With the Internet just a click away for most, it is now more difficult than ever to find proper health advice. That is why Health Centre of Milton is here to offer a blog with professional information that could help you make your life a little healthier. Click on the following health advice topics to learn more:
Hacking Your Stress to Improve Your Sleep
Are thoughts keeping you up in the night? Waking up to plan your day? Feeling stressed before bed? It’s time to look at how stress is impacting your sleep!
We all know that sleep is important for our health yet it is often one of the first things we compromise when we feel busy and overwhelmed. To make matters worse, stress is often the culprit when we find ourselves unable to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Let’s break down this relationship between your sleep and your stress levels.
To begin, sleep is regulated by a 24-hour sleep-wake cycle or an internal clock known as our circadian rhythm. This cycle is regulated by two major hormones – melatonin and cortisol.
Melatonin is regulated by light. When there is light out, melatonin is blocked and you should be awake. Melatonin should be low during the day and high during the night.
Cortisol has the opposite pattern. It is high during the day and low during the night. Cortisol helps produce energy to keep you going while you are awake. It has no business being there at night time. To make matters worse, if you are highly stressed during the day, you will use up all your energy stores and then later wake up in the middle of the night because your blood sugars are low.
Cortisol also suppresses the release of melatonin.
This leaves many of us with insufficient melatonin in the evening and even worse, way too much cortisol when we are trying to sleep.
Not to worry - Here are some easy and practical tips to hack your stress and improve your sleep:
1) Get as much sunlight as possible
Your circadian rhythm is regulated by sunlight so getting sun during the day can help improve your wake and sleep cycle. Whether you are getting sun outside or through a window, any amount can help!
2) Eat more protein and fewer carbs at dinner
Eating a carb-heavy meal in the evening can cause your blood sugar to drop in the middle of the night, waking you up. Instead ensure your meal has a good amount of fat and protein, and limit your starch in the evenings to help you sleep through the night.
3) Breath work or meditation
Take a deep breath and audibly sigh it out. Then breaths in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. Repeat this cycle 10-20 times before bed.
Meditation and breath work reduces your blood levels of cortisol helping you fall asleep. This is because deep breathing stimulates a relaxation nerve at the back of your throat called the vagus nerve. Stimulating this nerve causes full-body relaxation – perfect for sleep!
4) Write it down and let it go
Don’t let planning and worries keep you up at night. Write down your to-do lists and thoughts keeping you up and let them go for the night. They will be there in the morning after a good night’s sleep.
Another great writing strategy is to write down 3 things you are grateful for each day. It can be big things and it can be small things but gratitude also stimulates relaxation centers in your brain, helping you get to sleep better.
5) Shut down that phone
Turn off your phone at least 1 hour before bed and download an app that decreases your exposure to blue light. Your phone tricks your brain into thinking it’s still day time, preventing your melatonin levels from rising.
Also, consider switching your phone to airplane mode at night so you aren’t woken by notifications and other buzzing from your phone.
6) Calm down that nervous system with GABA and L-theanine
Both of these are parasympathetic neurotransmitters which are a fancy way of saying relaxing signallers. The combination helps you calm your mind and sleep through the night.
Plus they have a relatively short effect in your body and there are endogenous substances so they won’t leave you feeling drowsy in the morning!
7) Remember your sleep hygiene
The most ideal environment for sleep is cool and dark.
It is also important to keep the bedroom as a place for sleep and sex only! If you aren’t tired, you shouldn’t be going to bed. Start to relax outside of the bedroom and when you feel sleepy head into your room. This teaches your body that when you are in your bedroom, it is time to sleep!
Melissa Bucking, naturopath and acupuncture provider, believes in educating and empowering patients to achieve their health goals. She is dedicated to providing care that supports the whole body for safe and long-term results. Every treatment plan is tailored to your specific needs and goals!
Three Tips to Follow When Packing Your BackPack
Our chiropractors, physiotherapist and massage therapists all agree that the back pack can add unwanted stresses to our bodies and can affect your child’s health. It’s common to see kids carrying far too much weight in their backpacks to and from school. And though kids may think it’s cool to carry the load over one shoulder, the combination of weight and poor posture can lead to head, neck and shoulder pain which is not cool.
To avoid unnecessary strain follow these simple tips below:
1) Choose the right backpack:
2) Pack it Light:
3) Putting on your backpack properly:
Remember pain is not normal and is a way of your body communicating to you that something is wrong. If you child is experiencing any back pain feel free to book an appointment with one of our practitioners today.
Dr. Sarah Chajka, HBKin, DC, Webster Certified
Acupuncture, an ancient form of medicine, is a powerhouse treatment that we are seeing be consistently “proven” through rigorous research. It involves inserting small, thin needles into your skin in specific points on your body to address a variety of health concerns.
If you are not a fan of needles, you need not worry. Acupuncture needles are significantly thinner than syringes. Think closer to a sewing needle rather than the needles used to draw your blood. Acupuncture is (usually) painless. Acupuncture also has this amazing calming effect on your body – I like to describe it as that one glass of wine buzz feeling.
There are several theories about why acupuncture works but the one that makes the most sense to me is the interaction with our nervous system. Traditional acupuncture points follow the various nerve pathways in our body. By tapping into these spots, we can help calm and rewire the nervous system to relieve pain, ease anxiety, and regulate various processes.
Here are my favorite conditions to treat with acupuncture:
Pain + Arthritis
Acupuncture is an excellent natural pain reliever. It also provides longer term results than simply popping an Advil because it helps clear out inflammation and promote healing at the site of pain. It is also a great tool to help speed up recover from muscular and bone injuries.
Acupuncture is also a great tool for reduce pain caused by arthritis and helping prevent further damage.
Maximizing Fertility + Reducing Labor Time
This is one of the amazing ways we can use acupuncture AND the research is continuing to support it!
Research has shown that using acupuncture around fertility treatments significantly increasing the chances of conception. We can also use acupuncture to regulate periods and increase natural conception as well.
Once you are pregnant, keep acupuncture in your mind. Weekly acupuncture treatments starting at week 37 have been shown to reduce the time spent in labor. This reduces the chances of complications and of course speeds up your introduction to your beautiful baby.
Anxiety + Insomnia
Want to get that one glass of wine calm without the side effects of alcohol? Look no further than acupuncture. Regular acupuncture helps shift your body out of the sympathetic system (a.k.a fight or flight stress mode) into the parasympathetic system which is our calming rest and digest state.
Shifting into our parasympathetic state helps reduce anxiety, promote sleep, and support healthy digestion.
Not sure if acupuncture is for you?
Drop by the clinic or call for a complementary assessment. There are so many conditions that acupuncture can help with – find out if it is a good fit for you!
Melissa Bucking, naturopath and acupuncture provider believes in educating and empowering patients to achieve their health goals. She is dedicated to providing care that supports the whole body for safe and long-term results. Every treatment plan is tailored to your specific needs and goals! Come visit her at Health Centre of Milton.
Custom-made orthotics discretely insert into your shoe to support and improve foot function. Often times orthotics get a bad reputation, so I’m here to debunk some of the common misconceptions out there.
Let’s get myth busting…
Myth 1: Orthotics are just for Grandma.
Busted: Orthotics are not just for senior citizens and can be made to fit in many styles of shoes.
Foot dysfunction such as painful arches, heel pain, bunions, calluses, as well as broader health conditions such as arthritis or diabetes can affect any age. Some feet are aligned perfectly, but most (70-80%) are not. This means the majority of us could benefit from a custom orthotic.
Orthotics can even be prescribed for children and teenagers to treat such conditions and prevent them from getting worse.
The shoes you put them in don’t have to be restricted to running, walking, or orthopedic shoes! Orthotics can be designed to fit into new or existing shoes, including fashionable ones. We do still recommend appropriate footwear as the shoe acts as a foundation and base for the orthotic to sit in; however, there are options.
Myth 2: Custom orthotics are the same as generic solutions off the shelf.
Busted: Each person’s feet are as unique to them as their fingerprints. Yes, a mass-produced over-the-counter insert can help, but think of what a custom insert could do. It is important to have your orthotic customized to treat your specific biomechanical foot dysfunction.
Custom orthotics can be prescribed by a health professional, such as a medical doctor, chiropodist, podiatrist, or chiropractor. This is done through a gait analysis (examining your walk) and biomechanical assessment of your feet and lower limbs. A three-dimensional cast of your foot is taken and sent to the lab where the orthotic is made specifically for you. A range of materials is used and the prescribing doctor will make the necessary modifications needed for your specific problems. This can’t be achieved in a mass-produced cookie cutter product.
Myth 3: Custom orthotics are too expensive.
Busted: Over-the-counter foot orthotics are mass-produced, and therefore, typically cheaper than custom-made foot orthotics at first glance. However, over-the-counter foot orthotics generally have a shorter lifespan and when not fitted properly could aggravate your condition.
Orthotics change how your foot moves and functions, therefore, it’s important to have professional help design and prescribe them. By self-prescribing an off-the-shelf insert, you risk facing additional discomfort. Getting a properly fitted and effective orthotic may save you money over the long term. Your health care practitioner will also make adjustments to your orthotic should it cause discomfort and follow up with you to ensure their effectiveness.
— Dr. Sarah Chajka Hon.B.Kin, D.C
Kegels, Pelvic Tilt, Breathing, Oh My!
Many women experience low back pain during pregnancy as a result of altered posture and stretched, weakened muscles. Unfortunately this pain doesn’t always dissipate after the arrival of your new bundle of joy and may even start post-partum from carrying your little one around and poor posture while breast feeding. Even if you have been lucky and haven’t experienced any pain, you may benefit from core strengthening exercises to strengthen the muscles that have been affected while you were pregnant. Prior to starting any exercises get clearance from a Doctor to ensure it is safe to begin.
Diaphragmatic breathing: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Place one hand on the stomach and one on the upper chest. Take in a deep breath; allow the stomach to rise, but try to avoid movement up at the chest. Hold breath for five seconds then breathe out through pursed lips (as if you were blowing out a candle). Repeat ten breaths, three times per day.
Transverse Abdominus: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Place your fingers just in and down from your hip bones so you can monitor the muscle contraction. To engage the transverse abdominus muscle you can picture a line connecting your hip bones and try to connect them or
gently draw your navel in towards your spine. Make sure your abdominals don’t bulge out and don’t hold your breath. Repeat ten times, three times per day.
Pelvic Floor (Kegels): Engage your pelvic floor muscles by contracting the same muscles that you would use to stop the flow of urine. Then
exhale while drawing the belly button in slightly. Repeat ten times, three times per day.
Pelvic Tilt: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Activate your lower abdominals (transversus abdominus) by bringing your belly button inward and by activating your pelvic floor muscles slightly. Maintain steady breathing while tilting your pelvis and flattening your back to the
ground. Return slowly to the initial position. Repeat ten times, three times per day.
To gain a more personalized exercise program to help relieve or prevent low back pain, book an assessment with a physiotherapist.
Nicole Weishar, physio and acupuncture provider, welcomed her first child last year which reinforced her appreciation for the rehabilitation of the postnatal mother. Nicole’s treatment philosophy includes a focus on patient goals and helping them achieve their highest health potential through an approach which includes hands on patient centered care along with active physiotherapy techniques. She enjoys being a part of the Health Centre of Milton’s team and working with other health care professionals!
If you have more questions about physiotherapy or physio care and your rehabilitation we invite you call the Health Centre of Milton to book a complimentary consultation with Nicole today.
When Should You Stretch?
It was previously believed that static stretching (i.e., stretching to the point of resistance and holding for a specific amount of time) prior to exercise would result in improved performance and reduced risk of injury.
A review completed by Simic et al. in 2013 examined the effects of pre-exercise static stretching on activity performance. One of the most significant findings of the study was to avoid the use of static stretching as the only warm-up activity as a negative relationship exists between stretch duration and muscular performance. On the other hand, some studies have shown that static stretching during warm up may increase range of motion and reduce the occurrence of muscle strains.
Given the potential effects of static stretching as well as the negative effects, it is suggested that static stretching before exercise and activity should be combined with activity-specific dynamic stretching (i.e., controlled movements through limits of range of motion, which mimics the body’s movement during the activity that will be completed) to promote blood flow and warm up the muscles to be used. As well, static stretching is important to be added as a cool-down after exercise or activity to decreased muscle soreness after activity.
Written by Physiotherapist Nicole Weishar
Reference: Simic L, Sarabon N, Markovic G. Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2013 Mar;23(2):131-48.
Back to School Guide
Here are a few tips to ensure your child’s health will be in tiptop shape for the school year.
1) Make sure to establish the school year’s sleep routine right from the beginning. Children become accustomed to the relaxed schedules and later bedtimes of the summer. A good night’s sleep is essential for children to maintain attention and mental capacity during the school year.
– It is recommended that children between the ages of three and 12 should get an average of 11 hours of sleep per night.
– Avoid late-night snacking as this may disrupt the sleep-wake cycles.
– Try to reduce the amount of light and noise in your child’s bedroom. Even the glow of a clock can disrupt the sleep of those who already have difficulty sleeping.
– Naturopathic doctors can help establish proper-sleep wake cycles if you feel sleeping problems stem from a medical cause.
2) Start promoting healthy meals and snacks. Summer time is rampant with not-so-healthy foods, such as burgers, fries, and ice-cream — who could blame anyone for indulging in these foods, especially served during summer-fun festivities? However, once school starts, indulging in foods that aren’t so nutrient-balanced can affect your child’s energy, focus, and their immune health.
– Include non-genetically modified (GMO) whole-grains that are high in fibre, such as oats, rye, whole-grain wheat, and bran. Also make an extra effort to sneak in gluten-free grains, such as rice, millet, kamut, buckwheat, non-GMO corn, and quinoa, for variety. Even if you and your family members don’t have overt problems with gluten, make an effort to keep your carbohydrate intake 50% gluten-free in order to minimize the negative effects associated with its over-consumption. Avoid cereals that use refined sugar or GMO grains.
-Always include food sources that are rich in protein and fat, such as full fat yogurt, nut butters (beware of allergies), soft-boiled/poached eggs, and lean (real) meats, such as chicken or turkey.
-Try non-dairy substitutes, such as coconut milk, almond milk, and rice milk, instead of focusing only on cow’s milk. Limit dairy exposure to yogurt, and cheeses in small amounts as too much dairy can negatively impact the digestive and immune systems.
-The addition of superfoods, such as chia seeds, flax seeds, and hemp hearts are an excellent source of antioxidants and fibre.
-Smoothies in the morning are an excellent way to combine all the superfoods, fruits, and vegetables in one shot — especially if your child is a picky eater and will not eat these alone. As a base, make sure to use 100% all-natural fruit juices (not from concentrate) or non-dairy milk substitutes listed above.
Use leftovers whenever possible, and spend a good chunk of your Sunday preparing foods (e.g., cutting up vegetables, cooking grains, preparing meat and dips) for lunches in order to minimize the reliance on packaged and preserved food.
– Focus on foods that are low in sugar and low in refined carbohydrates to prevent the mid-afternoon crash.
– Keep bread to a minimum of 2x/week — use sprouted, whole-grain, non-GMO breads. Other days of the week, try gluten-free whole grains listed in the breakfast section. Spending part of your Sunday preparing grains, such as brown rice, millet, and/or quinoa will cut down on preparation time, and are easily stored in the fridge for a few days.
– For snacks, make sure to include lots of vegetables, such as cucumbers, carrots, celery, sweet peppers, and broccoli for children to munch on. A serving of fruit makes for a sweet addition.
– For protein and fats, include bean dips, such as hummus, naturally-sweetened full-fat yogurt, cut up cheese, nut butters (beware of allergies). Natural saturated fats, such as butter (not margarine), coconut oil, and avocados, will provide your child fuel for their brain.
– Avoid pre-packaged and preserved foods, especially deli meats, as they are typically high in sodium and lacking in nutrients.
– Invest in a good thermos to keep warmed lunches (such as soups or stir fries) hot, and compartmentalized (bento-style) lunch boxes in order to reduce waste caused by plastic bag use.
3) Keep kids hydrated throughout the day.
– Providing your child with a reusable water bottle (BPA-free) to sip on and refill throughout the day can and will keep them hydrated
– For picky children, try adding a splash of 100% fruit juice (not from concentrate) to their water. Avoid using refined sugar or aspartame-containing sweeteners
– Sugar-free coconut water is an excellent way to keep kids hydrated.
These simple tips will improve your child’s overall health and optimize their energy and focus during the school year!
Written by Dr. Tanya Lee ND
A Natural Approach to Stress & Anxiety after the Holiday Season
Feeling overwhelmed? Having difficulty managing intrusive thoughts, worries, and expectations? Now that the hustle and bustle of the holiday season has slowed naturopathic doctor Melissa Bucking has some great tools that are gentle and effective to help you manage the stress and re-take control.
The Difference between Stress & Anxiety.
Stress is the physiological tension that we feel when we have a lot of things on our plate. If you are juggling your kid’s schedules, making meals, work deadlines, and various other engagements, you are probably feeling stressed out.
Anxiety is a sense of unease and discomfort related to an uncontrolled outcome or upcoming event. It also includes excessive worrying and thoughts like “I should have done this” or I shouldn’t have said that.”
Simply put, stress relates to the physical issue while anxiety is our response to that stress. It is normal to feel both anxiety and stress from time to time. It is part of being a living, breathing human. However, when it goes on too long or becomes too big, it can interfere with our lives.
Here are some simple tools & remedies that can help you manage when you are feeling overwhelmed
Tips for Managing Stress & Anxiety
1. Don’t forget to eat
Many of us stop prioritizing our nutrition when we get overwhelmed. We also tend to eat quick and easy food that tends to be sugary.
Low blood sugar can feel exactly like anxiety. Your body is panicking because it thinks you don’t have enough fuel. When you don’t eat, your blood sugar drops. When you eat sugary foods (pastries, chocolate, granola bars) you get an initial spike in blood sugar but then it quickly drops.
To curb this “fake” anxiety, I use two strategies. First is to prioritize two full balanced meals per day. This may require some forethought but I promise it is worth it. Second is to snack better. You do this by adding a protein and/or fat to your snack. Good add-on options are nuts, plain yogurt, avocados, and hummus.
2. Ground yourself
You started thinking about one thing then all of the sudden you have a million things going through your head. Women are amazing multitaskers which is ultimately our downfall with anxiety because we can focus on too many worries at once.
Take a deep breath and audibly sigh it out. Do this a couple times. It stimulates a relaxation nerve in the back of our throats called the vagus nerve which can help us feel more grounded and in control. You can also achieve a similar effect by singing (whether you think you sound good or not!).
Another great option is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 tactic. Look around the room and point out: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. It doesn’t matter if you make it through all of these, the point is to bring you back to the present moment and out of your head.
3. Consider swapping your coffee for green tea
Green tea contains an awesome molecule called L-theanine which increases several mood modulating chemicals in your brain. This helps you feel more relaxed, happier, and more focused. Plus green tea still has caffeine so it gives you an energy boost like coffee with less of the jittery side effects.
Not a tea drinker? That’s okay, L-theanine can also be found in supplement form so you can take it alone, pair it with your coffee or use it before bed to help you sleep.
4. Keep GABA handy
GABA is a relaxation neurotransmitter, which means it promotes feelings of calm in your brain. You can get this in capsule form or in chewable tablets. The nice thing about GABA is that it acts quickly and leaves your body quickly. It can be a great tool for in the moment feelings of panic.
You can also increase GABA naturally through exercise or eating foods high in glutamic acid. Bananas, spinach, oats, and almonds are all great sources.
5. Get some Lavender in your life
Lavender is an amazing anti-anxiety herb and it works in many forms. You can use it as an essential oil as the smell has been shown to promote relaxation. You can also brew it as a tea or take it in capsule form as there is a growing body of research showing it is great for anxiety, depression, and sleep.
If you are brewing your lavender, make sure you don’t let it steep too long or you will end up with a rather soapy tasting drink. Other great anti-anxiety teas are lemon balm, chamomile, and passion flower.
6. Get Moving
If you need another excuse to exercise, it has been consistently shown to decrease anxiety and relieve stress. Not a fan of the gym? That is fine. Just get yourself moving. Dance around the house, vigorously clean, go for a walk, or take the stairs. Any bit of movement helps!
There are many different tools and strategies for managing stress and anxiety. It is always a great idea to check with a health care provider before starting any supplements to make sure they are safe for you. Looking for more information on natural tools for anxiety? Naturopathic doctors are a great resource for personalized recommendations to help you regain control of your anxious thoughts.
Wishing you a happy healthy new year!