Will Amateur Sports Recover After COVID?

Simply put, if a sport or activity was facing participation issues before the pandemic hit, recovering registration numbers will be a slow process. And with only 38% of girls participating in sport, female sports is going to be a slow comeback.

Currently, both in-school and after school sports are on hold in our province. Complete seasons have been cancelled in almost every sport, and could potentially face this for a second round in 2021. Kids are not only missing out on the exercise, fun and comradery that sports brings, but the high school level athlete is potentially missing out on scouting opportunities and scholarships for Fall 2021.

It has been said ‘we’re all in the same boat’ when talking about Covid. We’re perhaps in the same storm, but definitely not in the same boat. Same goes for sports. From a recreational and club level standpoint, sport has seen a decline of up to 97% in participation and membership in some sports. The physical and mental health benefits from sport to Canadian society cannot ever be underestimated.

Let’s look at Swimming for example. According to Swimming Canada, “With restricted access to pools, approximately only 30 per cent of all swimming clubs have reached their 2019-20 registration numbers. Slightly more than half the clubs have seen at least 75 per cent of their membership return. Swimming Canada membership numbers are at just under half of what is normally seen in October of each season (September and October are key months to swimming members returning to the sport).”

With 282,000 individual training sessions completed, there has not been any recorded or reported transmissions at a club or university swimming training session.

Recreational, club and university swimming are often likened to a feeder system for high-performance programming in sports. The younger swimmers are the future of the sport – they are the future Olympians and Paralympians for our country. If we miss two years of recreational sport now, does a 2024 or 2028 Olympic hopeful team exist? This is a critical issue for the future of sport and could impact Canada as a nation.

As we all know, the 2020 Olympic Games were postponed to Summer 2021. 2016 saw one of the most successful Olympics for the sport of Swimming our country has ever seen. Penny Oleksiak broke the Canadian record for most medals (4) won by a single Canadian athlete in any Summer Olympic Games and was the youngest ever Canadian gold medalist. The six medals won by Team Canada in swimming was the most since the 1984 Olympics. The sport was on a high…and for the 2021 Team Canada hopefuls, there is much in question about what will happen for not only the future of the sport, but for their own road to the Olympics.

Winnipeg’s own Kelsey Wog is currently ranked in the top two for swimming in Canada. Her races, 200 Breaststroke and 200 Individual Medley, have the chance of landing her a spot on the Canadian Olympic Team this Spring. She has been dreaming about this moment since 2016. For any high-performance athlete in any year, the dedication and work ethic needed to succeed is off the charts. During a world-wide pandemic, things have taken on a new set of issues.

“All the uncertainty is the most difficult thing, not being able to know if I will have access to a pool or training facility tomorrow.  It has also been tough on (all) athletes because Olympic years’ are special and everyone puts everything into them, and now athletes are needing to put everything into this year again, yet it may not be possible to do because of Covid restrictions, so that is stressful and mentally draining.”

While continuing to train when she can, Wog has managed to trust the process and continue to strive towards her Team Canada goals. But it isn’t always easy.

“Having confidence and believing that you can do it while trusting the process, knowing you have given it your best effort and that you are prepared.  I have really struggled with confidence and believing in myself that I can do it, and this is something that I have worked on.  For me to me believe in myself, I needed to be confident in the work I had put into training, and trust that I have done everything that I possibly could to be ready for the race,” says Wog.

Wog is a huge proponent for girls in sport, and wants to see every young girl try the sports that excite them. Her support network, including her coaching team, family and friends, has been there for her every step of the way, which has helped her navigate this strange time as an athlete. The encouragement from her parents has been, what she feels, key to her success.

While there isn’t an easy answer as to how sport is to get through this time in history, it is important for us to understand that missing sports is a big issue for our country right now. We miss cheering on our Jets, watching the road to the Olympics for some of our hometown favorites, cheering our daughters on at their volleyball games. It is part of our culture and something that brings us together as a community. We need to ensure that we put in a valiant effort for the return to sport as a province and as a country, and do our best to keep ourselves and our kids active so the return to sport won’t be a question of if, but rather when.

5 Steps to Improve Your Digestive System and Strengthen Your Immunity

I must admit, as an Integrative Nutrition Coach, two things that I am a smidge obsessed with are digestive health and immunity health. The greatest part is that they totally go hand in hand. The reason is because 70% of our immune system is found IN our digestive system. In turn, if you want a stronger immune system, (and really, who doesn’t?) the key can be found in your gut.

Digestive health is something I am super passionate about working on with my nutrition clients. It affects the way we feel physically – think bloating, gas, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea; it affects the way we are feeling emotionally – anxiety, depression and mental health are all connected to our gut health; it affects our energy levels – always feeling tired, sluggish, low energy or just not in the mood for life. If these are issues that you are dealing with, I am hosting a Virtual Digestive Health Workshop and would love for you to join. See here for more info! 

When the microbiome in our gut is balanced with good bacteria, it boosts immunity, prevents disease, and supports emotional well-being. There is such a strong connection with our digestive health and our brain, including overall emotional and mental health. In this week’s blog I wanted to give you my five best actionable tips to get your digestive system on track, and help you on your way to a healthier life!

  1. Take a good quality probiotic. This will provide good bacteria to your tummy setting you up for success. Taken first thing in the morning with water on an empty stomach is what I would suggest. Probiotics can be taken by babies, kids, adults and seniors and I would encourage probiotics to be the taken at all ages and stages of life. My favorite? Pearls Acidophilus by Nature’s Way.
  2. Increase your intake of probiotic and prebiotic foods. I am a huge fan of the concept of ‘crowding out’ when it comes to our nutrition. By this I mean not thinking of all the things that you CAN’T have, but rather all the amazing foods you can add in. In turn, the good food fills your plate and your day and there is no room left for the not-so-good stuff. You crowd it out! For probiotic, think kimchi, yogurt, quinoa, kombucha and artichokes…lots of that ‘pickled’ kinda vibe foods. When it comes to prebiotics, we’re loading up on fiber, fruit and veggies. Some of the best are onions, garlic, bananas and blueberries.
  3. Take Digestive Enzymes. In the beginning, you will want to take one of these before every meal, but once your digestive enzymes are all caught up and working for you, you’ll only need them once in a while. Before a heavy meal or before you eat something you usually don’t – like a dinner out or something off the beaten path of what you usually eat.
  4. Drink up the Apple Cider Vinegar – this is one of my favorite items to really help with your digestive system. While it is definitely a flavour to get used to, diluted raw organic apple cider vinegar will have your tummy and your immune system happy as a clam. A little goes a long way, so about an ounce diluted in water first thing in the morning will really help you out.
  5. Increase your intake of foods with Glutamine. These foods include beets (which by the way, are pretty much the Earth’s gift to humans in my books!), spinach, cabbage and parsley.

You may notice I didn’t talk about what to REMOVE from your nutrition plate to help with your digestive system. There are a few obvious ones such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, and soda. But there might be quite a few other foods that you may need to remove to improve your digestion. We are all bio-individuals, meaning what works for me might not work for you. For example, eating Greek yogurt might be great for my digestive system, but wreak havoc on yours. With so much in nutrition we have to do what works and feels best to us as individuals.

Remember, if you want to learn more about getting your digestive system on your side with the help of food, join me at my upcoming virtual Digestive Health Workshop! 

Girls & Women in Sport Virtual Series

We are thrilled to announce that we are working with the Canadian Sport Centre of Manitoba for an exciting five-part Virtual Speaker Series dedicated to Girls and Women in Sport in Canada from November 3 – 19, 2020.

Sponsored by Red River Co-op, we have brought together some of the leading experts to help participants increase their knowledge with a variety of subject areas as they relate to girls and women in sport in our great country.

Attending all five sessions will also provide professional development points for coaches and administrators in Canada. This Virtual Series will provide excellent information and knowledge on the following topics for coaches, administrators, parents, physical education teachers, government and private business interested in the world of girls and women in sport:

  • Keeping Girls in Sport
  • Coaching the Female Athlete
  • Careers in Sport
  • Why Girls Participate
  • Mental Health

SCHEDULE

Date & Time Event Speakers
November 3 @ 12:00pm CST Keeping Girls in Sport Addie Miles
November 10 @ 12:00pm CST Coaching the Female Athlete TBC
November 12 @ 12:00pm CST Careers in Sport Leah Hextall
Venla Hovi
November 17 @ 12:00 CST Why Girls Participate? Allison Sandmeyer-Graves
Chandra Crawford
Gabriela Estrada
November 19 @ 12:00 CST Mental Health Leah Ferguson
Dr. Adrienne Leslie-Toogood

To register, head over the the Canadian Sport Centre website. This incredible Series is only $75 for all five sessions, or $20 per session if you prefer to do fewer sessions. If you are a coach, please include your NCCP number so you can receive professional development points.

See you there!

Hormone Imbalance in Women

Our hormones…when they are in balance we can feel energized, healthy and full of life. When they are off, it can feel like hell. And for women, our hormone balancing act starts when we hit puberty and really keeps coming at us until after menopause. And unfortunately, it is something that we never really talk about, never learn about and don’t discuss with our doctors or health practitioners until we are experiencing intense symptoms. But we’re going to change all that with this week’s blog dedicated to hormone imbalance in women.

What are the symptoms of hormone imbalance?

Hormones play a very important role in our overall health. Depending on which hormones are not in balance or not working properly, your symptoms can be drastically different. For women, the most common hormonal imbalance is PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and affects one in every 10 women in ‘childbearing age’. That said, your normal hormonal cycle naturally changes during puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause. And if you are coming into or going through menopause right now, your hormonal balance is a key part to your daily life.

According to Healthline.com, symptoms of a hormonal imbalance specific to women include: heavy or irregular periods, including missed periods, stopped period, or frequent period

  • acne on the face, chest, or upper back
  • thinning hair, hair loss or excessive hair on the face, chin, or other parts of the body
  • weight gain or trouble losing weight
  • darkening of skin, especially along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath breasts
  • skin tags
  • vaginal dryness and/or vaginal atrophy
  • pain during sex
  • night sweats
  • fatigue
  • increased sensitivity to cold or heat
  • constipation or more frequent bowel movements
  • dry skin and/or puffy face
  • unexplained weight loss (sometimes sudden)
  • increased or decreased heart rate
  • frequent urination and increased thirst
  • muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness and/or muscle weakness
  • pain, stiffness, or swelling in your joints
  • increased hunger
  • depression
  • decreased sex drive
  • nervousness, anxiety, or irritability

That’s a serious list. But if you can relate to even just a few of these symptoms, it might be time to consider how your nutrition is affecting your hormone balance. As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, this is one of my fields of concentration. And I would love to help you! Workshops and free health consultations are coming up…email me at andrea@fitcommunications.ca for more info. But let’s first give you a few great tips on how nutrition can help.

What does nutrition have to do with it? How can nutrition help?

When we have cellular inflammation (which can be due to microbial invasion or diet here) our insulin levels tend to increase. What we need to do is avoid this inflammation and in turn, avoid insulin spikes. We do this by choosing foods to help balance our inflammation and hormones levels all out.

There are a few theories on what foods we can choose to help with hormone balancing, but all really have the same concepts in mind. For example, according to Barry Sears, lowering your excessive carb intake is key. You plate should be 1/3 low fat protein and 2/3 colorful fruits and vegetables. Adding in good fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil is also key. He also suggests eating three meals per day, 5 hours apart, and including supplementing with Omega-3 fish oil and polyphenols (this is what makes fruits and veggies so colorful!)

Next, we have to talk about sugar. According to Sarah Wilson, sugar is what makes us fat while adding appetite and hormone havoc to our bodies. According to Wilson, the maximum daily sugar intake should be 6 – 9 teaspoons per day. But the average person eats 23!! This excess sugar intake can cause a host of issues from diabetes to cardiovascular disease to increased inflammation and everything in between. It really is the sweet and silent killer of our generation.

What about menstrual wellness? Can the way we eat affect our periods and pre-menopausal symptoms?

In short, YES. Eating a low-glycemic diet is important, ensuring our liver is working optimally through detoxification. By this, I mean eating an abundance of cruciferous veggies (think broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, bok choy), increasing our intake of phytoestrogens like whole organic soy and flaxseed, and beets seriously becoming your new best friend. We also want to ensure we keep our lifestyle health in check with both stress reduction for 15 minutes per day (walk outside, meditate, yoga, stretch!) and regular exercise.

As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, helping women through their hormone imbalances and figuring out what foods can help and which ones can hinder is an integral part of what I love to do. Getting on the road to health and happiness by using food as medicine is key. For more information, feel free to contact me anytime at andrea@fitcommunications.ca

 

 

 

Binge Eating Disorder

Eating disorders is a near and dear subject to my heart. As a woman who is always doing my best to cheer women on, how could it not be something that is? In Canada, approximately one million women have an eating disorder, and it is one of the leading causes of mental health issues resulting in premature death in our country. It affects girls and women of all ages. Did you know that 81% of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat? And 51% of 9 and 10-year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet.

Recently, through my education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York, I listened to a lecture by Amy Pershing, the Clinical Director at the Center for Eating Disorders and Founding Director of “Bodywise,” a comprehensive treatment program for binge eating disorder (BED). Binge Eating Disorder, or BED, is an eating disorder that I had personally never heard of before, and was shocked to find out that it is the most common eating disorder in North America by 5 times. This week’s blog is to share some of the knowledge I learned as it may be helpful to our readers both personally or for someone they love.

Those with Binge Eating Disorder are often viewed by outsiders as people with low self-esteem, a lack of willpower, depressed and that it is not a ‘real’ eating disorder. What is important to remember here is that shame does not create sustainable change. Shaming anyone into doing or changing anything simply does not work. In fact, it typically does the absolute opposite.

Approximately 30% of those diagnosed with BED are NOT overweight nor obese. I find this a really interesting point, as many would assume binge eaters would definitely overweight. But that is not the case. I feel it is important for our readers to know should they worry someone in their life might be dealing with this disorder. But what DOES it mean to have BED?

In a nutshell, there is a lack of control and ability to stop the food eating binge, and tremendous amounts of guilt and shame go along with the binge. To be diagnosed with BED, three of the following must also be happening:

  1. Eating more rapidly than normal
  2. Eating until uncomfortably full
  3. Eating large amounts of food when not hungry
  4. Secretive eating
  5. Feeling disgusting, depressed or guilty after a binge

The above actions must happen one or more times per week for three months, and is not associated with bulimia nor anorexia. This is an eating disorder in and of itself.

Other than the obvious negative feelings about oneself that comes with BED, there are also numerous health issues that can also happen. These include but are not limited to:

  • PCOS – Polycystic OvarySyndrome
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Over production of cortisol (‘stress hormone’)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Asthma
  • Stress
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Sleep deprivation

People who are suffering from Binge Eating Disorder see food in a different way, meaning they have a relationship with food that is not necessarily healthy. Often food is used for emotional regulation, self-punishment, distraction, boundary setting, soothing, rebellion, or using food subconsciously.

There are many reasons why BED can happen, and what I feel is really important to know is that it can happen to people of all ages and lifestyles. Young kids who are forced to ‘grow up quickly’ often use food as a sense of comfort and secretly eat to feel loved. Athletes after finishing a competition or are in ‘off season’ often binge eat as they are feeling the need to rebel or take control of food off the playing field or stage. People who restrict their food intake for what appears to be healthy reasons may binge weekly on a ‘cheat day’. All of these are examples of BED, and it is not simply ‘overeating once in a while’. It is an eating disorder associated with mental health that needs to be worked on with a professional.

A statement of assumption in the lecture that really stuck out to me was this:

            Thin is always better.

            Thin is always possible.

            Thin people are better people.

None of these three sentences are true. None of these three sentences have value. But they are seen as truth in our society all too often. Being thinner will not make all of your problems go away. And bullying someone based on their body size or weight is never okay. You never know what someone is dealing with behind closed doors, so I ask for you to move through your day with kindness and love, and know that it isn’t always sunshine and roses for everyone each day.

If you or someone you know may be affected by BED or any other eating disorder, please ask for help. Here is a great place to start:

COVID-19 – Anxiety in Kids

Our new normal of COVID has undoubtably affected everyone. As adults, we have lost jobs, moved work to home, or have become a front-line worker. Parents have become teachers or stay at home “working parents” a top of our already demanding work and life schedules. We have become hyper-sensitive to sterilization and cleanliness, we are wearing masks and keeping our distances. There is no doubt that these changes are creating anxiety within even the most chill of people. For those that were already experiencing anxiety, these changes are taking things to a whole new level and come with its own set of challenges.

Our children are not exempt from this increased anxiety. Think about it… our kids were ripped out of school, out of activities, away from their friends and even their normal routines. Now add on the threat of “the end of the world” and discussions about daily cases and death tolls. All of this is in a home where parents are stressed to the max with all of their own personal issues surrounding the pandemic. Even as the restrictions are lifted, it is met with its own set of stressors such as wearing masks, fear of touching anything and getting back to school – with people they haven’t seen in months. This is enough to make even the most laidback child a nervous wreck.

It is difficult enough for adults to recognize anxiety in themselves, let alone reach out for help. As such, children are at a much bigger disadvantage. They likely don’t even know what anxiety is, let alone how to ask for help or how to deal with their feelings. Even those kids that do reach out may not be received with an open-minded and supportive response. And those parents or caregivers that do want to help their children, may have no idea how.

So what can we do as parents? Well as a mother, I have done quite a bit of research on the subject and here is what I would suggest:

    • Have conversations with your kids and ask them how they are feeling about “all of this”. Listen and don’t undermine or write off their worries. “You don’t have to worry about that” and “you’ll be fine” is not necessarily going to work. Their fears may not be as irrational as you think. I mean, did you think we would be here six months ago?
    • Don’t talk about, or watch the news with your kids. Kids don’t need to know case numbers or death tolls. Nothing that they hear will help to protect them and it will likely only increase their worries.
    • Do confirm that it is perfectly normal for them to experience the feelings that they are having. They shouldn’t feel badly about how they feel. Confirm that they are always able to come talk to you about this (or anything!)
    • Don’t ignore that we are in a very strange environment. They know. DO tell them about all the steps you, your family and school are taking and as scary as all of the precautions are, that they are being done to keep them safe.
    • Introduce them to “Deep Breathing”. The sheer act of slowing down and consciously breathing is one of the easiest ways to relax and help gain perspective. Try either of these sites for some neat ideas that are made for kids. yoremikids.com and copingskillsforkids.com. The second one is a great resource for parents in dealing with COVID-19 specific anxiety. It gives ideas for plans and strategies to combat a variety of feelings.
    • Look for help. There are SO many free services and exercises available on line. One that I think is great is from Anxiety Canada. They have many things directly related to and for children and youth.
    • Finally, try to give yourself a break and be a good role model. Show your kids how to relax and how to positively deal with stress and anxiety. They will learn more from watching you than listening to you.

It is likely that most children, teens and adults alike will or have experienced some level of anxiety as it relates to our new situation and the pandemic. If you are thinking that this is perhaps something more serious that should be addressed, there are many resources available to help.  Here is a link provided by Rupertsland that is full of resources.

Remember, if you are reading this, you are showing that you love your kids and want what is best for them. That makes you a super parent so for doing that so go easy on yourself – you’re doing a great job!

How to Live Your Healthiest Happiest Life

Something I have always had a huge fascination with is centenarians and longevity. What can we all do in our day to day living to live a longer, healthier and happier life. This Spring I started my Integrative & Holistic Health and Nutrition Coaching certification and I was over the moon excited when one of the guest lecturers was Dan Buettner. Dan is the person behind the ‘Blue Zones’ which not only focuses on longevity secrets in terms of what you as an individual can do, but also how you can transform your community to live longer and better.

Dan, in partnership with National Geographic, has researched communities around the globe that have the highest life expectancy. Blue Zones are places in the world where people not only live longer, but healthier as well than anywhere else on earth – without medication or disability. To date, five Blue Zones have been identified:

  • The Italian island of Sardinia
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Costa Rica’s isolated Nicoya Peninsula
  • Ikaria, an isolated Greek island

So, what’s the secret? This is the part that I love. The number ONE indicator of how long you will live is how long you THINK you will live. It’s your attitude. Your positive spirit. Your optimistic outlook. And a close second? Your DAILY fruit and vegetable consumption.

In fact, 80% of the factors that determine your longevity are to do with lifestyle and environment, with the remaining 20% via your genetics. There are a few common denominators that they have found across the board with the five Blue Zones:

  1. Natural Movement – moving every single day. Not a specific type of ‘workout’ but natural movement like walking and yard work.
  2. Daily Ritual of Prayer – this doesn’t have to be faith based. Meditation or naps to help reduce your stress can also work. I think the key here is that it reduced your stress. We know that stress can cause everything from weight gain to cancer, so ensuring we do what we can to keep it low is really important.
  3. A Strong Sense of Purpose – I love this one. Do you have a strong sense of purpose? Do you wake up every single day with a positive intention or goal? Are you tuned in on why you are here on earth? And pardon the cliché, but do you know what your why is?
  4. Eat Wisely – the interesting thing about the diets of the five Blue Zones is that there isn’t a magic item that everyone was eating. They were eating mindfully. They were eating until they were 80% full. They were eating plenty of fruits and vegetables every day.
  5. Plant-based Diet – the five communities that were studies all had this in common. Very little meat, lots of beans, nuts, fruit and veggies. They ate their biggest meal in the morning. They pre-plated their meals rather than family-style, which had them eating less.
  6. Connection – while we can have the healthiest food on our plate, if we don’t have healthy and strong connections, we are not ‘getting it’. With all of the Blue Zone communities family was NUMBER ONE. Who you spend your time with is a key factor in your health and longevity.

I think this is some really good food for thought (insert obvious nutrition joke here). While what we are eating and how much we are exercising are important, they are not the be all and the end all. My favorite take-aways? Your attitude is the number one life expectancy indicator, so wake up happy, grateful and optimistic. And of course, the common denominator about connection and community. It is wonderful to have a positive attitude for your own health and wellness, but when you can take it one step further to those you love, you are really winning at the health and wellness game. And for parents, pre-plating your kids food can help ensure they are eating enough fruit and veggies at every meal.

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BOUTIQUE GYMS IN WINNIPEG DIVERSIFYING TO STAY AFLOAT THROUGH THE COVID-19 EPIDEMIC

While Manitoba’s chief public health officer has extended the current public health orders suspending non-critical businesses and operations in the province until April 28, boutique fitness facilities in Winnipeg are really feeling the pressure. Yoga studios, kickboxing gyms, and personal trainer fitness facilities have been ordered to be closed since March 17, 2020. With no income on April 1, and little to no government support for them, they are finding it difficult to stay afloat during this unprecedented time in history.

Like many, smaller fitness facility owners started their facilities to bring health and wellness to Winnipegers. During this pandemic, our health is being recognized as our number one concern, and their facilities are not able to provide the physical fitness component to their members’ lives. While they completely understand and respect the reasoning for social distancing and having to close non-essential businesses at this time, their livelihood is at serious risk.

As true health and wellness professionals, many owners are diversifying their offerings to provide fitness and much needed motivation and connection to their members. Examples include:

  • Infinity Health Coaching – providing both free and paid options for online strength training and HIIT workouts to all Winnipeggers, as well as online accountability one-on-one coaching for clients to help with nutrition, stress management and fitness.

 

  • Fit Women & Girls – providing online workouts, both Youtube and Live videos, through their social media channels to give those who are self-isolating added motivation and ideas on how to stay fit during this pandemic.

 

  • Winnipeg Women’s Kickboxing & Muay Thai – providing online workouts four times per week to their members who wish to pay a nominal fee to help the facility stay afloat during this pandemic. 45 minute workouts include body weight and free weight exercise, cardio-vascular routines and kickboxing single and partner drills.

 

  • The Yoga Barre – providing free barre and yoga classes via their Instagram story @tyb.live. They also have a Karma Class Pass for a nominal fee for members to have more in-depth workouts each day.

 

  • Various Provincial Sport Organizations, such as Cycling Manitoba and Manitoba Rowing Association, are coaching their High Performance and provincial team athletes via online workouts using technologies such as Facebook Live or Zoom.

While this is an unprecedented time in history, it is important to find the positives each time, and do our best to keep our health and wellness top of mind. With the immense amount of added stress, physical fitness is more important now than ever. Exercise has direct stress reducing and mood boosting benefits as it helps increase the production of the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, also known as endorphins. Exercise also reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Kudos to the leaders in Winnipeg’s fitness industry for diversifying their offerings for their clients needs.

 

14 Steps to a Healthy Digestive System

I believe there are two major systems that we need to pay smart attention to when it comes to our health. First, your immune system – ensuring it is strong and clean will keep you away from sickness and disease longer. Second is your digestive system. After losing my mom in 2013 to cholangiocarcinoma, cancer of the bile duct, I made a mindful decision to really start to pay attention to my digestive health. When you think about it, everything comes in and out of our digestive system, and 80% of our immune system is IN our digestive system. So, having a clean and healthy one makes perfect sense if we want to live longer and healthier right?! If you’re still with me, keep reading.

Issues with your digestive system can come out in many forms, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, indigestion, gas, acid reflex and more. Basically, everything that is super uncomfortable and can be super painful. But digestive issues don’t stop there. They can cause problems throughout your entire body. Allergies, autoimmune disease, acne, chronic fatigue, mood disorders, brain fog and even cancer can all be results of digestive system issues.

Now that we know what we DO NOT want, what can we expect from having a clean and healthy digestive system? First, when your digestive system is healthy, you absorb nutrients much better and in turn feed your cells more vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs, water and (good) fats. In turn, it more efficiently gets rid of yeast, allergens, toxins and the like.

Secondly, when your digestive system is healthy, your immune system is stronger. Definitely a win-win. Third, a health digestive system reduces inflammation in your body. When your body is experiencing ‘bad inflammation’ you are putting yourself at risk for a host of issues and diseases including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression and cancer. Lastly, a healthy digestive is great for your brain health. For more on brain health and what foods are best to eat for that big ol brain, see here.

What can YOU do, starting today, to get your digestive system healthier? LOTS! Here are my top 14 tips:

  1. Eat foods that are high in fiber including whole grains, raw vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and beans.
  2. Add a pre and/or probiotic to your day. I use Pearls Acidophilus Probiotic by Nature’s Way. This will increase the good bacteria in your stomach, which is what you definitely want.
  3. Incorporate digestive enzymes into your day. They help your digestivetract properly break down foods that contain difficult-to-digest proteins, fats and carbohydrates. I typically take one before a large meal, or a meal that my body isn’t used to – so basically when I eat out. If your system is in rough shape right now, I would suggest one before every meal to get started.
  4. Hydrate yourself! Are you drinking enough water? I am the worst for this. But it really is key to a healthy digestive system.
  5. Try to eat consistently at the same time every day. Whether you are intermittent fasting or eating morning, noon and night, make your times the same each day.
  6. Eat the same foods as often as possible. Your digestive system will get used to breaking down the same foods and make it easier on your system. It isn’t as boring as it sounds – same healthy ingredients, different ways.
  7. Workout! Another great reason to get moving is that it is great for your digestive health.
  8. De-stress! I know – easier said than done on this one for sure. But think about how crappy your stomach feels when you are stressed out. People over eat, under eat, get constipated, have diarrhea – a whole slew of digestive problems. Do your best to lower your stress levels.
  9. Do not overmedicate yourself. Whether we are talking antibiotics or over the counter medications, try to heal your system naturally before you run for a pill. Of course, sometimes these are needed, and you should listen to your doctor or health care professional, but running for an Advil for a dull headache or a Tums because you feel like you need to burp is wreaking havoc on your body.
  10. Eat real food! Especially nutrient dense foods like kale, spinach, salmon and more. For my list of best foods to add in, see here.
  11. Eat healthy fats! A scoop of raw organic coconut oil in the morning is great for this. Also, think of nuts, avocados, fatty fish and extra virgin olive oil.
  12. In the morning, add a one ounce shot of raw organic apple cider vinegar to your water. It’s not the best tasting thing, but don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. And what it does for your digestive system is exceptional, so worth the sour face in the beginning.
  13. Slurp down a spoon full of aloe vera in the morning. It’s a fairly refreshing taste, and can be purchased at your local health food store. This helps clean your system daily.
  14. Listen to what feels good in your body! After finishing a meal, if you have heartburn, indigestion, feel sluggish, have diarrhea – why are you going to eat this again? Food should not do this to you! For some reason, your body is not agreeing with what you just ate or drank. So, stop. And just the same, if after eating a meal you feel energetic, sharp in the mind, and your body feels good, do that more. Sounds simple right?! We think so too, but people reach for antacids instead of not eating what hurts them.

Like what you read? Feel free to comment below on your experience with digestive strength or issues. And be sure to sign up for our newsletter here for the best information on health for women!

Eating Nutrient Dense Food – What It REALLY Means

A few years ago, I made a significant shift in my thinking as it relates to my health. When we think about health long term and making sustainable decisions that can last a life time, the idea of constantly counting and measuring our food can be not only overwhelming but exhausting in its own right. Rather, making decisions about the food that you eat should be simple. Eat nutrient dense real food. Food should be something you enjoy cooking, eating and digesting, not something that you and your body have grown to hate.

But what does it mean to eat ‘nutrient dense food’? This is simply the amount of nutrients you get for the amount of calories you take in from a given food. High level of nutrients with low levels of calories is the goal. And ‘nutrients’ are macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

The easiest way for me to think about this is how much processing has to go into this to make it something I can eat. Is it a fairly simple food? Can I pick it from a tree or garden? If so, it’s usually bang on. When I am making decisions at the grocery store I think to myself – is this going to help me on my healthy journey or create issues or blocks for me? Think about how eating this food is going to make you feel – is it easy for me to digest? Will it support a strong immune system? Will it help me with my energy and sleep? Nutrient dense food will do all of this and more.

So, what are the best of the best? Here are my top nutrient dense foods:

  • Salmon
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Berries, especially blueberries
  • Eggs
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Green Veggies, especially Broccoli
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Quinoa
  • Spinach
  • Avocado
  • Seeds, especially Chia Seeds and Hemp Seeds
  • Red Peppers
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Beets

Equally as important to WHAT we’re eating is what we’re cooking it in and topping it with. You can have great intentions by eating salad every day, but if you’re deep frying a piece of chicken in corn oil to put on top of your salad and dousing it is high sugar, high calorie dressing, you’re missing the health boat. When I look at the calorie count for restaurant salads I am blown away. Many are over 1500 calories…FOR A SALAD!! Yes, you’re getting you veggies in, but need to be mindful of how you’re getting them in too.

Making at home salad dressings is a great way to keep things on the up and up. Using apple cider vinegar, healthy oils such as avocado oil, coconut oil, hemp oil or extra virgin olive oil are a great base. Adding seasoning that is low in sodium is a great way to pack in the flavour. And you can never have enough Turmeric by the way…it’s loading with tons of health benefits.

When cooking meat or veggies, the same rules still apply about what we’re cooking things IN. Cooking spray or corn oil are crap. Stick to any of the above suggested oils or try ghee or butter. Remember – real is good, fake is bad.

When you’re adding sauce to your food, be sparing. Especially with store-bought sauces. Did you know that BBQ sauce has on average 12 grams of sugar per serving and ketchup has 8? These are HIGH! Same goes for salad dressing – you take away your ‘good meal’ idea when you cover it is sugar. Four grams of sugar is approximately one teaspoon of granulated sugar. And who only puts one serving of something usually on things? Portion control is key for sure here too.

Here’s what I think it really comes down to. When you are choosing your food, you are choosing for health or not for health. It’s not a statement of judgement. It’s simply the truth. That doesn’t mean you’re never allowed to have a piece of cake again. But when you are making your meals and choosing your food, be mindful of is this healthy for me? And even more specifically, is this going to support my immune system strength and my digestive system health? If yes – put it in the cart. If not, make another choice. It really is all about our choices and how they affect the way we feel inside and out.