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What does your Stomach have to do with Immune Health?

Believe it or not, the stomach is the seat of our immune system in the physical body.  Probiotics and immune health go hand in hand.  When we are sick with the infection, we receive anti-biotics from the doctor.  Anti-biotics fight invasive bacteria systemically, but also in the collateral damage they kill the good bacteria we need for immune health.  Also our lifestyle choices stress can negatively impact gut health.  Taking probiotics daily is a preventative way to promote good bacteria, or flora, in ‘the gut’. Everything starts there. Ill-health in the digestive track leads to dis-ease in the body. You’ve maybe heard of ‘leaky gut sydrome’ which is the stomach bacteria out of balance and the results seen over time in the rest of the body.

Probiotics are meant to be taken in capsule form. My dentist said to never take it in the form which touches the teeth (ie a drink or a chewable tablet) as the good bacteria does create excess plaque in the mouth.  Traditionally probiotics require refrigeration as they are a living organism, but a very reputable brand ReNew Life has a ‘shelf stable’ version which is awesome, especially for travel.

Digestive health is the path to overall and long term well-being.

Digestive Health is the Path to Overall Wellbeing

When comparing probiotic labels, choose one that has:

1. A minimum of 15 billion active.  Choose more if you are in ‘critical care’ as in post surgical, or taking may synthetic medications.

2. A statement of ‘potency at time of expiration’ on the label.  This is important as these bacteria are living things and slowly die off over time.  You still want a good content even at the time of taking the last capsule!  Some brands do not make this declaration.  So you definitely want one that does!

3. Multiple strains (10 is good) EACH of bacteria names starting with L’s and B’s.  So that’s 10 strains of L bacteria, and 10 strains of B bacteria.  If you can’t find that many, simply choose as many strains as possible.  More strains means more avenues of protection.

If you want to educate yourself a bit, the best resource I’ve found is Brenda Watson. She’s been a longtime advocate of probiotics and a PBS educational regular. Just go to YouTube and search ‘Brenda Watson probiotics’ and pick a video that suits your interest level. And of course have a chat with your naturopath. Interesting stuff!

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Stress and Hormone Function

Stress is an unavoidable part of our world and our life. As individuals, we are starting to understand more and more that when we experience stress it has an impact on our physical body and our health.

Some of the hormones in our bodies are designed to help us deal with stress. The adrenal glands produce adrenaline. Most of us are familiar with the term adrenaline rush, which is the fight-or-flight response when we are in an emergency situation.

Adrenaline can also serve us for a long period of time when we are feeling under stress, such as a period of pressure at a job. For example, tax season for accountants or young mothers trying to balance a newborn and a toddler.

Have you ever wondered why you can put in a huge effort at work to get ready for your annual vacation, working overtime and skipping your lunch break, all the while staying healthy. Finally your vacation arrives, and within the first two or three days of your time off you come down with a cold or flu. This is because, while under stress, adrenaline protects our immune system. This protection is one of the functions of adrenaline. Then, when you change your environment and start to relax, this protection falls away and any latent virus which has been waiting in the wings has a chance to pounce. Also, our alcohol consumption tends to rise on while we are on vacaion which also suppresses your immune system.

This is why, when you go on holiday, it is a good idea to plan some activities in the first few days. Keep your body somewhat busy and wind down slowly instead of just arriving at your destination and sitting in a deck chair.

While researching the effects of stress on hormones, the advice is usually “avoid stressful situations”. I can’t help but chuckle at this because really, we have to live in the real world. How do we avoid stressful situations when we have kids to pick up from school and ferry to various other activities, we have jobs, the house is a mess, and we still have to get groceries. Stress is with us. The only way we can manage our stress is to…manage it.

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Scheduling Exercise Time

How on earth am I supposed to fit exercise into my life? I have no time and even less energy.

The first fact to consider is that our bodies need some kind of exercise. We are designed to move. When we exercise, our muscles flex and squeeze toxins out of our tissues, we drink more water which helps to hydrate the cells of our bodies, and chemicals which make us feel good and happy are released in our brains, making us feel just a little better about life. Exercise is not only good, it is critical to our recovery from hormone health issues.

Here are the first steps to incorporating exercise into your already busy life:

1.         Stop feeling guilty about not exercising. Just stop it right now.

2.         Talk to a friend who you know will be sympathetic and supportive. Just talking about your intention to exercise and saying it out loud will help you get started. Maybe your friend will even exercise with you.

3.         Look at your life realistically and decide how much time and energy you can commit at this moment. Not everyone’s life allows them to hit the gym five days a week for two hours. If your life does allow this, stop reading this article and grab your gym pass!

4.         Whatever you decide you can do, however small, just do something. Get off the elevator one or two flights before your floor at work. Park at the far side of the parking lot when you go to the mall.

5.         As you become more active you may want to schedule some dedicated exercise time. This scheduling can be very challenging in our hectic work-a-day world. The best way I have found is to take out my weekly planner where I track all of my appointments and commitments during the week. I plot my exercise times into my schedule.   Once written down, it feels like an appointment with myself. With this method, I do still miss some of my exercise times, but I do manage to keep most of my appointments with myself.

Once you start exercising more regularly, you may still have times where you just feel too exhausted or time-squeezed to get your exercise in. Here are two little tricks I play on myself to get through:

1.         I make a deal with myself that I will start my exercise, let’s say the treadmill.  I tell myself I will do it for 10 minutes and then permit myself to quit.  At the end of 10 minutes, I almost always feel more inspired and I continue on for the full time.

2.         If your heart really isn’t into your workout, just go through some of the motions and do a little bit. If you normally walk the dog all the way to the dog park, just go around the block instead. Doing these pared-down sessions may not raise your heart rate, but it will keep the momentum of your exercise plan going and you will feel so much better about yourself tomorrow.

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How to Manage Stress

Real Life Suggestions on How to Manage Stress

My personal opinion is that, in life, we just can’t do it all…and be well. If something comes along which we cannot control, something else has to give.

Here are some suggestions on how to get a handle on stress:

1.         Stop. Just stop…and take a breath. Sit down with a pen, paper and your calendar of commitments, and be determined to make a change.

2.         Control the number of activities you and your family are involved in.  Until your kids can drive themselves to their activities, do they really need to belong to two sports teams, take piano lessons and ballet? Many times we feel guilty if we don’t provide them every opportunity to explore their interests, but sacrificing one or two activities in exchange for a parent who feels less stressed is a valuable trade off.

3.         Break it down. Decide what is “your stuff” and what isn’t. We can’t control other people or events ( as much as we wish we could!). All we have control over is ourselves and our actions and re-actions. We can be honest and take responsibility for our feelings and our needs. We also can’t control others’ response to our efforts at change. Communicate as honestly as you can, and stick to the plan which best works for finding balance in your life.

4.         Carve some time into your calendar for everyone in the family to just “be”. This time doesn’t have to happen all together, it can happen differently for everyone. Create some breathing room. The best tonic for keeping our hormones balanced is to get rest; to just “drop out” for an hour, an afternoon, a weekend. Whatever you can manage.

5.         Exercise. Just take a walk. When our bodies and hormones are stressed, it puts stress on our system to try to go to the gym and crank out 100 reps. Walking doesn’t take a lot of energy, but it gets the blood circulating to your cells and your brain and fresh air in your lungs. Plus, after seeing a change of scenery while walking around the block, it is amazing the new perspective we can have upon arriving home. Also, take Fido with you. He picks up on the stress in the household and could use the benefit of exercise too!

6.          Talk to your doctor.  Sometimes we need a little chemical help to endure a prolonged period of sadness or stress.  Having experienced depression myself, I do understand that there is a place for anti-depressants.  It doesn’t mean that you’ve “failed” or you are “too weak to tough it out”.  These thoughts are actually the depression talking.  Use of anti-depressants must be initiated and closely monitored by your physician.  The purpose of an anti-depressant is not a “happy pill” to make your troubles disappear.  Depression is a chemical gap in the communication of cells in your brain.  Medication can bridge this gap to get you back to where you can function in your daily life.  Often times, it is only a very small dose that is required for a specified period of time.  Whatever happens do not take yourself off of your medication early or reduce your dose without your doctor’s supervision.  A depression relapse can be worse than the initial bout.  You and your doctor can determine together when you can start reducing your dose to get off of the medication.

7.           Talk to a counsellor.  If you have an extended health plan at work, often counselling is included in the list of services which are covered by your plan.  Ask your plan administrator at work.  Speaking to a qualified counsellor can be beneficial, if not critical to our recovery from, and ability to manage, stress.

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Reiki Testimonials – Brenda Thompson

“I’ve never achieved such a complete sense of relaxation”
Terry, Los Cabos, BCS Mexico

“As a Reiki Master myself, I am adept at conducting and reading the energy flow through the body.  Experiencing this session was a truly heightened experience beyond what I expected.”
Anne S., Las Vegas, NV USA

“For the first time in 50 years, my life makes sense.”
Cheryl A.,  Los Cabos, BCS Mexico

“I had a session while visiting Mexico on vacation.  I have a new sense of peace that stays connected to me, even in everyday activities”
Selma M., Vancouver, B.C. Canada

“I’m very familiar with breath work and yoga.  However the peace I find during a yoga session, doesn’t seem to translate into the rest of my life.  Through this therapy I have found a profound sense of connectedness with myself.”
Mary T., Calgary, AB Canada