Amelia Fratnik, DC
It is a well-known fact that regular exercise is beneficial for all age groups. In the aging Baby Boomers in Canada, it can be a critical step in maintaining independence, a better quality of life and preventing injuries such as falls. Exercise can improve your emotional and physical health
Research has shown that as little as 20 minutes of walking, three times a week can boost mood and decrease risk for falls. Even the smallest amount of exercise can improve the health of those who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and heart disease. For those who suffer from arthritis, exercise may reduce joint pain and increase strength and flexibility. Simply walking daily can help lower risk of osteoporosis because it is weight bearing, thereby, strengthening bones. Even if you already have osteoporosis, appropriate exercise can reduce the risk of fractures and help maintain bone density.
There are four types of exercise that, when combined, will give you improved results.
1) Endurance: Exercise that raises your heart rate such as walking, swimming or cycling should be done daily for at least 30 minutes.
2) Strength: Exercise that builds your muscles will help you perform your daily tasks such as getting up from a chair or lifting groceries and can reduce your risk of falling.
3) Balance: Exercises such as standing on one foot and walking heel to toe are examples that can help reduce your risk for falls.
4) Flexibility: Keeping the body limber and flexible through proper warm-up and stretching exercises.
Overall, you will sleep better, have more energy, maintain a healthy weight, decrease aches and pains and have a positive outlook and improved sense of wellbeing.
Consult your doctor before starting any exercise program. Your chiropractor can help you design a safe and enjoyable exercise routine to keep you healthy and motivated.
Julia Fountain ND
While it may seem out of place to be talking about depression in the summer season, mental health issues don’t take holidays. Depression is categorized into mild, moderate, severe. This article will focus on mild to moderate depression.
Depression is known as the great imposter. It can masquerade as feeling tired, lazy, overwhelmed. It can be at the root of physical pain, insomnia, weight gain. Depression is associated with a higher risk of coronary artery disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. It is important to be aware of depression and know where to turn when you need help. But this doesn’t always mean drug therapy.
How do you know if you’re depressed? There are 2 simple screening questions for depression: Over the last 2 weeks, have you been bothered by either of the following problems: 1) Little interest or pleasure in doing things? 2) Feeling down, depressed or hopeless? If the answer is ‘yes’ to either of these questions, you’ve been experiencing depression lately. Feeling down or depressed time to time is part of the human condition. However, when there’s more ‘bad’ days than good days, or depression is affecting relationships, livelihood, school or healthy habits, then it’s time to ask for help.
It’s widely known in medical circles that the drug options for mild to moderate depression are far from perfect. Only 1 in 4 patients will respond to prescription medications and even then may suffer with side effects –most often gastro-intestinal and sexual side effects. Meds have a more reliable result in those with moderate to severe depression.
The naturopathic approach
The first line therapies for mild to moderate depression are generally accepted to be non-pharmacologic and lifestyle-based. These are a few of them:
-Rule out hormonal imbalances that have an effect on mental health (thyroid, PMS, menopause, adrenal fatigue). Address the hormonal imbalances to improve mental health. Some reports show that entering menopause doubles the risk of being diagnosed with a depressive disorder.
-Clean up the diet. A diet high in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates is considered detrimental to mental health as it creates inflammation in the brain and disrupts neurochemical signalling. Inflammation in the brain and body is also thought to decrease serotonin. Some of your best mood medicine can be healthy foods!
-Targeted supplementation with nervous system nutrients. Adequate nutrition is needed for countless aspects of brain functioning. Unfortunately the most nutrient-deprived are often those at high risk for depression – adolescents and women after childbirth. Deficiencies of Folate, Iron, B12, B6, Magnesium, Essential fatty acids, Zinc, Selenium, Vitamin D can contribute to mild to moderate depression. The dose and forms of these nutrients are important. For example, studies have shown high dose fish oil (the EPA component specifically) to be more effective than Prozac in mild to moderate depression. Omega 3’s are the main structural fats of the brain, but the EPA component specifically quells inflammation. Vitamin D3 deficiency is associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder, however the standard dose of 1000 IU/day is not enough to overcome a frank deficiency and dose needs to be adjudicated based on Vitamin D3 blood levels. Both B12 and Folic acid need to be in the activated, methylated form (5-MTHF). These are the forms that cross the blood-brain barrier and facilitate the production of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. An estimated 20% of North American Caucasians, for example, are believed to have a genetic mutation (termed the MTHFR mutation) which prevents them from activating folic acid, which in turn puts them at a higher risk for depression. In these cases, folic acid vitamins will not provide benefit.
– Protect sleep While sleep deprivation or insomnia can be a symptom of depression, it can also be a cause of depression. Depression can also set up a cascade of poor sleep habits including mid-day napping and late night screen time. A sleep re-training process is often required to re-set the natural circadian rhythm of the brain, so sleep is more consistent and restorative.
-Exercise Regular exercise is associated with improving symptoms of depression and lower relapse rates. The anti-depressant effect of exercise is in proportion to the intensity of the exercise, with some benefit noted even with ‘light’ exercise (ie walking)
-Talk therapy Counselling can be an invaluable part of depression recovery. It is essential for those transitioning off medication. At the very least, resist the urge to hibernate. Visit. Window-shop. Find reasons to be around others, if only for a small portion of the day.
Julia Fountain ND
If you find yourself challenged by the daily grind of balancing healthy food choices with picky palates you’re not alone. An estimated 40% of households claim to have at least 1 ‘picky eater’ in their midst. Which begs the question – is picky eating hereditary or habit? It appears it be both. Some estimates claim 78% of picky eating is due to heritable or developmental characteristics – how the taste buds and smell centers of the brain perceive flavour and how a child’s taste is designed to mature with time. The remaining 22% of picky palates are due to environmental influences that are completely modifiable with experience and exposure. Babies are born ready to accept sweet but reject bitter flavours. This is adaptive as breast milk is naturally sweet and sweet foods in early childhood represent easily accessible calories for growth. The mild bitterness in green vegetables is another story. Many toxic compounds have a bitter flavour so children’s taste-buds are naturally more sensitive to this taste. There is a subset of individuals known as ‘super-tasters’ who are extraordinarily sensitive to bitterness. Even as adults they never develop a taste for green vegetables. If you’re a “super-taster” you’ll also stay clear of other bitter foods such as coffee, tea, beer or dark chocolate.
The good news: our genes are constantly being modified by experience. Yes, it appears we can ‘acquire a taste’ for foods which gives us an element of choice in what we eat. Studies have shown even ‘super-tasters’ can learn to like broccoli by talking themselves into it and by taking the edge off its bitter taste with other flavours – particularly salt.
So how do we ‘acquire a taste’ for foods? And how do we encourage children to develop a taste for new foods and flavours?
Research suggests that the more exposure we have to a food the more we like it. Children like what they know and they eat what they like. One study showed school-aged children tasted sweet red peppers 8 times before they developed a taste for it. In another study it took an average of 10 presentations of a new food before children ate it willingly. Similar studies have shown that children warm up to new foods faster when they see others (particularly parents, friends and siblings) enjoying them.
Other research illustrates it’s never too early to start with increasing a child’s flavour experience! Even in the womb we experience flavours transmitted from our mother’s diets. Infants breast-fed for more than 6 months are statistically less likely to be picky eaters. The current line of thinking – children learn to prefer flavours associated with fruits, vegetables and spices by experiencing these flavours first in mother’s milk. This highlights the importance of a varied diet for women during pregnancy and beyond.
Realize children go through developmental phases with their sense of taste, smell and yes, personality. In one study, parents of picky eaters cited personality traits that are common among them. These words include ‘stubborn’, ‘moody’, ‘nervous’ and ‘easily distracted’. Around the age of 2, picky eating becomes a frustrating but normal stage of development. At this age food rejections can be a sign of exerting independence, testing limits and imposing control. Rest assured that even though your youngster may not be eating their vegetables they’re watching you eat yours! Even before they are able to talk, young children are amazingly aware of the social rules and expectations surrounding food. Study after study concludes the most powerful influence on a child’s food choices is watching and eventually mimicking what their parents and caregivers eat.
Parenting nutrition experts offer some recommendations:
-offer a variety of foods so children can experiment with new tastes and textures. A bite or a taste is a good first step.
-Set limits and boundaries at mealtime which convey your belief system and stay consistent
-Be creative. Pair unfamiliar foods with familiar tastes. Salt, for example, over-rides the mild bitterness of green vegetables.
-Be aware of timing. Seems common sense but it’s also proven in the literature that children will be less selective in their food choices when they’re hungry.
- Encourage children to expand their comfort zone with food but don’t turn the dinner table into a war zone. As children grow older, a distinct fear of trying new foods can be a symptom of a deeper-seated anxiety issue. Food rejection can also be a symptom of a digestive issue – eating the food becomes associated with not feeling well. In this case a child’s growth and development may be affected.
Children will live through developmental phases which affect their food choices but with patience, consistency and creativity they will emerge without nutritional deficits. A ‘picky eater’ in childhood does not necessarily translate into a ‘picky eater ‘in adulthood. It appears that adults have more choice in the matter and that both children and adults alike can develop a taste for foods and flavours of all kinds and enjoy them with gusto and grace!