Blog Archives

Detoxing…From Tongue to Bum

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We talk a lot about healthy lifestyle at Vita Health. But what does that mean? For a lot of us (OK, most of us) devoting hours a day to doing all the things we’re “supposed” to do to achieve health perfection is not possible. Kudos to those rare demi-gods that do an hour of yoga every day, cook every vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, soy-free meal from scratch while meeting their optimal protein requirements, meditate regularly in nature and go for a run every morning. You rock. For the rest of us, leading a healthy lifestyle is about finding balance between kids and personal time, work and play, nutrition and convenience.

Needless to say, we were pretty excited to find out Dr. Terry Willard, leading Canadian Herbalist would be joining us to discuss ways to strike the health-convenience balance. Although the title of his talk – “Tongue to Bum…A Detox Story” has received some bemused responses on social media, it is pretty accurate. The concept of regularly cleansing or “detoxing” the body’s major systems as a way of maintaining good health is not a new concept in natural healing. However, Dr. Willard has actively modernized the practice to make it comprehensive and accessible for modern life.

What is a detox, and why would I do one?

The reality is – we don’t live in a perfect world. Even if we ate perfect diets (if that even exists), cleaned with all-natural products, wore all-natural makeup and clothes, and exercised and meditated daily, we would still be exposed to harsh chemicals and toxins through the world around us. While it’s certainly worth doing our best, trying to eliminate everything that could possibly harm us just leads to isolation and frustration, which can be their own form of harm.

This is where detoxing comes in. In short, during a detox, you eat a whole organic foods and take herbal supplements for a short period of time (for Dr. Willard’s detox, 12 days). This stimulates your body to “flush” toxic materials through all channels of elimination. While this may not sound very fun, the benefits are worth it. “As the cleanse comes to an end one usually feels lighter and healthier.”(1)

As Dr. Willard explains, “It is impossible to build healthy new tissue without eliminating old cells and their by-products…Some of the best times to cleanse are during spring and fall, as these are the same times nature goes through a similar organic process.” (2) He also suggests that it can also be a good way to kick-start a healthy new routine.

Unlike a “diet,” a detox is not about deprivation. While most detoxes do limit or temporarily eliminate certain foods, the goal is not calorie deprivation. Rather, the aim is to cleanse the intestinal tract, liver, blood, lymphatic system and urinary tract. Why? Natural healing practitioners and medical doctors alike agree that healthy digestion is a major factor in overall good health. As Dr. Willard points out, herbal detox programs are easier on the body than calorie-depriving fasts and/or starvation diets. As he puts it, “If you cleanse too hard, as can happen during a fast, you often end up with a ‘Healing Crisis’ …an acute condition with symptoms ranging from headaches and nausea to fever and rashes.” (3) He likens these crises to grinding the gears of a car when you don’t use the clutch.

While detoxing is not a diet, many of the things we hope diets will do happen as a result of detoxing. Bloating, better digestion, reduced cravings, increased energy, and sometimes even weight loss are all described benefits.

Interested? We’ve run down the basics here, but there’s a whole lot more to learn about the function of the digestive tract, (from Tongue to Bum), how detoxing aids in these functions, and how to get the most out of digestion and detoxing. You can get this information tomorrow May 24, when Dr. Terry Willard will be joining us at the Caboto Centre. Hope to see you there!

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Posted in Blog |

Escape Into Mindfulness

Break away through meditation

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Fortunately, vacations aren’t the only way to achieve the broadened perspective and recharged energy of a nourishing excursion. Incorporating a mindful meditation practice can provide a no-cost, daily way to “escape.”

I admit, I’ve had an off-and-on relationship with meditation. I’ve experienced its grounding, peace, and presentness, yet I’ve also found meditation difficult to prioritize and stick with. But each time I return to a consistent practice, I’m struck by its retreatlike stillness and calm.

For insight and inspiration, I interviewed three Toronto meditators:

  • Jack Miller, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education professor and author of The Contemplative Practitioner (University of Toronto Press, 2014)
  • Caroline Meyer, doctor of naturopathic medicine and reiki master
  • Donald Eckler, Shambhala meditation instructor

I also learned from the writings and recordings of Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine and originator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program taught worldwide to help ease pain, anxiety, and stress.

The meaning of meditation

There are many styles of meditation, including those that use mantras or visualization, each with its own history, techniques, and mentors. Several characteristics are shared across meditation types.

The most common elements of meditation include a space with minimal distractions, a specific comfortable position, a particular focus of attention, and an open attitude. Mindfulness is at the heart of all types of meditation practices.

Mindfulness through meditation

Kabat-Zinn describes mindful meditation as moment by moment, or breath by breath awareness. Meditation invites self-compassion and what Eckler calls “friendliness” toward ourselves. Eckler depicts meditation as “the act of relating to life directly, as it is,” without overthinking, theorizing, or judging.

Meditation, explains Meyer, can be practised in myriad ways, including “traditional breathing practices, mindful walking, chanting, and even through daily tasks like cleaning and cooking.” Most essential is to be “fully absorbed in what is happening in this very moment.”

Why meditate?

Quite simply, Miller says, “meditation relieves suffering. It can bring us to a place where we experience happiness and joy,” and does so by inviting us back to this breath—right here and now.

Mindful meditation can help us let go of past and future, reactions and planning, fretting and ruminating. Meyer describes how, when fully present, we’re able to “enjoy the pleasurable events in our lives more intensely, and able to weather the painful challenges that arise for all of us. In doing so, we become better parents, partners, workers, and friends.”

How to start?

Eckler, Meyer, and Miller each suggest beginning with a teacher or group. While apps and online resources can be helpful, all three highlight the benefits of in-person learning, especially at the start of cultivating a practice.

Eckler notes that someone new to meditating “is going to want to speak to a real person, someone they feel some trust in who can help them navigate the rocky terrain called life.”

Meyer advises clients to start small but consistently, even a few minutes a day, and then gradually extend the time.

And Miller suggests it’s ideal to “practise on a daily basis for at least six to eight weeks to start to experience the benefits.”

Benefits to health and wellness

Miller notes that “meditation reduces stress, the cause of many illnesses” and Meyer points to studies about the positive effects of mindfulness on “a range of medical concerns, including chronic pain, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, anxiety, depression, respiratory conditions, and even skin conditions.”

Recent research also indicates meditation may reduce high blood pressure, help with distress accompanying cancer diagnoses and treatments, and alleviate menopausal discomforts.

Meditation for all

Mindfulness is appropriate for all ages, from children to adults. “Like any great trip,” Meyer says, “meditation can transform your entire experience of life.”

Tips for your meditation journey

  • Find a style of meditation or mindfulness practice that works for you.
  • Locate a teacher to help as you begin.
  • Practise consistently.
  • Explore, escape, and enjoy!

Taking a trip can leave us refreshed, but it’s not always possible to fly off on a getaway. Careers and finances, family and pets, and all sorts of obligations or barriers can make travel difficult to fit into our lives.

Posted in Blog |

Challenge Yourself to Get Moving!

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May is officially here – the trees are budding, the grass is greening and the minus temperatures are *hopefully* behind us. Now is the time to get out of hibernation mode and shake off the last of your cabin fever! Of course, re-vamping your schedule to get in more vitamin D and fresh air can be challenging especially if you work inside full time. But a bit of extra effort to change your routine can go a long way to helping you get the most out of your summer.

The Vita Health head office team has decided to tackle this adjustment head on by issuing ourselves a challenge to get moving. Partnering up with colleagues, friends and family can be an excellent way to hold yourself accountable, while setting clear and reasonable objectives will help to ensure success.

Depending on what you want, there are countless ways to structure your own get moving goals. But if you’re looking for a bit of #inspo, here’s how we’re getting down to business!

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The Basics

Exercise 30 minute increments per day up to a maximum of 60 minutes. Each 30 minute workout earns you 1 ticket into a draw. 60 minutes earns you 2 tickets and this is the maximum amount of tickets that you can earn in any given day.

At the end of the month, we will draw for the prize.

The REAL Challenge

Here’s the catch: this is an everyday challenge, meaning you can’t miss a workout from May 1 to May 31. If you miss a workout, all tickets you have earned from your workout up to that day are removed.

That means if you workout diligently up to May 28 and then miss May 29, all of your tickets will be pulled out. If you workout May 31, you will then have only 1 ticket in the draw. Make sense?

So that means you can workout May 1-12 and then get lazy and not go out on May 13. Any ticket you have earned from May 1-12 will be removed.

The good news? You can get back in by working out and not missing a day May 14-31.

The Benefits

The workouts are for YOUR benefit, so if you are not truthful about whether you completed your workout, you are cheating yourself. Go for a walk, a run, a bike ride, ride the stationary bike, do a cross training workout. Yoga works if it is a flow yoga. Sitting in Shavasana for 30 minutes is meditation, and doesn’t get you moving! You be the judge.

And remember: if you’re feeling sluggish, you just have to walk for 15 minutes one way, and then 15 minutes back to keep your tickets!

Some Tips

Whether you want to join us for #GetMoving2017 or you want to create your own goals, just keep in mind your own time limits and lifestyle. And remember to keep it fun!

We tried to start this challenge in April, but a combination of weather, vacations and the flu left us second guessing our decisions. By April 10, everyone had lost their tickets and we decided to postpone.

BUT, not without punishment!

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Whether you’re motivated by a little friendly competition, classes or achieving personal gains, take some time to think about how you’re going to get outside and get moving this summer!

Just don’t forget to wear sunscreen!


Check out these articles for a some other ideas to create your own adventure:

Choose Your Own Yoga Adventure

Outdoor Eats

 

Posted in Blog |

Home Organic Home

Create a wellness-supporting household

You go organic in the produce aisle, makeup counter, and even at the liquor store to avoid the health impacts of harmful toxins. But what about your home? Could chemicals seeping from household items such as cabinetry, cleaning products, and paints be making you sick?

There’s no place like home to shake off the day’s stress. But consider this: according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, indoor concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—just one group of chemicals that are often the source of health problems—are up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors.

VOCs (including benzene and formaldehyde, which cause cancer) and other chemicals such as toluene (a reproductive toxin) and 1,4-dioxane (a carcinogen) are present in household products, including paints, varnishes, wood preservatives, cleaning products, and furnishings. The toxic soup can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; nausea; damage to the liver, kidney, or central nervous system; or cancer.

But don’t lose hope: there are plenty of places to procure safer products. Read on to find out which organic, low-toxin, or natural household products should be on your radar.

Cabinetry

Traditionally, your kitchen and bathroom cabinets contain formaldehyde, leading to long-term off-gassing.

“It’s almost like you’re bringing in a bunch of buckets of formaldehyde, sitting them in the middle of your house, and letting them evaporate over the course of months and years,” says Mike Reynolds, co-founder and editor of Ecohome.net.

Reynolds recommends doing a Google search for local contractors and asking them if they supply formaldehyde-free cabinetry.

“People are more concerned about health and home, so contractors are following suit,” says Reynolds.

Paint

Many paints contain VOCs. Look for low-VOC or VOC-free paints at your home improvement store.

“I would specifically ask when you’re buying paints if the colourants have [VOCs] as well,” suggests Reynolds.

Milk paint and natural paints can be purchased commercially, though recipes can be found online to create your own milk paint. Natural paints are derived from substances such as citrus and balsam, as well as minerals. Milk paint, which is made with milk protein (called casein) and hydrated lime, with natural pigments added for colour, has been used for centuries and is safe, nontoxic, and environmentally friendly.

Wood finishes

Reynolds favours natural oil finishes over varnishes. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but now there are some available that don’t contain VOCs. Options include tung oil or linseed oil.

Mattresses

Rest your head on rubber: rubber mattresses are free of glues, springs, flame retardant, and dust mite spray.

“A natural rubber mattress is about as eco-friendly and free of toxins as you can get,” says Lindsay Coulter, David Suzuki’s Queen of Green.

Find these at your mattress retailer, or—as they can cost thousands new—go online shopping or seek out second-hand mattresses on platforms such as Craigslist.

Bedding

Often, pillows are made from synthetic materials such as petroleum-based polyester.

For an environmentally friendly pillow that won’t off-gas, try kapok pillows, which are made from the silk thread of the kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) flower.

Other healthy pillow choices include organic wool or buckwheat. Organic cotton, silk, and bamboo duvets are also available at your local eco-bedding, linen, or department store or online.

Cleaning products

After being pressured by consumers and advocacy groups, most major cleaning manufacturers now list the ingredients of the products on their websites. Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research for Women’s Voices for the Earth advises taking a closer look at two elements: fragrance and disinfectants. Fragrances may be synthetic, and disinfectants may be made of unnecessarily harsh chemicals such as ammonia and chlorine bleach.

DIY all-purpose cleaner

For an easy alternative, try this all-purpose cleaner for surfaces such as countertops, floors, and mirrors from Women’s Voices for the Earth.

  • Combine 2 cups (500 mL) white distilled vinegar, 2 cups (500 mL) water, and an optional 20 to 30 drops of essential oil.
  • Heat in a glass container in the microwave until barely hot to enhance cleaning power.

Consumers for change

As director of science and research for Women’s Voices for the Earth, Alexandra Scranton has noticed a shift since 2007 when the organization started its advocacy. Back then, companies believed consumers weren’t concerned about the ingredients in their products. Now, companies are advertising that their products don’t contain harmful products, offer safer alternatives, and highlight their natural ingredients.

“It’s very much in response to what consumers are asking for,” says Scranton.

David Suzuki’s Queen of Green blogger Lindsay Coulter suggests using social media to send a “kind and generous” message asking companies about ingredients in their products and why they’re using them.

“Don’t think that you don’t have a say in what products actually end up on store shelves: they’re there because you bought them,” says Coulter.

Quick sweep: 10 of the easiest ways to make your home healthy

  • Trade sweeping for vacuuming with a HEPA filter to suck up dust particles so they aren’t released back into your home.
  • Take your shoes off outside, leaving behind the outdoor chemicals picked up on the soles of your shoes.
  • Dust. Use a microfibre cloth to remove dust—which could contain a variety of chemicals including pesticides, bisphenol A (BPA), and phthalates.
  • “Start to look with a green lens for all your consumer choices. You might start with looking in your home,” says Coulter. “What are you consuming the most of?” For example, if you eat a lot of apples, ensure those apples are local and organic.
  • Avoid fragrance (listed as “parfum” on packaging), which often contains many of the toxic chemicals found in items from laundry soaps to biodegradable dog poop bags.
  • Purchase plants. They suck pollutants from your indoor air.
  • Nix air fresheners. They’re made of chemicals linked to problems such as headaches, depression, and hormone disruption. Open a window or simmer herbs and spices on the stove to eliminate odours.
  • Avoid using Teflon or nonstick cookware, as heating this cookware will release chemicals that may cause developmental harm or cancer.
  • Check for radon, a radioactive gas that can lead to lung cancer. Hire a tester or purchase a testing kit—more resources can be found online at takeactiononradon.ca.
  • Purge your plastics. Plastics can be toxic—many products, including toys, cookware, and shower curtains, are made from the poisonous plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Posted in Blog |

Think Local this Earth Day

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What are you doing this Earth Day? While it’s important to keep the environment in mind year-round, celebrating Earth Day is a great way to get involved with your community, get green-living tips, and learn about new earth-friendly products and initiatives. With so many events happening in and around Winnipeg this weekend (April 21 – 23, 2017), there is bound to be something that suits your Earth Day style.

Next Generation Environmentalists

Whether you’re raising a budding environmentalist or you’re simply looking for something to get the kids out of the house for the weekend, here are a few activity suggestions:

Fort Whyte Alive (April 23, 10am – 4pm) – If you grew up in Winnipeg, you likely have memories of visiting Fort Whyte and observing the marsh ecosystem, show shoeing or enjoying a hike. This year’s Earth Day festivities will not disappoint, with activities for all ages and interests.

Children’s Museum (April 22, 11am – 3pm) – If you’re looking to save on gas, make your way downtown to the Children’s Museum at the Forks. The museum has teamed up with the Manitoba Forestry Association to give children a chance to plant their very own seedlings amongst other things.

Assiniboine Park Zoo (April 21-23) – If you have an animal lover in your clan, the Winnipeg Zoo is the obvious choice. With events all weekend, from Zookeeper talks and visits with Winston the polar bear to Nature Walk Bingo and face painting, there promises to be something for all interests and skill levels.

Lovers of the Green Life

If you are looking for ways to incorporate environmentally friendly practices into your every day, here are a few events that can get you going, or get you connected with other people who share your enthusiasm:

City of Winnipeg Pacific 4R Winnipeg Depot (April 22, 10am – 4 pm, while quantities last) – If you’re a gardener, this is the event for you. The City of Winnipeg is giving away free compost from their leaf & yard waste collection program. Learn more about how you can contribute and top up on some nutrient rich compost for your at-home garden.

Oak Hammock Marsh (April 22-23, 10am – 4:30pm) – Love birds? Visit Oak Hammock Marsh, north of Winnipeg and check out Nest Fest for information on how to attract birds to your backyard. You can even build your own birdhouse between 1-3pm. Don’t miss out on exploring one of the many boardwalks and the information centre while you’re there!

CAA (April 22-23) – The Canadian Automobile Association makes it easy for you to dispose of difficult-to-dispose of items – tires, motor oil and car batteries – by opening four AARS garages around Winnipeg and others in Brandon.

Picker-Uppers, Strategists and Picketers

If you’re looking to get involved with a community of like-minded environmentalists and go-getters, these events will be right up your alley:

Forks Market (April 22, 11am – 2pm)  – Learn more about the Forks Target Zero project. And for the young environmentalists? Take one of the interactive tours of Target Zero hotspots including the Biovator, the geothermal loops and the public orchards.

March for Science (April 22, 1pm) – Part of an international #MarchForScience initiative, the Winnipeg rally will feature several speakers including leading Winnipeg scientists at the Manitoba Legislature. The focus will be on government policy and climate change.

Downtown Biz (April 21, 9am – 11am & 2pm – 4pm)  – Downtown Biz has challenged Winnipeggers to make their way downtown to clean the streets. This fun activity resulted in the collection of 3250lbs of garbage last year. We can’t wait to see how this year goes!

Whether you’re planning to spend Earth Day in your backyard getting your gardens on or you’re celebrating with like-minded people at one of the many events around the city, we hope that you find something new and inspiring to incorporate into your everyday life. From the Vita Health Family to yours, Happy Earth Day!

Posted in Blog |

Make Your Spring Clean This Year!

Spring has sprung in Winnipeg…almost.  With Spring comes the inevitable spring cleaning. Refreshing your home and purging the inevitable accumulation of stuff that collected over the winter can be invigorating. However, as you clean up and throw out, you may be doing damage to the environment and your health with harsh chemical cleaners and garbage bags filled with waste. Protecting the environment is more urgent than ever before as our planet faces the crisis of climate change and an ocean filled with plastic, among many other critical environmental problems.

But don’t be discouraged by the big picture. As you’re tidying up and airing out, here are a few tips to consider making this spring cleaner for you and the environment.

 Ditch the car

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Hop on a bus, walk, or cycle to work or school. If you’re reluctant to give up your car, start slow, and take transit 1-2 days a week. Not only does this reduce your carbon footprint, it can save you hundreds of dollars a month. A family that uses transit can save an average of $586 each month, and even more if you’re walking or cycling. And of course, it goes without saying that adding a bit of extra exercise is always a plus.

 Minimize one-time-use packaging

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While bringing your own bag should be an old habit by now, did you know that you can bring your own containers to refill bulk items at Vita Health? Just bring your containers to the cashier before filling to get the “tare” weight – the weight of the container that will be subtracted once your jars are filled. That way you don’t have to pay extra for being environmentally savvy. Other ways to help reduce this type of waste: bring your own coffee mug or mason jar when you buy beverages, skip the straw in your next cocktail or tuck a cloth napkin in your bag so you can minimize your use of paper.

 Veg out

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Not only can eating less meat have significant positive environmental benefits, eating more veggies provides health benefits too. Some people opt for a vegan diet while others choose from a variety of vegetarian diets. But overall, a plant-based diet helps protect against cardiovascular disease, lowers blood pressure, and may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Need a few recipes?  Check out the Vita Health Facebook page for a variety of healthy meat and dairy-free meals.

 Buy local 

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When choosing those delicious fresh vegetables for Meatless Monday (or any day of the week), why not buy close to home? Buying from local companies supports the economy and ensures the food you buy is as fresh as possible. Fresh-picked produce retains the nutrients that can be lost by shipping and simply tastes better.

Shop consciously

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For the majority of us, going off-grid and living off the land isn’t an option. This means we are dependent on our grocery stores to supply the vast majority of what we eat and otherwise consume. Do a bit of research and find out what brands are making efforts to help the environment. Companies like Seventh Generation™ make their environmental objectives transparent through annual reports . Similarly, natural beauty companies like Derma-E and Pacifica clearly state their objectives on their websites. Local and organic food brands also reduce environmental impacts by cutting out harsh chemicals and transport, while brands such as Spice Sanctuary go the extra step by creating “Plant a Tree For Me,” an afforestation program in Canada.

Whether you’re the type of person who likes to spring clean from top to bottom or you’re feeling the need to take a closer look at what you’re putting in your home and adding to the environment, starting with these small changes can blossom into bigger impacts.

Posted in Blog |

A Bounty of Supplements

Which ones are right for you—really?

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Shopping for supplements is a lot like shopping for a new bathing suit: there are tons of options, and one size never fits all. Do you really need to bother? (Spoiler alert: yes!) These top 10 supplements won’t give you a killer beach body, but they might be the perfect fit for you.

1. Multivitamin

Millions of Canadians pop a multi every day. Although it won’t necessarily stave off chronic diseases, a daily multivitamin provides essential nutrients you may be missing. This is true even if your diet is full of kale salads and green smoothies, as we need 40-plus nutrients each day.

What to look for:

Find a multi that targets your specific demographic—for example, a prenatal multivitamin if you’re an expecting mom.

Who might benefit:

  • pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • people over age 50
  • vegans and vegetarians
  • kids, especially picky eaters

2. Calcium

Yes, calcium strengthens your bones and teeth. But it’s not a one-trick pony. The most abundant mineral in your body, calcium may also lower blood pressure and protect against some cancers.

What to look for:

Check the amount of “elemental” calcium in each tablet. Calcium is best absorbed when taken in small doses—500 mg or less—with food.

Who might benefit:

  • vegans and those who avoid dairy
  • people with celiac or inflammatory bowel disease
  • people with high-protein or high-sodium diets
  • kids, especially young girls
  • people over age 50

3. Magnesium

Magnesium might seem like a mundane mineral, but it’s pretty miraculous. Some studies suggest that it can lift energy levels in those with depression. Magnesium is also tied to sleep, and even a marginal lack of this mineral can make you less likely to sleep soundly. Ladies, take note: magnesium has also been shown to ease PMS symptoms, including bloating and insomnia.

What to look for:

Check the amount of “elemental” magnesium listed on the product’s label. Take a B-complex vitamin with magnesium to increase the latter’s absorption.

Who might benefit:

  • PMS sufferers
  • people with digestive disorders
  • people over age 50

4. Iron

Iron deficiency is a surprisingly serious problem in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, 8 percent of women show signs of lacking this essential mineral. If you appear paler than usual and feel exhausted for no reason (even if you’re physically fit), low iron might be to blame. Be sure to check with your health care practitioner to check your iron status.

What to look for:

Ferrous iron is better absorbed by the body. Take your iron supplement with a source of vitamin C, such as strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, or bell peppers, to help improve absorption.

Who might benefit:

  • women of childbearing age
  • people who work out at a high intensity
  • people with gastrointestinal disorders
  • vegans and vegetarians

5. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3s are fab fats, helping to lower your risk of heart disease, stave off joint stiffness, and curb inflammation. Plus, upping your intake of omega-3s might even make you feel happier.

What to look for:

Don’t favour fish? Not to worry—many omega-3 supplements are plant based. In addition to good old gel capsules, you can now find liquid omega-3 supplements in flavours such as chocolate and strawberry.

Who might benefit:

  • people with heart disease
  • most adults

6. Vitamin D

Reality check: one-third of Canadians have vitamin D levels below what’s considered necessary for healthy bones. Because vitamin D is found in so few foods, our main source is sunshine. In winter—and even in summer, if you can’t get 20 minutes of daily sunshine—supplements are a must. (Bonus: getting enough vitamin D may even improve your athletic performance.)

What to look for:

Vitamin D supplements come in two types: D2 and D3. Go with vitamin D3, which is slightly easier to absorb.

Who might benefit:

  • men and women over age 50
  • people living in northern latitudes
  • people with dark skin tones

Did you know?

Your body’s ability to make vitamin D from sunshine plummets as you age. When you hit 70, you’ll make just 25 percent of the vitamin D you produced at age 20.

7. B-complex vitamin

The B-complex family includes eight vitamins, all of which work together to convert the food you eat into fuel for your body. A lack of B vitamins, such as B12 and B6, has been linked specifically with poor mood. Because B12 is found mainly in animal products, vegans and vegetarians might need an extra boost.

What to look for:

Make sure your B-complex contains at least 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for each of the eight B vitamins.

Who might benefit:

  • vegans and vegetarians
  • men and women over age 50

8. Probiotics

The darling of the supplement world, probiotics are used to prevent gas, cramping, and other unsavoury side effects of antibiotics. Probiotics replenish healthy bacteria in your body and help restore digestive balance.

What to look for:

Choose a probiotic strain that’s suited to your health needs. Plus, make sure the label includes

  • the recommended dose
  • the amount of live organisms at the use-by date
  • the genus, species, and strain (e.g., Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG)

Who might benefit:

  • those with digestive disorders
  • people taking antibiotics

9. CoQ10

An antioxidant, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is best known for helping to treat heart-related conditions such as chronic heart failure and high blood pressure. Its other benefits include boosting energy and helping you recover more quickly from exercise. CoQ10 might even help smooth your skin and minimize fine wrinkles.

What to look for:

The ubiquinol form of CoQ10 seems to be better absorbed. Take it in the evening, with a meal that contains fat, to help your body absorb its antioxidant goodness.

Who might benefit:

  • people over age 50
  • people with heart conditions (after checking with a health care practitioner)
  • frequent exercisers

10. Glucosamine and chondroitin

This dynamic duo is often combined in one supplement to relieve joint pain in those with osteoarthritis. Some runners and other athletes have found that this combo also relieves exercise-induced knee pain.

What (not) to look for:

Glucosamine supplements are often made from shellfish, so avoid them if you have a shellfish allergy.

Who might benefit:

  • people with osteoarthritis
  • runners and other athletes

Always check with your health care practitioner for proper dosing and safety instructions before taking any new supplements.

When it comes to supplements, you have an abundance of healthy options. But which ones to choose? Start here with our quick supplement guide.

Posted in Blog |

Fermentation – The Art of Making Your Food Work For You

Boost immune and digestive health

Before the age of refrigerators, fermentation was traditionally used as a method of food preservation. Going back to the basics by making our own ferments at home allows us to reconnect to the origin of our food, and profit from diverse colonies of live bacteria within it.

The benefits of bacteria

Fermentation occurs when micro-organisms, including bacteria and yeast, convert the sugars from raw foods into a longer-lasting form of energy, such as lactic acid. Consuming these live micro-organisms, as we do through many fermented foods, helps keep our digestive and immune systems strong.

“We are all ingesting antibacterial products on a daily basis, even at a low level, which can have repercussions for the health of our micro-ecology,” says Sandor Ellix Katz, fermentation expert and author of The Art of Fermentation (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012). “Consuming fermented foods containing live bacterial cultures can help replenish the populations already living in our gut.”

Probiotics, a term referring to the beneficial live bacteria that can reach our intestinal tracts through fermented food, have been shown to act as anticarcinogens, restore crucial intestinal flora, and help us ward off illness.

A natural evolution

Although our ancestors may not have been aware of the microscopic superheroes present in many of their traditional foods, the preservation process enacted by probiotic bacteria was both visible and invaluable.

“The historical context of fermentation was to preserve the harvest,” says Katz.

Without refrigerators, milk was transformed into longer-lasting kefir, yogurt, and cheese. Vegetables such as cabbage and cucumbers were turned into rot-resisting kimchi and pickles. In this way, the “good” bacteria, which instigate the process of fermentation, can inhibit the growth of pathogenic “bad” bacteria, acting as a safe and natural preservative.

“Even now, looking at the earth as a whole, most people do not own a refrigerator,” says Katz. “These are practical preservation strategies; fermentation, throughout history, has always been used for effective food safety.”

Much attention has been paid in recent years to the benefits of probiotics. However, mass-produced commercial ferments are usually treated with heat—killing the live bacteria—or contain only limited bacterial strains. Home fermentation allows multiple types of beneficial bacteria to transform and remain in our food, providing a wealth of health benefits.

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Fabulous ferments

From Eastern European sauerkraut to Japanese miso soup, traditional ferments provide a simple way to benefit from natural bacterial processes. The following ferments are all rich in live bacteria and can be made at home using very little equipment.

Kimchi
Usually made of fermented cabbage and radish, this tangy Korean staple is rich in both bone-protective vitamin K and brain-boosting vitamin B12. Studies have suggested that fermented kimchi can increase metabolism, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce inflammation in overweight subjects. The beneficial effects were noted to be much greater in those who consumed fermented kimchi, rather than fresh.

Kefir
This probiotic-filled fermented milk packs a healthy punch. Grown from bacterial grains, kefir’s protective lactic acid bacteria boosts immunity, helping us to ward off infections. It can also decrease the severity of allergic responses such as lactose intolerance.

Regular consumption of kefir can ease tummy troubles and may promote anticarcinogenic activity. One study even referred to the tart treat as “a new dawn of food for mankind”—so go ahead and drink up!

Sourdough
This hearty ferment brings good news for those with a gluten allergy. Research suggests the bacteria in sourdough can calm intestinal inflammation, and further studies found that fermenting gluten-free sourdough bread with lactic acid bacteria can remove the risk of gluten contamination. Though more detailed studies are needed, sourdough bread made with gluten-free flours may be a tasty option for celiacs.

Cheese
Unprocessed cheese, including Gouda, havarti, mozzarella, ricotta, and feta, is another fermented milk product that allows us to benefit from lactic acid-producing bacteria. These probiotics have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and offer protection from heart disease, while helping to regulate digestive function and soothe inflammation, which is particularly beneficial for sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Fermented foods are regaining popularity as an important source of probiotics. This “good” bacteria restores crucial intestinal flora and improves immunity. If you’re looking for a little extra boost for your digestive health, show your gut some love with these delicious traditional foods.

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Enzymes, Probiotics & Prebiotics…What’s the Difference?

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More and more research is suggesting that the state of your digestive health has broader impacts on both your physical and emotional well-being. Everything from weight loss, to heart health, mood and concentration appears to have ties to how well your body is able to absorb vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Along with these discoveries, the prevalence of supplements aimed at optimizing digestion are on the rise. Even food manufacturers and distributors have started to expound the natural digestion aiding qualities of their food. But what are all of these gut-optimizing products doing and how are they doing it?

Let’s take a look at three of the most popular gut aids: Enzymes, Probiotics and Prebiotics. What are they, what do they do, and what types of issues do they help resolve?

Enzymes

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Most of us understand that food gets broken down into nutrients (amino acids, proteins, fatty acids, cholesterol and carbohydrates, vitamins minerals etc.) through the process of digestion. Digestive enzymes are small proteins that are responsible for breaking down specific food molecules into nutrients.

The enzymes your body produces naturally are primarily created by the pancreas and then released into the small intestines. From there, they go to work breaking down food molecules so that they can be absorbed by the body.

Enzyme supplements work in much the same way, targeting particular food molecules, breaking them down and allowing them to be absorbed by the body. Supplements can be specific, like lactase which targets lactose (the ingredient in milk that creates lactose intolerance) or general, targeting a variety of different food molecules.

A variety of issues ranging from aging and chronic stress to diseases such as pancreatitis, Crohn’s or Celiac diseases can create enzyme deficiencies. Enzyme supplements, when taken with food, can help to target specific issues. For example, the enzyme lactase can help to relieve symptoms created by lactose intolerance.  A multi-enzyme can also help to reduce broader issues such as chronic inflammation, bloating or infections such as Candida.

Probiotics

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Probiotics are beneficial live microorganisms (bacteria and yeast) that exist in the digestive tract along with some foods and supplements.

Although there is still much research to be done on the precise benefits of specific strains of bacteria, overall probiotics help move food through your gut, helping you absorb nutrients and fight infection. Other research has suggested that probiotics help to improve particular skin conditions, urinary and vaginal health, immunity, and oral health.

A number of factors contribute to probiotic deficiencies including antibiotics, stress, particular sugars, grains and food storage and refrigeration practices. Symptoms of probiotic deficiency range from digestive issues, skin irritations, candida, autoimmune diseases and frequent colds and flus. Essentially, a lack of good bacteria creates an imbalance allowing your gut to become a breeding ground for bad bacteria, yeasts, viruses, fungi and parasites.

Sometimes simply avoiding things that negatively impact your gut flora isn’t possible, as is the case with many prescription medications. However, replenishing these beneficial microorganisms through supplementation and food selection can vastly improve this imbalance and alleviate many of the above symptoms entirely with effective maintenance.

Prebiotics

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Prebiotics are nondigestible, specialized plant fibres that feeds the beneficial bacteria and yeast in your intestines.

In essence, prebiotics act as a fertilizer for probiotics by helping them grow. Along with probiotic supplementation that adds good bacteria to the gut, prebiotics help to improve the ratio of good-to-bad bacteria in the gut.

Probiotics are fairly delicate. Both heat and stomach acid can kill them before they ever make it to the intestines. While supplements take measures to protect against these challenges, it can also be beneficial to nurture and grow the good bacteria already in the gut. Prebiotics on the other hand are heartier, surviving the digestive processes of the upper GI tract.

Prebiotic fibre is easily obtained through the consumption of whole fruits and vegetables. However, obtaining enough of these fibres (approximately 25 grams a day) can be a challenge for a variety of reasons. Prebiotic supplements help to round out food derived fibres usually in the form of powders that can be mixed with liquids or sprinkled on foods.

It is no secret that a healthy gut contributes to one’s overall wellbeing. However with new research showing just how important a healthy microbiome can be to other systems in the body, we are all learning how important it is to love your gut!
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Fats, Flora, and Fitness

Positive ways to enhance your heart health

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Get some insight into current perspectives on dietary factors in cardiovascular disease, and read the facts on flora. Treat your heart to some exercise, and find out if wearable technology is a fit for you.

The last decade has seen a revolution in our understanding of cardiac health. Perspectives on dietary saturated fats are shifting, awareness of the role of gut flora is deepening, and the omnipresent activity tracker is evolving into an attractive accessory. What are the best ways to give our ever-faithful hearts a little tender loving care?

Heart what you eat

While high levels of blood cholesterol are seen as contributors to cardiovascular disease, perspectives on dietary fats are shifting. Saturated fats have long been demonized as a major cause of atherosclerosis, but recent studies of foods rich in saturated fats, such as avocado, coconut oil, and even yogurt and cheese, demonstrate little cause for concern.

Why are decades of public messaging being turned on their collective head? Saturated fats are commonly found in processed foods, which are an abundant source of calories and inflammatory trans fats. It may be a case of guilt by association—the processed food rather than the fat may have been the culprit all along.

In addition, a jarring revelation in the revered Journal of the American Medical Association discloses that the role of sugar in cardiovascular disease may have been intentionally downplayed through industry-funded research. Perhaps we were simply misguided in branding saturated fats as the archenemy of the heart.

Dietary patterns

The Mediterranean diet is the most studied dietary approach for cardiac prevention and encourages consideration of dietary patterns rather than the condemnation of individual nutrients. This plan endorses unprocessed plant-based foods and fats, fortifies the move away from low-fat diets, and trumpets nuts and olive oil as champions of cardiovascular health.

Heart-helping microbes

Fascinating new research highlights a route to heart health through the gut. Unhealthy flora may alter our body’s handling of red meats in particular and may help to illuminate the harmful effects of some foods. As whole grains and fermented foods influence our internal ecosystem, choosing them may provide additional benefit to our heart and circulation.

Moving toward a healthy heart

Regular activity has meaningful effects on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Exercise can decrease blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, elevate our mood, and decrease our risk of dying from heart disease. No drug can claim all of these remarkable effects.

Canadian guidelines recommend 150 minutes weekly of moderate to vigorous exercise and two days of bone and muscle strengthening activities. Moderate intensity activity increases respiration and heart rate and could include brisk walking, swimming, or biking. Vigorous activities should leave you sweaty and breathing rapidly and include running, aerobics, and many team sports.

While the guidelines may be clear, the execution is the stumbling block for most of us.

Wearables—fad or function?

A wide range of gear, gadgets, and smartphones can track and record every aspect of your daily activity, food intake, and body measurement. But are these watches, clips, and pendants doing you any favours or just giving you less money to buy chocolate?

As far as cardiovascular risk factors are concerned, people wearing activity trackers take more steps and feel more motivated to exercise. Other studies link wearables and online food journalling with improved weight loss.

Unfortunately, the novelty wears off after a while, along with benefits of activity levels. Engagement with an app can help keep interest going, but the long-term effects of wearable technology on cardiovascular health still remain to be seen.

To drink or not to drink …

Aside from diet and exercise, other lifestyle practices can nourish our cardiovascular system.

The relationship of alcohol to heart health epitomizes the adage of everything in moderation. Low to moderate intake (one drink daily for women, two for men) is associated with improved blood cholesterol and reduced risk of cardiac mortality. Less is more for stroke incidence where risk is lowest with less than a drink per day. While red wine may be packed with blood-boosting antioxidants, overindulgence can increase cardiac risk by contributing to obesity and increased blood pressure.

Sleep more, stress less

Sleep is an underappreciated supporter of heart function. For people who eat well, exercise, and don’t smoke, ensuring seven hours of sleep per night further decreases cardiovascular risk. Effective stress management techniques can convey additional benefit.

Show your heart a little love with the right foods, healthy flora, and a good night’s sleep. You’ll be taking even more than 10,000 steps in the right direction.

Risk factors you can change

You may not be able to change your age, gender at birth, or family history, but you could influence

  • elevated blood pressure
  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
  • weight
  • insulin resistance and diabetes
  • lack of activity
  • smoking

A few heart-health supplement helpers

In addition to eating a healthy diet, exercising, and managing your weight, these supplements may provide some benefit.

SUPPLEMENT USE
berberine can increase HDL (good) cholesterol while decreasing LDL (bad) cholesterol; may have an impact on waist circumference, blood pressure, triglycerides, and insulin resistance
omega-3 fatty acids a marine or vegan source of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of a second heart attack
coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) antioxidant nutrient long used as part of protocols for those with heart failure; promotes reductions in blood pressure
magnesium deficiency is associated with higher blood pressure, coronary artery calcification, and risk of death from cardiovascular disease

Get moving—here’s how!

Envision it

What type of movement or activity do you really enjoy?

Analyze it

Feeling blocked? Write or talk about it. Gently explore your reasons for not exercising.

Plan it

When will you exercise? What food/clothing is needed? How will the seasons affect your activity?

Share it

Buddy up for company while harnessing some positive peer pressure.

Integrate it

Walk or bike to work, have walking meetings, plan active times with friends rather than coffee dates.

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