Written by Helen Kwon & Lyne Desforges
Registered Holistic Nutritionists
Contrary to popular belief, our brain doesn’t have to age like the rest of our body. By stimulating it in various ways, we can continue to make new neural connections and keep our brain young! Our brain is part of our nervous system and it is made up of an intricate network of cells and nerves that sends and receives signals throughout our body. Everyday our brain works hard solving problems, controlling our movements, reminding us where we left our keys (well, most of the times anyways), and processing our thoughts and emotions. Maintaining a strong and healthy brain should be everyone’s top priority but is even more important as we age.
5 Tips to Promote Brain Health at Any Age
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient for the health of our brain. This fatty acid contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which decreases inflammation in the body as well as protects and improves our cognitive function. Good sources of Omega-3 are wild-caught salmon, cod liver oil, mackerel, sardines, avocado, and nuts & seeds. Our brain is 65% fat, so including these foods on a regular basis is a great way to keep that brain well nourished.
Have Fun Learning Something New
Research has proven that when we learn something new, our brain actually grows. This is the science of neuroplasticity. Learning something new builds new neural pathways and fortifies already existing connections. This supercharges our brain, making us smarter. So, get out there and learn a language, take a cooking, dancing, art, music or pottery class, and learn a new skill. Not only will you experience tremendous self-growth, you will also be growing your brain and that’s a smart thing to do.
Exercise Your Way to a Healthy Brain
We all know that exercise and movement provide tremendous health benefits, but did you know it helps to improve your brain power? Exercise not only improves your moods through the release of endorphins (your feel-good hormones), it also improves blood flow throughout your body and this includes your brain. The more oxygen that goes to the brain, the healthier it will be. So lace up those running shoes, hiking boots, or tap dancing shoes and move your body! Your brain will thank you.
The Mindful Brain
Why is mindfulness so important to brain health? Well, it decreases the stress response and helps us to calm down. When our body and brain experience stress, it sends out a stress response that raises cortisol and other stress hormones. This decreases activity in your brain. Mindful activities can increase your brain function and decrease stress responses in your body, leaving you with clearer thinking and overall well-being. Meditate, have an attitude of gratitude or take part in journaling. These are great ways to live a mindful life.
Sleep Your Way to Smarts
We all know what it feels like to wake up from a sound and restful sleep. Our thoughts are clearer and more focused, and we have more energy to face the day. For many, sleepless nights are the norm, and this can negatively impact your physical, emotional and mental well-being. Having ample amounts of great quality and quantity of sleep can have a profound effect on your brain health. In this study, they found that those who experienced better sleep saw improvement in every facet of their lives. Make an effort to get to sleep early, and to disconnect digitally an hour before bed. Improve your overall sleep hygiene and sleep your way to a brighter and smarter you!
We Are Here to Help
For more health and wellness tips to keep your brain young, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our healthcare practitioners would be happy to support you in your quest for a happy and healthy brain!
Written by Lyne Desforges, B.Ed., R.H.N.
“Time and health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted.” – Denis Waitley
With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing the world to a halt, it has been an interesting and uncharted journey for all of us. Health care workers, and many others providing essential services, have been working overtime to keep our basic needs met. However, for a large percentage of the population, we find ourselves in a completely unexpected scenario: confined to our homes with our immediate family. Whether we are now working from home, or have been temporarily laid off from work, we suddenly have more time on our hands. No more commuting to work, no more running around to our kid’s activities or to our own workouts. No more juggling of mealtimes because of our busy schedules. All this extra time can be daunting for some, while others are embracing and seeing it for the precious gift it is.
Let Go of Busyness
In our modern society, there is a perception that the busier you are, the better it is. You meet a friend, and they ask how you are doing, and the typical answer is: “I’m really busy”. Why has this become a badge of honour? Why couldn’t it be great to answer with, “I am not too busy and am enjoying my downtime.” There is almost a guilty feeling of not having our time filled up with errands, activities and work. And the sad part is, we are training our kids to embrace this ‘busyness’ lifestyle, afraid that too much downtime is not a good thing.
“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.” – John Lennon
Well, the present situation has certainly turned things around, and we are now rediscovering how to lead a more balanced life with that extra time. Here are some of our favourites:
- More quality time with family. Having time to actively listen to one another and enjoy each other’s company.
- More time to drink our morning coffee or tea.
- More time to cook and eat nourishing meals, together at a table.
- More time outside in fresh air (and the air is fresher with less cars on the road).
- More time to play and be creative. Rediscovering the fun of board games and crafts.
- More time to sleep and to adopt a better sleep routine. Ditching that alarm clock and resetting our circadian rhythm.
- More time to meditate, reflect, or sit quietly.
- More time to read fiction or non-fiction books or listen to podcasts.
- More time to catch up with friends and extended family via technology.
- More time to exercise and move our body.
- More time to tackle that to-do list. Maybe it’s decluttering, spring cleaning, or a small project.
- More time to watch documentaries, webinars, or a great movie on Netflix.
Embrace The Gift of Time
We don’t deny that the present situation can bring its load of worry, anxiety and fear. But we hope that it can also bring some unexpected joy and fun, as you embrace the gift of time and make the best of it.
“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” – Regoslife.com
Written by Lyne Desforges, B.Ed., R.H.N.
I love travelling and exploring the world at large. Part of the pleasure comes from trying out new foods and experiencing new cultures. Many of my past travels have involved an active component (hiking, cycling, snowshoeing, etc.) so there is no room for sickness. In order to stay strong, I make sure to stay hydrated, maintain a good sleep routine, limit my alcohol intake, and eat healthy as much as possible.
I also make sure to pack my travel health kit to ensure I have what I need whenever I need it. Here are my recommendations for your travel health kit:
Betaine HCl & Digestive Enzymes
BioDigest by BioClinic contains a combo of Betaine HCl and Digestive Enzymes. Betaine HCl will ensure you have enough stomach acid to destroy any unwanted pathogens that enter your digestive system. The digestive enzymes will help break down food and facilitate digestion. Since your diet may be slightly different that your usual fare, this will support your digestive system and ensure you still get all the nutrients you need for optimal health. Usually one tablet at every meal does the trick.
Note: our stomach acid and digestive enzymes both naturally decrease in our bodies as we age so it is a good thing to take all the time.
I love MeloMatrix by Cyto-Matrix because it is a liquid form of melatonin and it can be taken sublingually (under the tongue). Sleeping in a different bed or travelling through various time zones means that sleep may be disrupted. Taking melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime will help your body reset its circadian rhythm.
Note: You should take it for a couple of weeks after you arrive in your destination, and for a couple of weeks after you return home.
I take two kinds while travelling. First a multi-strain probiotic (such as Multi-Strain 50 by Cyto-Matrix). Since 70% of your immune system is in your gut, ensuring a good gut bacterial balance means better health.
The second one is saccharomyces boulardii and is very specific to travelling. I use Saccharo-B by Cyto-Matrix. This latest one is not a bacteria but a non-pathogenic yeast. It has been proven to help prevent traveller’s diarrhea or help deal with it if it happens.
Note: Start taking both of these a week or two before leaving and throughout the trip to ensure optimal gut health.
Chewable Ginger Tablets
If you or any of your family members suffer from motion sickness or nausea, having a few ginger tablets on hand may be all you need to help settle your stomach. As a bonus, ginger is a great anti-microbial nutrient plus it can help with digestion. Take as needed.
Note: for anti-microbial power, you could also bring some Oregano oil.
If everything else fails and you somehow ended up with an unwanted pathogen that is making you ill, then you may want to try activated charcoal. Activated charcoal can soak up many times its weight and has been used for poisoning. So whatever toxin made it in your digestive track, the charcoal will extract it and soak it up and it will help you eliminate it. This is a great natural defense against any food poisoning.
Note: Make sure to take a glass of pure filtered water every time you take a capsule.
Magnesium is an essential supplement for any active holiday. It will help relax muscles and reduce cramping. It can help with sleep and with regularity. I usually take one to two capsules in the evening.
Note: If your bowels don’t enjoy travelling, bring along some flaxseeds and/or chia seeds and add those regularly to whatever you are eating. The extra fibre should help.
Essential Oils by DoTerra
Many essential oils have great anti-microbial properties. One of my favourites is an oil blend called OnGuard Touch by DoTerra. It contains a combo of Wild Orange, Clove, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus and Rosemary essential oils, in a fractionated coconut oil. Use this oil as an alternative to hand sanitizers.
Another favourite is an oil blend called Easy Air. It contains Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Tea tree, Lemon, Cardamon, Ravintsara, Ravensara, and Laurus Nobilis essential oils. I used this one a lot when we were cycling on busy roads in Southeast Asia. Take a few drops in your hands, then breathe in the oils deeply to clear and detoxify your lungs.
We carry many of these supplements and essential oils in our clinic. Feel free to come by to ask questions and find out more. If you mention this blog, you get a 10% discount on the supplements mentioned.
Wherever your travels take you, may you enjoy a healthy and stress-free holiday.
And How it Will Help Shape 2020!
Written by Danika Desforges-Bell, M.Sc. Ps. ed.
Same but Different!
Our yearly tradition of attending the Namaste November Yoga Retreat is in its third year. Same incredible yogi Lee guiding us, same incredible accommodations at the Drake Devonshire Inn, and same quaint town of Wellington in Prince-Edward County. Many similarities yet every year brings small shifts and differences: new group, different yoga styles, different hotel room, different weather, and different mood. It seems like a perfect reflection of ourselves, always a little bit the same but also a little bit different, always hoping to get closer to our full potential and becoming the person we know we can be. The end of the retreat is a good time to take a step back and reflect on my takeaways for this year and reflect on how I have evolved in hopes of getting closer to the person I am meant to be.
1. I love… ME!
Lee is guiding us through a powerful meditation at the retreat and tears are already flowing: “Visualize yourself in a room filled with mirrors. Approach the first mirror and look at your reflection. Tell yourself I love you. Let your reflection say it back, I love you.” Although I like myself, I am not sure if I LOVE all parts of myself. It got me thinking to all the times I easily say I love you to everyone, yet when it comes to telling myself that I love myself, full-heartedly and with no conditions or restraints, it was very emotional and difficult. I do hope to come back next year with more love in my heart for myself.
2. Visualizing the life I want
Lee is guiding us through another powerful meditation, visualizing and imagining the future we desire and associating that visualization to an intention (a few words that resonate and represent that desired future life). She explains that it helps plant the seed to it becoming a reality. That got me thinking. A few studies (LUPIEN, 2010) have shown that taking the time to jot down possible solutions to a problem can diminish stress levels and develop key problem-solving skills. Could this be the same idea? If we take the time to truly visualize the life WE desire based on OUR core values without being influenced by other’s desires, needs or wants from us, we can guide ourselves to a future that gets us closer to our full potential. Deep thoughts yet somehow strangely reassuring.
3. The joy of sisterhood
Laughter and play. Can those be considered core values? There is nothing like an evening, a day, an hour or a weekend of fun and giggles with loved ones. It feels soooo good to take the time to incorporate them into our daily life. One of my favourite parts about the yoga retreat is spending some quality time with my CLV sisters (Sofie and Lyne) and this year, my best friend from Montreal. Taking the time to connect with them, laugh together, hold hands during a shavasana, or read next to one another in the beautiful fall sun, fills me with such joy and gratitude. It reminds me how important it is to simply feel connected to one another.
4. Learning to listen, really listen
Lee begins another yoga class by exhausting our senses (closing our eyes, lying in stillness, identifying the sounds outside the building, the ones outside the room, the ones in the room and focusing on the sound of our breath and beating heart). It can sometimes be difficult to focus on sounds that are further away or out of our reach and this practice sometimes triggered irritation and frustration for me. But this year, I saw it differently. It reminded me how difficult it can be to drown out noise to really focus on what’s important and actively listen to someone who might be communicating an important message through verbal or non-verbal cues. We spend our days drowning out our environment by playing loud music or by constantly staying productive. How about taking a step back and truly connecting with our surroundings? It is such a relief and a beautiful way to take in what’s happening on the inside instead of avoiding it. It reminded me of why I love yoga so much: getting comfortable with the discomfort to truly break through the noise!
5. Giving myself a break
Easier said then done, right? As someone who has 2 careers, a busy family and social life, as well as many other personal projects and goals, it is often difficult to find the time to stop or do a little self-care. That being said, I often come out of Namaste November realizing that although this is a great reset, it’s also a great opportunity to bring in some more playfulness, me-time, laughter and meditation-yoga practice into my day-to-day life. The reason I return year after year is because of the magical spirit this retreat has but I now realize that it’s important to incorporate that magic a little bit each and every day. I’m still trying to figure that part out but I am sure my CLV tribe will remind me of ways or simple practices to bring a little breath and play into my busy life!
What about those 10 words at the beginning of this blog post? These were words that each member of the retreat wrote about me on a heart-shaped piece of paper, including one I wrote for myself. These were added to a special envelope for me to open later. It’s amazing how all these kinds words rarely come up in my conversations with myself but every year, I look forward to reading through some of the qualities other see in me that I don’t always see in myself. They help me heal. They help me grow. They help me love. They help me find some self-compassion during some hard times. I keep these kind words nearby and use them as grounding reminders of who I am and what I am capable of.
I am already looking forward to next year when everything will be the same but a little different…and hopefully so will I!
LUPIEN, Sonia. Par amour du stress, Montréal:Éditions au Carré. 2010.
5 Tips to Help You Stay on Track
By Lyne Desforges and Helen Kwon, Registered Holistic Nutritionists
Most people associate the holiday season with a 5-lb weight gain but it doesn’t have to be. You can still enjoy the good food and the fun times. Practising a little mindfulness and gratitude will go a long way in helping you stay on track.
Here are our 5 top tips for staying focused on your health and wellness goals.
Have a plan and stick to it.Before heading out to a cocktail party, a family dinner, or a night out with friends, decide what you will permit for that evening. For example, you may choose to have only one drink for the whole evening. Or you may decide that you will taste everything but in small quantities. Or finally, you might choose to skip the dessert. Whatever your plan is, make sure to stick with it.
It is also good to get organized at home. Prep and plan your meals in advance to prevent the temptation of buying fast or processed food. Meal planning is also an excellent tool to help maintain a healthy weight.
Eat only when truly hungry.All those holiday treats look very alluring, but do you really need to eat right now? Are your truly hungry or is it something else? Identify what is the trigger for your need to eat (i.e. boredom, social pressure, fatigue, thirst, etc.). Have a big glass of water instead and wait 15 minutes. If you are still truly hungry, have a nutritious snack. Check out our free Eat Clean for the Holidays cookbook for healthy snack ideas.
Reduce or eliminate alcohol.Avoid all those sugary cocktails and the bingeing on alcohol. These are empty calories that provide no nutrient value to the body. It actually affects your immune system and your sleep. So instead of opting for one or two glasses of wine, why not make it one spritzer and eliminate half of the alcohol. Or even better, try one of our suggested drinks in our free Clean Eats for the Holidays cookbook.
Stick to your fitness routine.It’s even more important to keep active during the holidays, to burn the excess calories you may be ingesting. Add a walk after every meal to help with digestion. Get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. How about some snowshoeing, skating, or tobogganing? Play outside like when you were a child.
Be mindful and use moderation.Being a mindful eater means sitting down at a table, chewing slowly, and savouring every bite. Doing this means you will automatically eat less. Include the practice of Hara Hachi Bu in your eating routine. This is the Japanese art of eating till only 80% full. Use moderation in your portions and frequency of meals.
Allow yourself one guilt-free day where you can indulge on great homemade foods! And lastly, practice gratitude every day. Being in a state of gratitude not only injects you with a sense of happiness and joy but it has many medical benefits as well. So, take a moment to be thankful for all the bounty that surrounds you…the bounty of food, good health and loved ones.
By Lyne Desforges, Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Culinary Nutrition Expert
Helen Kwon, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Reiki Master, Spiritual Life Coach
Cold and flu season is here. But don’t let that cramp your style and limit you from doing what you love! Now is the time to strengthen your immune system so you can do your favourite activities all year long. Food plays an integral role when it comes to your overall health. Eating whole unprocessed foods, limiting your sugar and alcohol intake will go a long way towards strengthening your immune system and improving your overall physical, mental, and emotional health. This study showed that when participants consumed 100g of either honey, fructose, glucose, or sucrose (table sugar), the activity of their immune cells decreased for 5 hours. Now that is something to consider before reaching for that big glass of orange juice in the morning. So stay away from the sweets and embrace foods rich in complex carbs, healthy fats, and proteins. And for that little extra, consider incorporating these five key nutrients for a strong immune system.
5 Key Nutrients to Strengthen Your Immune System
Over 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. Fermented foods contain probiotics (beneficial bacteria) that support a healthy microbiome. According to this study, “probiotic organisms are claimed to offer several functional properties including stimulation of immune system.” To strengthen your immune system, consider adding some of the probiotic-rich foods to your daily meals: yogurt, natural pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha or miso.
Vitamin C Foods
Vitamin C is an antioxidant and water-soluble nutrient that has long been touted as the ‘go to’ nutrient to combat or even prevent the onset of colds and flus. Humans are one of only a handful of mammals who cannot make or store vitamin C. Therefore it is crucial to add lots of vitamin C foods on a daily basis to maintain a strong immune system. Our favourites are bell peppers, tomatoes, squashes, citrus fruits and berries.
Vitamin D Foods
As sunlight diminishes during the fall & winter months, it is important to get your daily dose of vitamin D through other sources, like food. Numerous studies have shown a correlation between a deficiency in vitamin D and a weaker immune system. Foods high in this nutrient include eggs, wild-caught salmon, mackerel, sardines and mushrooms. However, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it is often recommended to supplement with vitamin D from September to May in order to get enough of that crucial nutrient. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements.
Foods high in Zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral with great anti-oxidative properties which helps to keep your immune system robust and healthy. Like vitamin D, many studies have observed a direct correlation between a zinc deficiency and a weaker immune system. Consuming foods high in this mineral such as organic meats, nuts & seeds, shellfish and dark chocolate will strengthen your immune system. As an added bonus, dark chocolate also contains theobromine that may help to inhibit coughs.
Herbs and Spices
Adding herbs and spices to your food not only enhances the flavour of your meal, but it adds amazing health benefits. Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, echinacea, garlic and ginseng are herbs and spices with high antioxidant values and have been used for centuries to promote a healthy body. Incorporating these herbs and spices into your daily diet can have a positive immune boosting effect.
A Balanced Lifestyle
Maintaining a clean healthy diet full of whole foods will certainly take you on the right path to great health and a strong immune system. But it doesn’t stop there. It is important to also manage your stress, get at least 7 hours of good sleep, and exercise regularly.
Enjoy the “cold and flu season” without the sniffles and coughs. Stay strong in both body and mind. Embrace life and be grateful for the beauty that surrounds you.