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Embracing a New Challenge

Noureen and I are expecting our first child!

A new challenge that I am both excited for and incredibly fearful of at the same time. Since we found out, I have been noticing a constant feeling of butterflies in my stomach. The emotions are swirling – a mix of utter joy, complete overwhelm, wishing that we had more time, while desiring to finally see my baby’s face and experience my heart melting when I see him/her smile. The knowledge that we will be entirely responsible for a new human, made up 50% of my genes, that is completely and entirely in need of our constant support, love and care, feels quite heavy. I am incredibly grateful that the gestational period for humans is 40 weeks so that I can wrap my head around this responsibility in its entirety – yet I hear from many experienced friends, that it is even harder and significantly more fulfilling than you can ever expect.

A new child is a blank slate. A new life, that will be framed with and offered beliefs, which will initially be instilled by Noureen and I, its parents. A child is the ultimate culmination of love and energy forming a clean canvas, which will grow into a role model for others eventually having an effect not only on our lives, but also on the lives of future generations.

Through the whirlwind of emotion, I have been asking myself many questions over the past 3 months. When I take a step back and look objectively at this situation, there are certain questions that I ask myself as I continue to look forward.

What beliefs do I want to consciously instill in my children?

Our parents are the major players in our belief systems as they are the ones we look up to and the ones that look after us for the first many years of our lives. Many times, our personal beliefs are a reflection of the beliefs held by our parents.  Some call this a curse – I am lucky enough to call this a blessing. My parents have been amazing role models to me and have instilled a love of and desire to serve people and help humanity to become better and more aware of why we are here and what we want to accomplish.

There are however some deep held beliefs that can have less than ideal effects on growth and personal development. These are not the fault of a parent, but simply the perspective of the child noticing that these choices were not prioritized.

So the question evolves and makes us ask, how can a parent instill beliefs in their child with the child’s best intentions at heart? I cannot force my child to take on my beliefs, but as many of you know, your parents are your initial role models. I cannot force my child to become the amazing, open-minded, growth-centered, social butterfly that gets straight A’s and earns his/her positive reputation for helping people attain more – I need to do that all for myself, and my child will pick and choose from my beliefs. What I prioritize, my child will pick up on and ideally prioritize.

If I have long held negative beliefs that dictate my actions, my child will pick up on them. The same is true for positive beliefs. Thus I need to become the man I want them to see. I must become the best role model to this child.

I’ve put together a list of 5 values that I want to pass on to give my child the best chance at living a successful life. In order to pass them on, I must learn to embody them myself. Today, on my 33rd birthday, the values that I want to pass on to my kids are:

  1.     Resilience
  2.     Gratitude
  3.     Creating value by serving others
  4.     Importance of health
  5.     Lifelong learning

Resilience

“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” –Elizabeth Edwards

Even I am not naïve enough to believe that I can ensure with absolute certainty, that my child will be happy, positive and live a life without challenges. Challenges are what build strong people. You can’t become resilient without challenge. Life isn’t about how high you can jump, but how high you bounce after hitting the bottom.  It’s not life if bad things don’t happen. The question you MUST NOT ask yourself when something happens is “Why me?” Instead, determine how you will move forward to learn from this scenario or situation. Ask yourself “what can I learn from this?”

It’s important to remember that things don’t happen to you. The things that happen are simply instructing you on how to move forward. Shift your focus from what has happened, to what you can learn from it. If you are constantly willing to learn, everything will be a lesson to you.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” –Nelson Mandela


Gratitude

“There are only 2 ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” –Albert Einstein

You are not entitled to anything. It is very important to fully understand and believe this. We do not deserve anything and if we believe that we do, then we absolutely do not deserve it. Each of us has been given an opportunity to come into our circumstances, overcome challenges and learn everything this life has to offer. The belief that we are owed or entitled to anything that we have is incredibly naïve and short-sighted. Ego is the enemy (great book by the way).

As humans, we have been given an opportunity. Be grateful for the opportunity and for everything you have around you. Being grateful teaches you that you have enough. If you believe you have enough, then you will always end up having more. If you are not grateful for what you have, you will focus on what is missing, or what is coming next, which is force you to belief that you don’t have enough.

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” –Oprah Winfrey


Creating value by serving others

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” –Mahatma Ghandi

If you have ever felt lost, or as though something was missing – then I completely understand you. As a child and teenager, I always felt like there was something more that was missing from my life. I came across this quote from Ghandi years ago, and it helped to guide me down the path of service of others. I truly believe that we are all on this planet, living at this time, so that we can help each other overcome difficulties and improve the collective quality of our lives.

I completely immersed myself in serving others, given the tools that I had innately been granted. I used to believe that everyone had these same tools, and that is why I was not special. As I continued to learn, I realized that each one of us has a slightly different voice, different message, different tools bestowed upon us, to help us solve people problems and create value for them. As a chiropractor, I help serve my patients with their physical pain. As a functional medicine provider, I help my patients find and eliminate the root cause of their chronic health ailments. As a volunteer, I help serve my community in various ways. As a student, I helped fellow students by taking great notes and not keeping them to myself.

Jim Rohn once said, in his book ‘The Art of Exceptional Living’ (and I am paraphrasing here) that ambition is the path through which people create wealth, through the SERVICE of others, while greed is the path through which people create wealth, at the EXPENSE of others. The people that need your help will always find you. Serve them in the best way you know how and help solve the problems that ail them and keep them from pursuing their dreams. This is how you can create value by serving others. 

“Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly. It comes as a by-product of providing a useful service.” –Henry Ford


Importance of Health

“Great health doesn’t just change your present, great health changes your possibilities.”Dr. Sachin Patel

On my journey, I have learned how true this quote is. I have been lucky enough to hear it in person and experience it myself. As you may know, I have overcome being significantly overweight, dealing with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, irritable bowel and sleep apnea. Once I realized that I was bringing these health issues upon myself, I decided to make positive lifestyle changes.

I learned the importance of thinking positive thoughts and limiting the input of negative worry into my life. I stopped watching the news and eventually canceled my cable subscription (even before it was the cool thing to do). I suddenly had an extra 3 hours per day to put towards learning and growing. I started incorporating meditation and deep breathing exercises into my life, improving my outlook greatly.

I made small changes like choosing real food and creating simple disciplines that I practice daily. My breakfast protein smoothies can be made with minimal brainpower at this point, as it is simply a habit. Most weekends, I am able to spend a few hours preparing meals for the week, allowing me to ensure I know what I am eating, and also eliminating daily decision fatigue related to figuring out what to get for lunch and dinner.

I started working out and challenging myself physically by playing squash with friends, to biking along the waterfront spending quality time with myself, and even meeting new and amazing people when I go to CrossFit ® on 2 mornings per week. (Side note – I previously believed that I could not run 1 km, row 4 km or do 40 clean and jerks… 2 days ago I did both in the same workout). Physical fitness is an important component of health.

Putting it all together – Eat real food, spend time on your personal growth and push yourself to perform progressively more difficult physical tasks. Once you realize you can do these things regularly, then success in the external realm will be readily available to you.

“Every feeling is a field of energy. A pleasant feeling is an energy which can nourish. Irritation is a feeling which can destroy. Under the light of awareness, the energy of irritation can be transformed into an energy which nourishes.” –Thich Nhat Hanh


Lifelong learning

“And any man who knows a thing knows, he knows not a damn, damn thing at all.” –K’naan

What we think we know, keeps us from learning. As a teenager, I thought I knew everything. I slowly believed that knowledge only comes from experience, and as a teenager, I definitely hadn’t had enough experience to gain much knowledge as yet. Now as I turn 33 years (young) old, I realize that I know absolutely nothing at all. I have opinions and beliefs that dictate my choices, but to me, true wisdom is being open to all possibilities. There is no ultimately right or wrong fact. Let’s take for example Global Warming.

Global warming is a belief that humans are contributing to the destruction of our planet. I agree with this belief, and I hold this belief. Ultimately, we don’t KNOW anything, but this is something that at this time in history, would be important for us to believe. To me, global warming is an opportunity for us to become grateful of the earth, the atmosphere, the oxygen and everything that we have, as well as an opportunity to reinforce this gratitude with actions that reflect it – minimizing carbon emissions, eating real food, contributing to our natural surroundings, and finding ways to use the renewable resources that surround us as opposed to leaching the planet for everything that it has – Earth is not a gas station.

I gained these beliefs by reading and forming an opinion. Books used to be my nemesis. I think I read a total of 2 books throughout my life, which were not prescribed through my formal education. Recently, I have come to the realization that its not books that I didn’t like, but reading itself. I realized that I am a kinesthetic learner (to check your VARK score, click HERE). I spent time to learn, how I learn. This allows me to increase my efficiency and get the most out of the audiobooks I now listen to while driving. I write and draw charts and graphs. For me it is the act of writing or drawing that allows me to learn and retain information.

Read every book you can get your hands on. I have been lucky enough to meet some of the authors that I idolized, and they are regular humans like us. The space between people who are willing to learn and those who are not are the number of books they have read.

“As long as you live, keep learning how to live.” –Seneca


Conclusion

If you are reading this section, congratulations for making it through the ranting of a mad-man. I am grateful for both the opportunity to rant and the fact that you cared enough to read this post in its entirety.

I now realize that as I move closer to becoming a father, that these lessons must be engrained in every aspect of my life, deep within my being. This is the only way that I can be the role model I would like to be, to my child.

If you are interested in speaking with me further regarding your ongoing health conditions and how to eliminate the root cause of these health conditions, please visit www.drhabib.ca or book an appointment with me at www.livingproofappt.com.

19 Ways to Activate your Vagus Nerve

Living a life of stress and constant mental stimulation can lead us down a path of symptoms and medical conditions related to high stress. These people are often dealing with fatigue, food sensitivities, anxiety, poor digestion, brain fog and poor sleep quality. Those who suffer with these symptoms often suffer from lower Vagal Tone, meaning that they have a lower ability of the vagus nerve to be activated and perform its functions. So what is the Vagus Nerve?

The Vagus Nerve is the brain’s method of controlling the parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and digest system. It is not the only nerve controlling our ability to decrease stressors, but it is by far the single most important nerve due to its far reaching effects. The word “vagus” means wanderer, as this nerve wanders throughout the body to many important organs and imparts signals from the brain regarding their level of function.

This nerve connects the brain to the gut (intestines and stomach), heart, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, kidney, ureter, spleen, lungs, sex organs (in females), neck (pharynx, larynx and esophagus), ears and the tongue. No other nerve in the body has such a broad and far reaching effect as the Vagus Nerve.

The function that it imparts is extensive.

  • In the brain itself, it helps control anxiety and mood.
  • In the gut, it increases stomach acidity, gut flow/motility and other digestive enzyme production.
    • Low stomach acid is a major source of gut-related health conditions so an underactive vagus nerve is correlated to the root cause of many health conditions.
  • In the heart, it controls heart rate variability, heart rate and blood pressure.
  • In the pancreas it controls blood sugar balance and digestive enzymes.
  • In the liver it controls bile production and detoxification through hepatic phase 1 and phase 2 conjugation.
  • In the gall bladder it controls bile release to help break down fats.
  • In the kidneys, it promotes general function including water balance, glucose control and sodium excretion which helps control blood pressure.
  • In the bladder it controls voiding of urine.
  • In the spleen it helps to reduce inflammation.
  • In the sex organs it helps to control fertility and sexual pleasure including orgasms.
  • In the mouth and tongue, it helps to control ability to taste and saliva production through salivary gland control.
  • In the eyes, it activates tear production through the lacrimal glands.

Vagus nerve stimulation has the potential to help those suffering from various health conditions, including but certainly not limited to anxiety disorders, heart disease, some forms of cancer, poor circulation, leaky gut syndrome, alzheimer’s, memory and mood disorders, migraine’s and headaches, fibromyalgia, obesity, tinnitus, addiction, autism and autoimmune conditions.

So how can we stimulate this nerve to ensure that this nerve is functioning optimally? Here are 19 ways you can exercise and stimulate your vagus nerve:

 

1. Cold Showers

Any acute cold exposure will increase vagus nerve stimulation. Studies have shown that when your body adjusts to cold, your fight or flight (sympathetic) system declines and your rest and digest (parasympathetic) system increases, which is mediated by the vagus nerve. Other options are to dip your face in cold water, drink colder fluids and you can even graduate to using a cryohelmet and cold vest. Cold showers are accessible and very effective.

 

2. Singing or chanting

Singing, humming, mantra chanting, hymn singing and upbeat energetic singing all increase heart rate variability (HRV) in slightly different ways. Singing at the top of your lungs (like you mean it) makes you work the muscles at the back of your throat, which helps activate the vagus nerve. The next time someone catches you singing along to the radio while driving your car, tell them you are just exercising and activating your Vagus nerve.

 

3. Gargling

Gargling with a glass of water each morning will help to contract the muscles in the back of your throat. This in turn helps to activate the Vagus nerve and also stimulates the digestive tract. Keep a glass next to your sink in the washroom as a daily reminder to perform this exercise. You will know you are doing it properly if you gargle to the point of tearing in the eyes (another vagus nerve response). This exercise has been found to be the most readily accessible and easiest to implement in daily life.

 

4. Yoga

Yoga is a parasympathetic activation exercise that improves digestion, blood flow, lung capacity and function. A 12 week yoga intervention showed significantly improved mood and anxiety levels when compared with a control group that performed simple walking exercises. This study showed that levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter associated with mood and anxiety, were increased in those that performed these exercises. Lower mood and higher anxiety is associated with low GABA levels, while an increase in these levels improves mood and decreases anxiety and stress levels. (Reference)

 

5. Meditation

There are two different types of meditation that have been shown to increase vagal tone including Loving-Kindness meditation as well as Guided Mindfulness Meditation. These have been measured by heart rate variability (Reference). It has also been shown that the chanting of “Om” stimulates the vagus nerve.

 

6. Deep Breathing Exercises

Slow and deep breathing also stimulates the vagus nerve. The baroreceptors, or pressure receptors in your neck and heart detect blood pressure and transmit the signal to your brain. This signal then in turn activates the vagus nerve, to help lower blood pressure and heart rate. This results in a lower sympathetic “fight or flight” response, as well as a higher parasympathetic “rest and digest” response. Slow breathing helps to increase the sensitivity of these receptors, increasing vagal activation.

Here’s an important tip: Breathe slowly, having your belly rise and fall. This is the intended action of your Diaphragm muscle. Your shoulders and Traps should not be moving much at all with each breath as these actions are controlled by secondary respiratory muscles. The more your belly expands and contracts, the deeper you are breathing.

 

7. Laughter

Laughter is the best medicine. This can actually be true in the case of increased vagus nerve activity as laughter has been shown to increase heart rate variability in a study comparing a laughter yoga participants (Reference).

Laughter has also been found to be beneficial for cognitive function and protects against heart disease. It increases beta endorphins, nitric oxide levels and benefits the vascular system. It has also been shown that people put in humorous situations show a lower cortisol stress level overall.

 

8. Probiotics

Your gut is connected to your brain, and one of the most clear connections is through the Vagus nerve. Within our gut, we have a population of normal and good bacteria and yeast called the Microbiome. These organisms have a direct effect on our brains as a significant percentage of our neurotransmitters including Serotonin, GABA and Dopamine are produced through actions of these bacteria helping to break down our foods. Often times we have less good bacteria and more bad bacteria within this population leading to poor neurochemistry and decreased vagal tone.

Probiotics are a good option to help promote the good bacteria and other organisms while helping to crowd out the bad bacteria, parasites and yeast.

 

9. Light Exercise

Mild exercise has been shown to stimulate gut flow and gastric motility (peristalsis) which is mediated by the vagus nerve. This in turn means that mild low level exercise can stimulate the vagus nerve (Reference)

 

10. Fasting

Intermittent fasting helps to increase high frequency heart rate variability in animals, which is a marker of vagal tone. When you fast, part of the decrease in metabolism is mediated by the vagus nerve as it detects a decline in blood glucose levels and a decrease of mechanical and chemical stimuli from the gut (Reference).

 

11. Massages

Pressure massages can activate the vagus nerve. These massages are used to help infants to gain weight by stimulating gut function, which is largely mediated by activating the vagus nerve. Foot Massages can also increase vagus nerve activity, heart rate variability and lower your heart rate and blood pressure, all of which decrease risk of heart disease.

 

12. Tai Chi

Tai Chi has been shown to increase heart rate variability in patients suffering from coronary artery disease which again is mediated through vagus nerve activation (Reference).

 

13. Fish Oil – Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish Oils – EPA and DHA are capable of increasing heart rate variability as well as lowering heart rate.

 

14. Tongue depressors

Tongue depressors stimulate the gag reflex. These function in a similar mechanism to gargling or singing loudly as they exercise the reflexes that are mediated by the vagus nerve.

 

15. Acupuncture

Traditional acupuncture treatment as well as auricular acupuncture (of the ear) stimulate vagus nerve activity. The effects of acupuncture are becoming increasingly well known and you can ask most patients who have had this treatment about the calming effect and restful feelings that they have following an acupuncture treatment. I know many of my patients absolutely love it.

 

16. Serotonin

Serotonin, the mood and happiness neurotransmitter, is capable of activating the vagus nerve through various receptors, which are mediated by 5HT1A, 5-HT2, 5-HT3, 5-HT-4 and possibly 5-HT6 receptors. If you have been found to be deficient in serotonin levels, 5-HTP is a good supplement to help increase them.

 

17. Tensing stomach muscles

Bearing down as if to make a bowel movement requires your body to be in a rest and digest state. This is why many people feel much more relaxed following a bowel movement. Tensing the core muscles by performing abdominal bracing exercises can help to promote a rest and digest state by activating the vagus nerve.

 

18. Eating in a relaxed state

Don’t eat breakfast in a rush, lunches at your desk, or dinner in front of the computer. Having a meal in a stressful environment when you are running late, working or not focussing on the meal can have long-lasting and damaging effects. It is important to eat in a relaxed state, in a calm and peaceful environment. Remember – Choose good food, Chew your food well, and Chill. Choose, Chew, Chill.

 

19. Chewing your food well

The simple act of chewing your food, activates the stomach to release acid, tastebuds to taste the foods well, bile production in the liver and release from the gall bladder, digestive enzyme release from the pancreas and gut motility which are all mediated by the vagus nerve. It is important to sequence your digestion correctly and your body will do this automatically IF you start the process correctly. You must take the time to chew your food to the point that it is soft and mushy in your mouth, before your swallow. Doing this will set the correct sequence of digestion in motion and allow the vagus nerve to perform its functions correctly.

Your state of digestion, rest and recovery are all mediated by the vagus nerve. Following these exercises and habits will not only make you feel better, it will allow you to experience the world in a relaxed, calm and enjoyable state. Happy gargling!!

Natural Methods to reduce Anxiety following an Autoimmune Diagnosis

When your doctor diagnoses you with an autoimmune condition, you remember that day. In fact, time just seems to stand still for a moment as you try to comprehend and understand what is happening. There are many different autoimmune conditions that are commonly diagnosed in North America, including one that seems to directly target the Thyroid Gland – Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

It is estimated that 80-90% of all cases of Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) are due to this condition, and nearly 50% of those diagnosed autoimmune disease, actually suffer with more than one condition. The emotional and mental stress of being diagnosed with this, or any other autoimmune condition, can lead to increased levels of anxiety and can make the symptoms even worse than they initially presented. In fact, the worry and stress that we put on ourselves actually reduces our ability to deal with the condition and the environmental factors head on. Acute Thyroid events such as transient hyperthyroidism (high thyroid function) can also lead to surges of active Thyroid hormones which leads to increased hormone induced anxiety.

I recently heard a great quote by Vance Havner regarding worry, and why we should not do it:

Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.

It’s time to stop worrying about the condition, and actually do something about it… get off the rocking chair.

So what can we do to address the anxiety related to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis? Below are some great tips to help you address the underlying causes of symptoms and the condition itself.

1. Balance your Blood Sugar Levels

Each of our hormone systems are connected. This means that Thyroid hormone levels are associated with Insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas to help us balance our blood sugar levels, promoting glucose to leave the bloodstream and enter the cells as our cellular source of fuel to produce energy. It is very common for sufferers of Hashimoto’s to also have imbalanced blood sugar levels due to insulin resistance.

One important step to take is to reduce the amount of simple carbohydrate foods that we eat, including breads, rice, low fat milk, simple sugars, candy, chocolate and even fruit. Too much sugar in our diets leads to spikes in our blood sugar levels, causing our pancreas to produce lots of insulin in surges. This can cause our cells to become less sensitive to the insulin in our bloodstream (insulin resistance) and can cause our pancreas to get tired of producing so much insulin (type 2 Diabetes).

It is incredibly important to balance your blood sugar levels. For a more in-depth understanding of this mechanism, watch the video at this link: http://drhabib.ca/2016/03/blood-sugar-control/

2. Support Adrenal Gland Function

Your adrenal glands are very important in the production of stress and sex hormones. Low Thyroid function can lead to severe imbalances in Adrenal gland function, leading to elevated stress levels and reduced ability to deal with stress. Our adrenal glands produce a hormone called cortisol which is the main hormonal stress response in the body. There is a direct correlation between low thyroid hormone levels and imbalanced cortisol levels.

To support your adrenal glands, ensure that your diet is high in vitamins and minerals, chosen from real food sources. Also, begin practicing stress management by doing deep breathing exercises, going for walks outside, getting regular exercise and even performing yoga or meditation. Each individual will have a different pattern of adrenal gland function so see a functional medicine provider in your area to help address your individual case with specific supplements and treatments for the root cause of your condition.

3. Get Tested for Nutrient Deficiencies

There are some very common nutrient deficiencies related to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis including Selenium and Magnesium. Have your doctor test you for your levels of these nutrients as well as your Vitamin D and B vitamins. Supplementation with these vitamins must occur on an individual basis and should only occur once you have been tested. There are many studies showing a significant improvement in symptoms of autoimmune conditions when patients are treated for underlying nutrient deficiencies.

4. Drink Herbal Teas

There are some great natural remedies for anxiety such as herbal teas. Some of the best types of herbal tea have been shown to be as effective as medications like benzodiazepines in helping to reduce anxiety levels. Some of the best herbal teas include: Passionflower, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Ashwagandha and L-theanine. Click here for some great tea recipes: http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/5-herbs-to-calm-anxiety-without-being-drowsy

5. Use Essential Oils to help with Autonomic Nervous System Balance

Essential oils can be a very helpful natural tool in helping to reduce anxiety and stress in all sorts of conditions. Use an essential oil diffuser to spread the oil in a room or home when you are feeling stressed. Here are some of the best essential oils shown to be effective in many different research studies: Lavender Oil, Rose, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang, Bergamot, Chamomile and Frankincense.

6. Heal your Gut

The Root Cause of Autoimmune disease occurs in the Gut. Often times, we have food intolerances, chemical sensitivities, parasites, yeast and bacterial buildup in certain areas of our intestinal tract, that can lead to a condition called leaky gut syndrome. When your gut lining is compromised by one of these issues, it leads to overactivation of immune cells in the gut lining, which can lead to autoimmune activation through a process known as molecular mimicry. When antibodies are produced to attack the proteins that should not enter our bloodstream, these molecules look very similar to proteins on the surface of thyroid cells, leading to autoimmune disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

It is very important to get tested with a comprehensive stool panel and parasitology to determine the population of bacteria and parasites that are residing in your gut. These can be the root cause of why many people have autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Probiotics can be an effective form of treatment depending on your individual testing.

10 Easy Ways to Cut Out Sugar

We all know that sugar is a major negative player in our health, regardless of how specific our knowledge is. It should come as no surprise that high sugar intake has been linked to a vast number of medical conditions including, but certainly not limited to: Diabetes and insulin resistance, some cancers, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases and immune dysregulation, obesity and of course weight gain.

Not all sugars are created equal. In fact, naturally occurring sugars like those found in fruit, honey and maple syrup (unprocessed) are not as bad as processed sugars and high fructose corn syrup, and they also contain important antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Here are some practical tips that you can use to help cut avoidable sugars out of your diet.

  1. Stop Buying Processed Foods

This is the biggest change that you can make in your diet when cutting down on sugar. Here’s an easy rule to remember – if it comes in a box, bag or can, it contains added sugars. It’s not uncommon for a single food item to actually have four to five types of sugar added.

  1. Choose whole, fresh fruit

Dehydrated fruit, juice and our childhood favourite Fruit Roll-ups are all made up of almost pure sugar, and have been stripped of their all important phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber. Buy whole fruits and have them cut and ready to eat any time you crave a snack or for dessert. Choose berries, cherries, oranges, lemon and lime over denser fruits like apples and bananas.fruit

 

  1. Make Homemade Tomato Sauce

You would be surprised how much sugar goes into a can/bottle of tomato sauce. Next time you are at the grocery store, read the ingredient list on a can of any brand, noting how high sugar is on the list. Its amazing how good tomatoes taste when they simmer in a pot with some fresh herbs and spices. Here is a great recipe for Homemade Tomato Sauce.

  1. Make Your own Salad Dressing

Sugar are very commonly hidden in store bought salad dressings. I find that these store bought dressings actually don’t taste nearly as good as my basic, easy homemade dressings, where I mix up 2-3 ingredients at room temperature:

Choose 1 oil (Extra Virgin Olive, Avocado or Walnut are quite good)

Choose 1 vinegar (Balsamic is my favourite but plain white or cider also work)

Optional ingredients include sea salt, pepper, dried herbs, fresh squeezed lemon juice (just a bit), but my favourite is mustard seeds which gives the dressing a kick.olive vinegar bottles

 

  1. Don’t keep “treats” in the house

It’s as simple as out of sight, out of mind. If it’s not in the house, you can’tpassively snack on it while binging Netflix on a Sunday in your pyjamas. If you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it! In fact, stop calling them “TREATS”… it’s a trick 😉

  1. Cut out Soda

This one is a no brainer. Trade in soda for water with lemon, lime, cucumber or frozen berries. If you still need something bubbly, drink soda water, either plain or with lime or lemon.

  1. Avoid Flavoured Yogurt

Most commercial yogurts contain as much sugar as a candy bar. Don’t eat it! Instead, buy or make your own plain yogurt and add fresh fruit, and maybe some honey if you still need some sweetness.

  1. Read the Ingredients on all sauces in your fridge

You would be surprised to find that many of the sauces located in your refrigerator contain more sugar (and sugars with other names to trick you like high fructose corn syrup) than you expect. It is readily found in barbecue sauce, ketchup, relish, hot sauce, chutneys, jam and jellies, in relatively high quantities.

condiments ketchup ingredients

  1. Give yourself rules about Dessert

Sometimes you give in to temptation, and that is completely understandable. We are all social creatures and eat foods to fit in to the crowd. Its tough to attend a birthday party or holiday dinner where there isn’t cake or pie being served. Two options include setting a rule of only eating these desserts on special occasions, or the three-bite rule – limit yourself to three very mindful bites of dessert and often times you won’t even want any more.

  1. Try Dark Chocolate

This has become a go-to option of mine personally. Choosing a dessert option that has significantly less sugar, but contains the positive benefits of cacao. You probably won’t be able to eat a full bar of dark chocolate, like you can with milk chocolate.

Getting Active

I used to hate the gym. I used to have a negative reaction to lifting up a weight, or even the thought of taking a walk. Getting up the courage to work out was one of the hardest thing to do. When I finally realized that I needed to make a change, it was time to find a way to get active and learn how to use my body to do the things it was built to do.

I always had a preconceived notion about working out and that it involved some special talent that I did not have, or could ever gain. I tried the treadmill, the elliptical, weight lifting machines and even biking. Then, one day, a friend introduced me to the game of Squash and I immediately found my way in! I have now been playing squash for over 2 years, two to three times per week and have even started Crossfit to help increase my strength and weightlifting technique.

Transitioning from a lazy couch potato to someone who actively works out 4 days per week was not easy and required much discipline as well as a strong support system. I also realized that it is not as hard as I was making it out to be. One of my favourite images through my research was the hierarchy pyramid of movement by Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple and The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy.

Primal Pyramid

Step 1: Move Frequently at a Slow Pace

This step involves walking, hiking, cycling or performing easy, slow movements for between 2-5 hours per week – 30 minutes per day of going for a walk outside, riding a bike with a friend or loved one is all you really need.

This is the single most important step in starting to become more active and fit, especially for those people who are just starting out.

Step 2: Lift Heavy Things

Between 1 to 3 times per week, do some heavy lifting. Whether you choose to hit the gym once per week for 10-12 minutes (yes this is possible – see Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week) or simply do some squats, lunges, curls and shoulder presses at home a couple times per week, the important thing is to find a routine that works for you. Body weight exercise (30 Exercises To Do At Home. (Bodyweight Exercises to Lose Fat and Get Healthy)) is also a great option for people that are starting out and don’t want to blow their budget on gym memberships.

Step 3: Sprint

This step requires about 10 minutes of effort per week. Find something that you like to do at maximal effort for a total of 10 minutes per week and make it a routine. This can include running, sprinting or 1 rep max weight lifting for a new Personal Record in a Crossfit Class, this is the toughest but most fun thing to find once you reach this level.

If you are tired of being tired and lazy, and have let that New Year’s resolution pass you by, try getting active with some slow deliberate movements with someone you can be accountable with. Once you start and find the routine that works for you, I promise it will be hard to stop!

Happy Exercising! Get Active and have fun!

Getting Better Sleep

When was the last time you woke up feeling completely rested?

One of the greatest detriments to a person’s health is a poor rest and recovery routine. Getting the correct quantity and quality of sleep on a daily basis and making that into a routine can go a long way to helping with many of the health challenges that people often face. Poor sleep routines are associated with chronic pain, adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, thyroid dysfunction, weight gain and obesity to name just a few.

Our bodies run on a natural pattern called the Circadian Rhythm. Our sleep and wake patterns are governed by our Circadian Rhythm, thus they affect our daily energy levels and motivation.

There are some steps that we can take starting immediately to improve alignment with our Circadian Rhythm, here are just a few.

  1. Fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day (yes, this includes weekends)

A routine for sleep and waking times is the best way to ensure your body finds a rhythm and sticks with it. This rhythm should mimic the rise and set of the sun as release of hormones are linked to exposure to sunlight. A good routine would be to fall asleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am, giving you 8 full hours of sleep.

  1. Get some mid-day sunlight

Exposure to sunlight governs the release of our hormones Serotonin and Melatonin. During the daytime, exposure to sunlight will increase the release of Serotonin, while in the night, decreased light leads to an increase in Melatonin release. Melatonin levels are inversely correlated to Serotonin levels – The more sun you get during the day, the better you sleep at night. Go for a nice walk during your lunch time or just take a short break with some fresh air.

  1. Eliminate exposure to screens 2 hours before bedtime

We are addicted to our cell phones, laptops, tablets, televisions and e-readers. These screens all emit light at levels increasingly approaching that of daylight. If we expose ourselves to light at such high levels right before bedtime, our Melatonin levels will not go up, making it much harder for us to fall asleep and stay asleep.

  1. Sleep in a completely dark room

Darkness at night can’t be overstated. Our bodies have evolved to sleep in complete darkness, and it is only relatively recently that we have been flooded with lights to see and do things at night. Darkness will increase Melatonin release allowing you to sleep better.

  1. Avoid excess fluid intake after 8pm

Our bladders are designed to hold a certain amount of fluid. Drinking too much water in the evening can lead to reflexes waking you at night, telling you to relieve the pressure on your bladder. If you don’t take in too much fluid at night, you won’t have the urge to wake up to relieve yourself, allowing you to stay asleep.

  1. Don’t open mail in the evening or watch the evening news

When we are flooded with news and questionable information from around the world regarding conflicts that rarely affect us directly, we turn our brains on to worry in the evening and night hours. This late day stimulation can lead to an inability to relax and decrease worry as you head to sleep.

  1. Don’t respond to email in the evening

Reserve your stimulation time and productive hours to the morning, when you are full of energy and can make decisions easily and readily. Responding to work or personal email in the evenings can be tough as it forces us to think and worry later in the evening, again keeping us from falling into a deep sleep

  1. Settle conflicts before going to bed

We’ve all heard the saying “don’t go to bed angry”. Well that is not only true for conflict resolution, but also for your sleep and wake cycle. Cut down on worry when you are heading to bed. Resolve issues so that you are not worrying about them throughout the night, while your body and mind are in recovery mode.

  1. Practice deep breathing exercises before bed to help you relax

Meditation and deep breathing can help you to clear your mind of concerns and worries before you head to sleep. I like using the app “Headspace” for a 10 minute guided meditation, however you can also choose to perform a short 20 deep breaths exercise for 5 minutes to clear your mind of thoughts and distractions.  

  1. Get a digital filter for your screen

If you use a screen (like the one you are staring at right now) a digital filter can help to eliminate much of the blue light that floods our eyes and minds. A good option is the f.lux program which you can download for free at http://justgetflux.com.

Keep Dreaming

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I remember that I went through many phases. When I was very young, I wanted to be a firefighter. Then I wanted to be the first newscaster reporting the news from space (I had this entire visualization of me sitting at my desk as I drifted in space, with papers that would succumb to the lack of gravity and start floating away). Unfortunately, the astronaut and newscaster in space scenario would require me to have 20/20 vision without glasses, so that dream had to be filed away (maybe laser eye surgery in the future!)

The next phase was a doctor, someone who helps people get better from their ailments and sicknesses. I remember wanting to be a Neurosurgeon, or having something to do with the brain and nervous system. Then I found out about Chiropractic and the benefits that a Chiropractor can have on the lives of their patients.I eventually became a Chiropractor because I could focus on the brain and nervous system while ensuring that my patient’s bodies move optimally. The best feeling is when people leave my office feeling better than when they came in. I am incredibly blessed to have achieved this goal and to have the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of my patients.

I am incredibly thankful to have loving and caring parents who gave me every opportunity to dream anything and make my dream a reality. At the end of the day, isn’t this what every parent wants for their child?

I am not a parent yet, but I know that I would never want to limit the opportunities that my future kids can dream up. I want to give them unwavering hope and every opportunity to achieve their dreams, while having a positive impact on the world as a whole.

In order for us to achieve these dreams, it is entirely necessary to have a strong foundation of continuing lifetime education, self-confidence, external support and personal health. I strongly believe that we owe it to our children, to give them all opportunities to make the world a better place.  

Our parents battled through tough times to give us the opportunity to succeed. Many parents immigrated from countries with less opportunity. Many parents worked multiple jobs that they did not love, just to ensure we had a roof over our heads. Our parents worked incredibly hard and battled through circumstances that we only hear about in the news, for the sole reason that we could have hope and opportunity to dream and to achieve our dreams. Now it is our turn.

Education, both high-quality institutional and lifetime self-education are readily available to us in the developed world. Self-confidence and external support are available to us through our family, friends and other support systems. Personal health is available to everyone – but this is where as a species, we are failing our children.

This next generation of children are the first to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. They are the first to have a higher rate of chronic preventable diseases. Rates of obesity, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disease, autism, heart disease, ADHD and depression are skyrocketing. We are failing our children. We are failing humanity.

I don’t want my children to be held back from their goals and dreams because they are suffering from a preventable disease. I want to give them the best chance at reaching their goals, and that means ensuring that their health is optimal.

My eyes are now wide open. I finally understand and have a true reason for WHY I need to be healthy, confident, supportive and educated. I believe that we are meant to truly LIVE on earth rather than simply drift through life existing. We are meant to have a positive impact on the planet and humanity.

Without the dreamers that have the strong base to achieve their dreams, we would still be living in caves. We would not have stylish clothes, simple transportation around the world, incredible technology like the tiny super-computer you carry in your pocket, and organizational institutions meant to spread education. Dreamers make the world a more positive place. From Albert Einstein to Dale Carnegie, Martin Luther King Jr. to Steve Jobs, the Wright Brothers to Rumi, Nelson Mandela to the Dalai Lama, Ibn Sina to Elon Musk, Ghandi to Jack Ma, and countless others who have dreamed of a better future for humanity. We owe it to humanity, to ourselves and to our children to dream bigger and give them a strong supportive base from which they can grow and achieve more.

Let’s become healthier and give our children the support and opportunities that our parents sacrificed for us. They came to the developed world so that we would be able to have a greater and more positive impact. We owe it to our children to give them a more positive future. We owe them a chance at optimal health.

Get Healthy and Keep Dreaming!

What is Functional and Lifestyle Medicine?

What is Functional and Lifestyle Medicine?

I am often asked this question and have decided that I will write about to help clarify what I do.

Functional Medicine is a holistic branch of health care which creates an objective view of all correctly and incorrectly functioning bodily processes. Functional medicine (FM) doctors use a comprehensive history taking and functional lab testing to determine specific lifestyle factors which are causing symptoms of chronic disease in our patients. We use these tools to timeline the important and stressful physical and emotional events in our patients lives and correlate them with triggers to health conditions.

This approach enables FM doctors to accurately find the single or multiple root causes of Chronic health conditions that are related to lifestyle choices that we all make.

Modern medicine and health care practice is spectacular and necessary in the treatment of acute onset and emergency issues. During the era of growth of our modern health care system, the mindset of patients went from being responsible for our own health, to placing the responsibility in the hands of our family doctors and specialists.

As the population grew, family doctors and specialists were under significant pressure to improve the health of a very high number of patients from largely varying backgrounds and living a vast variety of lifestyles. As acute care improved, so did our life expectancy. There are so many of us living longer and we all need to be given the best care. Pharmaceutical companies stepped in and created medications to help alleviate symptoms and manage conditions, and our family doctors happily obliged as this allowed them to help manage symptoms of many patients in a cost-effective and time-effective way.

This unfortunately led to an increase in medications prescribed for medical conditions where lifestyle issues are often the root cause. Type 2 Diabetes is not caused by a lack of Metformin. Hypothyroidism is not caused by a lack of Synthroid. These medications simply help manage our symptoms, but we have failed to find the root cause.

At the same time, modern agricultural methods changed and foods were increasingly processed. Our lifestyles became significantly faster paced and higher in daily stress levels. Our jobs and work became 9-5 days including 8 hours of sitting in front of a computer with increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Television and technology became readily available and affordable – enough that our normal lifestyles have become waking up, running to get breakfast, driving to work, sitting for 4 hours, buying processed food lunches and eating as quickly as possible at our desks, sitting for another 4 hours, driving home, eating processed foods at home for dinner, then sitting in front of the television watching 3 hours of sports or binge-watching shows on Netflix, then checking Facebook and Instagram on our phones while falling asleep for a short and rushed sleep, just to wake up and do it all again tomorrow. If reading this paragraph is exhausting, then imagine living this life on a daily basis.

Our bodies are exhausted and are not being used the way we have evolved to live. Thus our health is suffering and we are becoming increasingly overrun by our lifestyle issues leading to chronic diseases – and then we go to the doctor so they can give us a medication, just so we can function on a daily basis with minimal symptoms.

So Why Functional Medicine?

Functional and Lifestyle medicine allows doctors to look objectively at the potential triggers and lifestyle factors that are affecting the health of our patients. We put all the factors together to determine where patients have blind spots and can make small changes with significant results. We then work with our patients on a long term strategy to improve all aspects of their lifestyle, and thus improve their overall health.

My goal as a Functional Medicine Doctor is to help my patients bodies function correctly so that they can pursue and achieve their dreams. I do so by providing services in conjunction with your family doctor, spending the time necessary to determine what dietary, digestive, hormonal, emotional, environmental and biochemical processes are not functioning optimally.

I believe that a poor lifestyle – one in which any of the pillars of your health (more on this later) are not functioning optimally – can lead to any number of chronic health conditions, and as such, I want to use positive energy, education, accountability and a personalized plan to help my patients reach their life goals. Once my patients take responsibility for their health, the results are amazing!

Your health shouldn’t impede your pursuit to live.

Don’t let your lifestyle hold you back. Take responsibility for your health and live the life you have always wanted to live!