Healthy Reading

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Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

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Winter is rolling in, Edmonton. The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are slowly dropping. The first snowfall has come. To some, this is a wonderful, magical time of year! However, for others, Winter can be a dark time - both literally and figuratively. The “Winter Blues” are all too common for many cultures, and it seems to be worse for those of us far from the equator. The decreased daylight hours, and cold weather can leave many feeling depressed, and lethargic - but what is the cause of these “Winter Blues?” and what can we do to get rid of them? These are the things I hope to tackle in today’s post.

The official name for Wintertime depression is “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or SAD for short. It often comes, and goes, at the same times every year. Generally beginning in the fall, and getting worse through the winter. Some people may even feel anxiety in the Spring/Summer months due to the anticipation of seasonal affective disorder. SAD is generally more mild than major depressive disorder. Symptoms can include:

  • Lethargy / Fatigue
  • Increased appetite / Cravings for carbs
  • Hypersomnia
  • Weight Gain
  • Sadness
  • Social Withdrawal

The cause of SAD may be due to decreased daylight disrupting a person’s circadian rhythm (or biological clock) causing imbalances of serotonin and melatonin. These chemical imbalances can lead to the symptoms outlined above.

Conventional treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder includes:

  • Medication
  • Light Therapy (using SAD lamps)
  • Vitamin D Supplementation
  • Talk therapy

What can Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Do?

Chinese Medicine is a holistic system of healing which addresses the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of a person. Seasonal depression manifests in many ways, sometimes physically, sometimes mentally. It makes sense that a holistic approach would be taken in treating this disorder. In terms of what we can offer: studies have shown that Acupuncture can help regulate the body’s release of melatonin - benefiting insomnia, and hypersomnia. There are also points on the forehead and scalp which can directly influence the pineal gland, helping to decrease depression and fatigue.

Herbal medicine, and the use of moxibustion (the burning of mugwort to warm the meridians of the body) can help to tonify the Yang aspect of a person’s being. Yang is the hot, active, energizing force of life that can often become deficient in people with SAD. Tonifying Yang can help to warm the body, and boost the immune system, especially if they have an aversion to the cold weather.

Chinese Medicine also places a high value on living seasonally. Making sure we’re eating warming foods to benefit and warm the digestive system can also have a huge benefit in the treatment of SAD. A big part of seasonal living is also remembering that the energy of the body draws inward during the Winter, it makes sense that our activities should also slow down a bit - and that people should take time for quiet contemplation. It is a season of introspection, and reception. Rest is important in the winter, as well as meditation. It’s important to try and recognize normal “slowing down” at this time of year, versus a depressed mental state. If you find you’re unable to function productively during the wintertime - it may be worth looking into Seasonal Affective Disorder in more depth.

For more information on how Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help you beat the Winter Blues, contact us at info@meridianhealthcentre.ca or call 780-428-8897!


Book Online at www.meridianhealthcentre.ca

The Importance of Post Partum Care


In the post partum phase a woman’s body is reversing all of the many changes that occurred during pregnancy.  What took the body 40 weeks to build and adapt to, now reverses completely in about 6 weeks.  By this time it is important that the uterus has returned to it’s pre-pregnancy size and location, that the vagina has contracted and regained much of its muscle tone, that the episiotomy or lacerations have healed, that the vaginal discharge of lochia has stopped, that breast feeding is well established, and for those with C-sections that the scar has healed and they are recovering well from the surgery.   While this is the ideal scenario it is not every woman’s reality.  

One can imagine the incredible effort the body is expending after labour and delivery to heal and revert back to pre-pregnancy status, not to mention the addition of sleepless nights and caring for a newborn baby.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine we promote 100 days of rest and recovery after labour, this is not something that is endorsed by Western culture, yet it sets the stage for a healthy recovery from pregnancy and delivery. During this phase there are a plethora of issues that can present such as 

  • insufficient lactation
  • retention of urine
  • digestive issues including constipation 
  • prolonged lochia 
  • hormonal imbalances 
  • post partum depression 
  • insomnia 
  • headaches   

Holistic post partum care is critical to the long-term health of mom and baby and can address the above issues, plus many more.

It is important to be aware that there is a natural way to address the physical stress and strain of post partum as well as any mental or emotional issue that may arise.  There is no separation between the mental and physical landscape in Chinese Medicine, and as such a mental or emotional symptom is expected to respond to treatment just as a physical one would.  Post partum depression is treated beautifully with Acupuncture and Herbal medicine.

In my practice I encourage my patients to schedule a post partum visit within the first 2-3 weeks of giving birth.  With all that is going on in the body at this time, treatments that offer quick resolution are of the utmost importance. Post partum treatments are by far the most important treatments I offer.  In my experience, issues that remain unaddressed, which find their root in the post partum phase form the basis of long lasting health problems.  If these issues were only addressed with one or two sessions at the appropriate time a whole world of hurt could be avoided.

Take the time to treat yourself well after you’ve had your baby.  It’s time to shift a bit of focus to taking care of your health and prioritizing post partum care, whether you are suffering from serious concerns or just feeling fatigued, see your Acupuncturist for a post partum tune up.

Amanda Roth R.Ac, RMT, FABORM

Declining Sperm Count: What Chinese Medicine Can Do For You

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Well Gents, it’s official, our little swimmers are dwindling at an alarming rate. A recent meta-analysis conducted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem confirms that “sperm concentration has declined by more than 50 percent, with no evidence of ‘leveling off’ in recent years.” Even more alarming is the fact that scientists aren’t really sure why this is occurring. There are plenty of valid theories out there pointing to various culprits - plastics, soy, even global warming - but there is no one answer that truly explains the massive drop in sperm count among Western men.

Does this mean that we should just resign ourselves to a childless dystopian future, like the one portrayed in “Children of Men?” Not exactly. There is still plenty you can do to keep your count high, or increase it if it is already low.

Supplements

Diet is one of the easiest ways to improve your sperm count and motility. While it is always ideal to get our nutrients from whole foods, sometimes that just isn’t realistic. Supplements are something easy, and manageable to add to your daily routine. However, they will only help if a nutrient deficiency is the cause of your low sperm count. Below are some examples of the most commonly used supplements in treating male infertility.

  • Zinc: Increases sperm count, and motility as well as testosterone levels.
  • Selenium: Beneficial for both sperm motility, and morphology
  • Vitamin C: This supplement ensures sperm doesn’t stick together or form clumps.
  • Vitamin E: Deficiency of this vitamin can cause damage to reproductive tissue
  • Vitamin B12: Deficiency of B12 can damage the nerves of the penis leading to erectile dysfunction


Traditional Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbs)

Traditional Chinese Medicine has a lot to offer in the treatment of male infertility, especially if stress is a  contributing factor. Acupuncture and herbs work along a lot of the same avenues as supplements, for example, these modalities can: increase blood flow to the genitals (specifically your testicular artery), cool the scrotum, increase sex drive, regulate the nervous system, and calm the mind. Therefore, we are able to treat conditions like: low sperm count / motility, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, and premature ejaculation. Some areas that Chinese Medicine won’t have much of an effect is in structural abnormalities (like a sperm duct defect) or a chromosomal disorder.

Lifestyle Factors to Avoid

Incorporating healthy nutrients, and a proper treatment plan are important tools in boosting fertility, however another important step is reducing lifestyle habits that can be harmful to your reproductive system.

  • Smoking: I’m sure it comes as no surprise that smoking has been linked to poor sperm quality. Smokers are 54% more likely to be infertile.
  • Infrequent Ejaculation: Increases oxidative stress which can be damaging to semen, as they remain in the testes for a longer period of time before being ‘recycled.’
  • Stress: Testosterone levels can decrease as a result of chronic stress. (Acupuncture is a great tool for helping managing stress!)
  • Heat: Hot tubs, laptops, seat warmers, and even tight clothing can all increase the temperature of your testicles. Heat negatively impacts sperm production, as they are produced in a very sensitive environment. Ideally, your testes need to be a few degrees cooler than the rest of your body.
  • Saturated Fat: A diet high in saturated fat can lower sperm concentration an average of 31%

It’s time to pay attention

While the fact that sperm counts are dropping is concerning, one positive side effect is that it has brought men’s health issues to the forefront. I’m hoping that this will push more men to become active participants in their health and wellbeing. Out of all the patients we see here at Meridian Health centre, only about 25% of them are men. There is a wealth of literature out there that shows just how beneficial Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can be for Men’s Health - so where are all the guys? Better late than never fellas.


References:

Levine, H., Jørgensen, N., Martino-Andrade, A., Mendiola, J., Weksler-Derri, D., Mindlis, I., ... & Swan, S. H. (2017). Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Human Reproduction Update, 1-14.

Men's Sexual & Reproductive Health. (n.d.). Retrieved September 02, 2017, from https://www.dontcookyourballs.com/

Jon McDonell, R.Ac

Understanding Stress: How we can help you

To keep it simple, stress is defined as any event that threatens homeostasis. Homeostasis is maintaining stable and constant body conditions like blood pressure, body temperature and the ability to adapt to our environment. This adaptation includes things like: external temperature, water intake, physical exertion, a car accident or even positive excitement like falling in love. Physiologists point out that while the reaction of the body to cold temperatures is different from its reaction to fighting an infection or getting chased by a bear, all of these types of stress affect the body in a similar way—they all cause an increased secretion of cortisol by the adrenal cortex. From this perspective, stress can be defined as any event that causes increased cortisol secretion.

Most people think of stress as the resulting factor when an event triggers a fight-or-flight response. The fight-or-flight response is a full-body reaction mediated by the sympathetic nervous system as an inborn, automatic reflex to ANY perceived danger or threat to survival. This reflex has protected mankind throughout evolution by rapidly preparing the body to respond to life-threatening situations, like an animal attack. Although this response is natural and essential to human life and adaptation, the body can’t differentiate between a hypothetical threat that might be caused by an unpaid phone bill and a genuine threat where immediate action is required to survive like during natural disasters or getting chased by a wild animal.

There are a few different forms of stress that the body can undergo:

  • Mental: (ex): negative speculation that your boss is mad at you.
  • Emotional: (ex): grief over the loss of a loved one.
  • Physical: (ex): pain from a physical injury
  • Acute stress: (ex): you’re watching a scary movie and something during the movie temporarily startles you.
  • Chronic stress: (ex): you are under constant stress and pressure at work and you are constantly worrying about finances and losing your job.

Experiencing any of these forms of stress is expected and a natural reaction to life events; it’s how we adapt, but we must learn ways to manage the severity of our stress. Although all of these forms of stress are not desirable, it’s the chronic stress that can be the most detrimental to our body. Chronic stress is a situation in which persistent stressors repeatedly trigger the fight-or-flight response leading to prolonged elevation of cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline). These hormones, when triggered outside a real emergency can wear down the body’s systems and lead to stress-related diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers, poor immunity, and even increased aggression and defensive behavior. After a life threatening incident, the epinephrine that has not been reabsorbed produces a shaky, nauseous, pumped-up feeling. In situations of chronic stress, epinephrine causes overstimulation of the autonomic nervous system and adrenal exhaustion associated with fatigue and mental weariness.

A body under constant stress becomes more susceptible to infections and diseases. People adapt quickly to challenging situations and may not recognize that symptoms such as insomnia, chronic tension headaches or heartburn are related to stress that they have been undergoing. If the stress is great enough like during a natural disaster the body cannot deal with this amount of stress and can result in a specific and separate condition called post-traumatic stress disorder.

As a massage therapist and acupuncturist I often see people with habitual tension patterns in muscles. For example, persistently tight shoulders and lower back are some common examples. Acupuncture and massage therapy have been proven to help reduce stress in the body by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system producing a rest-and-digest response which can help with sleep, digestion and mood. Your massage therapist and acupuncturist can also give you guidance on homecare techniques to decrease the stress in your body. 

By Devon Jarvis R.Ac, RMT

Prenatal Massage and Acupuncture: Benefits for Mom and Baby 2


Various studies have demonstrated that massage can be greatly beneficial, as well as, safe for pregnant women if provided by a trained and experienced massage therapist. It can also be recognized that the developing baby can benefit as well. In 1999, Dr. Tiffany Field at the University of Miami, published research results showing that pregnant women who receive massage experience: reduced anxiety, improved mood, reduced back pain and improved sleep! The women who received massage reported fewer complications in labor and fewer premature babies. As research in the field of alternative medicine continues, it has been clearly proven that massage and acupuncture is effective in reducing the stress-related hormone (cortisol), which may be viewed as a factor that can contribute to premature babies.    

As mentioned before, there are many benefits to prenatal massage and acupuncture; one of which is emotional nurturing. Pregnancy can be both an exciting and anxious time for most women.  The emotional nurturing and centering that happens during massage and acupuncture treatments cannot be undervalued for women who commonly feel a new vulnerability and lack of control in their life. Not to mention the new wave of pregnancy related hormones. A study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that 63% of pregnant women had decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Medically speaking, let it be known that massage and acupuncture produces endorphins (the feel good hormones), reduces catecholamines (stress hormones), and can lower blood pressure.

While we are reducing stress in the body, we are also treating pain. It is well known and understood that emotional stress can lead to physical stress and pain. As the fetus develops in utero, a woman’s muscular and skeletal systems instinctively adjust to her new center of gravity. The muscles that are required to keep the spine upright get taxed creating a buildup of lactic acid in the muscles. These toxins adhere to the muscle fibers and as a result cause nerve irritation. Massage and acupuncture  is valuable in this situation in that it can break up those adhesions, release trigger points caused by these irritated nerve bundles, and circulate new blood though the area to increase oxygen and flush out toxins.  Research published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports acupuncture could reduce pain in the lower back along with pelvic pain. The study showed that 80% of pregnant women in their late second and third trimesters had clinically significant reduction in pain after 1 week of receiving acupuncture on specific points on the ear, wrists and ankles.  This idea can be applied to the undesired “pregnancy induced sciatica” which is, pain radiating from the lower back and down the leg. More often than not, this pain is caused by inflamed and irritated muscles in the hip (Piriformis and sometimes Gluteus Medius) adjusting to the pregnancy posture and pressing on the sciatic nerve. If this nerve irritation is caused by the Piriformis and glute muscles, the pain will not radiate passed the knee joint. If this is the case for you, book a massage and/or acupuncture appointment sooner rather than later, we will know what to do!

A reduction in joint pain is another common product of prenatal massage. As the weight of your developing baby increases, so does your blood volume, interstitial fluid (swelling and edema) and intrauterine fluid. Combined, this adds significant pressure on the hip, knee and ankle joints of an expecting mother. Massage can reduce edema and increase circulation around those joints to decrease pain.

With the healing powers of acupuncture and massage therapy, we can improve your sleep by calming your nerves and emotions and decrease your pain. We can also provide you with tips and tricks to help you sleep more structurally comfortable to ensure you have a pain free night of sleep. In addition to the topics above, studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce morning sickness by balancing out the body’s hormones.  

At Meridian, we have highly certified Massage Therapists and Acupuncturists who are here to safely and effectively assist women throughout any stage of their pregnancy to yield a happy and healthy mom and baby!

By Devon Jarvis R.Ac, RMT   

References

Prenatal health through massage therapy: For Women and Their Babies. (2002). New Life Journal: Carolina Edition, 4(3), 3.

 

Symptoms of Miscarriage


It is a hard truth that miscarriages are common. Indeed over 50% of women will experience at least one in their lifetime. Sadly, this is a burden that women feel they have to bear alone.  We want to change this.  By talking about miscarriages, we can help expecting mothers become educated and offer both physical and emotional support.  In the majority of cases miscarriages are caused by genetic anomalies, however, if there is a chance to prevent or treat a threatened miscarriage, knowledge is our first and most powerful tool.

In Western medicine the most common approach to treat a threatened miscarriage is to ‘wait and see’, employing bed rest or to restrict physical and sexual activity.  While rest is absolutely essential in both preventing and treating a threatened miscarriage acupuncture and Chinese medicine can offer more active treatment that may positively impact a threatened miscarriage. 

Some symptoms to look for are:

  • spotting/bleeding
  • cramping
  • low back pain
  • a bearing down sensation
  • fatigue
  •  heavy bleeding

*Remember that it can be very common for spotting or light bleeding in the first trimester and it doesn't necessarily mean there is a threatened miscarriage.  At this stage you’ll want to see your physician to confirm whether it is a threatened miscarriage and to make sure there are no other complications (get an ultrasound and a blood test checking your Rh factor and hCG levels). 

There may be other signs that Western medicine doesn’t look at but helps in diagnosing from a Chinese medicine standpoint like:

  •  heart palpitations
  • a feeling of cold (especially in the low back)
  • night sweats
  •  dry mouth and throat  

These can help us provide a specifically tailored treatment plan for you to achieve optimum results.

Prevention is key in helping to treat threatened miscarriages.  If you’ve previously had a miscarriage, had habitual miscarriages, or are an ‘at risk’ pregnancy (meaning that you became pregnant after a period of infertility), starting treatments right from the beginning or ideally before becoming pregnant will help to ensure a smooth and healthy pregnancy. 

Miscarriages should not remain a taboo subject, but rather should be discussed openly.  Through this open discussion comes education and the opportunity to proactively pursue treatment and directly impact a positive outcome - a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. 

For additional information, please visit this link:

http://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-12-20

Written by Kortney Oxner-Kerfoot

Sources:

Lyttleton, J., Clavey, S. and Sacks, G. (2013) The treatment of infertility with Chinese medicine.  2nd end.  United Kingdom: Elsevier Science Health Science div.

Betts, D. (2006a)  The essential guide to acupuncture in pregnancy and childbirth.  Edited by Peter Deadman and Inga Heese.  United Kingdom: Journal of Chinese Medicine.

 

What Happens When We Stretch

A stretch is when two points on our body move away from each other creating a lengthening of muscle, tendon and fascia in our bodies. Our bodies are constantly repairing themselves from the use in daily life. As these repairs happen, our tissue tightens. Think of a blanket that has a hole in it. To repair it, you would pull the edges together and then stitch the pieces. This will shorten the length of the blanket. The same process take place in our bodies everyday we are alive.

First off, we need to stretch more. We likely already know this, but don’t necessarily know how to get the most out of stretching. When we stretch we feel things in our muscles. These feelings are important bits of feedback that we need to be aware of.

First, stretching shouldn’t hurt. If it hurts then why do it? For years this was my feeling on flossing my teeth. If it hurts why would I do it every day? Turns out I was doing it wrong… When you stretch you should be mostly comfortable. Yes you want to feel something, but if you’re the feeling in your muscle ever gets more intense when you hold the stretch you have gone too far. There are little protective sense organs woven into our muscle fibers called Muscle Spindles.  These Spindles sense tension and protect us from ourselves.  When you go too far and put too much tension on the muscle fibers, these spindles cause a reflex to fire that pulls back.  If you didn’t have these spindles, you could go too deep into a stretch and tear your muscles in half!

If you feel a cramp-spasm-or twinge when you stretch this is a feedback system of spindles reminding you to not get ahead of yourself. Enter in slowly, take your time, and enjoy it while you are there J

 

This leads into holding a stretch for 30 seconds or more. We are looking for 3-5 minutes for big changes! If you want to see significant changes in your Range of Motion you need to either hold your stretches longer, or do them lots to add up to 3-5 minutes per stretch. Be patient.  Practice stretching for just a minute or two everyday and in a few months or years you will see big changes. Patience can be the hard one.

We need to enter into our stretch, let the Muscle Spindles do their thing to protect us, then after about 12-15 seconds the Spindles will relax because they trust we aren’t going to go to far. Now we are actually stretching our tissue.  Anything less than 15 seconds is only activating the Spindles and not opening tissue.  That being said, we sometimes move quicker as part of warm-up to increase blood flow and that has a significant benefit too, but it’s not the same intention as true stretching.

When we do stretch be very mindful of our alignment. As the muscle fibers lengthen and we hold for 30 seconds or more, we are also changing our connective tissue.  The collagen in our tendons and fascia all over our body starts to realign itself with the direction of the pull of the stretch. If our alignment is off then we are creating mal-alignment in our connective tissue too, that will rear its head creating joint pain in the future…

Take your time, breathe, and hold. Make sure you know the alignment details.  Your body will love its daily stretch. Just like any important relationship in our lives, your body will love whatever quality time you can give it.

 

Reg Nugent BSc, MA

Acupuncturist, American College of Medicine Certified, Yoga Teacher

reg@meridianhealthcentre.ca

Sciatic Pain

That Pain in your Butt…Sciatic Pain

The most common complaint for low back pain is “Sciatica”.  Through my training I have discovered that “Sciatica” is more often a symptom, not a diagnosis.  By definition, to be Sciatica there must been a nerve impingement that sends sharp electrical pain down the back of the leg from the hip all the way to the little toe.  There are many kinds of similar pain that starts in the hip or low back and go down the leg; and thus many causes. In my experience, all these kinds are labeled “Sciatic Pain” and then finding an effective treatment is tricky. 

The biggest culprit in all these types of Pain is the Piriformis muscle. It sits deep in your butt, under your Gluteus Maximus.  Depending on the “abundance” in your life, some of us have deeper to go to find our piriformis ;) The stretches we do where one ankle is brought up over the other knee helps stretch the piriformis and should be done everyday.  Depending on your body, the Sciatic nerve runs under or though the Piriformis muscle and any tightness in this muscle will impinge/put pressure on your nerve.  One way to tell if your Piriformis is tight, before you suffer from the nerve issues, is to stand normally and look at your toes. If you stand with your toes turned out, then your Piriformis needs more attention. As the muscle tightens it pulls on the hip, rotating your femur/thigh bone reflected in the position of your toes.

When stretching your Piriformis you must take care of your knee. Remember that the knee is a hinge joint and not designed to twist. If the hip or Piriformis is tight and we enter into the stretch too deep, the hip won’t be able to move any farther, and in our rush, we will transfer the pull to the knee, stretching our ligaments.  Over time, or maybe in a hurry, we will feel a pop and now have knee issues to address.

Daily stretching, massage or Acupuncture can call help. Regular stretching is the best way to prevent any issues.  One minute of stretching each Piriformis/hip will save you in the long run.  If you already have tight hips and want to get to the source have a massage therapist get through your Glutes to your Piriformis and/or an Acupuncturist do muscle release needling.  Best case, stretch daily, seek assistance if you have tightness, and whatever you do don’t wait until the Pain has settled into your joint.  We don’t have to age with Pain.  Our body’s change but we can choose to keep them happier as we age together.

by: Reg Nugent BSc, MA

reg@meridianhealthcentre.ca

Acupuncturist, American College of Sports Medicine certified

Health Effects of Artificial Light 2


TOPIC: HOW LIGHT CAN AFFECT YOUR HEALTH

Hormones.  Not many people think about them but they play an integral role in Human health.  Humans have hormones that respond to environment, diet, exercise and a less known factor: LIGHT.  


Light has a strong influence on circadian rhythms.  Light affects important neurotransmitters in our brain like dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine and serotonin strongly affect moods, emotions and sleep.  Disruption of our natural circadian rhythms can very easily lead to mood and sleep disorders.   In our fast paced, high technology world, we are being constantly stimulated by artificial light and during hours where there should naturally be darkness.  Our modern lifestyle may allow us to “get more done” but it comes at a negative cost to our circadian rhythms and to our overall health. 

When we stay up late with the lights on or watching TV, playing on computers, ipads or cell phones, we stimulate pathways in the brain that correspond to fight or flight.  This causes a constant release of the stress hormone cortisol.  Cortisol is notorious for causing many health problems such as insomnia (leading to daytime fatigue), anxiety, depression, belly fat accumulation, low thyroid, immune depletion and even cancer .  Even learning and memory is impaired with high cortisol levels.  Insulin levels that control blood sugar are also affected by improper light exposure and high cortisol levels .  Negative insulin levels cause uncontrollable hunger (especially for sugar and carbohydrates) and often lead to metabolic diseases such as Diabetes and heart disease.  Furthermore, metabolism in itself will become slowed when circadian rhythms are disrupted.  So it’s pretty clear that if you want to lose fat, you MUST pay more attention to your light exposure. 

Melatonin is another hormone controlled by light .  Melatonin regulates our days and nights, helps us sleep and is a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-aging hormone.  When its natural production is disrupted, our immunity is weakened and sleep gets impaired. Lack of sleep is of course responsible for many other health issues and diseases.  If you aren’t sleeping long and deep enough, you aren’t repairing which leaves you vulnerable to disease.  Melatonin also affects almost every other important hormone like adrenal, thyroid and sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone).  Simply taking melatonin may help some people for awhile but it is not the best thing since it is an artificial way of getting it.  You want to raise melatonin (and all other vital hormones) naturally on your own and avoid taking concentrated supplemental hormones.   

Even short exposures to light at the wrong time can be seriously detrimental to your health.  Flicking on the bathroom switch to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night for only a few minutes can substantially disrupt your circadian rhythm and hormones.   

The body repairs itself the best between the hours of 11pm and 2am.  Your adrenal glands and liver detoxify and repair at this time.  So if you are burning the candle at both ends, you are missing out on these key restorative hours! 

Lastly, exposure to incandescent and fluorescent lighting is not natural for humans.  Humans need real sunlight! Real sunlight provides the best form of Vitamin D which is essential for immunity, disease prevention, and emotional health.  Getting adequate sunlight exposure throughout the day can help normalize your circadian rhythms and improve your health on many levels. 

How to optimize light exposure:

As soon as you wake, turn on lights and open blinds.

Try to exercise earlier in the day, especially in winter, when you can get a dose of sunlight.  

Eat lunch outside or by a window 

Avoid sunglasses when possible 

Try to get 10-20min per day of unprotected sun exposure 

Keep lights low or off later at night

Don’t turn on bathroom light in the middle of the night.  Have a low wattage or red nightlight instead

Do not have phones or iPads or computers or TVs in bedroom

Try to avoid watching TV or being on computer at least 1-2 hours before bedtime.

Sleep in total darkness. Use blackout blinds in all bedrooms or use an eye mask.

Go to sleep as soon as possible when it gets dark.  

Don’t have digital alarm clocks close to bed or facing bed.  Try a natural “sun” alarm clock instead.  Wakes you up gradually and gently without over stimulating you.

If you are experiencing extreme seasonal depression (winter), invest in a light box which has the appropriate full spectrum bulbs to simulate natural sunlight. 


RECIPE OF THE MONTH

Here’s a great, simple recipe that satisfies your cravings for wraps or sandwiches without the gluten and carbs!

Coconut Flour Tortillas

1 tablespoon coconut flour

1/16 teaspoon baking powder

2 egg whites (or, 3 tablespoons egg whites)

2 tablespoons water or coconut milk or hemp milk

Coconut oil (extra virgin, cold pressed)

Mix the coconut flour and baking powder with the water (or milk) and egg whites. Whisk or blend until all lumps disappear (mix, and then wait a couple of minutes and mix again).

Pour batter in center of pan, grease with coconut oil. Tilt the pan around to spread the batter into a large circle, almost covering the entire bottom of the pan.

Be very careful with this part: wait until the edges are brown on the side of the tortilla, or carefully circle spatula around the bottom of tortilla until safe to flip. 

Once safe, flip the tortilla and cook for about 30 seconds on the other side.

Fill with berries and nuts, meat and veggies or an enchilada filling - anything you like!


 

Importance of a healthy lymphatic system


The lymphatic system is network of organs and tissues that is composed of lymph nodes, lymph vessels and lymph.  It is a part of the circulatory system and its main function is to transport lymph, a clear and colorless fluid containing white blood cells that helps clear from the body toxins, waste and other unwanted substances.  There are 600-700 lymph nodes in the human body.  Tonsils are an example of one of these but there are many others located throughout the body.  The spleen is the largest lymph organ. 

 

When the lymphatic system is functioning properly, the body can fight invading viruses and bacteria and stay at an optimal healthy state.  However, when the lymph system isn’t functioning well, the body is more prone to infections and some types of disease such as cancer.   A sluggish lymph system can also cause or add to many other health conditions that people generally wouldn’t think connect to the lymphatic system.  Many things can impair your lymph system from running at its best including: preservatives/pesticides/ toxins in food, underwire or tight bras, cigarette smoke, excessive alcohol intake, ongoing illness and viruses, medications, dehydration, lowered immune system, and chronic stress.

 

Symptoms of a Sluggish Lymphatic System:

·       Inability to fight infection/ frequent infections

·       Constant fatigue

·       Tonsil stones

·       Poor circulation

·       Swollen lymph nodes

·       Excessive perspiration

·       Itchiness

·       Allergies and sinusitis

·       High blood pressure

·       Frequent headaches

·       Thyroid issues

·       Cellulite

·       Fluid retention/ puffiness

 

How to Boost your Lymphatic System: 

1.     Massage: deep tissue or lymphatic massage is a great way to encourage lymphatic drainage.  You can also give yourself a facial lymphatic massage.  You can easily find videos on this on Youtube on facial lymphatic massage and it only takes a few minutes a day.

2.     Rebounding:  Jumping on a mini trampoline is one of the best ways to create a healthy lymph system.  The up and down movement pumps the lymph more effectively than horizontal movement such as walking.  You can also jump rope but the rebounder is much gentler on joints.

3.     Yoga:  Any exercise helps keep the lymph system healthy, but yoga has specific postures that can particularly increase lymph function like the shoulder stand.  Try to do the shoulder stand posture for at least 3min. 

4.     Foam rolling: rolling out every part of your body can help lymph flow similar to massage.  Make sure you roll very slowly concentrating more on sore areas.  Do for 5-10minutes per day or at least a few times a week (before workouts is the best time).

5.     Deep breathing and Laughter: not only does this lower stress (which also helps your immune system function optimally) but it also acts as a pump and removes toxins and carries oxygen and nutrients to cells.

6.     Infrared sauna: saunas help stimulate the lymph system to expel toxins via sweat.  This can be especially helpful for people too ill to exercise to generate sweat. 

7.     Epsom salt baths: increases lymph flow and reduces stress.

8.     Acupuncture: uses specific acupuncture points to stimulate the lymph system and make it stronger.

9.     Dry Brushing: helps remove dead, dry skin and increases circulation and lymph flow.

10.   Castor Oil Packs: can help increase lymph flow and circulation.  It also helps the liver detox which can also benefit the lymphatic system.  Rub pure castor oil on your abdomen or any swollen lymph node area. Put heat over it and relax for an hour.  Make sure you wear old clothes as castor oil stains.

11.   Decrease time spent wearing bras: Bras constrict lymph flow, as there are many lymph nodes around the area that a bra covers.  Studies have even show a slight increase in breast cancer among women that wear bras for many hours a day (this isn’t saying bras directly cause cancer, but impaired lymph function may decrease your immunity and indirectly make you more susceptible to developing it)

12.   Drink sufficient water: you don’t have to guzzle liters a day but keeping well hydrated can help your lymph system run smoothly.  Also try eating fruit on an empty stomach for extra fluid and cleansing benefits.

13.   Reduce toxic burden: eat organic and non-processed food as much as possible.  Keep alcohol intake to a minimum and avoid prescription medications.  Only use natural, chemical free cosmetics and cleansers.

So try incorporating all or some of the above points on a daily basis, and you can expect a stronger immune system and healthier you in 2014!

 

RECIPE OF THE MONTH

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Ingredients

•                 4 bananas, (2 1/2 cups mashed)

•                 4 eggs (free run, organic)

•                 2 tbsp butter (organic)

•                 2 tbsp coconut oil

•                 ½ cup almond or coconut, sunflower seed, macadamia nut butter

•                 ½ cup coconut flour

•                 ½ tapioca or white rice flour

•                 1 tablespoon cinnamon

•                 1 teaspoon baking soda (aluminum free)

•                 1 teaspoon baking powder (aluminum free)

Instructions

•                 Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

•                 Combine your bananas, eggs, and nut butter, and grass-fed butter in a blender or food processor or mixing bowl with a hand mixer

•                 Once all of your ingredients are blended, add in your coconut flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, and sea salt and mix well

•                 Grease a 9×5 glass loaf pan with butter or coconut oil. If you use a metal pan it will probably bake in 35-40 minutes so start checking at 35 to ensure the middle stays moist

•                 Pour in your batter and spread it evenly throughout

•                 Place in your preheated oven and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean

•                 Remove from oven and flip your bread out onto a cooling rack

•                 Slice and serve

 

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”-Buddha

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me!

Amanda Rode

ariyahealthandfitness@gmail.com


 

 

 

 


 


 Meridian Health Centre  |   780 428 8897   |  10990 - 124 St.  Edmonton, Alberta T5M 0H8