Healthy Food Choices This Holiday Season

December 21, 2015 1:03 pm
healthyfood_holidayseason_image2 (1)

The holiday season is upon us. Special gatherings with family, friends, and plenty of food are in order. But if you are trying to watch your waistline, or simply want to make healthier choices this holiday season, here are 6 tips to make sure you have a great time without needing to keep track of the calorie count!

  1. If faced with a buffet, limit yourself to one plateful.
    • Choose your options wisely, because one plateful is plenty of food for anyone. Don’t forget that you need to leave room for some Christmas baking treats (in moderation!).
  2. Focus half your intake on delicious nutritious veggies.
    • Grab a handful of veggies with a little bit of dip instead of the crackers, breads or deep fried goodies. Faced with a very long buffet of scrumptious options? Half your plate should be filled with greens and vegetables and leave the rest of your plate to indulge on other tasty offerings of your choosing.
  3. Do your best to avoid the deep fried or creamy options
    • Not only do deep fried or creamy dishes have more calories, they are heavy foods and lead to that “Goodness, I ate way too much!” feeling. But, if you’d like to have a taste of those indulgent dishes, take a little mini portion and savor it instead of pilling it on your plate.
  4. Only one slice of bread or a roll at the dinner table
    • Breads and rolls can increase your salt and carbohydrate intake. Only choose one and leave the rest for the other friends and family members to enjoy.
  5. Bring a healthy dish to share.
    • If you are attending a potluck-style dinner party or gathering, bring a healthy dish to share like a vegetable platter with hummus or bean dip, guacamole, or a seasonal salad filled with veggies. That way, you’ll know there is something you can fill up on without the guilt.
  6. Enjoy a glass or two of wine as it has far fewer calories and much less sugar than beer or mixed drinks.
    • White or red wine averages 60-70 calories per glass, whereas a 12-ounce bottled beer and be upwards of 200 calories per serving, and mixed drinks can be even higher. Also, red wine in moderation can help decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease! (Moderation equals 1 glass for women or 2 glasses for men a day).

One night of indulgence will likely not pack on the pounds, though multiple parties and festive evenings can catch up to you. Eat lightly the next day and you’ll be back on track. And most of all, happy holidays and enjoy the time with your loved ones.

This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

healthyfood_holidayseason_image3Josée is a Naturopathic Doctor at Ottawa Holistic Wellness Centre. Her clinical focus the study of interactions between the psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body. She focuses on anxiety, stress, insomnia, hormone health and depression which can cause fatigue, digestive complaints, a weak immune system and pain.

You Are What You Eat : Processed food Additives Linked to Obesity, Gut Inflammation and Food Addictions

December 3, 2015 12:13 pm
You are what you eat Image 1

Processed food can remain longer on shop shelves, but what does that spell for our digestion? In a new research paper published in the journal Nature, scientists from Georgia State University examined how food additive emulsifiers affect the digestive health of mice.

Emulsifiers are added to most processed foods to prolong shelf life and enhance texture. The research team fed mice two of the most common emulsifiers on the market — polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose. They observed that the emulsifiers altered the mice’s gut microbiota or friendly bacteria found in the intestinal tract. Not only did this increase the risk of developing obesity, but also inflammatory bowel disease. It’s no coincidence both these conditions have been increasing since the 1950s.

You are what you eat Image 3“The dramatic increase in these diseases has occurred despite consistent human genetics, suggesting a pivotal role for an environmental factor,” the study’s co-author Benoit Chassaing, a researcher from GSU’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences, said in a press release. “Food interacts intimately with the microbiota, so we considered what modern additions to the food supply might make gut bacteria more pro-inflammatory.”

Emulsifiers help to hold food together. Mayonnaise without emulsifiers, for example, will separate from an oily top layer to a thicker white layer that rests on the bottom of the jar. Once the emulsifiers were ingested by the mice, their blood-glucose levels went awry, inflamed their intestinal mucus layer, which left them with weight gain, specifically in the abdomen. The bacterial change triggered chronic colitis and metabolic syndrome, which includes obesity, hyperglycaemia, and insulin resistance.

You are what you eat

Ultimately, you are what you eat. If your diet is smeared with margarine, mayonnaise, creamy sauces, candy, ice cream, and most other packaged and processed baked goods, you and your gut may be at risk.

“We do not disagree with the commonly held theory that over-eating is a primary cause of obesity and metabolic syndrome,” the study’s coauthor Andrew T. Gewirtz, a researcher from GSU’s Institute for Biomedical Sciences, said in press release. “Rather, our findings strengthen the concept intimated by earlier work that low-grade inflammation produced from a modified microbiota can be an underlying cause of excess eating.”

Food addiction and overeating

What’s worse are the new results from research out of the University of Michigan, which found processed foods are the most likely to trigger a food addiction and overeating. The brain responds to processed food much like it reacts to street drugs. The very dense high-calorie processed foods do contribute an abundant amount of energy, which is why the body craves them. However, there’s a point when it becomes too much, and now it even changes the way the gut responds to food.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

The YMCA’s Still Got It

December 2, 2015 12:11 pm
Kathy Godding in her fabulous costume at the 2014 Cliffhanger event.

A shot from the YMCA-YWCA’s annual cliffhanger event. Photo by John Enaje.

The Capital’s YMCA-YWCA has a lot to offer locals.

Founded in 1867, the Y works to advance the health and well being of children, youth and families. The Y provides services that tackle issues such as children’s health, unemployment, homelessness, social isolation and inequality. The Y’s goal is to make a positive impact on those who need these services the most.

Healthy living is a cause that the Y has always championed by providing gym facilities and fitness programs to the public.  What sets the Y apart from other gyms, however, is its dedication to providing a welcoming atmosphere that is encouraging, supportive and inspiring.

Ali Riel is the General Manager of two Ottawa YMCA-YWCA facilities. As we spoke it was quickly clear that Riel is proud of the Y’s dedication to inclusivity.

Cliffhanger_Ines BR3

The YMCA-YWCA’s annual cliffhanger event. Photo by John Enaje.

“We don’t turn anyone away,” says Riel. “It doesn’t matter what your financial means are, or what your religion or race is. We provide subsides for anyone that needs one. (People) can get a membership, they can participate in swimming lessons (and) we can send them to camp. Everybody has the opportunity to come through our doors to get fit and get healthy.”

In 2014, over 37,500 people participated in the Y’s health and fitness programs, and 5,058 of those members received financial assistance through subsidized memberships.

The Y’s breadth of accessible programs is impressive, to say the least. They aim to offer programs for every member of a family, from pre-school children to adults over 50. Family Inclusive memberships are also a great and affordable option for families who are looking to get healthy together. A Family membership at the Y offers children’s swim lessons, children’s programming like dance and sports, as well as adult fitness classes, all at one cost.

Building a foundation for a child’s healthy future is a cause that the Y is dedicated to, as well as one that they’ve been expanding upon for the New Year.

“How do we teach young children to be active?” Riel says. “We need to teach them the right skills. We are incorporating that teaching into our (children’s) programming,”

“The Y is a place that will introduce them to a multitude of sports and activities. We want to give (kids) a grassroots experience that they can then figure out what sport they like to pursue. We want to introduce them to all of the possibilities that are out there.”

Riel recognizes that not every child is interested in sports.  “We want to develop the whole being, and mind, and body. Not just the athlete. Kids can learn about arts, crafts, drama and music, too.”

Related: Adrenaline Junkies Rejoice: YMCA’s Cliffhanger is Back.

The Y also offers kids a chance to learn aquatic skills with a national swim program that is delivered in all Ys across the country. The program introduces swim skills that are transferrable to the Red Cross and Life Saving Society swim programs. Riel explains that the Y aims to teach kids at a comfortable pace and level style.

“There isn’t a deadline for a child to receive a (swim) badge. It doesn’t matter if it takes a child one or two sessions. It’s our job that they walk away with sound skills and water safety.”

The Y is also launching an exciting new Youth Night. Every Friday, youth are encouraged to take part in different sports and activities, such as basketball, group fitness classes, a youth open swim, hip-hop dance classes and more.

Also arriving this winter is a new adult group fitness class. Group Power combines music with traditional strength exercises and a motivating atmosphere to push adults to their person best.

With so many programs to choose from, you are bound to find something your whole family will enjoy at the Y.  You can learn more information about the National-Capital Region YMCA-YWCA by visiting their website.

Staying Active Over the Holidays

November 30, 2015 2:19 pm

As the holiday season arrives, schedules can fill up with parties, dinners, shopping, and vacations. Although this is an exciting time of year, it can be stressful. When our calendars get overwhelming, in order to meet holiday demands, one of the first things people often reduce is exercise. Also, as the weather turns cooler, people spend less time outdoors. Since physical activity helps reduce stress and up our energy, slashing a workout routine can make things worse.

WinterWorkout3Exercise induces stress reducing hormones called endorphins that help you feel great. If November and December bring more stress into your life, consider exercise as a way to balance it out. It could be your outlet for tension relief and ultimately give you enough energy to happily and calmly power through the holidays.

If you do not regularly practice yoga, consider trying it this winter. Not only does it improve heart health, flexibility and body strength, it can help clear your mind from holiday craziness that sometimes piles up. Meditative practices help to calm the mind to help you become more physically and emotionally aware. Furthermore, hot yoga studios are growing in popularity and a great way to stay cozy as the temperature drops. You can find them all over the city.

For many, the holiday season means family feasts, parties, and festive drinks. This is another reason why being physically active should take priority. Since many people travel near and far it may seem difficult to continue with your workout routine. However, staying fit does not have to mean regular gym visits or joining a sports team. There are many ways to incorporate exercise into a holiday schedule. Think of your daily routine…can you take the stairs more? Can you park farther from work and walk to the office? Consider becoming a mall walker!

When holiday shopping, arrive before the stores open to take a power stroll before your power shop. As the WinterWorkout2snow falls, consider shoveling as exercise. You can also embrace the cool weather by snowshoeing, outdoor/indoor skating or by cross-country or downhill skiing. Also, if you are a runner, do not be afraid to run outside. If you are properly prepared and dressed, it is perfectly safe. Another great idea is to get a pedometer to track your steps. You should be aiming to take at least 10,000 steps a day. If you are traveling or staying in a hotel, pack a resistance band for strengthening and a jump rope for cardio. This requires little room in your luggage and can be done in small spaces.

Staying fit this holiday is easier than you think. With some preparation and creativity, you can easily stay energized throughout it all. However you choose to be active, remember to have fun with it!

An Interview with the Last Canadian Quarterback

November 27, 2015 2:44 pm
Russ Jackson Photo

From the Sens’ legendary ‘Hamburgler’ streak last spring, to the Fury’s impossible season, and the Redblacks playing for the Grey Cup this weekend, Ottawa’s sports teams have had more success in 2015 than we know how to handle.

To reflect on some of Ottawa’s past sporting triumphs, and to celebrate the Redblacks’ stunning year, Ottawa Life Magazine called up former Ottawa Rough Riders quarterback and Canadian football icon Russ Jackson. In a sport increasingly dominated by Americans, no Canadian before or since has led teams and won seasons like Russ Jackson did. Jackson played with the Ottawa Rough Riders for 12 years and led them through the team’s golden age, including 3 Grey Cup wins. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1973 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1975, and he’s a member of the Order of Canada.

We spoke with Jackson last Sunday, just before the Redblack’s win against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, to talk about his legacy, the new team and how a coin-toss decided his entire career.

Ottawa Life: So Russ, you already have a pretty unmatched legacy in Canadian football, is there anything you still want to add to it?

Russ Jackson: I think I’ve reached that plateau. Being a Canadian who played quarterback, which was a very unusual situation in the Canadian football league, I think that I left a legacy that is still talked about in the sense that no one else has come along in the last 40 or 50 years to play first-string quarterback for a CFL team for any length of time.

That’s still my legacy, they still talk about that—that I’m the ‘last Canadian quarterback,’ and ‘when will the next come along?’ So I believe that my legacy has been written, I don’t think there’s anything else to add to it now and I’m very proud of it.

And in your 12-year career with the Rough Riders, how long did you play as their quarterback?

Well I started in 1958 as the defensive back and I was sort of the third string quarterback. Ahead of me they had two Americans, Hal Ledyard and Tom Dimitroff, and they both got hurt, one broke his leg and one broke his arm. So during that ’58 season I was the only show in town. So I got a chance to play, had success, and basically from then on I was playing quarterback. Not all the time, because I was sharing it with an American, but then in the early ‘60s I took over as the first-string quarterback and played all the games. Throughout my 12-year career I only missed one game, because [of] broken ribs.

Wait, broken ribs and you only missed one game? Was it at the end of the season?

No that was in the middle of the season. In those days you played when you were hurt, a little bit more than you do now.

So it was a bit of chance that those people were injured and you were able to play quarterback. Do you think you would have eventually been given the long-term position even if that hadn’t happened?

Yeah, that’s something that no one knows. I mean, these things happen and if you take the advantages you get you have that opportunity to succeed and play the position you want. But would it have happened if they hadn’t gotten hurt? I really can’t answer that.

You look back at your life and there are things that you don’t think of as being important at the time, but as you look back 50 years later you say ‘that was really influential on my life.’

I can recite one other one. When I was graduating from McMaster University, the BC Lions had the first draft pick. I know the general manager was trying to decide whether to pick Russ Jackson or an outstanding running back from Western University by the name of Bill Britton. And as the story goes as I heard it, it came right down to the GM making the choice. He flipped a coin, and it came up Bill Britton.

So he drafted Bill Britton, I ended up in Ottawa, and I look back and say ‘if the coin came up Russ Jackson I never would have gotten the chance to play quarterback.’ You don’t look at them at the time as being important but you look back now and say wow, would you be talking to me now?

It seems like the sort of thing that could keep you up at night.

As long as it turns out well, they wake you up but you smile. If they didn’t turn out well they wake you up but you don’t smile.

You’ve said before that while you were with the Rough Riders teaching was your job and football was your hobby. Was it common for football players to have two jobs back then, or was that something you did a little bit differently?

No it was common. We didn’t get paid a whole lot actually, most athletes, whether they played hockey in the NHL or football in the CFL, salaries weren’t like they are now. Most players had a second job. Education was really good because training camps didn’t start until the July first weekend and if you were a teacher you were on holidays over summer.

It made it really great because when you retired you’d already put 10 or 12 years into a profession and you moved right into it as you left. That worked out well.

So the Rough Riders didn’t end up lasting forever, are you happy to see that Ottawa has a new team?

Oh it’s great, and to think that last year in their beginning they went two and 16 and this year here they are in first place playing this weekend to see if they can get to the Grey Cup. I mean it’s just a fantastic start to the new franchise, the Redblacks. I give the players and coaches and the ownership all the credit for getting it organized and getting a competitive team together very quickly.

It really is amazing. You led the Rough Riders in what is considered their most dominant era, the 60s through to the early 70s. During that time did it really feel like you were on top? Was there a lot of energy there?

Oh yes, I mean people often talk about it being the Golden Years. It was the only show in town professionally. The fans were behind you, they almost felt like they had a part of you. In those days players basically played for one team, and part of it is due to the fact that we did hold jobs down in the city and salaries weren’t high. There wasn’t an extra million dollars to trade someone like they could now. Nobody’s going to give up their job or a chance to play football in Ottawa for an extra $500 or $1000.

People stayed in the town, they stayed with one team and I think that helped make it into the Golden Years because the fans almost felt they had ownership of the players. They knew them, they knew who they were, they recognized them on the street. It’s different now because players move around more.

I think it was not just in Ottawa but most of the CFL cities, that the ‘60s and early ‘70s were looked at as the Golden Years. Now it’s not uncommon for a quarterback to have played for maybe three or four teams over his twelve or fourteen-year career and that changes things I think a little bit for the fans.

It’s changed a lot in other ways too. Today it seems like football players are getting injured a lot and retiring younger.

Yeah, well some of them are yeah. It’s a much tougher game. It’s like hockey, they’re getting bigger and bigger and the arena’s not getting any bigger. It seems like every game someone gets hurt.

So are you going to be watching the next Redblacks game?

Oh I’ll be there. I’m leaving for Ottawa tomorrow.

Was there anything else you’d like to add while we’re talking?

Not really…just that it was a great life, and I was thoroughly pleased that I had that opportunity to play professional sport and play football.

Mushrooms To Boost Your Immune System

November 17, 2015 11:58 am
Mushrooms 1

There’s a new wave of options to help boost your immune system this season. While vitamin C, Echinacea and oregano oil have all had their claim to fame in enhancing your immune system, mushrooms are quickly gaining in popularity to positively impact the fight against viruses and bacteria, especially when cold and flu season is just getting started.

mushrooms_boost_immunesystem_image2Your immune system fights foreign invaders – also known as pathogens – on two fronts: one through using the innate immune system, and the other with the acquired immune system. The acquired immune system is one that needs to be introduced to a pathogen (virus, bacteria etc), after which your body creates and increases the output of immune fighting cells that will attack the pathogen in question. This process can take a bit of time to occur after you’ve been exposed. On the other hand, the innate immune system is your first line of defense against pathogens. It’s the “seek and destroy” part of your immune system. Specialized cells find viruses and bacteria and attack immediately by engulfing and digesting them. This branch of your immune system allows you to quickly and effectively remove possible pathogens so you can enjoy life while keeping sickness at bay!

Mushrooms like Agarikon (Fomitopsis officinalis) are powerhouses to your immune system, fighting off both bacteria and viruses, offering you dual protection this time of year. Packed with immune fighting constituents like beta-glucans, it has been used for centuries to treat various infections and ailments. With the help of research studies, we now know that Agarikon has an effect against pox viruses, swine and bird flu, herpes simplex 1 and 2, Influenza viruses A and B, and even M.tuberculosis! Not only can Agarikon be anti-viral and anti-bacterial, it also has potent anti-inflammatory potential.

If you are someone who frequently catches colds or simply hates getting sick, medicinal mushrooms are wonderful at boosting the innate immune system and therefore arming you with a strong first line of defense during the cold and flu season.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

mushrooms_boost_immunesystem_image3 (1)Author: Dr. Josée Boyer, ND

Josée is a Naturopathic Doctor at Ottawa Holistic Wellness Centre. Her clinical focus the study of interactions between the psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body. She focuses on anxiety, stress, insomnia, hormone health and depression which can cause fatigue, digestive complaints, a weak immune system and pain.

The Radical World of Roller Derby

November 12, 2015 1:52 pm

Roller derby is a sport like no other. Fast, furious and incredibly competitive, it comes as no surprise that roller derby has gained popularity over the years.

Sports promoter Leo A. Seltzer first invented the sport after reading an article in Literary Digest. The piece indicted that 93% of Americans had roller-skated at some point in their lives. Seltzer then developed a new marathon competition, modeling it after dance marathons and bike races.


The Sirens in action. Photo courtesy of Paul Thompson.

Seltzer’s first derby competition debuted successfully at the Chicago Coliseum on August 13th, 1935. Not long after, sportswriter Damon Runyon encouraged Seltzer to develop the derby into a competitive game. Runyon also suggested more contact between the players and more rules. Roller derby as we know it began to enter into the mainstream, through television coverage and a collection of sponsorships.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Natalie Campbell (or also known by her derby name, Drunky Brewster), has been playing flat-track roller derby in Ottawa for eight years. Campbell was initially approached in a bar about joining the first derby team for Ottawa’s league, the Rideau Valley Roller Girls. As someone who is typically up for anything, Campbell decided to give derby a try.

Since then, Campbell has been an active force behind the local league’s growth, and describes the RVRG as a precursor of modern flat-track roller derby. With the league, Campbell has watched the sport grow, change, and legitimize itself in the sporting world.


The Prime Sinisters in action.

There are three home teams in the RVRG: Slaughter Daughters, Riot Squad and Prime Sinisters. The teams play against one another for the annual RVRG home team championship and participate in tournaments designated for home teams each year.

Two all-star teams also make up the RVRG: Ottawa’s B-team, The Sirens, and the A-team, The Vixens. The Vixens are currently ranked 42nd in the world.

The Vixens represent the RVRG internationally and Campbell is their bench coach. This September, they competed in the Division 1 Championship Playoffs in Dallas, TX. The Vixens faced off against teams from all around the world, from Australia to Sweden to the US.

Empowerment is another huge part of roller derby. All body shapes and athletic capabilities are accepted and welcomed into the sport. 

“I think part of the appeal for women is that we see a wide range of body shapes on the athletes, even at the higher competitive levels. That’s not to say that fitness isn’t a huge part of it, but there’s not a ‘typical’ body shape to the athletes,” says Campbell. “In this sport, there are advantages to being tall or short, or to being large or small.”

In the end, it is the skating, footwork, agility and power behind hits that count the most.

One challenge for derby members is trying to maintain a work/life/derby balance. Members are required to participate in a minimum of two practices a week, which last about two to three hours. Approaching playoffs, members are required to practice up to four times a week. 

Along with practices, the team members are also responsible for the administration, promotion and running of the league. The sport’s camaraderie is a massive benefit.

“I’ve met some amazing women and men through playing roller derby. (These are) people I would have never met if it were not for this one quirky thing that we all enjoy.”


The Vixens

In order to introduce newbies and derby hopefuls to roller derby, the RVRG has organized a Fresh Meat program.

The program is a three to four month session that teaches skating basics and accepts about 20 to 30 men and women.

In order to graduate out of the Fresh Meat program, the skater needs to demonstrate a set of skills called the Minimum Skill Requirements. After graduation, the skater is accepted as a full league member and can join in on regular practices, start full-contact scrimmaging and can be recruited to a home team.

While it may seem very intimidating at first, at its core, the RVRG are still a community sports team.

“There was a mythology or hype behind roller derby for a long time about the girls being tough and brash. (However), there are a lot of shy and introverted players who find their place in the league.”

When asked for advice for the derby curious, Campbell’s advice is simple:

“Just do it. There’s really nothing to lose. Don’t give up if skating doesn’t come easy to you. Not everyone progresses at the same speed, and the league is made up of skaters of a huge variety of skill levels. There’s room for everyone.”

You can learn more about the Rideau Valley Roller Girls by visiting their website.

Are you Getting Enough Vitamin D?

October 20, 2015 2:02 pm

As our Canadian cold weather trickles in and the days become shorter, getting your daily dose of sunlight can become a challenge. While curling up at home with your favourite blanket all winter might sound like a great idea, it can also hurt your vitamin D intake. Many Canadians are low in vitamin D and may not even know it.

But what exactly is vitamin D and why do we need it? Vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium to keep our bones healthy. It is a fat-soluble vitamin and is a crucial nutrient for several metabolic processes that support things like our immune system, muscles, nerves and digestion. Since vitamin D comes directly from the sun, we often don’t get enough in the summer moths either, as sunscreen blocks its absorption as well.

Keeping strong bones and preventing osteoporosis is important. It reduces the risk of fractures, prevents falls, keeps our posture strait and our spine strong. As we age, our skin’s ability to absorb Vitamin D also decreases, which is why it is important to get it from sources other than the sun.

We cannot get enough vitamin D through food sources alone. However, there are several foods that contain it and can help you reach daily intake recommendations. For example, foods considered high in vitamin D include cow’s milk, fortified soy and rice beverage, fortified orange juice, fatty fish like salmon and sardines, margarine, egg yolks and fortified yogurts.

In Canada, since it is tricky to get enough vitamin D through food and direct sunlight, The Osteoporosis Canada foundation recommends regular vitamin D supplementation for all adults in Canada all year around.


Direct sunlight is one of the best vitamin D sources you can find, but it’s not always available.

Many calcium supplements contain vitamin D. Check your current vitamins’ label to see if you are meeting the recommended dose. Keep in mind that there are two forms of Vitamin D that can help with strong bones. They are vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Also, since you do not have to take this vitamin with food, you can conveniently take it whenever it’s convenient throughout the day.

So, how much should we be supplementing?  Osteoporosis Canada also suggests; “Healthy adults between 19-50 years of age, including pregnant or breast feeding women, require 400 – 1,000 IU daily. Those over 50 or those younger adults at high risk (with osteoporosis, multiple fractures, or conditions affecting vitamin D absorption) should receive 800 – 2,000 IU daily. These amounts are safe.  Taking more than 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily should be done only under medical supervision.” In conclusion, the average Canadian adult would be smart to take about 1000 IU’s of vitamin D per day.

You can find out more information about the Ottawa Holistic Wellness Centre here.

Acupuncture to Enhance Anti-depressant Medication: Feel Better Faster

October 9, 2015 12:00 pm
Medication working on brain health.

Depression and chronic low mood are very prevalent conditions affecting Canadians. Those diagnosed with mild to moderate forms of depression can have success with natural interventions if they are started early with good adherence to treatment. But not all cases are the same, and those diagnosed with more serious and chronic forms of depression are often prescribed anti-depressant médications. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are a very common prescription in Canada. 9% of the Canadian population is taking an anti-depressant medication, which is a significant number and constantly growing. At times, scientists question the effectiveness and side effects of these medications. Looking at alternative medicine additions to help enhance efficacy and relief of depression can be of great benefit to a patient. By lifting mood more efficiently and effectively, there is hope to resolve depression, feel better, and remove the need for medication.

Acupuncture needles. Photo credit: Dollar Photo Club

Acupuncture needles.
Photo credit: Dollar Photo Club

Acupuncture is an alternative treatment that is growing in popularity to help heal the mind. Known to balance the energy of the body and regulate the nervous system, acupuncture is becoming a common intervention for those seeking to restore a balanced mood. Treatments are highly individualized based on the patient’s presentation of depression along with other signs and symptoms he/she might be experiencing. Specific points are chosen and treatments are very relaxing and restorative. The best part is that science is now catching up and publishing studies showing benefit to combining acupuncture with anti-depressant medication to help treat mental illness.

In fact, studies are showing the use of acupuncture and medication together exceeds the therapeutic result of taking medications alone. A study published in early 2015 by the Journal of Affective Disorders wanted to examine the use of SSRI’s alone and in combination with acupuncture to help lift depressive symptoms. Looking at newly diagnosed depressive patients, the combination of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) with acupuncture has shown clinical benefit, greater than simply using the SSRI medication alone. Receiving consistent acupuncture treatments in the first 6 weeks of SSRI treatment was “effective, has an early onset of action, safe and well-tolerated” (1),

These findings are very promising and practical. After being diagnosed with depression, many people want to do everything in their power to stabilize their mood and feel like themselves again. The addition of acupuncture is a trusted and researched way to use alternative medicine to enhance conventional depression treatments.

  1. Journal of Affective Disorders.2015 May 1;176:106-17. 

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Photo of Dr. Josée Boyer, ND Photo credit: Kaleena Jay Photography


Author: Dr. Josée Boyer, ND

Josée is a Naturopathic Doctor at Ottawa Holistic Wellness Centre. Her clinical focus the studyof interactions between the psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body. She focuses on anxiety, stress, insomnia, hormone health and depression which can cause fatigue, digestive complaints, a weak immune system and pain

Uniting the Nation Through Sport

September 30, 2015 2:04 pm

The collective experience of cheering on our Canadian athletes and rejoicing in their achievements cultivates a distinct sense of unity.

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the award-winning national museum based in Calgary, exemplifies the importance of sport in Canada. It has 12 galleries representing 65 sports and more than 50 hands-on interactive visitor experiences dedicated to celebrating inspirational Canadian athletes and sport builders.



“It’s not just about that podium moment, it’s about the story behind how he or she got there,” says Mario Siciliano, president and CEO of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. “It’s important to continue sharing those stories with future generations.” This year, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame has a lot to celebrate. 2015 marks its 60th anniversary of sharing the extraordinary stories that make up Canada’s sports history, and in the process, highlighting the core values that define our country.

sport3“Over the generations, sports have brought us together as a country,” says Siciliano. “It has been one of the dominant ways we have formed our national identity and position in the global environment. That is its legacy.” Additionally, David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, proclaimed 2015 as the Year of Sport in Canada. If there was ever a time to commemorate Canadian athletes, 2015 is the year to do it.

In celebration of its anniversary, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame inducted a second group called the Canadian Sport Legends Class. These diverse athletes and sport builders include: war heroes who gave their lives for our country; Aboriginal and black athletes who broke down racial barriers; women who overcame gender inequality; and, remarkable pioneers of Canadian sport from the late 1800s and early 1900s who illustrate the deep roots of Canadian sports history.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for Canadians of all ages to benefit personally and professionally from understanding the journey of these amazing Canadian sports heroes. They set an example of perseverance, self-esteem and dreaming big,” says Siciliano. “None of these athletes were handed medals. None of them bought their success. Hard work and persistence made them successful.” With Canada’s 150th anniversary approaching in 2017, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame will be involved in the celebration in an exciting way.

sport2It received a federal grant from the Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC) to work on a research project entitled Canadian History and Society: Through the Lens of Sport. The project aims to tell Canada’s 150-year sports history. Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame will develop exhibits centred on women in sports, major sporting events held in Canada, cultural diversity in sports, military and sports and Canadian innovation in sports.

“It’s a project we’ll be working on over the next 18 months or so leading up to 2017,” Siciliano explains. “We’re excited to have the opportunity on behalf of the country to tell Canada’s story through sports.”

A major part of the research will be pulled from the Hall of Fame’s extensive archives. Over the past 60 years, it has collected over 95,000 artefacts including photos, video footage and original documentation. Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is overflowing with fascinating evidence of Canada’s rich sports history.

“When it comes to sports, we’re not talking about east and west or French and English,” he says. “It’s about Canada as a whole.” We can all learn a little something about determination, passion and hard work from our national athletes and sports builders. Celebrating their inspiring stories, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is leading the way in uniting the nation through sport.

Ottawa Life Guide to the Sens

September 29, 2015 1:04 pm

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

Whether you are new to town or have just decided that this year you are going to join the slew of hockey fans inhabiting Ottawa’s pubs, bars or other fine drinking establishments, there are a few things you should know about the capital’s NHL team.

The modern Senators have been a team since 1992, a reincarnate of the original Ottawa Senators hockey team who won 11 Stanley Cup titles from their founding in 1883 to their removal from the NHL in 1934. But it was not until the early 2000s that the Senators started gaining recognition as a viable force in professional hockey.

This past year was possibly their most exciting season yet, so you can be sure the buzz is on for the 2015-2016 season.

After failing to qualify the year before April 2015 saw the Sens lose first round to the Montreal Canadiens, the underdogs put up an admirable fight. They finished their regular season 23-4-4 in their last 31 games, qualifying for the post-season against all odds.

The Sens’ comeback is largely credited to goalie Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond, who would get cheeseburgers thrown at him as he skated off the ice – out of respect. The big question this year is whether the team will start with Hammond or one of their other goalie, the proven and reliable Craig Anderson.


Erik Karlsson. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

Some of the team’s other key players include the captain, Erik Karlsson, who is a Swede with really nice hair and one of the top of young defensemen in the league. There’s Bobby Ryan who was acquired in a promising trade with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks but has yet to payoff, and Mark Stone, a rookie who had an incredible record last season.

Now you can’t talk about the Sens without a nod to Daniel Alfredsson. Alfredsson, another player from Sweden, played 17 seasons with the Senators and was captain from 1999 until he signed a one year, five and a half million dollar deal with the Detroit Red Wings in 2013, which proved to be his last year. He signed a one-day contract with the Sens so he could retire an Ottawa player in 2014. It was just announced in early September that the Senators have hired Alfredsson on as the team’s senior advisor.

Many fans and critics agree that the biggest issue facing the Senators is monetary, with the possibility that the team’s owner, Eugene Melnyk, will not spend enough money to justly equip the team to win the Stanley Cup.

However, fans are looking to carry the momentum from last year and put up a fight this season! Stay tuned to find out.

Pedal Past Dark with Tour La Nuit

September 24, 2015 11:58 am
Capital Velo Fest 2

All photos courtesy of Ottawa Vélo Fest.

Every cyclist knows the dream of having an entire main road to themselves. There really isn’t anything like flying down Colonel By Drive on Sunday Bike Days or turning the art gallery corner to find the Alexandra Bridge completely empty.

This Friday, Capital Vélo Fest plans on capturing that feeling for hundreds of local cyclists with their fifth annual Tour La Nuit.

“I went to the Tour La Nuit in Montreal about six or seven years ago and it was just a delightful event. And I thought that Ottawa could have a similar festival,” says Vélo Fest founder and executive director Dick Louch.

In the Tour La Nuit, Louch’s organization will be blocking off 20 kilometres of road between City Hall and the experimental farms to allow the cyclists to enjoy ‘a night under the stars without any cars.’ The riders are encouraged to show off their most elaborate array of bike lights and enjoy some great food, drinks and music.

Capital Velo Fest

The Human Powered Vehicle Operators of Ottawa’s bicycle freight-train.

One group called the Human Powered Vehicle Operators of Ottawa really goes all out with their decorations. A few years ago they brought a tandem-recumbent bike pulling a trailer and lit the whole thing up to look like a freight train.

“One year they came towing an organ behind them, and we had someone playing,” Louch recalls. “Last year they were towing a hot-tub that was filled with stuffed animals and kids.”

Other cyclists carry speakers in their baskets or in carts behind them, giving the ride a roving soundtrack.

Louch’s first goal with the night is for people to have fun, and the second goal is for people to take that fun to the streets and enjoy city cycling, especially night cycling, more often.

“Many people have said to me that they don’t feel comfortable riding at night,” Louch says. These riders are often concerned about not being seen by cars or not seeing other potential dangers.

“By coming out in this environment where the roads are closed…they can hopefully feel safe and see that it’s not so bad,” says Louch.

Capital Velo Fest 3Adult admission for the ride is $20, and most of the money goes to paying for the non-profit Vélo Fest’s operational costs. Running the Tour La Nuit requires money for the police to close roads, insurance and the venue rental at City Hall among other expenses. The event’s sponsors include cycling groups and eco-companies like Citizens for Safe Cycling, RightBike and EnviroCentre. The $20 entry fee buys you more than just admission into the ride. Everyone who signs up for Tour La Nuit will receive a free light that fits over their tire valve and lights up the wheel with a band of colour.

“Most bikes have a light on the front and back, but there’s not a lot of visibility from the side,” says Louch. “These lights really make you stand out because they’re a bright glowing neon colour…it not only makes you very visible, but you look totally awesome.”

To find out more about Friday’s event, check out the Capital Vélo Fest website here.

Melanie Albert Knows Fitness

September 18, 2015 9:57 am
Melanie Albert

Image courtesy of Dave Laus

Aside from being an award winning hair stylist and makeup artist, Ottawa’s own Melanie Albert is an accomplished and driven competitive fitness model.

Albert’s first fitness competition was at the Interactive Nutrition SAF Fall Spectacular in October 2010. Albert placed 3rd place, and was given the opportunity to have a photo shoot with legendary fitness photographer Paul Buceta. This competition encouraged Albert to pursue her fitness passion.

Photo courtesy of Paul Buceta

Since then, Albert has been taking the fitness world by storm. She’s participated in multiple competitions around the world, from the International Drug Free Athletics competition in Burlington, Ontario, to the World Body and Fitness Federation fitness show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Albert loves what she does, and it shows.

Albert’s two first place wins at UFE Chaos Montreal brought her to win the UFE North American Championships in 2011.

Throughout 2013, Albert placed 1st in two fitness shows (Toronto Fitness Star Bikini and the OPA Provincial Bikini Short), has been the first runner up at the SAF Elite Championship, and placed in the top 3 at the CBFF Nationals. Albert is preparing for her next show that will take place on October 17th.

“As a competitor, if I’ve learned one thing it’s that it is important to stay true to your dreams and be positive,” Albert says.

Albert’s daily workout routine is dedicated to cardio, weight lifting and clean eating. Protein is an important component in a healthy diet, promoting fat building and muscle growth. Albert recommends protein sources such as tilapia, chicken and salmon.

Weight lifting is essential in Albert’s fitness goals. Albert’s routines include isolating two muscle groups per workout, three times per week. Albert’s main focus has been building her core and legs with lunges and squats. Albert credits this strategy to her winning a runner-up position with the SAF at the Elite Pro Championship in 2012.

Cardio plays a huge factor in Albert’s workout regime. Albert uses a stair climber, treadmill or an elliptical for, at minimum, 45 minutes each day.

While Albert admits that she can sometimes dread her daily workout routine, she says that she has never regretted a workout. She believes that a good night’s sleep is the best preparation for that early morning workout.

“Exercise your mind, body and soul,” Albert says. “Every move you make toward your goals is an improvement.”

Tummy Time!

September 16, 2015 10:01 am

There is growing research that demonstrates the importance of “tummy time” for infant development. What exactly is tummy time? Tummy time is simply the time which you allow your baby (while supervised) to lay and play flat on his or her stomach. Studies show that babies who have increased tummy time meet major developmental milestones quicker and develop stronger musculature than those who do not. This makes it easier to do things like roll over, sit up and crawl.

When on their stomach, babies can freely move their arms, hands and legs in all ranges of motion. This helps them to strengthen the muscles of the neck, shoulders, back and legs. The infants who spend more time on their tummies usually crawl earlier too. Crawling is crucial for healthy formation of the hip joints.

Tummy time can also prevent positional plagiocephaly. This is when the back of a baby’s head becomes flat. Since babies skull bones are very soft, the more time they spend on their backs, the more chance the skull bones can shift into a flatter shape. Stomach time can also help prevent torticollis. This is a condition when the head gets persistently turned to one side. Please note that although it is important to place your baby on their stomachs when awake, it is not encouraged for you to place your baby on their stomach while sleeping.

tummytime3So, when and how long should you allow for tummy time? You can start to lay your baby on his or her tummy as soon as they come home from the hospital. Just a few a few minutes at a time, 2-3 times per day will help strengthen your baby’s muscles and increase range of motion. As your baby gets used to being on their stomach, gradually increase the time (up to an hour at a time).

There are several ways you can do tummy time with your baby as well! Aside from letting them lay flat on the ground, you can lay your baby on top of your belly or chest so that they are face-to-face with you. While burping them, sit up and place the baby face down on your knees. This will be very calming for them as well. You can also safely carry your baby around by placing your hand between their legs and under their tummy.

Experiment with tummy time and have fun with your baby while doing it.

Click here for more information about Ottawa Holistic Wellness Centre.

Needles for Anti-Aging and Beauty

September 2, 2015 11:36 am

Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club

With age, many women want a more youthful appearance. You might be thinking, I’m seeking beauty and anti-aging, and you want to stick needles in my face? It might sound like a new concept, but Asian medicine has been using acupuncture for centuries to treat many different physical and emotional concerns. With the age of invasive surgeries, artificial products and injections, many women are turning to alternative methods of rejuvenation and anti-aging, and using acupuncture needles to do it!

Acupuncture aims at balancing the flow of Qi (pronounced ‘chi’) or energy in the body, and tapping into your body’s own resources to help heal itself.

Facial rejuvenation acupuncture is based on the practice and principles of Asian medicine and used to prevent aging, improve skin health and act as a ‘natural facelift’ reversing 10 years of wear and aging from your face.


Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club

How Does It Work?

Facial rejuvenation acupuncture involves thin sterile needles inserted on the face, head and body that allow for facial revitalization while correcting underlying imbalances, boosting the immune system and increasing relaxation. Acupuncture causes tiny “micro-traumas” which increases circulation of blood and nutrients to the face. This leads to skin cell renewal and increased collagen production. Changes include elimination of fine lines, younger brighter skin and complexion, lifting of sagging skin and a reduction in puffiness and under eye bags. Needles are strategically placed to relax the muscles that are causing those unwanted wrinkles and tightening loose skin in other areas to lift and prevent future wrinkles.

Lifestyle and anti-aging?

Reducing signs of aging must include some key lifestyle changes for lasting results. Sleep is paramount in helping your body regenerate its cells, reduce inflammation and puffiness and clear away those under eye bags. Stress can also play an important role.

Higher stress reduces the amount of youthful antioxidants in your body. Antioxidants are meant to help you appear youthful and healthy as well as reduce the risk of chronic disease. While acupuncture does have common positive side effects like improved sleep, better energy and reduced stress, doing your part in lifestyle modification leads to better skin health and facial rejuvenation.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Photo courtesy of Kaleena Jay Photography

Dr. Josée Boyer is a Naturopathic Doctor at Ottawa Holistic Wellness Centre. Her clinical focus the study of interactions between the psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body. She focuses on anxiety, stress, insomnia and depression which can cause fatigue, digestive complaints, a weak immune system and pain.

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Profile: Sandy Hawley

August 27, 2015 11:02 am
CSHoF Hall Photo (1)

2015 marks the Year of Sport and the 60th anniversary of Canadas Sports Hall of Fame. In recognition of these important milestones, OLM will be featuring Honoured Members of Canadas Sports Hall of Fame in a weekly Profile piece.

Canadas Sports Hall of Fame aims to share the stories and achievements of its Honoured Members to inspire Canadians in all aspects of life.

Sandy Hawley 1Sandy Hawley, Athlete, Jockey Racing

Sandy Hawley is one of the greatest race-riders Canada has ever produced. Throughout his career he won more than 6,000 races and was awarded horse racing’s highest honours in both Canada and the United States. The athlete is an ambassador for the sport and an inspiration to upcoming jockeys.

Desmond Sanford “Sandy” Hawley, was born in 1949 and raised in Oshawa, Ontario. He was first drawn to the racetrack in 1966, where he worked hot walking horses after they had raced. Wanting to be closer to the horses, Hawley became a regular rider at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack within two years.

The athlete won his first race in 1968 and went on to win three more in his first year. In 1969, he was named North America’s top apprentice jockey, achieving the victory again in 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1976. In 1970, Hawley was the continent’s leading race-winning jockey with 452 wins and in the 1973 season, he became the first rider to ever win 500 races in one year.

Hawley then went on to race in California for a decade where he won various prestigious awards including the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1976. It honours riders who demonstrate high standards of personal and professional conduct both on and off the track. The same year he also won the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Eclipse Award as North America’s most outstanding jockey.

The final ride of his remarkable 31-year career was in July of 1998 at Woodbine. This was the last of his 31,455 mounts, of which he had won 6,449, placed second in 4,825 and third in 4,159.Sandy Hawley 2

In his retirement, Hawley has taken on a Public Relations role with Woodbine to continue sharing his passion for horse racing. He hopes his career will help today’s young jockeys understand that although opportunities are always available you cannot fully benefit from them without hard work.

Hawley received the Lou Marsh Trophy in 1973 and 1976 as Canada’s top athlete and was decorated with the Order of Canada. He was inducted into the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame in 1986, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1992 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.

To learn more about Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, visit

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Profile: Dave Steen

August 20, 2015 10:04 am
CSHoF Hall Photo (1)

2015 marks the Year of Sport and the 60th anniversary of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. In recognition of these important milestones, OLM will be featuring Honoured Members of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in a weekly Profile piece.

Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame aims to share the stories and achievements of its Honoured Members to inspire Canadians in all aspects of life.

Dave SteenDave Steen, Athlete, Decathlon

Fast, strong, flexible, coordinated and enduring, decathlete Dave Steen is an icon of the ultimate all-round athletic test. His success in the competition demonstrates the value of commitment and integrity in every sport.

With a former decathlete and coach as a father, Steen naturally became interested in athletics at a young age. He excelled in track and field throughout his youth and won the Sport BC High School Athlete of the Year award in 1977.

Limited indoor training facilities in BC led Steen to seek more options in California. Steen then moved to Toronto where he trained full time, working out six to seven hours every day.

The athlete’s rise to fame began with a decathlon victory at the 1979 Canada Games. Only a few years later, he won a silver medal at the 1982 Commonwealth Games and broke the 8000 point barrier no Canadian had ever exceeded.

Between 1983 and 1986, Steen won gold at the World University Games, the Pan American Games, the Pan Pacific Games and silver at the Commonwealth Games. He was also able to set three world records in the pentathlon in 1983, 1984 and 1986.

Steen ended his 13-year career after winning a Bronze Medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. It was the first time Canada stood on the podium for decathlon.

In recognition of his achievements, Steen has been inducted into the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame in 1991 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, as well as the Order of Canada in 1990. He is now a vocal advocate against drug use in sporting, a spokesperson for the Canada Games and an Ambassador for the Government of Canada’s Fair Play Commission.

To learn more about Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, visit

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