyroid needs iodine, zinc, selenium, copper and tyrosine to build thyroid hormones.

Our main food source of iodine is iodized salt.  As a public health measure, iodine was added to table salt as a means of gently supplementing everyone with a little extra iodine, to stave off underactive thyroids.  However, excessive salt intake is considered unhealthy, so people have either stopped using salt in food preparation or shifted to using sea salt instead.  Those of you strictly avoiding salt or using sea salt may not be getting the benefit of the iodine added to regular table salt. I recommend switching to iodized sea salt, which is readily available at most health food stores.

Selenium is a trace mineral that is vital to healthy thyroid function.  Brazil nuts are a rich food source and consuming as little as 3 Brazil nuts per day supplies plenty of selenium for your thyroid.

Zinc is found naturally in beef, pumpkin seeds, egg yolks and shellfish.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, so protein rich foods like beans, eggs, nuts, seeds, beef, fish and chicken will supply the amino acid, tyrosine, that is also crucial to healthy thyroid function.

Restore Your Adrenals

The adrenal glands are your stress glands; they help your body cope in times of stress. They assist the thyroid hormone to function properly by enabling transfer of the hormone into the tissues where it works to increase metabolism. The adrenal glands need substantial amounts of vitamins B5, B6, C, potassium, magnesium and zinc especially while under
stress.

To nurture healthy adrenals:

  1. Eat lots of leafy green veggies like kale, spinach, Swiss chard and spring mix salad greens.  These are chock full of B vitamins, C, zinc, potassium, magnesium and zinc, everything that the adrenals need, all in one food.
  2. Get adequate rest and sleep.  Stop working by 8 p.m. and relax.  Aim to be in bed by 10 p.m..  The adrenals operate on a daily schedule that is regulated by daylight.  They peak in the morning and taper off to their lowest between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m..  Try to work with their schedule, not against it.
  3. Reduce your stress.  Easier said than done, but whatever you can do in this regard will help your adrenals and help to maintain a healthy cortisol level.  Excessive cortisol contributes to weight gain around your waist.  Stress reduction through psychotherapy, exercise, yoga, tai chi and massage therapy can all help if stress is the problem.

Exercise

Exercise can boost metabolism for up to 48 hours afterward, so get off the couch and walk briskly, dance, go on the treadmill, do something active for 30 minutes 5-7 times per week.  Exercise, but not to the point that you feel exhausted after, you should feel energized after exercise.  It’s also the best stress reliever there is.  Weight training and high intensity interval training (HIIT) are particularly good for building muscle mass.  Muscles burn more calories than non-muscle tissue, so muscle can boost metabolism even while you are sleeping.

Stressed?

tips for man feeling stressed

Feeling Stressed?

We all experience stress in our lives from time to time. Stress is a normal physical response to events that threaten us, or upset our balance in some way. In these situations, our body kicks into high gear with the “fight or flight” response, the feeling of being stressed. This response can actually be helpful in certain stressful situations where you need to defend yourself, or stay focused (like in an emergency situation).

However, because the body doesn’t distinguish between physical and emotional threats, some of us can become stuck in a “stressed-out” state . Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems.

Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, as well as increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

There are many ways in which we can relieve tension, stress, and anxiety. Massage therapy is an excellent way to help manage stress. Massage can help to get rid of muscle tension (often a direct physical symptom of stress), reduce stress and anxiety, and it’s thought to even boost your body’s immune system. More research is needed into the subject of stress and massage, but studies have shown that patients being treated for cancer who received regular massage reported less anxiety, pain, and fatigue than those who did not receive regular massage.  Six out of nine studies on children and adolescents found that they were less stressed and fatigued with the addition of complementary treatments like massage therapy to conventional cancer treatment.

Talk to your RMT about massage therapy for stress management.

Here are 5 tips for relaxation between your massage treatments:

  1. Schedule downtime.  Relaxation time every day is as important as eating well and exercising.
  2. Yoga or meditation.  Research on both shows reductions in stress hormones with regular practice.
  3. Socialize.  Social interaction can help relieve stressful situations and provide much needed support.
  4. Reduce your caffeine intake.  Caffeine is a stimulant and while it may give you a boost, at the same time it taxes your adrenal (stress) glands.
  5. Sleep.  Make sleep a priority.  Research shows that at least 7-7.5 hours per night is ideal.

Massage and Stress References:

Garner B, Phillips LJ, Schmidt HM, Markulev C, O’Connor J, Wood SJ, Berger GE, Burnett P, McGorry PD. Pilot study evaluating the effect of massage therapy on stress, anxiety and aggression in a young adult psychiatric inpatient unit. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2008 May;42(5):414-22. doi: 10.1080/00048670801961131.

Lopes-Júnior LC, Bomfim EO, Nascimento LC, Nunes MD, Pereira-da-Silva G, Lima RA. Non-pharmacological interventions to manage fatigue and psychological stress in children and adolescents with cancer: an integrative review. Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2015 Sep 16. doi: 10.1111/ecc.12381.

 

How To Survive a Hectic Lifestyle

how to survive a hectic lifestyle

6 Ways to Survive a Hectic Lifestyle

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Schedule “Me” Time

Take a certain amount of time every day just for you. Read a book, enjoy a cup of tea, take a walk, have a bath, get a pedi, have a massage, or do a craft (colouring for adults is hot right now!).

Exercise Every Day

Exercise is an investment in your short and long term health. It is the best stress reducer and it helps prevent every chronic illness. Walk, jog, bike, run, swim, dance, do a class, take karate, do some yoga,, whatever, just make it a priority like you would brushing your teeth or having a shower.

Take Vacations

Don’t be a martyr and forgo vacations in favour of work. Vacations will help you recharge and you’ll come back more productive afterwards.

Re-evaluate Priorities

Should work really be the most important thing in your life? Why?

Bolster Your Adrenal Glands

The fast pace depletes the necessary ingredients for your adrenal glands to perform their job, then you can’t deal with the hectic pace as easiliy. Take B5, B6, C, Magnesium and Zinc along with adaptogens like ashwagandha, rhodiola, schisandra and eleuthrococcus.

Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night

It doesn’t have to be 8 hours per night, but it should be at least 7 to allow your body to recover and recharge. Staying up to work on a project will hinder your performance the next day.

Book an appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors now for more advice about how to lead your healthiest, happiest life possible.