Articles by: Jennifer ChauhanJennifer Chauhan
Jennifer Chauhan is Ottawa Life’s in-house health blogger. As a yoga teacher and self-proclaimed health nut, Jennifer is interested in all aspects of wellness, whether physical, mental or emotional. An Ottawa-based freelance writer, she manages her own blog,, while also contributing to other blogs and local magazines. A literature graduate of the University of Ottawa and the University of Sydney in Australia, Jennifer has always been passionate about writing. To contact her, e-mail

2 Yogis, 3 Kids, 1 Cause

May 15, 2014 12:51 pm
2 Yogis, 3 Kids, 1 Cause

Meet Todd and Amanda Lavictoire. Both are Ottawa yoga teachers who have spent years dedicating their lives to helping others by teaching them to move more efficiently, care for their body, manage chronic pain conditions and find peace of mind. Their positive impact on the larger community is immense, as any one of their students can attest to their knowledge, passion and energy. Amanda and Todd are also parents to Maya 10, Dharma 7 and Ethan 11. But this particular story is Ethan’s.

Ethan - Copy

For most of his life, Ethan has suffered from chronic migraines. At age 9, doctors discovered a tumour in the language centre of his brain. As loving parents, and health and wellness professionals, Amanda and Todd did everything in their power to help heal their son’s body from exploring dietary cures and physio therapy (including dry needling), to training with one of the best CHEK holistic practitioner in Ottawa, Benjamin Ribkoff. “Ben has been invaluable in Ethan’s personal development, helping him to build confidence and strength,” says Todd.

Todd_Ethan - Copy

For years the symptoms were controlled, but this spring the Lavictoire family received the devastating news that the tumor had doubled in size. After many consultations and trips to SickKids in Toronto, surgery was recommended as a path to full recovery and is scheduled for July 8, 2014.

Unfortunately, yoga teachers do not have insurance to subsidize time off work or medical expenses such as these. In response, friends have launched a fundraiser to financially support Ethan and his family throughout this journey. The money raised will be used to to modify their home to maximize Ethan’s healing, including creating a recovery space in the backyard of their Orleans home. Part of the funds will also help to minimize the financial impact on the family as Amanda takes time off work to care for Ethan full-time.

It is time for all the love and guidance that Amanda and Todd have so generously given to come back to them! Please, forego one latté this week and donate instead to this worthy cause.

For more information or to donate visit Love4Ethan.

Healthwise: How to Counterbalance Overindulgence – Stress and Sleep Management Tips from Naturopathic Doctor Penny Kendall-Reed

October 21, 2013 12:40 pm
Healthwise: How to Counterbalance Overindulgence – Stress and Sleep Management Tips from Naturopathic Doctor Penny Kendall-Reed

 Whether it is during Thanksgiving, Diwali, Christmas or any other celebration this festive season, everyone can use tips on how to counterbalance our tendency to overindulge.

Overindulgence can manifest itself in many ways. For many, the unbalance presents itself as lack of sleep, while for others it is overeating, or ingesting too much coffee and alcohol. For some, it is enduring sustained high levels of stress at work. Whatever the excess, it is important to make an effort to undo some of the damage such overtaxing can cause your body and mind. We should all strive towards making positive choices throughout the day.

Naturopathic doctor Penny Kendall-Reed shares her recommendations on balancing busy lifestyles, creating better sleep and maintaining a healthy weight.

First and foremost, Dr. Kendall-Reed reiterates important lifestyle choices, such as: eight hours of quality sleep; a balanced diet; learning to say no; spending time with family; disconnecting from technology; laughing; massage therapy; breathing meditation; and physical activity, all of which can reduce daily stress.

Having said this, not all stress can be eliminated or controlled and Dr. Kendall-Reed acknowledges that we all need a bit of help sometimes: “I wish I could say that we could deep-breathe our way through everything, but that is simply not true.”



Supplements to help balance a busy lifestyle

Probiotics: These are live microorganisms similar to the good bacteria that live in our gut. Probiotics help the stomach, liver and pancreas break down food and ensure that no undigested food remains in the bowel. Probiotics also help boost the immune system by crowding out bad bacteria and making it harder for illness to set in.

Daytime Stress Support: In stressful times, our body produces more cortisol. The increase of this stress hormone then affects every one of our systems. To help minimize the effects of stress on the body, Dr. Kendall-Reed recommends Jamieson’s Stress Support Day, which contains natural supplements such as lemon balm, and amino acids GABA and L-Theanine: these can help improve our body’s ability to regulate stress.

Nighttime Stress Support: According to Dr. Kendall-Reed, the right kind of sleep is what is important. The fourth stage of sleep is the most restorative. However, increased cortisol production due to stress means few of us ever reach this stage because cortisol blocks the production of melatonin, which allows us to achieve restful sleep. Jamieson’s Stress Support Night contains camomile, lavender and melatonin, all of which promote good quality sleep without creating dependency.

Omega fatty acids: Omega fatty acids help manage stress in the body by reducing inflammation. When we are stressed, depressed or anxious, we have lower levels of Omega-3 in our brain, which is why a supplement can be quite useful. Dr. Kendall-Reed recommends Jamieson’s Omega Red supplements (Krill or Salmon) because the oil is cold-pressed on the boat; therefore, the extraction maintains its purity and the antioxidant level in each capsule is high, rendering the supplement more effective.

Xanthitrim: There are no any quick fixes when it comes to weight management. However, some people who do maintain an active lifestyle and balanced diet still struggle with a few nagging extra pounds. To help eliminate this excess chub, Dr. Kendall-Reed recommends Xanthitrim by Pure. This supplement is a brown algae, pomegranate seed oil extract and a green tea extract. It helps to reverse lipogenesis, which is the formation of fat from food, and increases the rate of fat burning without any adverse side-effects.  Dr. Kendall-Reed also reiterates the importance of Omega fats, as they help to permeate the satiety center of the brain, thereby reducing cravings.

Most importantly, stay positive and focus on what you can control. Each choice has an effect on your health and well-being.

Jamieson Photo 16345_J_CTN Collagen:GLS


Blush: The Ultimate Girls’ Night Out

September 12, 2013 9:33 am
Blush: The Ultimate Girls’ Night Out

Nowadays, women are busier than ever: working hard during the day gunning for a fulfilling career that allows them to define themselves independently of their family role, studying part-time to ensure continued education, training to stay fit so they can enjoy life, planning date nights to nurture the relationship with their partner at home, all while raising and caring for a few kids who look to them for comfort, love and positive role-modeling. Being a modern woman can be downright exhausting!

So it is no surprise that an event designed especially to pamper women and allow them to embrace their sexy side has experienced such success in Ottawa. In its second year, Blush is being held on Friday, March 8, 2014 at the downtown Ottawa Marriott Hotel to accommodate growing demand.

Blush founder Bri Anderson-Jackson understands the importance of making time for herself as a woman. A wife and mother to seven children, Bri also works as a photographer and event organizer. How does she balance all these responsibilities? “I am the type of person who is always on the go, multi-tasking and getting things done. I make time for my business, time for the children and date night with my husband. I guess I wouldn’t be me if I was not surrounded by constant movement and a little chaos.”


Anderson-Jackson found her passion years ago in boudoir photography where she provides a platform for a woman to rediscover or play up her sexy side, no matter what age or size. It was only natural that this more intimate platform spill over into a larger-scaled event for more women to enjoy together: “I have always wanted to host a fun event for women only. I do not feel it is being done enough in Ottawa, so it only seemed fitting to do it in conjunction with International Women’s Day.”

Marketed as the ultimate girls’ night out, the cost of a ticket includes hors d’oeuvres, desserts, a drink ticket, the opportunity for a massage, nail polish application, hair styling, access to a photo booth, a chance for a professional photograph by Bri Anderson-Jackson, live musical entertainment by DJ Choice and DJ Casual, a pyjama party at midnight, the chance to win door prizes and a fabulous swag bag filled with beauty products.

So no matter your age, this evening is a chance to connect with friends, old and new, and celebrate your femininity.

LUNCH: A Fresh Food Experience in the Capital

August 8, 2013 9:58 am
LUNCH: A Fresh Food Experience in the Capital

When you are in a rush to grab a bite between meetings, it’s nice to be able to buy something on the go. The problem: not many places in Ottawa that serve food quickly also serve it healthy. Luckily, the new LUNCH truck on Albert at Kent can offer Ottawans a healthy and affordable alternative.

The LUNCH truck is the latest development for owner and operator Tim Van Dyke, who also runs four other brick-and-mortar LUNCH locations in Ottawa: on Bank, Metcalfe, Sparks and Lebreton, as well as a future location opening in Gatineau in early 2014. As I sat down with the Ottawa native, enthusiasm and commitment simply oozed out of him. And, it is this very spirit that enabled LUNCH to grow from one location to five (almost six) in 5½ years.

LUNCH was born from a genuine passion for good quality food without compromising on taste. No use looking for poutine or hotdogs at the Lunch Truck; instead, only fresh and local ingredients grace this recycled-paper menu, which includes salads, sandwiches, wraps, soups and chili. While their best-seller is said to be the Tarragon Chicken sandwich (which is very good), I prefer the Chicken Club sandwich (the double smoked bacon and aged cheddar have me hooked), or the Jerk Tofu sandwich (the tofu is marinated overnight and served with a pineapple salsa and arugula).

“It’s lunch time!”

“Only fresh and local ingredients grace the menu at LUNCH.”

But what is Tim’s favorite? “I love the shrimp salad roll, mostly because of the dipping sauce! I eat from the LUNCH menu every day. I never get bored with it. And that is important.” All food is prepared the same day and is then delivered to the truck and served in recycled packaging by staff members who extend the friendly and familiar atmosphere that Tim and his team have worked so hard to create.

The entire business is built on the premise of integrity and a sense of community. Van Dyke has nurtured relationships with all those involved in making his business a success: from the local farm that provides the chicken, to those who serve the customers, and the artists who designed, built and hand-painted the LUNCH truck.

Van Dyke’s commitment to uphold a business of integrity is greater than his need for a healthy bottom line: “Slow and steady wins the race.” He has fun with LUNCH and insists on serving noon-time meals himself at one of his locations every day. So why move towards the truck format? It all comes down to economics. The cost of the truck is much less than an actual building, but the food served from it is exactly the same: “What I am trying to do is create the best product I can market. People can smell greed.”

“It’s lunch time!”

“It’s lunch time!”

The added advantage to the truck is its mobility, which plays into Tim’s penchant for community events. LUNCH has been involved in charity functions, such as this year’s Dragon Boat Festival and the Roller Derby put on at Ottawa City Hall by the Capital City Derby Dolls and Kathy Ferguson of Ottawa Street Eats. A few years ago, LUNCH was at Bluesfest: “We completely sold out of the pulled pork and the quinoa,” demonstrating the reach that LUNCH has with its customers, satisfying meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. This year, LUNCH will participate in the Scotiabank Aids Walk, the Porsche GT3 Canada Cup in Calabogie and the Ottawa Food Truck Rally – so keep your eyes open for the truck!

As for regular business, the truck will remain open this fall serving up a full coffee, soup and chili service, closing only from December to March – depending on weather, of course!

Woodworking in Ottawa: How One Man Stumbled Upon A Niche Market

June 20, 2013 10:23 am
Woodworking in Ottawa: How One Man Stumbled Upon A Niche Market

Vincent and Robert Millaire, Ibuildfurniture

If you cannot find the style of furniture you are looking for, why not build it yourself? That is how Vincent Millaire, founder of Ibuildfurniture, stumbled upon a niche market in Ottawa. After months of searching for a coffee table, Vincent faced the fact that what he wanted did not exist – at least not in the mainstream chain furniture stores of Ottawa. What he was looking for was something rustic, made of real wood instead of particle board. Vincent wanted the piece to be unique.

Eventually, Vincent found old wood shipping pallets and sanded them down. Once sanded, he painted them green and then, after changing his mind, brown. It was because of this simple painting happenstance that he discovered a unique colour that gave the wood a vintage finish. Vincent coupled the shipping pallets with a reclaimed chrome base and created his first piece of signature vintage-meets-modern furniture. The results were admired by friends and family over intimate dinner parties, so he decided to build more such coffee tables.

BarndoortableMillaire scoured department store closing sales in Ottawa and Montreal for old wood or chrome bases that he could later deconstruct. One day he got his hands on a table he planned to use as a desk, after managing to fend off other buyers: “I literally had to hold on to the table with (a firm grip) to stop others from taking it.” After all that hard work, he realized the table was too big for his space, so he sold it online five days later for $650 – he had paid $150 for it! That was the moment he realized he was not the only one desperate for quality furniture in Ottawa – there was a market that he could exploit!

As Vincent’s need for workspace grew, he approached his father, Robert Millaire. After agreeing to lend his son his heated garage to complete one project, father and son realized they worked better as a team. Robert, a retired gym teacher and self-made handyman, had a stock of tools and the know-how to significantly contribute to the growing business.

Condo-size2Nowadays, Vincent finds the wood and develops the vision, while father and son build and finish the pieces together to create tables of all kinds: dining room tables, coffee tables, end tables, and even picture frames. As linear as this process appears to outsiders, Vincent explains that “working with warped 100-year old wood always requires solutions.” Because of this, all of their attention is focused on one piece at a time, making both men important local artisans amidst an overwhelming market of cheaply-made furniture built to sell but not to last.

Like most artists, the Millaires have a particular style and remain authentic to their vision by respecting their mantra: “We build. You buy.” “I refuse to build something that I would not buy for myself,” Vincent emphasizes. And yes, they will refuse work on this basis. But not to worry, each piece they produce is guaranteed to become the focal point of any room. Like discussing fine art, your guests will want to talk about nothing else but the reclaimed vintage furniture in their midst.

All photos:

Healthwise: The quickest way to fatten a rat is to feed it MSG

April 26, 2013 12:22 pm
Healthwise: The quickest way to fatten a rat is to feed it MSG

A doctor told me that the quickest way to fatten a rat is to feed it MSG. Given that the majority of humans consume MSG on a daily basis, logic would dictate that MSG is also fattening us.

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is the sodium salt of a naturally occurring amino acid that makes up part of all food protein. It is also used as an additive to enhance flavour in foods. Once termed the “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” it is actually present in many other foods, including bottled sauces, pre-packaged meals, frozen dinners, salad dressings, mayonnaise, gravies, seasoning mixes, and potato chips.

Although deemed safe for consumption by Health Canada, some people with MSG sensitivities complain of facial pressure, nausea, chest pains, migraine headaches or asthma-like symptoms after ingestion.

So, how do you know if the food you are eating contains MSG? Monosodium glutamate must be listed in the ingredients; therefore, take the time to read labels. However, there are no labeling requirements for naturally-occurring free glutamate, which is found in foods such as tomatoes, peas, corn, grapes and some cheeses.

The short-term convenience of fast foodMonosodium-Glutamate-MSG-

A man eats his lunch out every single day by rotating between fast-food restaurants closest to his workplace. He gains weight and is confused when his doctor declares that his cholesterol is through the roof. Eventually, this man changes jobs and no longer enjoys the convenience of fast-food restaurants nearby, so he decides to bring his lunch to work every day instead. Six months later, his doctor reveals dramatic improvements in his overall health. After a few minutes of reflection, the man realizes that the only thing he changed was his lunch.

In addition to containing MSG, fast-food meals contain calorie counts so high that over time, one cannot help but gain weight – not to mention that the portions are too large, contain high levels of saturated fat, transfats and sodium.

It is best to eat fast food in moderation or avoid it altogether. Its short-term convenience is not worth your health in the end. And, while it would be quite difficult to avoid MSG altogether, pay attention to labels and choose wisely.

Healthwise: Spring into Digestive Health

April 22, 2013 11:25 am
Healthwise: Spring into Digestive Health

As the season begins to warm our winter-worn faces, many of us are thinking about overall lightening – from weather, to wardrobe, to diet – and now is as good a time as any to start thinking about digestive health.  As we welcome spring, a natural dietary shift occurs from chilies to salad; likewise, the good bacteria in the gut also change to better digest seasonal foods.

Healthy digestion is the cornerstone to the optimal functioning of so many of our organs and systems. Poor digestion leads to fatigue, acne, bloating, flatulence, eczema and nausea, among many other ailments. So what are the active measures to be taken against dysfunctional digestion? Dr. Penny Kendall-Reed, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, sits down with me and discusses prevention and natural aids.


The role of probiotics is to break down sugars and regulate the PH level in the gut, while inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria. By taking a probiotic supplement, you can help build a protective layer on the intestinal wall. Jamieson’s Advanced 4-Strain is one that Dr. Penny Kendall-Reed recommends, although there are many brands and formulas from which to choose.

Many people nowadays look for their source of probiotics in yogurt. While true that this food does contain the microorganisms needed to break down food, the added sugar in such products actually negates the benefits because it destroys the good bacteria. Instead, take a supplement on an empty stomach. Or use prior to travel or flu season to prevent and/or treat diarrhea.

Digestive Enzymes

A digestive enzyme is a supplement you would take at the beginning of a meal that you may have difficulty digesting: for instance, when eating spicy foods, dairy products, or high levels of sugar. These enzymes help break down food into smaller blocks to facilitate the absorption of nutrients in the body. Certainly, keep them on hand if and when you plan to indulge!


Magnesium contributes to healthy digestion. It draws water into the bowel, acts as a natural softener and helps calm the nervous system. Dr. Kendall-Reed recommends a daily dose of magnesium for those who are prone to constipation.


Digestive Health2

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Nowadays, many people experience food intolerances, such as gluten sensitivities, mainly due to the genetically-modified foods that our systems recognize as a foreign body. We are simply not equipped with the necessary enzymes to digest genetically-modified foods. If you suspect a food sensitivity or intolerance, the simplest way to identify the culprit is to avoid the suspected food for one week and then heavily re-introduce it on one day to evaluate your system’s reaction.

According to Dr. Kendall-Reed, foods to consume only in moderation are dairy, soy, MSG and sugar. Instead, stick to non-processed foods.  By eating clean, you eliminate the need to read labels and can maintain a highly functional digestive system and enjoy overall health.

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Healthwise: Realistic Health Goals for 2013

January 7, 2013 3:51 pm
“Quality is better than quantity when it comes to resolutions.”
Photo Credit (Photographer / url link to source):

As we welcome the month of January 2013, it is the perfect time to reflect on 2012 and set personal and professional goals for the year ahead. Many of us are enthusiastic to set health goals, often related to weight-loss and/or muscle gain, only to be disappointed and riddled with guilt by mid-February because we have let our resolutions fall by the wayside in favour of a good book and a glass of wine. Instead, this year focus on setting one or two realistic goals. After all, quality is better than quantity when it comes to resolutions. By identifying only a few goals, we are more likely to encourage consistency and therefore success.

Eat more fruits and vegetables

If your version of a sensible diet is deprivation of all the treats you love, you will quickly give up on healthy eating. It is much easier to set small goals, such as eating one more fruit and one more vegetable per day. The Canada Food Guide recommends 7 to 10 servings of fruit and/or vegetables per day (depending if you are male or female). The easiest way to consume more produce is by blending them into a smoothie. This way you can easily boost your intake at every meal without noticing.

Stay active

It’s amazing how quickly you can increase your level of physical activity by focusing on staying active throughout the day rather than approaching exercise from an all-or-nothing standpoint. Often we fail our exercise plans when we participate only if we have a full hour or two to commit to a structured activity. Instead, incorporate your exercise throughout the day in ways that add up. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, get off the bus a few blocks before your usual stop and walk home. Before you know it, you will feel more energized without having to sacrifice too much of your schedule.

Take a break

Start the New Year with a new mindset – one that includes being kind to yourself. Prioritize your mental and physical wellness by taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. No matter how busy you feel, there will always be more work to do. Invest in your wellness by taking some time out to gather your thoughts. Go for a coffee, take a walk in the fresh air or end your day with a few minutes of meditation. No matter your version of a break, you will thank yourself in the long run.

Get adequate sleep

Many of us choose to sacrifice sleep in favour of fitting more into a schedule that is already bursting at the seams. Unfortunately, lack of restful sleep does build up over time and has a negative impact on mood, immunity and overall productivity. So be sure to rest up. By choosing to sleep more, you become more efficient when you need to get a lot done.

Healthwise: Battle cold and flu naturally this season

December 23, 2012 4:55 pm
Healthwise: Battle cold and flu naturally this season

Healthwise: Battle cold and flu naturally this season

Jennifer Chauhan

Ottawa is covered with snow, residents are busy preparing for the winter holidays and anticipating meals shared with friends and family. As wondrous as this season is, it is also prime time for colds and overtaxed immune systems.

It seems that we are being hit particularly hard in Ottawa this year with those affected being run down for weeks at a time, completely exhausted and unable to maintain their normal busy pace. The best way to survive cold and flu season is by building up a strong immune system and taking action to protect yourself against illness.

I had the chance to sit down with Dr. Penny Kendall-Reed, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, who shared natural solutions for these two strategies.

Strategy 1: Build a strong immune system

Building your immune system naturally is not as difficult as it seems when using a combination of supplements and healthy lifestyle choices.

Jamieson’s FluShield™: An echinacea-based product unlike any other brand, FluShield™ helps to boost the immune system and protect against the onset of cold and flu symptoms. Kendall-Reed, who is not a representative of the company, explains that Jamieson has isolated the t-cell part of echinacea, which boost the immune system, unlike other echinacea products that also consist of isobutylamide, which can depress the immune system.

Probiotics: According to Hippocrates, “all diseases begin in the gut.” The truth of this statement has been proven more so over recent years and Dr. Penny Kendall-Reed agrees that the health of your gut and your immune system go hand-in-hand and therefore recommends a probiotic for adults and children alike.

Sleep: A full eight hours of sleep is best. But if you cannot quite manage the full eight hours over the holidays, Penny recommends a melatonin supplement that will encourage your body to achieve a healing and more restorative stage of sleep. Contrary to popular misconception, melatonin supplements are not sedatives and are non-addictive, but instead increase the body’s ability to combat disease.

Strategy 2: Protect yourself against illness

Zinc lozenges: An easy way to fight infection this season is by sucking on zinc lozenges. Our mucus membrane is the first line of defense when we are exposed to a virus, for example when someone coughs on us. Zinc lozenges help lubricate the mucus membrane and act as an anti-viral and therefore better protect us from those who are infected.

Oil of oregano: Oil of oregano is a natural anti-bacterial and just a few drops can ward off illness. However, be sure to mix the drops with juice to avoid a burning sensation in the throat.

Ginger & Garlic: Garlic is an antimicrobial and ginger is an anti-inflammatory as well as an anti-viral – so cook with it as much as you can, or take as supplements to keep your body in fighting form.

Hand-washing: Be diligent when it comes to hand-washing, especially when working on computers or using public transport. It is the simplest way to avoid getting sick.

Exercise: Exercise is a great way to prevent illness because it boosts white blood cell count, and helps to remove toxins and inflammatory markers from the body.  It also helps to oxygenate all tissues. However, if you are sick, avoid strenuous exercise as it raises blood pressure, which can actually increase replication of a virus.

Healthwise: The Power of Positive Thinking

December 14, 2012 10:58 am
Healthwise: The Power of Positive Thinking

It’s perfectly normal to feel down and out sometimes, especially during these long and dark winter days. But when your negative thoughts and attitude begin to hinder your productivity, personal relationships and overall happiness, it is time to kick positive thinking into high gear.

Fake it until you make it

If you simply do not feel happy, then fake it. It is possible to rewire your thought processes and render optimism your default mindset. Recent research has shown that “focused, repetitive mental activity can affect changes in your brain’s structure, wiring, and capabilities.”1 And why wouldn’t you want to be an optimist? Thinking positively promotes serotonin production in the brain and creates a sense of well-being.

Keep a gratitude journal

In order to focus your mind on the positives, set out to identify three to five things for which you are grateful every single day. Be specific and identify particular events from the day rather than focus on more general facts (e.g., I am grateful for my family). This way, you will look for the good within each day instead of getting stuck on the bad.

Reduce stress

If stress is causing your sour mood, attack the problem head-on. Identify the source of your burden and eliminate it. If you cannot completely eliminate it, find a way to manage it. Take up yoga, go for a walk, get to bed early, or make time with friends. Do whatever you need to do to put yourself first and prioritize your wellness.

Laugh more often

The simplest stress-buster is laughter. The great thing about laughter is that there is no right way to do it, as long as you are doing it. William Fry, a psychiatrist whose career spanned more than 50 years, found that “laughter increases circulation, stimulates the immune system, exercises the muscles, and even invigorates the brain.” 2

So make the choice to be happy. It is not as hard as it looks.

Learn to laugh and let go

Healthwise: Small Changes, Big Results

December 13, 2012 7:23 am
Reduce stress and improve your sense of happiness.

As we inch towards the end of the year and prepare for a clean slate in 2013, it is important to prioritize our individual wellness. By “wellness” I mean mental and physical health, life satisfaction and a sense of overall wellbeing.  It is easy to get caught up in the daily grind of studying, working, raising kids and the whole gamut of responsibilities that come along with adulthood. Despite these responsibilities, and more specifically becauseof them, we owe it to ourselves to prioritize our wellness and invest the time to ensure physical and emotional balance.

It is known that constant high levels of stress can be detrimental to your health and can shorten your life expectancy. That is why it is so important to develop effective stress management techniques. Ask yourself, what one small change could you incorporate into your routine to better your wellbeing? It is important to first identify the change that you are yearning for, then find a way to mend the gap. How can you get out of your rut?

Here are some suggestions of easy ways to improve your health:

  • Head outdoors for a walk on your lunch break
  • Eat one more piece of fruit per day
  • Drink more water
  • Cut back on one cup of coffee
  • Meditate for five minutes before bed
  • Join a book club
  • Have lunch with a friend instead of eating at your desk
  • Have dinner as a family

No matter your definition of wellness, the key is to make one small change that you can consistently maintain. If you set unrealistic goals, you risk being discouraged and abandoning your new habit.  It may surprise you how making some time for yourself can help reduce generalized stress and improve your sense of happiness. Go on, try it!

Healthwise: Natural Health Solutions

November 30, 2012 11:24 am
Healthwise: Natural Health Solutions

It seems that more people are going back to the basics when it comes to their health, and this includes turning to natural cures for minor ailments. Often, the ingredient you need is already in your pantry, so why look any further?

Here are some of the ingredients you can put to good use:

Spices for fresh breath

No need to maintain a wholesale inventory of chewing gum to ensure fresh breath. Instead, chew on cloves! A few minutes of chewing should do the trick (then spit them out). The essential oils found in cloves are antiseptic and therefore eliminate bacteria causing bad breath.

Nourish hair and skin

It seems that coconut oil is all the rage these days, and with good reason. Coconut oil is a source of medium-chain fatty acids, which are used by the body to produce energy, growth and repair.

Not only can you eat this healthy fat, you can also use it to nourish hair. How? Simply massage 2 tbsp of coconut oil into dry hair and scalp. Leave for 30 minutes, then shampoo.

Or dab coconut oil onto skin to help ease dry patches, rashes or even to reduce fine lines, saving you hundreds of dollars on expensive cosmetic creams and skin lotions sold in pharmacies.

Sage helps calm a soar throat. PHOTO:

Soothe a sore throat

Instead of relying on cold medicine this season, turn to anti-inflammatory sage to soothe a sore throat. Boil 2 tbsp of dried sage and a pinch of salt in water, let cool and then gargle the mixture to help kill germs and ease symptoms.


Calm a stressed mind

Unwind with a warm cup of green tea – rich in a powerful antioxidant that helps fight cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Green tea also improves immune function!



Healthwise: Maintaining your Health over the Holidays

November 26, 2012 11:00 am
Healthwise: Maintaining your Health over the Holidays

We all know that the holidays are approaching fast. It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of social commitments and to-do lists. However, maintaining our mental and physical health this season is critical. It is sometimes easier to sacrifice healthy food choices, adequate sleep and relaxation in favour of sustaining a hectic schedule. Unfortunately, such choices can be taxing on your sense of overall wellbeing and can start the New Year off in the wrong direction (like flat on your back).


Eat well

What are the holidays for if not to indulge in sweets and large meals shared with family and friends? In fact, our culture often uses food as a foundation for socialization; however, it is easy to get carried away when socializing is extended over the period of two to four weeks. Therefore, it is important to choose the times when we decide to treat ourselves – and even more important to avoid some of the sweets and cheese trays at hand. Instead, infuse your meals with healthy choices: load your plate with veggies and fruit and other nutritionally-dense food, leaving less appetite for desserts or snacks.


Late nights and high excitement can certainly affect the quality of one’s sleep. Aim to get an average of eight hours per night but, should that be impossible, try to take a nap in the afternoon. The holidays can be hectic and the last thing we want is to return to the hustle and bustle of January completely exhausted.


Although exercising means that we are expending energy, we will also gain energy from it. Don’t have time to run to the gym? No problem. Instead, head outdoors for a walk in the cool air. Take your family with you and incorporate it into your social time. The outdoors will help refresh you and keep you energized.


Don’t forget to breathe through the chaos. No matter how fun holiday celebrations can be, sometimes we need a time out. Remove yourself from it all and take a few minutes to sit in a quiet room or outdoors to take a deep breath or meditate a little to allow time to process thoughts and emotions.

“Maintaining our mental and physical health this season is critical.” PHOTO:

Just say no!

It can be difficult to decline an invitation to one more party or respectfully refuse to bake a pie, but between shopping, work, cooking, parenting and social engagements, we risk exhaustion if we do not. The truth is that saying no can be the best gift we give ourselves this holiday season.


Healthwise: The Benefits of Meditation

November 19, 2012 12:00 pm
Healthwise: The Benefits of Meditation

In the past, health was almost always associated with the physical body. Nowadays, more people are discovering the benefits of exercising the mind. The advantages of adding brain-teasers and crosswords to your routine have been lauded over the last few decades because they sharpen the mind and help keep dementia at bay. But even more at the forefront these days are the multiple health benefits of meditation.



The simple truth is that meditation is a discipline that can improve the structure of the brain and thereby encourage positive thought patterns to replace negative stress responses. Kelly McGonigal from Stanford University outlined how regular meditation leads to a cortical gyrification, which enhances neural processing. Gyrification is a good thing because the less gyrification, the more susceptible one is to depression, aging and Alzheimer’s disease. This means that meditation leads to bigger and more efficient brains (


There are multiple benefits to a regular meditation practice, including:

  • Improved attention span
  • Reduced stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer feelings of depression
  • Reduced risk of dementia
  • Positive attitude

Simple Techniques

When learning to meditate, it is important to understand that frequency is more significant than duration. Therefore, it is more beneficial to meditate every day for three to five minutes, than to meditate for 20 minutes once a week. Try one or all of the simple techniques listed below. Set up in a quiet space and allow yourself these few minutes to release mental tension. With practice, you may even be able to transfer your skills to busy environments, such as when using public transportation.

  1. Breath-focused Meditation: Focus on your breath. Count your breath cycles (inhale/exhale) until you reach 10 and then start again.
  2. Mindfulness Meditation: Become mindful of your breath. Notice your chest and belly rise and fall in connection with your breath.
  3. Notice how you feel. Allow your thoughts to flow freely. Acknowledge each thought, and then let it go without dwelling on one single thought.
  4. Walking Meditation: Stand with shoulders away from the ears and chest open. Begin walking slowly and deliberately. While walking, become aware of each step, including the distribution of your body weight. The great thing about this technique is that it can be practiced discretely in almost any environment.
  5. Visualization Meditation: Visualize an object and focus on the details of the mental image. For example, picture a rose. Imagine the petals, the stem, the leaves, a drop of water rolling down the petals, etc. Try to block all other thoughts from your mind. If your mind wanders, simply bring it back to your mental visualization.
  6. Loving-kindness Meditation: Sit quietly and close your eyes. Think of someone who would benefit from emotional support. Think positive thoughts and direct this loving-kindness towards that person, whether a friend, family member or complete stranger.

Whatever your style or preference, a regular meditation practice will surely help prepare you for the hectic holiday season, or any other challenge life may bring.

Just breathe!

Healthwise: Revitalize Your Health with These Five Superfoods

November 7, 2012 1:33 pm
Healthwise: Revitalize Your Health with These Five Superfoods

Ever heard of superfoods? Nowadays, it is a term that is thrown around often but may not be understood by everyone. A superfood is a food that is nutritionally dense and considered especially beneficial to health and well-being. These foods can help lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve overall mood.

Dark Leafy Green

Dark leafy greens are a nutritional powerhouse and one of the least expensive sources of nourishment. They can help manage healthy weight as they are high in dietary fiber (making you feel full longer) and high in vitamins, not to mention their cancer-preventing properties. Don’t like the taste of these vegetables? Try masking the flavor by blending them in a smoothie along with bananas or other fruits to help sweeten the bitter flavor.

Sources: kale, spinach, wheatgrass, broccoli…

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain healthful fats essential for managing inflammation and maintaining the normal structure of the cells in our bodies. They are also full of essential vitamins and minerals. To incorporate them into your diet, snack on a handful of nuts, sprinkle seeds on your salads, or add them to your smoothie.

Sources: almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, flax seed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds…


Sprouted seeds are one of the most beneficial foods because they support cell regeneration and can help prevent damage done by free radicals. They are a good source of essential fatty acids, which can help boost the immune system.

Sources: bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, lentil sprouts…


Kefir is a liquid similar to yogurt, made by fermenting kefir grains in milk. It is filled with beneficial bacteria, proteins, lipids and sugars, which contribute to a healthy digestion. Consider drinking it on its own or mixing it in a smoothie.


Often overlooked, water should be considered a superfood since it is absolutely vital to our survival and optimal health. Drinking sufficient water will help your body avoid headaches, fatigue and lack of concentration that is often caused by dehydration. It flushes toxins from the body and can lead to weight loss. Water intake will contribute to shinier hair and healthier skin, and will help lubricate joints and prevent constipation.



Healthwise: Healthy Sleep Habits

October 31, 2012 10:33 am
Healthwise: Healthy Sleep Habits

The crucial role of sleep in everyday functioning becomes ever more apparent when you are not getting enough rest. As a result of too many sleepless nights, you may battle headaches and chronic fatigue, feel greater irritability, struggle to concentrate and discover you have more difficulty problem-solving throughout the day.
Notably, sleep-deprivation impacts our metabolism’s proper functioning, and leads us to make unhealthy choices, such as depending on sugary foods and excessive caffeine to keep functioning, which over time results in weight gain and other associated health issues. Even more seriously, sleep disorders can put you at risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.[1]

By adhering to a few healthy sleep habits, you are contributing to your health:

1. Strive for a minimum of 7-9 hours of sleep per night: While everyone requires a different period of sleep, those who only need four or five hours to function optimally are rare. Keep track of the hours slept each night and make a point to notice the days that you are at your best. Identify your magic sleep number.
2. Get your exercise: Exercise plays an important role in helping to release stress after a long day. Not only will exercise ease the tension in your muscles, but it will also help to clear your mind, which will then allow for more restful sleep.
3. Turn off the television: Watching television late into the evening can lure you into staying up way past your bedtime as you ignore your natural rhythms in favour of the exciting distraction. Not only does watching TV keep you up past your natural bedtime, it also stimulates your mind and can keep you from falling asleep long after the TV has been switched off.
4. Meditate: Instead of watching television, sit quietly at the end of the day. Find a comfortable and quiet area in your home and take the time to notice what you are feeling. Process your thoughts and slow your breath in preparation for sleep. This simple activity helps relieve worry and cues your body for relaxation.
5. Sleep on your side: Sleeping on your side with knees bent promotes the natural curvature of your spine as opposed to sleeping on your stomach, for example, which forces the neck into a hyper-flexed position and can cause tension and discomfort during the day, and may even lead to long-term problems with your spine.

No matter what steps you decide to implement into your routine, recognizing the importance of sleep is vital to your overall health.


Healthwise: Are you treating the symptoms or the cause?

October 24, 2012 12:35 pm
Healthwise: Are you treating the symptoms or the cause?

I once knew a man who complained of chronic headaches. He managed his ailment with multiple daily doses of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.  After months of suffering, he lamented the state of his health over lunch.  We questioned the fellow and came to identify the fact that he never drank water. His beverage consumption was limited to caffeinated soft drinks and coffee. Within 24 hours of committing to drinking a minimum of eight glasses of water per day, his headaches disappeared!

Turns out all his grief had been caused by dehydration. The medication he had been ingesting was simply masking the pain temporarily, whereas the water treated the direct source of the problem.

Our tendency to treat the symptoms rather than the cause is quite rampant in Western culture. We focus on masking the aches and pains, seeking temporary relief over long-term betterment. That is not to say you should never rely on short-term remedies, only that it is important to recognize them as such and seek long-term solutions to your health problems instead.

An ounce of prevention

Cold season is nearly upon us.  Instead of waiting to treat your symptoms, try to focus on preventing them altogether. Simple ways of doing so include: washing your hands frequently; getting plenty of rest and sleep; clearing your nasal passages with a saline solution; committing to a regular exercise routine; and boosting your immune system by consuming certain superfoods and vitamins.

You are what you eat

Proper nutrition plays a huge role in a person’s overall health and well-being. On the one hand, a diet based on vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and good fats can optimize health and increase energy levels. On the other hand, poor diet can induce high-cholesterol, insulin resistance and heavy metal toxicity, which are all factors in the development of heart disease. Certainly not every health concern can be solved by diet alone; however, you may be surprised how much diet can impact the way you feel. Food is what fuels our bodies and allows our organs to function properly.

So next time you reach for medication, ask yourself whether you are treating the symptoms or the cause.


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