5 Steps to Kick the Habit

I started drinking coffee in my mid-20s and have been trying to quit since (now more than 20 years later).  It is easy to tell yourself, or a little bit can’t hurt, but before you know it, an innocent one cup a day habit can easily turn into 4 or even 8 cups/day.  Whether it is coffee, certain foods (think sugar), social media, cigarettes or alcohol, everyone has a tendency to addiction.  The good news is that we now have a better understanding of the underlying brain chemistry that makes us susceptible.  Following these five strategies will help rebalance your brain, and make it that much easier to overcome addiction.

Simple Gluten-free, Dairy-free Bread

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole tahini butter (from ground sesame)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt

Directions:

  1.  Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix together tahini and eggs until very smooth
  3. Add in apple cider vinegar, baking soda and salt
  4. Transfer batter to pan greased with coconut oil
  5. Bake at 350° for 35 – 45 minutes depending on your oven.
  6. Enjoy!

 

How to Be Sun Savvy

Summer’s here!  What feels better than a bright sunny day?  However, don’t forget the sun is still a force to be reckoned with, and as with many things, moderation is key.

Here is the what you need to know about keeping you and your family healthy for all of your summertime fun:

1. Skin cancer is not prevented by using sunscreen.

Despite increased use of sunscreen, the rate of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – have tripled over the past 35 years.  Most scientists and public health agencies  have found very little evidence that sunscreen prevents most types of skin cancer.  What sunscreens do, when used correctly, is help prevent sunburn – a major risk factor for melanoma.  Sunscreen is only one measure, of several, needed for optimal sun protection.

Action plan: Prioritize other measures of self-protection, including:

  • wearing lightweight long-sleeved clothing to protect your skin from the sun’s rays
  • moderating your time spent outdoors mid-day, when the sun’s rays are the most direct and the hottest, which is good for vitamin D production, but also the time when you are most vulnerable to sun damage
  • doing outdoor activities in the shade
  • considering the UV index when making your plans
  • wearing sunglasses protect your eyes

2. Beware products with a high SPF rating.

Products with high SPF numbers pose many problems.  The formulations are usually slanted in favour of only protecting against UVB radiation, without offering balanced protection against  the skin damage that is caused by UVA radiation.  There is a high degree of discrepancy in the range of SPF offered by any products depending on testing methods and amount of product used, which worsens as SPF numbers increase.  Consumers also get lulled into a false sense of  security when using high SPF products and tend to use too little and too infrequently to obtain the sun protection required for their exposure.  At present, the FDA is considering banning the sale of sunscreens with SPF values greater than 50+, calling higher SPF values “inherently misleading.”  Australia, Europe, Japan and Canada already cap their labels at a maximum of “50+”.

Action plan: Choose products with an SPF between 30-50 and don’t forget to liberally reapply often based on your exposure/needs. Skip the spray-on sunscreens, since they evaporate too quickly to be consistently effective.

3. A common vitamin A sunscreen additive can actually speed development of skin cancer.

The sunscreen industry adds a form of vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) to 16 percent of beach and sport sunscreens, 14 percent of moisturizers with SPF and 10 percent of lip products.  An excess of preformed vitamin A has been known to cause cause a number of health problems, including liver damage, brittle nails, hair loss, osteoporosis and hip fractures in older adults.  Though normally added to products for its antioxidant qualities, studies indicate that retinyl palmitate may trigger development of skin tumors and lesions when used on skin in the presence of sunlight.

Action plan: Avoid sunscreens and other cosmetic products containing vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, and retinoic acid.

4. Improve your UVA protection by going European.

European sunscreen makers can formulate their products with any of seven chemicals that filter UVA rays, compared to their American counterparts that use only three.  Therefore, American made products do not offer the same protection for UVA rays.

Action plan: Choose a sunscreen with a wide range of UVA and UVB protection.

5. SPF measures protection from sunburn, but not all types of sun damage.

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can generate free radicals, accelerate aging, cause sunburn and may cause skin cancer.  Sunscreen does mitigate some of this damage, but it is mostly effective in preventing sunburn, reflected by its SPF.

Action plan: Be careful about how much sun exposure you get, regardless of sunscreen use.

6. Be wary of sunscreen ingredients.

Sunscreens are either “chemical” sunscreens, which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and often contain hormone disruptors, and “natural” sunscreens, made from zinc and titanium, that may contain nanoparticles to prevent you from looking like Casper the Ghost on the beach.  Since it only takes seventeen seconds for any substance you put on your skin to be absorbed into the bloodstream, be discerning about what kinds of sunscreens you are using for you and your loved ones.

Action plan: Use mineral-only products (offerings have doubled since 2007)  which offer protection against both UVA and UVB,  generally don’t contain harmful additives. Not sure?  Click here to check out your favourite brand’s rating.

7. You need sun exposure to make vitamin D.

Vitamin D, technically a hormone, strengthens bones and the immune system and reduces risks of breast, colon, kidney and ovarian cancers and perhaps other disorders. It is estimated that about a quarter of North Americans have borderline low levels of this important nutrient.  Persons with darker skin, breast-fed infants and the elderly are more prone to having less than optimal levels for good health.

Action plan: Check your blood levels for your vitamin D status and supplement accordingly.

Follow these guidelines for a safe and enjoyable season.  Happy summer!

 

 

10 Health Myths Debunked

10 health myths debunked

Amidst all of the marketing and hype and information overload, it can be difficult to really know what to believe.  If you regularly consume these “healthy” choices, you just might want to reconsider…

1. Fruit Juice

Juice seems like it should be healthy, right?  In reality, it is concentrated sugar.  It takes 2-4 oranges to make one cup of juice.  It is unlikely that you would eat that much fruit in one sitting, yet it is not uncommon for someone to consume multiple servings of juice in one day.  Since you are drinking and not chewing, it is difficult for your system to register the caloric (and sugar) intake.  Fruit contains fructose, a special type of sugar, that bypasses the liver and goes straight into your bloodstream, which makes it very easy to overconsume.  Opt instead for whole fruits, since the fiber found in fruit slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream and limit yourself to one to two pieces per day for optimal health.  Your best beverage options continue to be water or herbal tea.

2. Foods Labelled “Low Fat” or “Fat Free”

Most low fat/fat-free foods have had the fat replaced by sugar and/or chemicals to compensate for the change in flavor that fat provides.  Sometimes, this change doesn’t even mean the product is lower in calories!  Not only does your body need healthy fat, fat is what helps satisfy your appetite.  Every year, the food industry tries to dupe us into believing eating fat makes you fat, when in reality, we continue to eat our “low-fat” and carb-rich diets and get heavier every year. If you are going to eat store bought mayonnaise, buy the best (& healthiest) one you can afford and enjoy it.

3. Antibacterial Soap

Antibacterial soap contains triclosan, a known hormone disruptor that contributes to antibiotic resistance.   Opt instead for regular soap and water, as it is equally effective in washing away bacteria as antibacterial soap.

4. Bottled Water

Plastic water bottles are simply not sustainable. It is estimated that it takes 450 years on average for the earth to digest a single plastic water bottle.  Add to that the chemicals that leach into the water as it gets packaged and transported (even if it is not BPA) before consumption.  And to top it all off, bottled water itself has fewer, if any, regulations that ensure it is healthy drinking water.  Some brands are nothing more than tap water that has been filtered and repackaged for you.  From both a health and financial standpoint, you are better off carrying a reusable glass or stainless steel bottle for when you are out and getting a good quality filter (I like Santevia) for the tap water you have at home.

5. Frozen Yogurt

We think of yogurt as a health food.  Even the non-frozen variety is often candified, unless you choose plain quality yogurt.  What people don’t realize is that frozen yogurt often contains more sugar than ice cream.  If you are buying it from a frozen yogurt boutique, that means you are likely indulging in bigger portions with added toppings (usually candy or chocolate) that increase the sugar content even more. Not all yogurts contain probiotics and even when they do, it is not usually in an amount that makes any noticeable impact on your health.

6. Scented Candles/Air Fresheners/Incense

Scented candles and air fresheners are a quick and enjoyable way to either mask unpleasant odors or create ambience.  The scents in these products are created by hazardous substances such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), allergens, and phthalates, which have been shown to cause hormone imbalance, respiratory difficulties such as allergies and asthma, and even DNA damage.

Most candles are made from paraffin wax, which emit toxic toluene and benzene when burned (both known carcinogens).  When lit, scented candles also give off formaldehyde and contribute to indoor air pollution (the air inside your home is 10X more polluted than the air outside).  Their wicks are often contain heavy metals like lead which also get airborne when burned.

A better choice is to buy candles made from soy wax or beeswax (which help to improve indoor air quality) and/or an essential oil diffuser.   Other ways to improve your air indoors is to get a good quality air filter (I like IQair), have indoor houseplants (your best choices are weeping fig, Boston fern, peace lily and English ivy) and use salt lamps regularly.       

7. Sushi

Generally, sushi is considered a healthier eating option. The reality is, depending on the sushi you choose, eating two sushi rolls is like having six slices of white bread!  Sushi rice is so tasty because it has added sugar.  A better choice is to have sashimi (or at least sushi made with brown rice instead of white) with reduced sodium soy sauce and skip the tempura or rolls made with heavy sauces.  Don’t indulge too often though, as tuna tends to be high in mercury.  Salmon and shrimp are better options.

8. Protein/Meal Replacement Bars

A protein bar or meal replacement bar will never outperform an actual meal or snack.  Sometimes it is convenient to have something you can have on the go.  But not all bars are created equal.  Be careful to look at the ingredient list, the number of ingredients, the added sugars and the overall calorie count. Choose a bar with a small list of ingredients that you can identify, with low sugar content and depending on whether you need it as a snack or as a meal, calories that range from 200-400.  Otherwise, you might up with something that is no better for you than a candy bar.

9. Smoothies

Smoothies from a juice bar or a restaurant are usually loaded with fruit with additional sugar added and can end up as calorie (and sugar) bombs.  Make them at home instead, being careful to use an unsweetened base milk or water, low glycemic index fruit (like berries), an added serving or two of health promoting leafy vegetables, some healthy fat (like avocado, nut butter or seeds) and protein for a balanced meal.

10. Honey/Maple Syrup

People seem to think that if they make treats with honey or maple syrup, somehow that has made them sugar-free, which of course, is not the case.  Treats are treats and while it is certainly better for you to have ones that are homemade with quality ingredients and less processed types of sugar, sugar is still sugar.  If you really want to make a serious impact on your health, you could omit eating baked goods/desserts completely, and opt instead for fruit to satisfy sweet cravings.  Barring that, don’t kid yourself into believing that if it is made with honey or maple syrup, that a muffin is suddenly transformed into a health food, because, well, it is still a muffin.

Why Use Homeopathy?

why use homeopathy

People often ask me why I focus on the use homeopathy in my practice and what motivates to continue my professional development in this area. The answer to that question is quite simple, “It works.” In my eighteen years of practice, I have yet to witness any supplement or dietary change or combination thereof, to have as profound an impact on a person’s health and well-being as a well selected homeopathic remedy.

Homeopathy is a system of medicine that utilizes the body’s own healing power through a law of cure, termed “Like Cures Like.” This law states that a substance that can produce symptoms in a healthy person will cure similar symptoms in a person who is sick. The therapeutic potential of a substance is explored through giving it in very small amounts to healthy people and a careful analysis is made of its effect on the mind and body of those taking the substance. Thus, the remedy is not so much for a particular disease process as much as it is for a person who expresses disease in a particular pattern. The homeopath’s task is to determine that individual’s pattern of disease expression and then choose a remedy that matches that pattern to bring about relief. The pattern often will resemble a pattern of a substance found in nature, as remedies are usually made from natural substances – typically animals, plants, or minerals.

How does a remedy work?

Homeopathic remedies stimulate the body’s innate capacity to cure itself. They are prepared in homeopathic pharmacies, as homeopathic remedies are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as drugs. Extremely small amounts of these remedies are given, the minimum amount necessary to stimulate a reaction in the body.

My favourite analogy is that of a computer program that has been infected by a virus. The virus distorts the information in the program and causes the program to malfunction. Once the virus is identified and removed, the program goes back to functioning normally. In the case of a person, the program is the body’s innate natural intelligence, or what we call the vital force in homeopathy.

When did homeopathy start and where is it used?

Homeopathy was established in Germany in the 18th century by the physician Samuel Hahnemann. It spread to all continents and is probably the most popular form of holistic medicine in the world. It is practiced by both physicians and non-physicians and is incorporated into the health-care system of many countries. It was brought to the United States in the 1830’s and has been a part of the American medical system ever since.

The fundamental principles of homeopathy and other holistic therapies.

  1. The body heals itself. The human organism has always shown a remarkable ability to adapt and survive. It is the “biological imperative” of the organism to create an optimal level of healthy. The body has a sophisticated immune system and natural intelligence that seeks to maintain health of the whole organism – mind, body and spirit – at all times. Homeopathy works by helping the body heal itself. Healing takes place through the conscious awareness of the body’s own healing power. Only then can the word “cure” be used. This is the goal of homeopathy.
  2. Homeopathy always treats the whole person. All functions of the body and mind are connected. The complex physical and psychological make up of a person creates a unique pattern for each individual. When we become sick, it is the whole body that is sick, even if symptoms express themselves only in one part of the body. Only by re-establishing a total balance will health be restored. Therefore homeopathy treats the whole person, not just the disease.
  3. There is an energetic “thread” that connects all functions of body and mind. Homeopathy belongs to a philosophy of healing that believes that we have an energetic “life force” that permeates all functions of the body. It is this “life force” which maintains health or creates disease through imbalance. This has been understood for thousands of years. In China it is called “Chi”, in India “Prana” and by homeopaths as “Vital Force”. It describes a phenomenon that exists in all nature. Modern physics is now exploring these dimensions of reality. There is a dynamic, living energy that permeates both body and mind. It is a consciousness, like a memory. It is this energy that keeps the body alive and well.
  4. Symptoms of disease are a result of an imbalance in the body/mind. Symptoms may express themselves in many ways. Some are purely physical, some are emotional, and some are combination of the two. However, it is important to know that they are an expression or a result of an imbalance in the whole organism. Symptoms are not the cause of a problem, only to be suppressed by drugs, but are an indication that something is not right in the whole system. They are a warning that something is not in balance and has to be changed.

Why do we become sick?

We become sick when we can no longer adapt appropriately to the circumstances of life. These circumstances may seem to be due to external factors, such as allergies, the weather, stress, germs, etc or may just seem to be an inability to feel well. In homeopathy, we look at both the internal factors and the external ones, seeking to understand the circumstances of life that may be influencing the health of the whole person. Much of modern medicine focuses on the external causes of disease – germs for example – and drugs are given to kill them. While that serves an important role, homeopaths also ask the questions “why do some people get sick while others do not?” and “what can be done to help the body’s own immune system fight off germs (or other factors) more effectively?” Merely killing the germs does not always lead to great health as the body has not cured the problem itself and some drugs merely suppress, which can sometimes make things worse in the long run. In this case, the same or more serious symptoms tend to recur and the problem may become more chronic and difficult to cure. Homeopathy and other holistic systems of healing seek to establish a higher level of health and in so doing prevent illness as well as helping to cure it.

What conditions does homeopathy treat?

Homeopathy is able to treat most physical and emotional conditions – such as asthma, allergies, skin rashes, acne, depression, lupus, tinnitus, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, gas and bloating, just to name a few. A homeopathic consultation involves an analysis of the whole person. Each person is unique and the homeopath needs to understand as much as possible about all the concerns a person has. This allows the homeopath to understand the underlying causes of any disease state. The correct remedy choice will allow the whole person – body and mind – to realign to a more optimal state of health. An overall wellness should be the result, including any particular condition a person is experiencing.

What does a homeopathic treatment involve?

The initial interview takes place between 45 to 90 minutes. During this time, the homeopath begins to investigate the particular features of your nature as well as the conditions that the patient experiences. Sometimes, the patient doesn’t feel that we are talking medicine anymore! But rest assured, it is all relevant in finding the best remedy to improve your health. Once a homeopathic remedy has been chosen, another appointment will be made 3-6 weeks after the first visit.

5 Breast Screening Methods That Every Woman Should Know

breast health

Breast cancer is the leading type of cancer in women, affecting one in nine women in Canada. Lifestyle factors as well as minimizing environmental influences can certainly reduce your risk.  Performing regular breast exams and getting screened regularly will decrease your risk even further.

The key to successful recovery from breast cancer (as with any cancer) lies in early detection.  Participating in a detection program will increase your chances of detecting breast cancer in its earliest stages.  Screening is recommended for all women over the age of 40, even earlier if there is strong family history, though some are easy to adopt even earlier.

Here are the five screening techniques available for breast cancer detection:

Mammography

Mammography is likely the technique with which people are the most familiar.  It involves x-raying the breast tissue to identify any abnormalities.  The breast is pressed between two plates – pressure is applied to get a clear picture. Usually, two x-rays are taken of each breast, one from the top and one from the side.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound detects breast changes by sending high -frequency sound waves into the breast. The pattern of echoes from these sound waves is converted into an image of the breast’s interior. Ultrasound may be helpful in distinguishing between solid masses and cysts (fluid-filled sacs). Unlike mammography, ultrasound cannot detect small calcium deposits that may be present in the breast and that sometime indicate cancer, nor does it identify small tumors. Ultrasounds is very useful to confidently diagnose benign conditions and can reduce the need for an immediate biopsy.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) takes cross-sectional images through different parts of the body, and is a very sensitive imaging tool for finding breast cancer. MRI technology is better than either mammography or ultrasound in determining the extent of the cancer and its exact location, but it can be expensive which makes it less practical. It is the best tool for women with silicone implants.

Breast Exam

Clinical breast exams are shown to be as effective as mammography in reducing breast cancer mortality. The American Society of Breast Surgeons says that breast self exam is “as accurate as mammograms and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at detecting new breast cancers in high-risk women.”

Thermography

Thermography is a painless, non invasive, early detection method that gives women of all ages the opportunity to detect breast disease at an early stage without exposure to radiation. It uses a digital infrared camera and a high speed computer for imaging and measurement of body tissue heat energy. Tumors and areas of concern typically show high temperatures due to increased blood flow and elevated metabolic activity.  A single mammogram exposes you to 1000X the radiation of a regular chest x-ray, which can lead to new cancer formation as well as heart damage.

Thermography is particularly useful for younger women, under fifty years of age, whose breast tissue is denser which typically makes it more difficult for mammography to identify suspicious lesions. Thermography does offer these distinct advantages:

  • greater comfort – no contact or squeezing of the breast tissue is required.
  • earlier detection – problems with tissue function can be found before structural abnormalities are seen on x-ray
  • examination of the whole chest, breast and armpit areas, and is good for all breast types – young, dense, fibrocystic, and women on hormone replacement therapy.
  • improved chances for early detection of fast-growing, active tumors between traditional mammograms.

Information gathered from thermographs may also be used to supplement clinical breast examinations and mammograms, as it can guide doctors to the specific area of the breast that may need particularly close examination.

About mammograms…A controversial review published in the Lancet stated that mammographic screening likely reduces breast cancer mortality by a mere 0.5%. This means that for every 2000 women invited for screening over a 10 year period, only one will have her life prolonged.  Screening also leads to overdiagnosis and overtreatment, with an estimated 30% increase of treatment in women who would not need it otherwise.  For the same 2000 women, 10 healthy women, who would not have been diagnosed if there had not been screening, will be diagnosed with breast cancer and will be treated unnecessarily.

Another study stated that one fifth of cancers seen on mammogram spontaneously disappear. Another research study that followed 110,000 women who underwent periodic mammograms with the same number of women who did not. At the end of 5 years, everybody was screened, and the surprising finding was that the mammogram women had 22% more invasive cancers than the non-mammogram group. These findings suggest that perhaps mammography screening does more harm than good.

Regardless of what you choose to be your best option, you should be informed of all screening methods available to you, with their respective advantages and drawbacks. Breast exams, at a minimum, are of benefit to every woman and should be performed monthly, a few days into the beginning of each cycle (when hormone levels are at their lowest).

Healthy Food, Fresh & Fast

They say that 80% of our healthcare starts in the kitchen.  Yet, there are many barriers to being able to ensure that there are always healthy options available.  Aside from the cost of healthy foods, there is also the time required, not only to source quality ingredients, but then to prepare them before they spoil in a way that preserves their nutrition. I think it is one area where area, though critically important, continues to challenge people everyday.  I found myself in a similar situation, how do I find the time and energy needed to feed my family in a way that I could feel good about it?

I started researching last fall, looking for a new gadget or appliance that would facilitate my goals.  I was looking for something that would allow me to cook from frozen, should I forget to defrost the night before.  That is when I came across the Instant Pot.

What is the Instant Pot?

Instant Pot is a multi-function small appliance that can replace your slow cooker, electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté/browning pan, and warming pot. Since one of my first criteria is that an appliance has to “earn” its countertop real estate, I was intrigued, as now I could replace my beloved slow cooker.  I read the reviews online, and quite honestly, thought it is too good to be true.  The people who wrote about it seemed almost overly fascinated, overly enthusiastic, was it possible that one little appliance could transform one’s life so radically?  Well, I have to admit, I am a convert.

Why do I love my Instant Pot?

The ability to cook meat from frozen was just the tip of the Instant Pot journey for me.  Suddenly, I was able to make enough soups/stews to feed my family for about a month in a matter of hours.  I would use it to make lunch and again supper in the same day.  I think the best part of it is you can cook everything in one pot, with the incredibly handy saute function, add your vegetables and stock, set it and walk away.  And when you return, voila, lunch/dinner is ready to serve, with enough for leftovers for another day.

Other advantages were I no longer threw out vegetables that were past their prime, but instead, trimmed them and froze them for my next batch of soup.  I also quickly learned I no longer had to source out BPA-free canned beans and lentils, as now I had a time effective way to make beans from scratch. I really like the idea of making homemade yogurt, which can be a real health promoting food, when it is not full of sugar, thickener and stabilizers.  For people sensitive to dairy, this feature also offers a much more cost-effective way to make dairy-free yogurt.

People use it for all sorts of things, including making cheesecake (not yet something i have tried).  But having cooked chicken breasts, seasoned, and shredded for wraps, salads and soups on hand was incredibly convenient.  And don’t get me started with how easy it is to make bone broth – rich, satisfying and nourishing bone broth in a matter of an hour.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have no financial incentive to promote this product. Just a zeal for tasty and healthy nutrition.  There is a learning curve in how to use it, but tons of resources online from Facebook Recipe groups, Pinterest, and good old Google, I am sure you will have no trouble.  I hope you find it as useful and as rewarding as I have.  With the arrival of the autumn harvest, it feels time to dust off my Instant Pot (I didn’t use it much in the summer) and get busy.  Yum, yum.

5 Simple Strategies for Radical Health

5 simple strategies for radical healthThe busyness of the holiday season has come and gone…and many of us find ourselves wanting to make a fresh start for the New Year. It is easy to get lost in all of the confusion, as the newly promoted diet/workout/health strategies all compete for our attention.   However, the basic tenets of good health actually do not change much.  Here are the ones that are tried and true:

  1. Sleep.

    Sleep is the healer of all things, and few of us manage to get regular decent, uninterrupted sleep. Aim to get eight hours for best health.  Studies show that sleep deficits are cumulative and that we often underestimate sleep deficits in our performance.

  2. Eat well.

    A plant-based foods diet is one that will sustain your health long-term. I tend to follow the 80-20 rule – I aim to eat super well 80% of the time, and give myself some leeway for the other 20%.  When in doubt, eat more vegetables – they are truly the diet underdogs, and deliver the most nutrition of any food group.  If you desire weight loss, it doesn’t really matter which “diet plan” you choose.  Just be consistent in making healthy eating choices and reducing processed food intake. Water is also important for optimal health – be sure to drink a minimum of at least eight glasses of good quality (preferably filtered alkalized) water daily.

  3. Move.

    Our bodies were designed to move.It doesn’t have to be CrossFit – you can go for a humble walk, plant a garden, play with a child, or clean the house.  Consistency is key, aim to do something active every day.

  4. Socialize

    We are social creatures and our busy days can make it easy to forget to stop and say hello. Pick up the phone for a long overdue chat with a friend, or find the few minutes it takes to just sit with a cup of tea with your spouse and discuss your day. Chronic loneliness has been shown to reduce longevity by up to eight years. Interpersonal relationships are critical not only in creating longevity, but also happiness.

  5. Be grateful

    An attitude of gratitude seriously impacts both physical and psychological health. As a result, we are happier, more likable, have better career aspirations, and less stress.  One popular strategy is to journal three things or events for which you are grateful on a daily basis.

How do we know these practices work? When we examine “blue zones” (areas in the world noted for their remarkable longevity), these are the practices that stand out as part of their daily lifestyles.  These communities are:

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Loma Linda, California

People in these communities often live well beyond 100 years. Let’s adopt their tried and true wisdom for very, very long purposeful and joyful lives.

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Are you a Toxin Superhero?

detox

With the first signs of spring comes the natural desire to do some spring cleaning – both inside and out.  People talk of doing a “cleanse” or a detox, perhaps not realizing that the body is detoxifying all of the time  If it didn’t, all bodily functions would cease.

Detoxification is the primary function of your body’s liver, which is the largest organ of the body.  Though the liver is a multi-talented organ, not to be taken for granted.   Located just under the right end of your rib cage, the liver performs over 200 vital functions, including fat and cholesterol metabolism, hormone excretion, and bile production (for digestion).

Think of the liver like a filter.  Any filter, over a period of time, can get congested.  For example, in the case of premenstrual symptoms, a truly healthy woman would have no symptoms at all.  As the liver becomes compromised, symptoms may be mild and start the day before, or just before the onset of flow. With time,  symptoms will come on earlier and last longer – why?  Because the liver is having a progressively more difficult time properly eliminating the elevated levels of hormones in the bloodstream.  Therefore, the hormones circulate in the bloodstream longer, causing the discomfort associated with PMS.  This holds true for all hormones (and neurotransmitters), not just those associated with a woman’s monthly cycle.

Another analogy to help picture it is to think of your liver like your own personal dumpster.  Your genetic background will dictate how big your dumpster is.  Some very sensitive people have a very small capacity to handle toxins, and there are others who seem like Toxin Superheroes.  Most of us, fortunately, fall somewhere in between.  As the dumpster gets progressively fuller (with time), there is less space and things start to seep back into general circulation.  The result?  You start to feel like a walking, talking dumpster (and smell like one too.)

Here are some signs that your liver may be struggling – how many of these apply to you?

  1. Cholesterol metabolism.

Most people do not realize that about 80% of cholesterol is actually made by the liver.  If your liver is not working efficiently, it may show up as:

  • Increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad cholesterol”
  • Lowered high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or “good cholesterol” which is the precursor for your hormone production
  • High triglycerides
  • Elevated ALT and AST liver enzymes
  • Weight gain
  • Heart disease
  1. Altered Digestion.

One of the primary functions of the liver is to produce bile, which helps to break down dietary fats.  Without adequate bile production, you may experience:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Constipation
  • Inability to digest fatty foods
  • Loss of appetite
  1. Skin issues/allergies

The skin is one of your body’s four exits from the body (the other three are the bowels, the bladder and the lungs).  Your liver filters the blood, and prepare waste products for elimination.  If the liver or any of the exits are compromised, you may experience:

  • Unexplained rashes
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Boils, acne, or moles
  • Itching
  1. Changes in blood sugar levels

Your liver plays an important role in blood sugar regulation.  Blood sugar imbalances symptomatically may manifest as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness or dizziness, better after eating
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  1. Hormonal imbalance

Any symptom related to hormone imbalance definitely implicates poor liver function.  The liver is responsible for filtering out hormones and neurotransmitters from the blood.  An inability to do so might manifest as:

  • Poor sleep quality
  • Mental disturbance/confusion and/or depression
  • Sensitivity to chemicals, fragrance, pharmaceuticals
  • Heavy/clotted or irregular periods
  • Cystic breasts, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids
  • Hot flashes, mood swings or any menopausal symptoms
  1. Other symptoms

Someone with impaired liver function may also exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • Intolerance to alcohol or coffee
  • Swollen feet or abdomen
  • Easy bruising
  • Yellowing of the eyes
  • Dark urine and stool
  • Bad breath, body odor
  • Heartburn

The good news is – the liver is capable of regeneration, given the right support.

Here are three easy steps to get improve your liver function and stimulate your metabolism:

  1. Improve your digestion.  Increase your hydrochloric acid (helps your stomach break down protein) production by taking 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar or 1/2 lemon in a glass (8 oz) of water consistently upon rising; wait 30 minutes before eating. Ideally, replace processed foods with a whole, plant-based diet which are easier to break down and place minimal burden on the liver and digestive tract.  At minimum, take periodic breaks from eating highly processed foods (I like to recommend a minimum of a one week commitment as the weather changes from winter to spring, and again from summer to fall).  Supplement with digestive enzymes, or carminative herbs (like peppermint, clove, star anise, papaya, ginger, pineapple) at meals.
  2. Facilitate efficient elimination.  Include a minimum of 2-3 Tbsp of insoluble fibre in your diet daily – preferably in the form of freshly ground flaxseed (helps to excrete environmental estrogens out of the body and heal the GI tract).  If you cannot tolerate flax, you may also use chia seeds or psyllium husk as an alternative.  Be sure to drink a minimum of 8 glasses of quality water daily.
  3. Ensure you have good co-factors!  A good quality Vitamin B complex (remember, you get what you pay for) is key to opening up and facilitating phase two of the detoxification process (added benefits include nervous system support during times of stress, and improved carbohydrate metabolism).  Be sure to choose the methylated forms of folate and B12, to ensure maximum efficacy.  If you have any questions, let me know and I would be happy to make an appropriate recommendation for you.