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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.

8 Signs that your Gut Bacteria are Out of Whack!

Every day, there are new studies coming out exploring the connection between human gut bacterial populations, and practically every other aspect of human health. Most people don’t realize it yet, but what you eat and how you live will change the makeup of your gut bacteria. This also means that if you can change your gut, you can change your life.

The first step is realizing that something is wrong with your gut bacteria in the first place. So what can you do to determine if there might be an issue with the population of bacteria in your gut.

There are more than 100 trillion bacterial cells in the average human gut, and they have a greater impact on our health than medical experts and researchers previously realized. There are GOOD gut bacteria and BAD gut bacterial species. Good gut bacterial species help to improve our digestion, strengthen the immune system and aid in the manufacture of vitamins that our body needs. Bad gut bacteria can cause skin conditions, nightmares, brain symptoms, autoimmune conditions, detoxification problems and a whole host of functional issues that could eventually lead to chronic diseases.

Here are 8 signs to watch for to determine if your gut bacteria are imbalanced.

  1. Digestive Issues

The first and most likely symptom that we find in patients with gut bacterial imbalances are digestive problems. Our gut bacteria are very important to our ability to break down and digest foods, in order to get our required nutrients. The issue is that an imbalance can lead to slowing or quickening of the digestive sequence. These can lead to digestive symptoms such as:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis)
  • Heartburn/ ”acid reflux”
  1. Inability to Lose weight

Certain gut bacteria have been shown to exist in patients that have more trouble losing weight. I personally went through this issue as my imbalanced gut flora was contributing to unhealthy food cravings, fatigue, and tiredness. Through laboratory testing, it was determined that the balance of my bacterial populations was a contributing cause to my weight gain and my inability to lose weight. Once I was able to rebalance my flora, the weight fell off and I burned off a total of 75 lbs while improving so many other aspects of my life.

  1. Mental Issues

Did you know that imbalances in your gut can affect the health and function of your brain? Your gut bacteria actually produce a significant amount of neurotransmitters, the chemicals used by your brain to communicate between cells. There is a new trend being researched currently, that people with certain patterns of mental dysfunction also tend to have disturbances in their gut bacteria. These mental symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Brain Fog
  • Autism
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  1. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

We absorb most of our vitamins and minerals through our gut, and these important molecules then travel to our cells through our bloodstream. An imbalance in gut bacteria means that your body will actually have a harder time absorbing these essential vitamins and minerals such as:

  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  1. Excessive Antibiotic Use

When they are used correctly, antibiotics are one of the greatest innovations in modern medicine, however, in our current circumstances, we are being prescribed antibiotics at an irresponsible rate. They are being used indiscriminately on factory-farmed animals and some doctors even prescribe them for viral infections (which is quite useless). Antibiotics are great for wiping out bad bacterial species, but they are also good at eliminating good bacteria in the gut which we now know are essential for our health. It is important to intervene on your own to help replenish good bacterial species if you have had recent or longer-term antibiotic use.

  1. Inability to Deal with Stress

Stress can be good and bad. It can build you up or tear you down. If you are the type of person that has trouble dealing with stress, meaning that you become more anxious and have increased blood pressure, then that negative stress can have profound effects on your gut bacteria. Unmanaged stress raises our Cortisol stress hormone levels, which tells our gut not to work correctly. Under stress, our bodies send more energy to our muscles, and less blood to our internal organs. Digestion is not considered an important issue when you are running away from a lion or dealing with an annoying client at the end of your work day. If you have not taken steps to manage your internal stress levels, you are far more likely to have an unhealthy gut flora.

  1. Skin Conditions

Your gut is an extension of your skin, or depending on your perspective, your skin is an extension of your gut. There is a misguided but common idea that the symptoms of a condition must appear in the same spot as the problem itself. This is not true as we now know that an issue in your gut will often appear on your skin as a sign that something is not right inside. Unbalanced gut flora have been implicated and proven to be contributing to multiple skin conditions including:

  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Dry, scaly skin
  1. Autoimmune Diseases

There is more and more research coming out each week showing that our gut is ground zero for immune system balance. We have immune cells present in every millimeter of our gut, protecting us from negative outside influence. As we continue to expose these cells to environmental toxins, herbicides, pesticides, plastics and other harmful food-based proteins, we are over-stimulating our immune cells to the point that they can’t keep up. Eventually, they start attacking anything that looks similar to these toxins, which often leads to autoimmune diseases. These conditions can include:

  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Ulcerative Colit
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Dementia
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Asthma
  • Vasculitis
  • Type 1 Diabetes

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

So now that we know how to spot potential issues with gut flora balance, what can we do about it? There are a few easy steps that we can all take to help balance your gut bacteria.

  1. Avoid Chemical and Environmental Toxins

Throw away your plastic food containers and recycle your plastic water bottles. Plastics are a major source of environmental and chemical toxins including BPA. Eating organic foods will also help to eliminate the ingestion of herbicide and pesticide residues like Glyphosate, which has recently been linked to cancer. Eat a clean, whole food, organic diet and use glass containers and glass bottles to avoid chemicals that are constantly around us.

  1. Eliminate Toxic Foods and Medications

Certain foods tend to lead to increased inflammation in the gut and can produce imbalances in gut bacteria. In fact, having these foods can lead to cravings for unhealthy food on an ongoing basis. The foods to avoid include grains, conventional, grain-fed dairy, sugars and unhealthy oils. Its also a good idea to avoid other modern toxins that are always available such as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen and Antibiotics.

  1. Eat Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are a proactive way to encourage good gut bacteria to grow. These foods were very common in our ancestors’ diets and are full of good gut bacteria. Great options include:

  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables
  • Non-pasteurized yogurt, cheese, and kefir
  1. Take a GOOD QUALITY Probiotic Supplement

Our ancestors were not as concerned with hygiene as we are. They used to play in the soil and other “dirty” things that they encountered. A good probiotic can help make up for the hygienic practices that we use on a daily basis. There are a wide range of probiotic supplements available and here are some guidelines to use when choosing a good probiotic:

  • Stay away from the cheapo bins – you get what you pay for
  • Make sure they are potent, a minimum of 10 Billion cultures per dose for regular probiotics and a minimum of 3 Billion cultures per dose for spore-based probiotics
  • Look into supplements that contain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
  1. Manage your Stress

One of the most powerful things you can do besides changing your diet and taking probiotics is to take time and learn how to handle daily stressors that will inevitably come up. There is certainly no one-size-fits-all method to this, but the key is to find something you enjoy and stick with it. Some great options include:

  • Getting a weekly massage
  • Yoga
  • Weight-lifting
  • Meditation
  • Taking a bath
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Going for a run or a bike ride
  • Watching the sunrise
  • Periodic vacations
  • Getting a good night’s rest

These practices can all help you reduce inflammation, lower cortisol levels and lead to an overall improvement in gut function. Taking time for yourself is essential not only for your mind to recharge but for your body to recover from the constant stress we place on it.

Making these changes are the first step in re-balancing your gut bacteria. Some people may need further assistance and testing to determine why issues can exist or persist. If you would like to find out more about our Functional Medicine Program at The Living Proof Institute you can visit www.becomeproof.com or book a free 15-minute phone consultation at www.iamproof.com.

Wishing you great gut health,

Dr. Navaz Habib

www.drhabib.ca

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!!

Should I Eat Organic?

“Organic food is expensive.” I hear this comment daily when I speak with patients, colleagues and friends. Is it even possible to always eat completely organic?

In our daily lives, it is not always possible to make the best choices in terms of food. Nobody understands this better than an entrepreneur, chiropractor and owner of multiple businesses. We have hectic lives and if you have kids and parents to take care of, we can often feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to make great food at home on a daily basis. Choosing high quality foods when you grocery shop is also not easy, but it is possible if you know what to look for.

What does Organic even mean?

I’m sure we have all heard about the use of pesticides and genetically modified organism (GMO) crops that are growing in usage throughout North America especially.

Organic foods generally are foods that have not been genetically modified to withstand the effect of herbicide and pesticide sprays. Organic foods are those that have not been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. The most commonly known example of this practice is the company Monsanto, which uses genetically modified seeds of corn, soybean and other crops, and sprays them with their own herbicide product called Roundup.

The main ingredient in Roundup is a chemical called Glyphosate. Glyphosate actively is used to kill weeds and grasses that compete for soil usage with crops that are being grown by farmers.

Glyphosate has been linked to many health conditions since its usage started in 1996 when glyphosate resistant crops were introduced in the US. The health conditions implicated include a nearly exact correlation with Autism, Alzheimer’s, Obesity, Diabetes and Autoimmune diseases. It is not unreasonable to assume that these chemicals could potentially be a significant source of chronic health conditions. For this reason, it would be best to purchase organic produce when you are shopping for groceries.

Do I need to buy everything Organic?

Some vegetables and crops have been found to contain more pesticide and herbicide than others. The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has created a list of foods that are highest and lowest in pesticide and herbicide residues. They have called these lists the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”.

Dirty Dozen:

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Nectarines
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Blueberries
  • Potatoes

Clean Fifteen:

  • Onions
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Avocado
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Eggplant
  • Kiwi
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Watermelon
  • Mushrooms

Use this list as a resource to direct you when you are buying your groceries. This is an easy way to keep your expenses down and to ensure that you are feeding your families the cleanest foods possible. Ideally, most of your foods should be purchased organic, but this list is a great resource to use if you are not ready to go all the way just yet.

If you think organic food is expensive, just think of it as an investment, so you don’t need to spend money on huge healthcare bills when you are older.

Happy Grocery Shopping!

Are you a Foodie or a Food Addict?

I love food.

I used to think that I loved food, but I did not know what that love meant until I lost over 75lbs and my relationship with food changed.

We all need food to live, but remember – food is a source of energy. We have become accepting of food-like products as real food and continue to use meals as a medium for social gatherings, which makes us happy.

Personally, I love going out to dinner with friends or having breakfast on the balcony with my wife. I am sure that most of us look forward to the evenings that we get to spend talking and enjoying the company of those closest to us and those we want to be close to. The emotions that we invest and the positive energy that we receive from these social gatherings is amazing. But I believe we (as a society) have started to use food as a supplement in the moments we crave a positive energy source, particularly in settings where we are alone, lonely and bored.

Social gatherings bring people together. People choose to spend their most precious resource, time, together. When we meet a group of friends after a long time, there is a great sense of positive energy: laughs, tears, jokes and love. This flow of positive energy is like nothing else. The same goes for romantic evenings spent with your loved one, in which you simply enjoy the company of the person you love most in the world. These are the moments we live for.

In our daily lives, many of these experiences revolve around food. Sunday brunch dates, or Saturday night get-togethers with friends tend to employ food. While we are in these situations, the company is so enjoyable that we attribute that positive energy to everything present in those moments. For example, I still remember the amazing chicken wings that we ordered when a group of friends went out to watch a baseball game in Toronto, the positive energy I felt while hanging out with my boys watching the Blue Jays win. When my wife and I were in Bruges just recently having a romantic dinner, chatting about live and our next steps, we ate the most amazing steak and mussels. Was it the company and the energy that was amazing or the food…see where I am going?

The food that we eat in our positive experiences are looked upon and thought about with such enjoyment, as though it would bring us back to that moment we enjoyed with others. These experiences, as well as negative experiences with food, contribute to how we see that food on a daily basis.

Years ago, I used to love food – or at least I thought I did. I now realize that I was using food to fill an emotional hole, a gap that I felt was missing in my life. As a teenager, I did not have a lot of friends. I did not fit into a single social group. I certainly was never the cool kid. This made me feel as though I was not good enough for my peers and that I somehow had to find a way to make friends. I used to fill this emotional hole with food. I ate everyone’s leftovers at dinner and the few friends I had were happy to hand over anything that they couldn’t finish eating in the lunchroom to me. I felt as though I was being accepted and that I was doing good, because nobody wants to waste food, especially with all those starving children in the developing world. I should simply be happy that I have food in front of me and make sure that none of it goes to waste.

I was blind to what I was doing to myself. I was addicted to food and had no idea.

In university, I was the big guy, the jolly guy that everyone liked but nobody really got to know personally. I was likeable, always smiling and always sitting in the cafeteria, ready to grab lunch, or a snack with the next person that would come sit with me while I was “studying”. I enjoyed the company so much that I ate 5 meals and 2-3 snacks per day, all processed food, all high in carbs and bad fats. This led me to Chiropractic school during which I continued this same trend as the big guy, the jolly, likeable, happy-go-lucky, book-smart guy. But I was still blind to my addiction.

I used food as the medium to fill my addiction of craving positive energy and acceptance. Unfortunately, I continue to see this trend around me, in friends, patients and family members.

Once I snapped out of the delirium and decided not to care what everyone thought or felt about me, my life changed. I met my wife, I began to grow my career, I took over a business and I became healthy.

Getting healthy is NOT about giving up the food that you think you love.

Getting healthy is about loving yourself enough, and believing that you deserve and are worth the positive energy that real food gives to each one of us. Getting healthy is about enjoying those positive experiences with friends and loved ones, with good real food, but also changing it up and going for a hike on Sunday afternoon with friends rather than another dinner on a Saturday evening. Getting healthy is about playing in a fun softball league with friends once per week. Getting healthy is about loving yourself and giving yourself the positive experiences that you deserve, even if you don’t truly know it or believe it yet. Getting healthy is about living life without excuses.

You are worth it.

You are amazing.

You are Positive Energy (1)

You are positive energy bundled into an organized blob of 60 trillion cells conspiring to keep you alive and functioning correctly, long enough to find your calling and make a positive change in the world.

Once you can say that you truly love yourself, then you are ready to say that you love food.

Overcoming B12 Deficiency

Many people suffer from fatigue, low mood, brain fog and lack of motivation. One of the most common reasons for these symptoms is a deficiency in Vitamin B12. This vitamin is an essential nutrient for humans, meaning that we cannot produce it in our own bodies, thus we are required to take it in through a dietary source. It is estimated that up to 40% of North Americans are deficient in vitamin B12, and it is incredibly common in those people who have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

The most common symptoms of B12 deficiency are fatigue, mental and brain fog, depression, anemia (red blood cell, white blood cell and platelet) and neuropathy. There are some simple tests that your doctor can do to determine if you have a cellular B12 deficiency. Serum B12 is not a good enough marker of B12 function as the effect of B12 occurs in the cells. Ask your doctor for an Intracellular B12 test. If your doctor is unable to perform this test, then Methylmalonic Acid and Homocysteine are other indirect measures of B12. They are not as accurate but these are other options that exist.

Vitamin B12 is most bioavailable (meaning the most usable form of this vitamin is) from dietary meat sources. One of the most important things we need meat for is Vitamin B12. Vegetarian sources of B12 are very rare and not readily available around the world.

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can be caused by any of the following:

Pernicious Anemia

This is an autoimmune condition in which our immune system attacks the cells in our stomach that produce stomach acid and an important protein called Intrinsic Factor (IF). If these cells (called Parietal cells) are being attacked by immune cells, they cannot readily produce Hydrochloric Acid  thus our body cannot separate the vitamin B12 molecule from other dietary molecules. IF is used to transport vitamin B12 across the intestinal cells into the bloodstream but if these cells cannot produce enough IF, then we are unable to absorb the B12, leading to cellular deficiency. This is a very common condition in vegetarians who are not supplementing with good quality B12 supplements.

Autoimmune conditions most commonly begin in the gut through Intestinal Hyperpermeability, or Leaky Gut syndrome.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

There are multiple causes of Intestinal Hyperpermeability, aka Leaky Gut Syndrome. Some of the most common are gluten sensitivity, dairy protein sensitivity, parasitic infection, H. pylori and other small intestinal bacterial infections. These issues produce proteins that break down the walls of our gut lining, thus allowing toxins and other molecules to enter our bloodstream, leading to overactivation of our immune systems. It also leads to the decreased ability to properly absorb vitamin B12 from the gut.

Getting tested to determine your gut health is a great way to determine if you are suffering from this condition, however you can also simply cut out the grain, dairy, processed and high sugar foods from your diet to help improve your gut health.

Poor Gut Microbiome

The good bacteria in our intestinal tract help us to break down foods and absorb important nutrients into our bloodstream. If the population of our gut bacteria is imbalanced (too much bad bacteria, too much or too little good bacteria), then this can lead to improper absorption of important nutrients including Vitamin B12. Your microbiome population is determined by the amount of sugar and probiotic rich foods you eat. It is important to reduce the amount of sugar and increase vegetables to help combat bad bacterial growth.

Heartburn Medication

One of the most common symptoms of gluten sensitivity and digestive issues is heartburn. Prescribed and OTC heartburn medications can cause a reduction in Parietal Cell activity, thus decreasing stomach acid and intrinsic factor levels.

It is far more important to determine the cause of the heartburn rather than simply masking the symptoms with a medication.

Chemotherapy Treatment

One of the most common side-effects of chemotherapy is a vitamin deficiency, specifically of B12 and Folic Acid. Chemotherapeutic medications cause an irritation of gut and stomach cells and can have effects very similar to those listed above. It can be very effective for those undergoing chemotherapy treatment to supplement with higher doses of B12 and Folic Acid to help battle this deficiency.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

This is all good to know, now what steps can you take if you are deficient in Vitamin B12?

  • Eat more meat

The best sources are wild caught fish, free range chicken, lamb and sheep meat. Other good options include chicken liver, beef liver, grass fed beef and some raw dairy products like Kefir.

  • Supplements

The best supplement source of Vitamin B12 is Methylcobalamin, however Cyanocobalamin is another good option. Please speak with your doctor or a functional medicine practitioner before starting a supplement routine. These are also a great option for vegetarians who do not want to deal with B12 deficiency symptoms.

  • Good Quality Probiotics

It is important to have a good microbiome population as it helps you to absorb Vitamin B12 as necessary. Try eating good probiotic foods such as Kefir, cultured vegetables like Sauerkraut and Kimchi, Kombucha, Coconut Kefir (dairy free option), pickles and dark chocolate. A high quality probiotic supplement can also be very effective.

  • Reduce Inflammatory Foods

Cut down on foods that increase gut and cellular inflammation, including processed, packaged and prepared foods, margarine, fried foods, low quality meats, sugars, food additives, synthetic sweeteners, iodized salt, dairy and wheat and other grains.

  • Desiccated Liver Supplement

For those of you who don’t like the taste of liver, supplementing with a desiccated liver supplement is a good option for food sources of liver.

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!

Choosing Healthy Fats for Cooking

Fat has been wrongly accused. We have associated the name “fats” with unwanted body fat, but it has been proven time and time again that dietary fat doesn’t make you fat! Even more importantly, these molecules such as Omega-3 Fatty Acids are ESSENTIAL to the growth, development and maintenance of our brain, liver, heart and kidneys as an important source of nutrients.

When you are walking the aisle in the grocery store with all the oils… are you choosing the healthiest oils to cook with? Most people are misinformed as to the type of oils they should be using for different types of cooking. Let’s cut through the mess and choose correctly from now on…


Cooking on High Heat

Choose oils that are stable, that don’t oxidize or go burn easily. When oils oxidize, they form free radicals which are harmful to your cells and can damage your DNA.

COCONUT OILcoconut oil

Best for cooking at high heat.

90% of Fatty Acids in Coconut Oil are saturated, making it very resistant to high heat. It is also particularly high in Lauric Acid, a fatty acid which can improve Cholesterol and help your body to eliminate unwanted bacteria and pathogens. The fats in coconut oil can also boost your metabolism slightly and increase the feeling of fullness relative to other fats.

When choosing Coconut Oil, Virgin Coconut Oil is organic, tastes good and has powerful health benefits.


BUTTER and GHEEbutter

In the past, butter has been demonized for its high saturated fat content, but butter is actually good for you!

Margarine on the other hand, is truly awful.

REAL butter, ideally from Grass-Fed Cows contains Vitamin A, E and K2, and is rich in CLA and Butyrate fatty acids, which have powerful health benefits. CLA can lower body fat percentage in humans and Butyrate can fight inflammation, improve gut hgheeealth and has been shown to make rats completely resistant to becoming obese.

There is one caveat when cooking with butter – Regular butter DOES contain tiny amounts of Lactose and Milk Proteins that have not been clarified during the churning process. For this reason, it can burn during high heat cooking like frying… but there is a solution.

Clarified Butter or Ghee is a great option for removing all lactose sugar and proteins, leaving you with pure butterfat. Here is a great tutorial on making your own Ghee at home! DIY Ghee


 

Cooking on Lower Heat

These oils can burn when exposed to high heat, however they are quite nutritious and are not a cause for concern when cooked on lower heat levels.

OLIVE OILolive oil

Olive oil is well known for its heart healthy effects and is believed to be a key reason for the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.

It has been shown to raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower the amount of oxidized bad cholesterol (LDL) that circulate in our bloodstream.

Olive oil does contain fatty acids with double bonds (more sensitive to heat), however it has been shown to be relatively resistant to lower heat levels.

Make sure to choose high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil which contains more nutrients and antioxidants than the refined types… and it tastes so much better. A drizzle of cold Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar is often all the salad dressing you will need!

AVOCADO OILAvocado_1

The composition of Avocado Oil has been found to be very similar to Olive Oil. It can be used for many of the same purposes as Olive Oil. It can be used to cook on lower heat, or can be used cold.

 


 

 

Fats and Oils to Avoid!

CANOLA OIL

The components of Canola Oil is actually quite good overall, however theissue is that Canola Oil has a very harsh processing method to ensure the removal of Toxic Euric Acid from the Rapeseeds.

The following oils should be avoided at all costs – their processing methods are incredibly harsh, the final products are highly processed and refined and contain very high levels of inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids. New data has been shown to link these oils with serious diseases including heart disease and cancer.

canola oilThese oils include:

  • Soybean Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Rapeseed Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Sesame Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Rice Bran Oil

Common Vegetable Oils have also been found to contain 0.56-4.2% Trans Fats which are highly toxic. It is important to read the labels of food products and avoid these seed and industrial oils altogether.

Super Easy Paleo Blondie Brownies

Anyone that knows me, knows that anything related to cake is my absolute weakness. However, cake is a great source of white carbs and processed sugars. So, I found an alternative to satisfy my sweet tooth!

These brownies are paleo, gluten free, dairy free and loaded with coconut and dark chocolate. They are made with coconut flour which is lower in carbs and has more fibre than regular white flour. Most important factor – from start to finish they took 30 minutes!

I can’t take all the credit for these, I adapted the recipe from Ambitious Kitchen!

Enjoy!

Noureen

Paleo Blondie Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup of maple syrup – the real stuff, nothing with corn syrup
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (I used the almond/coconut version)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5oz of dairy free chocolate, feel free to add/subtract based on your preference (Whole Foods has a few options, Bulk Barn has a chocolate compound)
  • 1/4 cup of coconut flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Grease a non-stick baking pan with coconut oil, I used a 7 x 11 inch baking pan
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, eggs, and almond milk
  4. In a smaller bowl add the dry ingredients, coconut flour, baking soda and salt
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until its combined and the batter is smooth. Coconut flour is super absorbent, so this step won’t take too long
  6. Fold in chocolate – I used compound chocolate chips from Whole Foods
  7. Pour into baking pan
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. The batter may look like its not done, because it will still be gooey, but trust it is! Coconut flour over bakes pretty easily, so ensure you take it out on time.
  9. Wait a few minutes and then score the bars into 2 x 2 pieces and take them out onto a cooling rack
  10. Use a double boiler method to melt some chocolate – drizzle this onto the bars and add the shredded coconut
  11. Cool for a few minutes or enjoy them warm – perhaps with a scoop of dairy free coconut ice cream!