exercise

Foundations of Health - Stress Management

In this article, I will be talking about 1 Pillar of Health - Activity, and what you can do to have this foundation. These foundations is an awesome start to work towards your health goals, but if you have other underlying conditions, this is the first step. To accelerate your health journey and make sure you are going in the right direction, book an appointment with someone you trust and can work with.

Stress

Stress affects everything in your body. It is difficult for your body to digest and absorb nutrients from your meals if you are stressed since your body is in sympathetic mode. Sympathetic mode is when you go into a "fight, flight, (and more recently) or freeze" state. When you are in this state, your body prioritizes these actions by pumping blood to the heart and muscles so that you can fight or run, but at the same time, it decreases the flow of blood to your intestine and stomach. As a result, your digestive system is suppressed, and you don't digest your food or absorb the nutrients, which can cascade to different effects, such as being tired. Your body doesn't differentiate between life threatening stress and having-to-meet-a-deadline stress, your body reacts the same regardless. 

To heal, you need to switch your mode from sympathetic, to parasympathetic. Parasympathetic is the "rest, digest, and repair" mode, where your body can nourish itself and heal. This is the mode you want to be in when you are eating and sleeping, that way your body can do these functions optimally; otherwise, you will not be able to recover and nourish your body fully. An easy way to do this is by using breathing techniques. The one I generally recommend is the Square breathing technique, where you breath in for 4 seconds, then hold it for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and then hold again for 4 seconds, before continuing this kind of breathing for a few cycles (try 5-10 cycles, you can do more if you want to). Doing this puts you into the parasympathetic mode, and is also a great way to help with anxiety.

One of the best ways to help relieve and manage stress is by physically active. Being active gives you a great outlet to let out your emotions, and allows you to express it. If you're really frustrated or angry, doing contact sports can be helpful since you get to hit a punching bag and let it go. If you feel really emotional, dancing is a beautiful way to express that feeling, and to let it go. This way to help relieve stress is related to the Activity part of the Foundations of Health, and as you may have gleaned, stress related to all parts of the foundation.

Another way to help manage your stress is by journalling, this way you are able to reduce the stress from your mind. You are able to express yourself in words - unfiltered. Express how you are really feeling and not have to censor yourself from saying certain things. This can be very liberating, especially if you find that you have to censor or filter yourself the entire day. This lets you be you, all of you, without fear of judgement. 

Lastly, there are herb that you can use to help your mind and body cope with stress better. These herbs are said to be adaptogens in the botanical world, and though they will all generally help you with stress, some of them are better than others - especially depending on your constitution and how you are currently doing with the stress. Some herbs are good for long time use, while others are better for short term use. The herbs for short term use tend to use your nutritional and energy stores to help you get through the stressful situation - which can be good, if you have those stores. The ones for long term use tend to be also very nutritive for the body, which is why you can use them for long term. It is best to talk to a health provider with herbal knowledge to determine which is the best one for you.

Happy breathing!

~Dr. Charmagne

Foundations of Health - Activity

In this article, I will be talking about 1 Pillar of Health - Activity, and what you can do to have this foundation. These foundations is an awesome start to work towards your health goals, but if you have other underlying conditions, this is the first step. To accelerate your health journey and make sure you are going in the right direction, book an appointment with someone you trust and can work with.

Activity

Movement is important for the body, for mood, and energy, among other things. It has been seen to be more effective than some antidepressants when it comes to depression, and it is an excellent way of managing stress by giving you an stress outlet.

When you are first starting out, it is important to start of small, especially if you haven’t been active for a very long time. This can be something like walking for 20 minutes/day. Commit to doing this for at least 20 days, and watch how your mood and energy change as you begin to make this a regular part of your life. Afterwards, you can gradually increase the difficulty of the activity by either increasing the time to 30 minutes/day or by changing it up to jogging based on how you feel you are doing. Continue to gradually increasing the difficulty as you see fit (you can increase the time again, or change it up to running). Afterwards, you will be doing compound exercises, this is where you are training more than one muscle group at a time. You can do this by doing squats, lunges, push ups, etc.

A good workout should make you feel good - like you just worked out, and have achieved something - not completely ruined or exhausted. If you do not enjoy going to the gym, find an activity that you enjoy. This can be anything you want it to be, whether its yoga, soccer, swimming, martial arts, dancing, etc,. and make a commitment to do that regularly. You'll notice how much more energy, and how much lighter you feel after making this a habit.

Happy moving!

~Dr. Charmagne

Back to School - Strengthening Your Little One's Immune System

As a little girl, I loved school. Yes, I was a nerd (and still am), but I loved going to school to be with my friends. I felt connected at school. I was able to build long lasting friendships with classmates. However, I tended to get sick quite often, especially with tonsilitis (that has left my tonsils quite large), colds and flus, ear infections, and stomach aches; the list goes on. When I was sick, I didn't go to school, I stayed home. But I loved school and I loved seeing my friends just as I loved learning, so I hated missing school. 

Whether your little ones love or hate school, it is important for them to go, and regardless of if they are in school or not, it's always unfortunate to have a sick child. Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to help boost their immune systems, which helps fight off the infections better and also lessens the severity if they do happen to fall ill. 

There are the common methods that everyone talks about: Vitamin C, probiotics and Vitamin D. These are staples in helping to boost and regulate the immune system, but they are also supplements. I'll be talking about these 3, along with some lifestyle and dietary things you can do to help boost the immune system of you and your kids. 

Eat lots of vegetables and fruits

Eating a healthy diet is one of the 3 Pillars of Health (the other 2 being sleep and exercise). Having half a plate full of vegetables ensures that you are getting enough nutrients and fibre in your diet. I also like to tell my patients to eat "as many colours of the rainbow" as they can. Doing this allows them to have as many different phytonutrients as possible. Not all phytonutrients do the same thing, but they are beneficial in their own way. These phytonutrients tend to be different based on the colour of the vegetable and fruit. Rich purples, reds, and blues are rich in anthocyanin (Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology) - which is a strong antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory, that can help your body be at it's best.

Exercise or Play

Being active strengthens our bodies by keeping our cardiovascular systems healthy and strengthening our bones (MedlinePlus). Everyone knows that exercising is good for you, but no one understands how it improves the immune system. Some of the theories I've read and liked included: 

  • Increased body temperature during and after the workout deters microbes from replicating and allows your body's defence system to work more optimally - the same way a fever works.
  • Faster blood flow and changes in your antibodies allows them to move through your body faster, catch and neutralize microbes they encounter. 
  • Exercise helps to manage stress, and therefore, decreases incidences of illness.

Studies have shown that moderate exercise has the best immunomodulating effects, and that doing regular, strenuous activity can be detrimental to the immune system (Clinical Sports Medicine)

Sleep

Sleep is very important for the body and health. This is the time that the body recovers from the day's hustle and bustle, the stress inflicted to it mentally, and physically. The body recovers and heals, and builds up resources to be used the next day. Sleep can be called the best anti-oxidant you can give your body (American Journal of Physiology). Sleep and many immune functions are both influenced by the 24-hour circadian rhythm. Your body adjusts which immune cells are active throughout your sleep-wake cycle. Immune cells that actively kill bacteria and diseased cells (NK cells) are more active during the day, when you are active; while memory T cells and cells that haven't matured are the most active at night (Pflügers Archiv). Therefore, it is important that your child gets enough sleep; below is a chart of recommended hours of sleep needed for children depending on their age:

Vitamin C 

Vitamin C has been known to support and improve the function of the immune system and decreases the duration of the common cold. The mechanism of how vitamin C is able to do this is still not clear, but it is needed for certain cells of the immune system (phagocytes and T-cells) to function properly. These cells track, mark, and eat invading microbes. Vitamin C supplementation was seen to reduce viral infection and replication of the Epstein-Barr Virus (aka Mono) (Medical Science Monitor). Your body has it's own absorption limit when it comes to vitamin C. In Naturopathic School, my professor would challenge us to find our limit - take and measure the amount of vitamin C it takes you to have a Bowel Movement (BM) (because it will cause you to have a BM if you take too much, as a side effect). Knowing this number can be really useful because when you are sick, your body can absorb more vitamin C, as it uses more of it to fight off the invading microb (J. Prousky).

Probiotics

70-80% of your immune system is in your gut (Clinical & Experimental Immunology). Your gut is covered in bacteria, which is often referred to as your microbiota, or gut flora. These bacteria help regulate your immune system and crowd out pathogenic bacteria so that they can't take hold of your intestine which can cause problems. Your natural microbiota is dependant on the way you were born - if you were born vaginally or through a Cesarean birth - because the first microbs you are exposed to start to inhabit your gut, so whether you were exposed to your mother's bacteria or the hospital's bacteria plays a large role in the bacteria that inhabit your gut. One way to influence your microbiota is by taking probiotics which have various immunomodulating abilities depending on the strain (Dr. David Williams).  Strains such as Bifidobacteria infantis are really good for immune modulation (Gut Microbes, FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology), whereas, Lactobacillus fermentum are good for atopic dermatitis (Archives of Disease in Childhood).

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D modulates the passive and active immune system since there are vitamin D receptors on B cells, T cells and antigen presenting cells (Journal of Investigative Medicine). There was a study showing that supplementation with vitamin D resulted in statistically decreased incidences of influenza. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Vitamin D is also able to change the concentration of different T cells, moving it from a pro-inflammatory to more of a regulatory one - allowing your body to maintain self-tolerance, which is very important because you should not be reacting and attacking your own body (Journal of Immunology). 

~ Dr. Charmagne