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Digging Around: Wellness Tips for a Healthy Summer

By Tony Ho-Tong, RMT

Hopefully, everyone is enjoying the warmer months! As we all remember, winter threw us a few storms to end the season. Some of us were even lucky enough to shovel our way out of our homes – some unexpected exercise! Now, along with the increase in temperature outside, also comes increased (and more pleasant) outdoor activities. With the eagerness of getting our lawn and garden started, we may have tried to cram to clean and prep for the upcoming season. Others enjoy attending festivals or participating in recreational sports and activities. This, in conjunction with “spring cleaning” for our house and working at our regular jobs, we may have put our bodies through much toil and sweat. Whatever activity you choose, take into consideration not to over-extend yourself and end up feeling more tired afterward. The time we take for ourselves should help with the rejuvenation of the body, mind, and soul.

Here are some things to keep in mind with whatever you are doing this summer:

Always keep yourself HYDRATED. This point can never be over-emphasized. As the weather warms up, the body will start to perspire more. This is obvious through general sweating, but we also lose moisture each time we exhale. Being hydrated will also help rid us of toxins within our body and replace minerals and nutrients used by our cells (assuming we are mobile and have a reasonable diet).

STRETCH after vigorous and/or prolonged activities. As we keep on using the same muscle or group of muscles, they may become “shortened” or “tightened”. I’m sure all of us have experienced the ‘achiness’ of muscles after some activities. Most of the time, it’s a symptom of toxin built up. Stretching can help the muscle/muscles to relax. This will increase the range of motion and blood flow to the region. Increased blood flow, will bring in nutrients and minerals as well as get rid of toxins and by-products.

Most importantly, ENJOY the season and your health. General health is a combination of physical and mental attributes. Don’t be afraid to try different treatments or modalities. The Pacific Wellness Institute offers massage therapy, shiatsu massage, naturopathic medicine, reflexology, and acupuncture. You never know, something or someone may surprise you!

Tony Ho-Tong, RMT holds a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from McMaster University and completed the Registered Massage Therapy program at the Canadian College of Hydrotherapy. To arrange a therapeutic massage session with Tony, call the Pacific Wellness Institute at 416-929-6958.

Digest This

By EeVon Ling, ND

Growing up as a child, every day my mother would ask me, “Did you go today?”. As far as my memory goes, I believe my answer was always “yes”. Some days she’d even ask me more details like if it was hard or soft … you get the picture. Of course, I thought this kind of parent-child discussion was normal until I learned from my friends that most families don’t talk about bowel habits – let alone discuss details about them! Perhaps my mother was preparing me for my naturopathic profession where discussing bodily functions is as normal as talking about the weather. I suppose it is a good thing that I am so comfortable with this subject because digestion (which includes much more than just bowel habits) is such an important function for good health. In fact, digestive issues are the most common concerns seen in medical practice, either as a primary concern or as a symptom associated with other health conditions.

While most people associate digestion as simply the movement of food from one end to the other, the digestive system is a very complex system of organs, nerves, hormones, neurotransmitters, enzymes, and bacteria all interacting with each other. Here, I’m going to present to you some little known facts about the digestive system.

Your digestive system is a prominent part of your immune system. Good thing, if you consider its direct contact with the outside world through what we eat, drink and ingest. Your saliva contains some bacteria-fighting enzymes and antibodies. The acid produced in your stomach is your frontline defense against many potentially infectious microbes. Further along in your small intestines are bile and enzymes that help with detoxifying antigens and chemicals, such as drugs and food additives or contaminants. In the large intestines, gut-friendly bacteria such as acidophilus and many others help prevent infectious bacterial overgrowth. And throughout the entire digestive tract, there is gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), which are specialized immune cells that screen for foreign microbes, produce antibodies and produce T-cells and B-cells that play an important part in preventing cancer. With all these immune functions in place, it is not surprising that digestive problems often are accompanied by immune problems ranging from frequent colds and sore throats to auto-immune conditions to cancer.

Your digestive system influences your moods. And vice versa. Many people may say they feel nausea when they are anxious, or that they have a “nervous stomach”, or they crave carbohydrates when they are feeling low. These statements may be describing the effect of serotonin on the digestive tract. Serotonin is commonly associated with depression and anxiety, however, serotonin also plays a big part in stimulating the stomach and intestinal muscles to contract. Studies show that digestive problems such as indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome and constipation can be related to abnormal serotonin activity in the gut. Cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods may indicate low serotonin levels in the brain. With this large influence of serotonin on the digestive tract, it is not surprising that digestive problems are often related to mood disorders or chronic stress.

Your digestive system changes with age and experience. Many patients will tell me, “I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted”; “I had no problems with drinking milk as a kid”; “Ever since that trip to Mexico, my stomach hasn’t been the same”. I think most people assume that their digestive abilities change very little throughout their lives – that they can eat the same type of diet as an adult as they did growing up. Perhaps being creatures of habit, this explains why most people, upon analyzing their diet diaries, have eaten the same 5 foods each day, every day, for as long as they can remember. These foods are usually cheese, bread, meat, a favourite vegetable, and a favourite snack (usually sweets, cookies or chips). Why is this a problem? Our nutritional needs change throughout our life and our digestive abilities reflect this. Lactase enzyme production dramatically drops after infancy, thus many adults are lactose intolerant but will still eat large quantities of dairy. Stomach acid and enzyme production also decrease as we age, but so do our caloric needs, and so our food intake should reflect this. Many will still continue to eat the same amount of food and wonder why they are gaining weight despite no change in diet. Lastly, the ecosystem in our digestive tract can shift during illness or with the use of medication. I sometimes see patients whose digestive systems never returned to normal after a trip 2 years ago. Or worse, bad digestion that has been life-long, can sometimes be traced back to taking many rounds of antibiotics as a child.

As a naturopathic doctor, regardless of your main health concern, I’m very interested in how you digest. Do you have food allergies that you aren’t aware of? Do you suffer from constipation or constant gas and bloating? Are you on medication that affects your digestion? Are you absorbing your nutrients? Is your diet well-rounded and does it meet your needs? These are just some of the questions asked and addressed as they pertain to your health concern. A naturopathic treatment plan is designed to improve your health through a proper diet and optimized digestive function.

Eevon Ling is a licensed naturopathic doctor at The Pacific Wellness Institute. She is available for food allergy testing, nutritional consultations, and naturopathic treatments. Contact The Pacific Wellness Institute at 416-929-6958 for an appointment.

Wonderful, Magical, Yoga

Wonderful, Magical, Yoga

By Rahel Kay RMT, CR, CYI

My name is Rahel. I am a Massage Therapist here at The Pacific Wellness Institute.

Recently I became a Yoga instructor because Yoga is a field that I have been passionate about since adolescence. Studying to do so was an incredible journey that I will never forget. Yoga is so much more than just the postures (Asanas) that one might practice at a studio, gym or with a video. Yoga is a philosophy. It is a meditation, a healing art, and a lesson in breathing. It is said that if you are not breathing with focus and awareness (Pranayama) during the Yoga practice, you are actually just stretching. How often does one breathe deeply, continuously for at least an hour? Imagine the possibilities related to doing so. In Yoga practice, breath is directed to certain parts of the body depending on the position you are in. On a philosophical level, Prana (or breath) is thought of as an ethereal energy source that flows through all beings.

Yoga originated thousands of years ago in India, and some have speculated that it was being practiced as far back as the time of the Indus Valley. It is interesting to note that the original one was not allowed to practice the postures, or exercise component until he had completed at least 10 years of philosophical study. In this instance I’d like to emphasize the ‘he’; because in fact, until only recently, women were not allowed to practice Yoga. Ironically, and especially in Western culture, the majority of people now practicing are women.

Yoga, as a general practice, has proven it’s staying power on this planet and it’s not hard to see why…

When I first began studying to be a teacher, all the students went around in a circle to talk about how, as well as why, each had come to be in that class. How had we come to this point in our lives where we wanted to have a deeper understanding of Yoga? I was amazed to discover that more than HALF the class had fallen in love with Yoga after it helped them recover from an injury, health condition or even emotional pain. Car and sports-related injuries, arthritis, cancer, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder were just a few of the examples given. Whatever the reason, a common understanding was evident among the students: that breathing deeply, giving oxygen and stretch to your organs, goes a long way in the healing process. This is only one of the many benefits of Yoga – remembering that adequate oxygen supply to the tissue is crucial for healing.

Resultant through Yoga, and also crucial for healing, is relaxation. Relaxation is our power to reduce stress; thereby enabling the body, mind, and the whole being to be balanced and to thrive. It is generally estimated that between 70-80% of disease is related to stress. Reducing stress seems to be a useful priority. Relaxing during a Yoga practice is the meditation component. Usually included in the practice immediately before and also following, meditation is a mostly silent introspective component that is done in either a comfortable seated position or lying down. It can be an excellent method of heightening awareness, relaxing the nervous system, slowing the heart rate, and calming the mind.

Something interesting that I learned during my studies, is how similar all the benefits of yoga are to those of massage therapy. Whether being in a relaxed state on a massage table or in a deep stretching yoga posture, both are equally encouraging of introspection and body awareness. The more aware we are in regards to our body, the more we tend to care for it before it needs to become serious health issues. As in yoga, relaxation and deep breathing during massage therapy help to slow the heart rate, and increase oxygen in the body. Again, oxygen helps our bodies heal. Both massage and yoga also encourage healthy circulation. This stimulates the vital organs to maintain homeostasis or balance in the body. Overall yoga, much like a massage, helps in healing from health conditions and injuries.

Even if I had thousands of pages to fill, I could not fully describe the depth and beauty of Yoga. It is experiential and open to everyone. There are many different forms available to explore including but not limited to “Hatha”, a more creative and sometimes gentle type; “Ashtanga”, a more methodical, rhythmic and intense type; “Bikram”, a type practiced in an extremely heated room to encourage sweating and detoxification as well as gaining more length during stretching; and “Kundalini”, a more spiritually focused type which often includes chanting. I sincerely encourage you to look into this incredible, ancient, healing art form.

Namaste (The light within me, salutes the light within you)

Rahel Kay is a registered massage therapist and certified reflexologist at The Pacific Wellness Institute.