Health Tips

Vitamin B12 Benefits

Vitamin B12, normally absorbed from red meat, is one of the most important substances that our body needs. Lack of vitamin B12 in our body can cause fatigue and low energy, impaired sensation, nerve damages, anemia, and stomach problems.

The Vitamin B12 injection offered at Alliance Wellness consists of Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin)  plus folic acid (Methylated folic acid). This injection is administered into either the posterior deltoid (shoulder) or the high gluteus maximus region (buttock) and provides the following benefits:

    • Accelerating overall metabolic rate
    • Boosting energy
    • Regulating mood
    • Relieving depression
    • Maintaining healthy liver
    • Improving immune system
    • Breaking down fat cells and helping with weight loss
    • Reducing anxiety
    • Improving hair, nails and skin

Please consult with Alliance Wellness for a personalized health assessment, and for more information on B12 shots and how they could benefit you.

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4 Health Tips for a Strong Immune System

During the holidays we spend more time indoors enclosed with people who are sneezing/coughing with re-circulated air. Adding travel, stress, late nights and holiday temptations to make poor food and drink choices can be a recipe for getting a cold or flu.

Here are 4 tips to improve your immune health in this cold and flu season.

1. Wash your hands

wash-hands

Wash your hands frequently with regular soap (triclosan in antibacterial soaps not only breeds antibiotic resistance but in animal studies disrupts hormones) and warm water for as long as it takes for you to sing happy birthday two times, approximately 20 seconds.

 

2. Get your Vitamin D levels checked

sunny

We want levels not to prevent rickets but for optimal health so aim for levels 100 to 160 nmol/L. In Canada where we don’t get enough sunlight to produce sufficient vitamin D especially in the winter, most people require 2000-5000 IU VitD3 for optimal levels.

 

3. Limit refined sugar

sugar

Sugar can decrease the immune system up to 40% for up to 5 hours afterwards. Avoid artificial sweeteners.

 

4. Get your gut healthy

fermented-food

Up to 80% of our immune system is in our digestive tract. The gut lining has the surface area of a tennis court (200m2) and there are 10x the number of bacterial cells in our gut than all our human cells so it’s important to make sure the flora is balanced. If you have excessive gas, bloating, cramping, allergies, low immune or autoimmune disorders it maybe a sign you may have increased intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”. Probiotics and fermented foods can help restore the health of the gut in conjunction with eliminating foods, parasites, toxins and medications that can cause inflammation of the gut lining.

Please consult Dr. Stella Seto, ND for a personalized health and nutrition plan.

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6 Exercises for Desk-related Shoulder and Neck Pain

The reality is that most of us sit too much, either driving in a car or at our desks. Sitting all day increases our risk for obesity and puts us at risk for back pain, poor posture, leg cramps, tense muscles and sheer boredom.

Here are 6 exercises you can easily do at work.

1. “Puppet string” seated posture:

Sit tall and pretend that you have a string coming out from the top of your head that is pulling your spine upwards. Now you’re ready to do some exercises and stretches.

2. Neck retraction:

Tuck your chin in slightly and gently slide your head towards the back of your spine so that it is on top of your cervical spine. It’ll feel like you’re pushing the back of your head into an imaginary headrest. Otherwise known as making a “double chin”. Hold for a few seconds and repeat 5-10 times.
neck retraction

3. Upper shoulder and neck stretches:

Relax your shoulders. Let those tight upper back and shoulder muscles completely relax – your shoulder blades will slide down your back slightly. From here, tilt your head and neck to one direction and feel the stretch on the opposite side.

Stay here, or you can also look down to your knee for an additional neck stretch. Let gravity do the work first then you can add a gentle hand to further stretch those areas.

Upper shoulder and neck stretches
4. Scapular retraction:

After stretching your neck and shoulders, try rolling your shoulders forwards and backwards to loosen them up. Then bring the bottoms of your shoulder blades down your back and slightly towards midline. The tops of your shoulder stay relaxed. Hold for several seconds.
Scapular retraction
5. Use a lumbar support

It can be one that you buy and can pump up, or it can be a small pillow or rolled up towel. Tuck it in right around your sacrum. Gently tilt your pelvis forwards and you’ll feel like you’re still taller in your seat.
lumbar support
6. Chest opener – Pectoralis stretch (also an excuse to stand up and walk around!):

Find a doorway or a hallway where you can rest your forearm on the wall and walk half a step forward. You should feel the front of your chest, your pectoralis muscles, stretching. Experiment with different angles for a full stretch.
Pectoralis stretch

Dr. Sophie Tran is a Chiropractor at Alliance Wellness practicing functional movement-based assessments, chiropractic care, Active Release Technique®, athletic taping, rehabilitation and exercise.

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How to Please Picky Eaters with Healthy Food

Healthy eating begins before birth, with the nutrients that are being passed to our little ones in utero. Next, it’s the nutrients of our breast-milk or formula, (depending on the decision that we as Mothers made). One thing does remain constant, and that is MOMMA!

We have the power to forever teach our children healthy eating habits, and IT IS NEVER too late to begin!

Here are my best tips and greatest understandings for pleasing those picky eaters among us

Why are toddlers picky? Their growth is slower than that of infants so their need for food is less. These little ones don’t sit still for anything – even food – so snacking their way through the day may be easier to manage.

Relax! A parent’s job is just to buy nutritious foods, prepare them healthfully and serve them creatively. When, what and how much the toddler eats is up to them.

Binge eating: Toddlers often eat one food at a time – fruits one day, vegetables the next. They may eat voraciously today and nothing tomorrow. Aim for a nutritiously balanced week rather than a balanced day.

Nibblers: Offer an ice cube tray, muffin tin or compartmentalized dish with bite sized portions of colorful, nutritious foods in each section.

Dip it: Fun and messy. Think tofu dip, cream cheese, guacamole, nut butter, pureed fruit or yogurt.

Spread it: Give a toddler a dull bread knife to spread cream cheese, nut butter, guacamole etc on toast or rice cakes.

Drink it: If your toddler would rather drink than eat – make a smoothie. You can add all kinds of supplements – and they’ll never know they are in there.

Shape shifting: Use cookie cutters to make foods into fun shapes.

Mini size: try mini muffins, mini quiches, mini bagels etc.

The bite rule: The “bite rule” gets your child to try a new food, while giving him some control over the intake. If you take 3 bites, 2 bites, etc….

Tiny tummies: Remember that toddlers have small stomachs. Start with small portions and refill the plate if your child asks for more.

Upside down: If your child is hungriest at breakfast, try serving last night’s chicken breast then. Meal distinctions have little meaning for little people so pack the nutrients in when you know they will be really hungry.

Consistently inconsistent: Young children’s food preferences can seem to turn on a dime. Mealtime is one area where a youngster can exert some independence and control – and many of them soon learn they can manipulate their parents in this arena. Just because they loved a food yesterday, doesn’t mean they’ll eat it today.

Fuss-budgets: Sometime between age 2 and 3 many children develop fixed ideas about food – whether food can touch on the plate, how you cut their sandwich, how runny the eggs are – your best bet is to try to keep track of these preferences and try to avoid conflict.

Let them be a part of the planning : The more we include our children in choices and learning about foods, where they come from ,what kind of trees they grow on , the more interested they will be in eating what is served on the plate.

Dr. Jordana Aziz is a Naturopathic Physician at Alliance Wellness practicing Nutritional Counselling, Constitutional Acupuncture, Energetic medicine, Emotional Release Counselling, Hormone Balancing and generally Empowering you to get back into Wellness.

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5 Tips to Stay Healthy during Cold & Flu Season

The old adage “prevention is the best medicine” is definitely true when it comes to acute viral infections . Surely there are numerous ways in which you health care physician can assist you in speeding up recovery from infection, optimizing your immune function right now could mean a winter season without the need for any recovery – short or long!

1. Getting Enough Sleep

sleepy kitten
The repair/regeneration of cells and the balancing of hormones responsible for our immune system both occur primarily at night during our sleep. What’s more is that the physical repair of body tissues is at its most efficiency between the hours of 11pm-2am. Also, research has shown that chronic sleep deprivation has the same type of impairing effect on the immune system as physical/mental stress. Imagine the immune system of a stressed person who is not sleeping too well… NOT a good combo at all.

2. Avoiding Food You Are Sensitive To

most common food that causes allergy
When we ingest food that we are sensitive to, the immune system in our digestive tract is called to arm. And when these foods are being consumed on a regular basis, our immune system becomes constantly active. An active immunity may sound like a good thing – and it is. However, when our immune system is busy dealing with food sensitivities in the gut, it is less available for dealing with the actual PATHOGENS such as the cold and flu virus.

Food sensitivities are different from food allergies, which usually cause immediate anaphylactic reactions (those require an antihistamine medications or EpiPen for). Food sensitivities, rather, affect your body in a more delayed manner and are not as symptomatic. If you are not sure of your unique food sensitivities, speak with your naturopathic doctor about your options for diagnosis and treatment.

3. Limiting Sugar Intake

bad-sugar

Most of us know inherently that consuming too much sugar is not good for us for a various reasons. Specifically in terms of normal immune function, limiting sugar intake truly can be helpful for two key reasons.

1) a sugary meal will cause a rising spike in levels of the hormone insulin, which over time can contribute to systemic inflammation, and then causing immune system depression.

2) colonies of bad bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract that act to disrupt immune function actually thrive on sugar. So by limiting sugar intake, you are doing your part to prevent these pesky troublemakers from overgrowing.

When the holidays come, it can get quite difficult to avoid sugar at every turn, but fear not since it’s not too late to start adapting some lifestyle changes. Right now is the time to sample rather than indulge in sweets, opt for herbal teas rather than sugary beverages, and always consume a small quantity of protein with sugary meals to avoid rapid spikes in blood insulin levels.

4. Keep Being Active

yoga
The idea of exercising out in the cold rain definitely sounds far less appealing than curling up inside with a warm blanket and a hot beverage. However, in addition to making up for a little holiday weight-gain, setting physical activity a priority can also keep your immune health in check.

Studies have shown that regular, moderate exercise produces an increase in the number of immune cells (eg. white blood cells, macrophages) in the body. Note that I say “moderate exercise” as “excessive exercise” can become a physical distress and in turn suppress the immune system. Also, the increase in body circulation that occurs with regular exercise means that immune cells are reaching all parts of our body more often, keeping invaders like the cold and flu viruses at bay.

5. Keeping Stress in Check

stress
You can probably think of numerous times when your immune system succumbed to a cold or flu virus right at the peak of a stressful time. From my experience, I find that most of them got sick at the end of a stressful work week, during an exam period, or when family obligations started to become overwhelming.

When our bodies are under extreme stress, our bodies respond by increasing the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol. And while under short term stress increases in this hormone are normal and necessary, in the long term they can suppress your immune system to a point of getting the cold and flu.

What can you do to reduce stress in your life? All of the above mentioned points – eat well, sleep well, exercise, and make a point of removing yourself from stressful encounters whenever possible. If you make stress reduction a priority in your life, you will find it easier to monitor and avoid stressful situations as they arise.

Dr. Jordana Aziz is a Naturopathic Physician at Alliance Wellness practicing Nutritional Counselling, Constitutional Acupuncture, Energetic medicine, Emotional Release Counselling, Hormone Balancing and generally Empowering you to get back into Wellness.

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Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Runners

You have unique nutritional needs as a runner. You want to make sure you’re fueling right for racing without upsetting yours stomach. And you want to recover as fast as possible and prevent overtraining. Follow these tips to get to the start fueled and hydrated, and finish strong.

Hydration

How much water do I need? Weight (lbs) / 16 = # cups daily

Weight (lbs) Daily Water Intake (cups/250ml)
100 lbs 6.25
120 lbs 7.5
140 lbs 8.75
160 lbs 10
180 lbs 11.25
200 lbs 12.5
220 lbs 13.75
240 lbs 15

Your water requirements will be increased if you are physically active. You should also add 1 cup of water for each caffeinated and alcoholic beverage that you consume.

*Tip: you can assess hydration by looking at the colour of your urine. It should be clear to pale yellow. If it is dark yellow, you are likely dehydrated (unless you are taking certain vitamins and medications)

*Tip: mark your water bottle and fuel belt bottles in 250mL increments in order to be able to accurately track fluid intake.

Hydration

Is it possible to drink too much water?

Yes! There is a danger of drinking too much water, especially if you are exercising in intense heat as you can deplete your electrolytes (including sodium). Low sodium (hyponatremia) can cause muscle weakness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and even death.

What should I be drinking?

Main source of hydration should be pure, filtered water.

Coffee: maximum of 24 oz or 240mg of caffeine daily. Avoid adding cream and sugar. Try milk, unsweetened almond, rice, or coconut milk and stevia or honey (natural sweeteners).

Avoid juice and soda due to their high sugar content.

Alcohol: maximum of 1 drink daily for women and 2 drinks daily for men.

Water: rehydrates the body
Carbohydrates: replenish glycogen stores
Electrolytes: speed up rehydration

Electrolyte replacement beverages

Most commercial brands contain artificial colours and/or sweeteners which can have negative health effects. Look for products that are naturally sweetened with glucose, fructose, sucrose and don’t contain artificial colours. Be aware that stevia and artificial sweeteners don’t raise blood sugar and therefore should not be used as a source of glucose.

Artificial sweeteners

  • Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)
  • Acesulfame potassium (Sunett)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)

Coconut water is a refreshing source of naturally occurring electrolytes.

Homemade electrolyte drink
1 litre of water
Juice of one citrus fruit (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit)
3 Tbsp honey or agave nectar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

General Nutrition Guidelines:

  • Runners NEED to eat more, especially during peak training –otherwise can decrease training capacity and increase risk of injury
  • Eat REAL FOOD. Choose high quality foods which are nutrient-dense: fresh fruits and vegetables, non-refined whole grains, lean meats and poultry, beans, healthy fats. Sports bars, shakes, and drinks can be convenient, but they should not make up a large portion of your diet.
  • Aim to eat a meal or snack every 3-4 hours to keep blood sugars stable
  • Diet should vary depending on type of training
    1. Long slow runs: body uses more carbohydrate energy = increase your dietary carb intake
    2. Speed/hills/fartlek (intense runs): body uses more fat energy = increase your dietary fat intake

Nutrition & Food Groups:

salad

1. Carbohydrates

  • Main source of energy for the body
  • Contain sugar, starch (sugars linked together), and fiber
  • Should make up 55-60% of your daily calories
  • Sources of carbs: whole grains (oats, rye, quinoa), fruit, starchy vegetables

2. Protein

  • Provides some energy and helps to repair tissues damaged during exercise
  • Should make up 15-25% of your daily calories
  • Protein requirements for amateur athletes: 1 gram protein/KG body weight/day
  • Good sources of protein: eggs, poultry, fish, beans/legumes, low-fat dairy products

3. Fat

  • Major storage form of energy in the body
  • Should make up 20-25% of your daily calories
  • Avoid fat-free processed foods which are almost always high in sugar or artificial sweeteners
  • Good sources of fat: olive oil, coconut oil, olives, nuts/seeds, nut butters, avocado

Timing of Meals:

3-4 Hours Before Run/Race

  • Have a smaller meal that contains about equal amounts of protein and carbs
  • E.g. whole grain bread with tuna, chicken, turkey breast, or hummus + water

1-2 Hours Before Run/Race

  • Fruit and nuts/hardboiled egg/turkey breast; yogurt with nuts; or sports bar + 300-500mL water
  • Limit fat intake before exercise because slow to digest!

Hour Before: just stick to water

During Exercise/Run

  • Less than 60 minutes: have only water
  • More than 60 minutes: take in carbs every 20 minutes for a total of 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of intense exercise
  • Choose a sports drink that is 6-8% carbohydrates (glucose and fructose or sucrose) and have 3-6 ounces every 15-20 minutes (stick to water if run less than 60 minutes)

After Exercise/Run

  • After short run (less than 60 minutes): within 15 minutes of run, eat a small snack of 4:1 ratio or carbs to protein. Examples: Larabar, crackers and peanut butter, energy bar
  • After long run (60+ minutes): within 15 minutes of run, eat a small snack of 4:1 ratio or carbs to protein. Then eat a meal within 2 hours. E.g. see above + fruit, sandwich

Important Nutrients for Runners

Calcium

  • Important for bone health and muscle contraction
  • Requirements: adults under 50 (1000mg); adults over 50 (1200mg)
  • Good sources of calcium: low fat dairy products or dairy alternatives (soy, almond, rice milk), tofu, sesame seeds, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens

Magnesium

  • Important for muscle relaxation, natural pain reliever
  • Requirements: 380mg for females, 420mg for males
  • Good source of magnesium: pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, soybeans, sesame seeds, halibut, black beans, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds

Iron

  • Important for delivering oxygen to your cells
  • Requirements: 8mg (men); 18mg (women)
  • Poultry, red meat, soybeans, lentils, spinach, tofu, venison, sesame seeds, garbanzo beans, lima beans, olives
  • Iron best absorbed when taken with vitamin C (e.g. citrus fruit) and taken away from calcium, dairy products, tea and coffee which reduce absorption.
  • Ideal iron stores (ferritin) should be at least 40-50 ng/mL

Antioxidant vitamins and minerals (A, C, E, S)

  • Help to prevent damage in the body from free radicals produced during exercise
  • Good sources of vitamin A: Sweet potato, spinach, carrots, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard, winter squash, mustard greens, romaine lettuce
  • Good sources of vitamin C: Papaya, Bell Peppers, Strawberries, Broccoli, Pineapple, Brussels Sprouts, Kiwifruit, Oranges, Cantaloupe, Kale
  • Good sources of vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, Swiss -chard, turnip greens, papaya, mustard greens, collard greens, asparagus, Bell peppers
  • Selenium: Brazil nuts, button mushrooms, cod, shrimp, tuna, halibut, salmon, and mustard seeds.

Curcumin (turmeric): is a potent natural anti-inflammatory. Try adding 1 tsp to the water next time you cook grains (e.g. rice), sprinkle it onto veggies or add to homemade salad dressing.
Tart cherry juice: reduces muscle soreness, potent anti-oxidant.

Dr. Jordana Aziz is a Naturopathic Physician at Alliance Wellness practicing Nutritional Counselling, Constitutional Acupuncture, Energetic medicine, Emotional Release Counselling, Hormone Balancing and generally Empowering you to get back into Wellness. Dr. Aziz will often be found running the seawall in Kitsilano and Jericho.

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How Diet Healed My Daughter’s Eczema and Asthma

How do you treat a baby with asthma and eczema?

When my daughter was 11 months old, she had very severe asthma. We took her to doctors all over the city. Their answer: more medications. Our routine was full of nebulizers, had steroid injections and inhalers. Not exactly an ideal childhood. Plus, my daughter was gaining weight, and losing her vitality. She didn’t want to walk, crawl or play. As a mother, it was devastating. But then I met the Naturopathic Doctor who forever changed the course of our lives. She showed me a way to heal asthma and eczema with nutrition.

To read more about my story, click here

Before seeing a Naturopathic Doctor, NOT ONE person had spoken to me about diet

My Naturopathic Doctor, suggested that I remove Dairy and Gluten “religiously” from my daughters diet for a period of 6 weeks. By the time those 6 weeks were up, my daughter NO LONGER required Steroid Injections (Prednisone), she no longer needed to be awoken at 4 am for nebulization, or carry a puffer with her (and myself) every day. Her weight stabilized, she become interested in life, and learned to walk. Her asthma and eczema were both symptoms of food allergies.

Does that sound too good to be true? Here’s 2 more cases studies showing that removing dairy and gluten can help childhood asthma. http://www.gahmj.com/doi/full/10.7453/gahmj.2014.068

Nutrition is my life, my livelihood, and my saving grace. And it could be yours too.

That was a turning point in my life: I found my calling in Naturopathic Medicine. I vowed to help Women and Children understand Nutrition, and how it can change our health, and our futures for the better.

I am a Naturopathic Doctor in Vancouver and I am here to help

When we work together to heal asthma, eczema, or any other health concerns with Naturopathic Medicine, good food is the foundation of your treatment.

I have helped hundreds of women heal their bodies and their families by guiding them to make smart, healthy choices that fit their lives.

When we work together for your health, I start with a 5-week diet overhaul. We never weigh food, count calories or act with restrictions. Loving our bodies and loving ourselves is how we learn to nourish ourselves, our children, and our planet. And THAT is how you heal.

If you’re ready to make smarter choices about food, click here to work with me

If you’re going to spend money on anything: make it good food

Medicine has so many natural and conventional tools to help solve your problems and fix your symptoms, but if the foundation is not right or we are not eating appropriately for our individual bodies’ needs… you are wasting money on vitamins, supplements and any other therapy.

In my daughter’s case, treating her food allergy symptoms (asthma and eczema) with medicines was costing me money, time, and taking away from a normal healthy childhood.

Wrong food choices can contribute to all the inflammatory diseases. The first step that you can take on your own is to choose your food with the intention to love and nourish your body.

Always nourishing,

Dr. Jordana Aziz

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9 Steps to a Restful & Restorative Sleep

Sleep is supposed to be easy. We literally have to do nothing but lie down and close our eyes and yet 20-40% of people will experience insomnia this year. Lack of sleep increases the likelihood of chronic diseases including hypertension, diabetes, depression, cancer and obesity, as well as increasing mortality, and reducing quality of life and productivity. For athletes and those who exercise, sleep is vital for recovery. Without enough quality sleep, all the effort in the gym, money spent on supplements and time spent weighing chicken breasts is wasted. Sleep is something we’ve been doing our whole lives, it comes naturally to us and, therefore, most have never been taught “how” to sleep. Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis. I’ve organized a plethora of sleep hygiene topics into 9 general categories you can incorporate into your daily routines to foster a good night’s sleep. Sweet Dreams.

1. Make it a Routine

We are creatures of habit. Inconsistency can wreak havoc on our health when it comes to how and when we prepare for sleep. Our circadian rhythm, an internal clock that determines our sleeping pattern, is governed by a number of different hormones that can be influenced by our actions during the day. By hitting the sack and waking up at a consistent time each day, our body is able to regulate these hormones and prepare our body more efficiently for a good night’s sleep. Had a late night? It’s better long-term to wake up at your regular time and make up for it the following night.

In addition to sleep and wake times, our circadian rhythm and its associated hormones are also sensitive to our activities leading up to sleep. Simple routines like brushing our teeth or having a bath can tell our bodies to start preparing for sleep when consistently done before bed. As well, the rise and fall of temperature with bathing encourages the natural temperature drop we experience when sleeping. To take further advantage of our body’s affinity for habits and ease the transition from wake time to sleeping, we can start practising a regular relaxing bedtime ritual such as breathing exercising, mindfulness or meditation. These can help bring down our sympathic tone(the “fight or flight” excitatory division of our autonomic nervous system) and limit the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases alertness. If you tend to have an active mind and take your problems to bed, try writing them down and leaving them in another room before you start your nightly winding down routine.

2. Use Light to Your Advantage

Our circadian rhythm and the hormones that govern it are extremely sensitive to light exposure in ways that can affect our sleep both positively and negatively. Increasing light exposure during the day helps our body regulate the natural balance of hormones like melatonin, cortisol and adenosine. By taking breaks from life indoors to venture out into the sun, we encourage the natural rise and fall of these hormones to promote peaks at the most opportune times.

Inversely, too much artificial light in the evenings and bright phone and computer use before bed can negatively affect the same delicate hormone ratios. This tricks our body’s into thinking it’s still time to be awake and ready for action. Studies have found that the bright blue tones in our phones and computers have the most negative effect on our melatonin and cortisol levels by stimulating our pituitary gland (the connection between our nervous and endocrine systems that governs many of our hormones) into a more excited state. Avoiding screen use 30 minutes before bed is your best option to boost natural melatonin (a sleep promoting hormone) levels. If you have no other choice than to set your phone alarm or check your e-mail immediately before your head hits the pillow, then try an app like “Twilight” that significantly dims the screen and also shifts the screen color to the red end of the spectrum to limit the impact on the pituitary gland.

Hamster in bedFUN FACT: An Ohio State University study using hamsters found that four weeks of exposure to artificial light—the kind that stems from smartphones, laptops, tablets, and television screens—left the critters more lethargic and depressed than those that slept in total darkness.

3. Get Out of Bed

Bear with me. We can foster our sleep routine by avoiding spending time on the bed or in the bedroom for reasons other than sleep and intimate activities. Netflix binges and last minute work proposals should all be done outside of the bedroom. Keeping TV’s, computers and work materials out of the room will help strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep and not other activities. By developing the bedroom into a fortress of solitude for sleep we can program our bodies to start preparing for bed just by walking into the bedroom.

Another time to avoid the bed is when you’ve woken up in the middle of the night with a racing mind and are having trouble falling back to sleep. It may sound counterintuitive, but the pressure and concentration we use to force ourselves back to sleep may actually be keeping us awake. If after 20 minutes you’re not asleep, get out of bed, go to another room, and do something relaxing until you are tired enough to sleep. Make sure not to turn on any bright lights, the TV or computers during these times Read by candlelight, grab a glass of water, listen to relaxing music or just sit in a chair in the middle of a dark room like a horror movie villain. Whatever you choose to do, just get out of bed so your body doesn’t associate worrying and being stressed out with being in bed. Do your mind racing elsewhere until you are sleepy, then return to bed. It’s ok for this to happen multiple times during the night, don’t stress about it and try to maintain your regular wake time.

No napping either. Sorry. Many people struggling with sleep quality take naps in an attempt to make up for lost sleep. Although short naps have been shown to boost awareness throughout the day, prolonged afternoon naps may be one of the culprits for those having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night. Because late-day naps decrease sleep drive, it’s better to keep them shorter than 45 minutes and before 5 p.m.

4. Environment is Key

Your bedroom should be as cool, dark and quiet as possible. A well ventilated room between 60 and 75°F is ideal to encourage the natural fall in body temperature we experience each night. Too hot or too cold and our bodies will take action to get more comfortable, which will probably involve waking you up.

Silence is best, but when it comes to sleeping, “quiet” can be relative. An ideal auditory environment isn’t so much perfectly quiet as it is consistent without loud spikes of noise to wake us up during the night. If you live in a busy city or close to potential noise generators it can be difficult to limit the outside noise completely. But, we can decrease the relative volume of outside noise by creating constant low-level noise with a fan or a “white noise” appliance.

5. Embrace the Darkness Within You(r Bedroom)

dark roomAs soothing as a nightlight may be if you’re 4 years old, all light sources can act as a powerful signal telling our brain that it’s time to wake up. Melatonin (our sleep hormone) levels can be significantly decreased by any artificial light sources throughout the night. Using heavy curtains, blackout shades, or, as a last resort, an eye mask to block light ensures our sensitive nervous and hormonal systems aren’t getting confused as we slumber. Additionally, turn the clock face away and do not check the time or your phone if woken up at night.

ASIDE: Pets – studies have shown benefits of sleeping with pets, however, an active pet chasing squirrels in their sleep can interrupt your sleep cycle. Try sleeping without Fluffy for a couple nights and you both may get a better sleep.

6. Lifestyle

There are many lifestyle factors that can affect the quantity and quality of our sleep but we’ll keep it simple:

  • Exercise – minimum 30 minutes a day to build up adenosine (another sleepy hormone) but not too close to bedtime to control cortisol levels, keep body temperature low and avoid putting ourselves into an excited state. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bed or work out earlier in the day.
  • Avoid alcohol – although it has the ability to make you pass out(not a recommended sleep aid), the metabolism of alcohol actually decreases the efficiency of our sleep and interrupts our circadian rhythm
  • Avoid nicotine, heavy meals and excessive fluid intake after dinner – too much metabolic activity can rattle our cages and actually limit how restorative our sleep is.
  • Avoid caffeine after lunch – although helpful during the day to boost your metabolic rate and improve alertness, consuming it too late in the day can keep you revved up well past bedtime. Don’t forget tea, chocolate, cola, and some pain relievers can all be significant sources of caffeine, it’s not just the coffee keeping you wired!

7. Pillow talk

PillowsChoosing a pillow involves the consideration of a combination of factors including slеер posture (ѕіdе, ѕtоmасh, back etc.), age аnd body composition, hеаlth оf your musculoskeletal system, personal рrеfеrеnсеѕ (mаtеrіаl, comfort and style), and budget. Selecting the right pillow should be a trial and error process, testing variations of different factors in store or on lease from family or friends until you find the perfect fit.
In general, softer more malleable pillows or memory foams tend to be better for healthy adults. While a gооd соntоur ріllоw , ѕhареd tо еnѕurе neutral ѕріnаl аlіgnmеnt and hеlр relax muѕсlеѕ, may provide relief for those with neck or back pain. No two people are the same and the best way to find your perfect fit is to get out there and try as many different types as you can. The goal is to have your head and neck in a neutral position with weight еvеnlу dіѕtrіbutеd thrоughоut thе еntіrе ѕurfаce area avoiding pressure points or unsupported segments. Also consider using pillows in positions other than under the head and neck. A soft pillow between the knees in a side posture can help support the hips and pelvis, while a more firm pillow placed under the knees in a supine position can help take pressure off of the lower back.

8. You Sleep in the bed You’ve Made

Buying a new mattress can be compared to buying a new car. There are many different options with hundreds of factors to consider, you will be using it everyday and you will be spending a significant amount of your hard-earned money on it. Most people shop around for their vehicles and yet many don’t put the same effort into choosing their new mattress and often base their decision on price alone. Considering you will be spending one third of your life in it, I’d suggest giving your next purchase some serious thought. So when is it time to get a new mattress?

Experts suggest investing in a new mattress every 8-10 years. But a change may be needed sooner if signs of wear appear such as sagging in the middle, changes in density, musty odours that won’t wash out, or excessive noise production. After making the decision to buy a new mattress, its then time to find the perfect one. There are no stead-fast rules when it comes to selecting a mattress. General concepts can be applied such as even distribution of weight, appropriate spinal support and vibration and noise reduction, but inevitably it comes down to personal comfort preference. Similar to purchasing a pillow, there are hundreds of options and you’ll want to test out as many beds as possible. Don’t just test the firm ones or the soft ones because that’s what you’ve always gone with. As we age our body’s change and may require a different type of support as the years go by.

Attempt to test out the beds you are seriously considering for at least 15 minutes. Yes, lie on the bed, in the store, in front of strangers for 15 minutes. The sales-person will be very understanding and you’d be surprised how different a mattress can feel after a quarter of a hour. Finally, try not to mix and match mattress and boxsprings from different sets. Box springs are designed to support a specific mattress type and weight. Having an overwhelmed boxspring can result in a sagging or contorted mattress, resulting in a sagging or contorted you.

9. Last resort

sleeping pillsIf all other sleep hygiene modifications haven’t made a significant difference, consider using a natural sleep enhancing supplement like melatonin, California Poppy extract, Lemonbalm or 5HTP before resorting to
more powerful prescribed medication. Ambien, Lunesta, and other doctor-prescribed medications are highly effective sleep inducers, but they can also be habit-forming and come with a number of potentially dangerous side effects. Others, like Unisom, containing the sedating antihistamine doxylamine can help short-term, but can also cause fogginess during the day. Taking a more natural and less harmful option such as melatonin has been shown to help induce sleep and regulate circadian rhythm if the conditions are optimal, meaning, if all other factors of sleep hygiene are accounted for.

So there you have it! Thanks for investing in your health by reading and hopefully taking some steps to getting a more restorative sleep. Some of these practices and tips will be easier to include in your daily and nightly routine than others, but, if you give them a chance, the odds of achieving restful sleep will improve. Remember the most important factor or sleep is routine, so stick to it and reap the benefits.

When applying these tips it may also be helpful to consider recent studies showing that, individually, each specific component of sleep hygiene is related to sleep, however, addressing multiple individual components at once does not seem to make the same kind of significant difference. Therefore, it may be more beneficial to make changes one by one, incorporating a new component each week instead of all of them at once. Sleep is all about routine and by changing too much too quickly, we may be hindering the very thing we are trying to promote.

Finally, as much as these tips have the potential to help, remember, not all sleep dysfunctions can be improved with sleep hygiene alone. Significant sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, clinical insomnia or narcolepsy are always a possibility and if sleep doesn’t improve through good sleep hygiene alone, you may want to consult your physician.

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Vancouver Sun Run, 10 Tips for Your Best 10k

The annual 10km Vancouver Sun Run is set for April 17th and thousands of runners will embrace the streets of downtown. The Sun Run is Canada’s largest 10km race. The beautiful scenery, well organized course and entertainment throughout are just one of the many reasons for its major success.  To ensure your personal success, whether it is your first time or your tenth time, check out the following tips.

  1. Train for the run! Many have ran a few kilometers, 5km or even a 10km in the past, but that doesn’t mean you are ready for the Sun Run. You should be training for the run at least 8-10 weeks in advance.
  2. Have a training partner. It makes it a lot easier to get out for a long training run if you have someone to go with you. If you don’t have a training partner, try to join a run group. Often shoe stores, gyms or independent trainers will host running clinics.
  3. Stretching. It is really important to keep your muscles limber throughout your training to prevent cramping and scar tissue build up. Never stretch cold muscles, so remember to do dynamic stretching before your runs and static stretches after your runs. (Dynamic means you are moving while you stretch and static means you hold the stretch for 30-45 seconds.)
  4. Foam Roll. Find a foam roller that you like (usually $25-50) and use this either before you run, after you run or ideally both. Foam rolling is very efficient for decreasing scar tissue build up and helps to maintain the elasticity of your muscles.
  5. Therapy. Some examples of what runners can benefit from at Alliance Wellness Clinic include: Deep tissue massage with a registered massage therapist, Active Release Technique/spinal adjustments from a chiropractor, muscle imbalance rehab on the RedCord/IMS from physiotherapist, supplement management from a naturopath, and overall health management with acupuncture, osteopathy and counseling.
  6. Hydrate. It is imperative to be well hydrated for all training runs and even more so for race day. Take advantage of the water stations and have some water along the course.
  7. Caffeinate. Consider a pre-workout or caffeinated beverage before your runs to give you a little extra energy. Remember that caffeine can be dehydrating, so drink more water. It would not be advisable to caffeinate before race day, if you haven’t in any previous training runs.
  8. Carbohydrate Loading. It is not essential to carb load the days leading up to or the night before the Sun Run. This is more important when training for longer runs such as a full marathon. Eat your normal meals, with a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
  9. Keep Moving. During the Sun Run, you may experience some pain in your legs. This is completely normal and is just a build up of lactic acid. After you cross the finish line, it is a really good idea to continue walking for 15-20 minutes to help keep the blood flowing and speed your recovery.
  10. Ice. When you get home after the run, take a cold shower or sit in a tub with a few bags of ice for 10-15 minutes. This will really help with inflammation, pain and accelerate your healing and prevent delayed onset muscle soreness.

These are just a few tips to help make your Sun Run more comfortable and most importantly more fun! Good luck!

Vancouver Sun Run 2016 Race Details

Date: Sunday, April 17th

Start Times (PST):

  • Competitive wheelchairs: 8:40 a.m. Burrard & Georgia
  • Vancouver Sun Run (10K): 9:00 a.m. Burrard & Georgia
  • Shaw Mini Sun Run (2.5K): 8:00 a.m. @ Pacific Blvd (BC Place Stadium)

Download Sun Run 10K Course Map

For more information, check out:

http://www.vancouversun.com/sunrun

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Preventing and Treating Spring Allergies

Spring brings warmer weather but for some people seasonal allergies as well.

One in six Canadians suffers from seasonal allergies. Allergy season can start in spring and last till late autumn depending on what people are allergic to. The symptoms of seasonal allergies are: itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, itchy throat and ears, sneezing and congestion. This differs from old or flu that tends to last less than 2 weeks and can have a fever and muscle aches.

There are many ways to treat and help prevent seasonal allergies:

  • Pollen counts are highest between 5-10 AM and on dry, hot and windy days. Try to limit time outside during these times.
  • Keep house and car windows closed.
  • Wear a hat and large sunglasses while outside to prevent pollen from getting stuck on hair and in your eyes. Hair gel makes more pollen stick to hair and if not rinsed off can end up on your pillow. Brush off your hat before coming inside and rinse glasses off after use.
  • Shower and change/wash your clothes after coming in from outside to avoid spreading pollen through your home and onto your bed.
  • Nasal irrigation with a sinus rinse or neti pot to clear nasal passages of pollen and other allergens when you come inside for the day.
  • Line your mattress and pillows with dust mite covers as the bed contains the highest concentration of mite allergens.

These are all ways to prevent pollen from triggering an allergic reaction. Naturopathic medicine works on regulating your immune system so that it doesn’t form an allergic response to something the body normally would not react to in an allergic manner.

Diet and intestinal integrity play a huge role in allergy control, the immune system and inflammation. Food sensitivity testing can test your blood for antibodies that your body produces towards foods. This test will determine how your diet affects your immune system and thus your antibody and histamine production. If you also have the symptoms of gas and bloating than fixing your “leaky gut”, can be a factor in your allergies. There are many herbal or nutritional treatments that can be tailored for your individual allergy and health concerns.

Please consult Dr. Seto, ND for a personalized health and allergy treatment plan.

Dr. Stella Seto, ND is a licensed naturopathic physician with a special interest in clinical nutrition/food sensitivities, sports and pain management and hormone balance.

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