Monthly Archives: January 2017

To ice or not to ice?

It’s standard practice to recommend clients use ice anywhere up to 48 hours after an injury and anytime they feel inflammation.

Personally, I don’t follow this practice and neither does Dr. Gabe Mirkin,  the gentleman who created the acronym RICE. In an athletic injuries course that I took at the University of Western Ontario, the following rationale was given.

The case against ice

When an injury occurs, metabolites involved in healing are released, which impede the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to the site of injury.

That same tissue is “starving” for oxygen and if it doesn’t get it, the tissue will die or will be severely injured for the long haul.  My thinking (some of which evidence is now supporting) is as follows:

  • Inflammation is critical to the healing process, so by icing you’re actually impeding that process.
  • If a tissue is starving for oxygen after damage, why wouldn’t you increase the oxygen supply by promoting blood flow to that area? Heat promotes blood flow; therefore promoting oxygen and nutrients to the damaged tissue.
  • Muscles shorten in cold (just as humans shiver and curl up to stay warm) and so any tearing or straining might be exacerbated by applying cold.

The rise in popularity

I believe that icing became popular for two reasons:

Professional sports: In any given sports season, there are a number of games that an elite athlete has to be ready to play. By icing the area, the athlete temporarily achieves enough comfort to complete the game and ultimately finish out the season, before taking care of the rehabilitation thoroughly in the off-season.

Discomfort: Swelling is incredibly uncomfortable and so icing helps to temporarily relieve that discomfort, but it does not help the healing process in any way.

The opposite approach

For the long-term it would be much better – and I think we’ll see it come out in literature in the next few years – to heat the injured area.

Allowing continuous blood flow through the application of heat will reduce the seizing or shortening of muscles that would make them more difficult to reattach, should there be a tear or strain of any degree.

The application of heat also allows the damaged tissue to be flushed out, while replacing it with oxygen and nutrients resulting in new, healthy tissue.

CanPrev recommends:

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Shayne Glass-Smith, B. Kin (Hons.) earned his Honours degree in Kinesiology from Western University in 2009. Since then, he has worked at several physiotherapy clinics in London, Ontario and Toronto, Ontario. He currently lives in Edmonton, Alberta and is working toward becoming a physiotherapist. In his spare time, he enjoys playing basketball, volleyball and weightlifting.

Expert Advice: the dynamic duo D3 + K2

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D3 + K2 are a dynamic duo – here’s why you should take it

Q. I have been taking Vitamin D for many years as part of a preventative regimen. I recently discovered supplements containing both D3 and K2 together. How can I tell if there’s any real benefit to taking a D supplemented with K2, or should I just stick to taking D? How do the two work together?

Great questions.

Let’s start by examining how vitamins D3 and K2 work separately.

While most people are familiar with the vitamin alphabet A through E, vitamin K is relatively unfamiliar. That’s largely because unlike these other vitamins, vitamin K isn’t typically used as a dietary supplement (but more on that in a minute). Touted for its coagulant properties, it’s needed by the liver to create an enzyme called thrombin, which helps the blood to clot.

Vitamin D3 is the same naturally-occurring vitamin you get from the sun. In northern climates, it can be tough to get enough. It’s important to the body in many other ways, from helping our nerves need it to carry messages from the brain to the rest of the body to helping our immune systems fight off invading bacteria and viruses.

When you see vitamins D3 and K2 together in a single supplement, it’s meant for keeping your bones strong and healthy..

But I thought calcium was for bones?

Calcium and other minerals are needed for a healthy body structure. However, important cofactors like vitamins D3 and K2 help transport these minerals through your body so they are properly deposited in your bones (where they belong!)

The first step in this journey is making sure your dietary minerals are properly absorbed. Vitamin D3 works in the intestinal tract by increasing the ion permeability in your intestines. This helps increase the absorption of minerals like calcium from your intestinal tract into the bloodstream.

Then, the calcium travels through your blood. The danger here is that while it travels, some can end up getting stuck in the soft tissues of your blood vessels. This can lead to arterial hardening. Calcium build-ups here makes it harder for the heart to pump blood, reducing oxygen and blood supply. In severe cases, this can lead to heart attacks or strokes. Enter vitamin K2.

As a cofactor, vitamin K2 activates an important protein called matrix GLA. This important protein that prevents vascular calcification. That is, it keeps calcium from depositing in soft tissues, organs and blood vessels.

In the final step of this journey, vitamin K2 is called upon again to activate another important protein called osteocalcin. This protein helps deposits calcium and other minerals where we intended: in our bones.

So how can I bone up on my intake?

Good food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines. Other foods such as milk, yogurt, orange juice, margarine and breakfast cereals may be fortified with vitamin D. However, it can be extremely difficult to get the right amount of vitamin D your body needs from food.

​Ultimately, ​two of the best ways to get vitamin D are by exposing your skin to sunlight and supplementation.

Conversely, most people get more than enough vitamin K from their diets. It’s found prevalently in green tea and dark leafy greens like kale, swiss chard and spinach. Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower are also great plant-based sources of vitamin K.

Animal based sources include dairy sources like yogurt and kefir or cheese, and liver provide K2. Natto is a fermented soy product high in a potent form of K2 known as menaquinone-7, which is used in CanPrev’s D3 + K2 drops and soft gels.

This article provides information that should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your healthcare providers (doctor, naturopathic doctor, nutritionist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health. Any mention in this publication of a specific brand name is not an endorsement of the product.

Tired? The real reason behind your post-holiday slump

Coming off a schedule of seemingly non-stop socializing and indulgence of the holidays, it’s pretty typical to feel a little stressed out and perhaps even look a little run-down. But now that you’re back to your regular routine, it’s nothing that a few nights’ good sleep can’t fix, right?

But if after getting rest you’re still feeling burnt out, or you’re experiencing any of a constellation of symptoms such as unexplained irritability, chronic illness, depression, insomnia, dark circles, irregular menstrual cycles, joint stiffness, soreness or pain, your issue might be something much more serious: Adrenal Fatigue.

The “21st Century Stress Syndrome”

While increasingly common, the jury’s still out on the existence of the condition by traditional practitioners. But holistic doctors say overtaxing our adrenal glands causes the release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline – AKA stress hormones.

And certainly we can all identify with how our bodies feel when we’re under stress: our heart rates climb, muscles tense up, our focus becomes laser sharp and we may lose our appetites. These symptoms are indications that your body is literally preparing to physiologically “fight or flee”.

Ring the alarm

The adrenals are two grape-sized glands located above the kidneys that act as the body’s primary shock absorbers. They produce adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA which quickly respond to calm the body when normal, everyday stressors put out the signal (adrenaline and noradrenaline) that something’s going off.

Adrenaline and noradrenaline act as alerts to impending dangers, also known as the “fight or flight” response. Adrenaline forces the heart to pump faster and harder, diverting blood away from the skin and digestive organs towards large muscle groups, and intensifies breathing in order to increase oxygen supply to the heart, brain and muscles. Adrenaline also signals the liver to convert its stored glycogen into easy-to-use glucose for energy, leading to an increase in blood sugar.

Send in backup

Cortisol’s main role is to provide additional energy in the form of glucose from protein and fat breakdown, suppress the inflammatory response and increase the pain threshold. Cortisol also inhibits insulin, the hormone responsible for signalling glucose storage into cells.

When you experience stress cortisol prevents the release of insulin to make sure that the body has enough glucose immediately available for use. Cortisol also narrows arteries as adrenaline increases heart rate, together pumping the heart harder and faster.

Once the stress threat has passed, cortisol levels go back to normal. But if the stressor stays or gets stronger, the body taps into all of its resources in an effort to keep up with cortisol’s demand. When cortisol levels stay too high for too long, you may experience fluctuating blood sugar levels, weight gain or loss, increased risk of infection, bone density loss, muscle wasting, thinning skin and kidney problems.

In an effort to keep up with increased cortisol demand, your endocrine system continues to produce this stress hormone, but this can eventually affect the balance of other hormones like the sex hormones, DHEA, testosterone and estrogen.

DHEA is short for Dehydroepiandrosterone – an unwieldy name for the androgen produced by the adrenal glands and the ovaries that helps to neutralize cortisol’s immune-suppressant effects. It’s the most abundant steroid hormone in the body and stored in the blood. Together, cortisol and DHEA are thought to have opposite effects on immune function and insulin regulation.

Pregnenolone for the steal

Under continued stress, pregnenolone, the precursor to the sex hormones is instead used for cortisol production – this is known as the pregnenolone steal or the cortisol shunt. As the adrenals attempt to keep up with cortisol production, they also begin to tire. At this stage, your patient is likely to report feeling tired often, with low enthusiasm and potentially lower sex drive due to the lack of sex hormone production. This phase can continue for months to years.

You’re not “just tired”

When the adrenal glands are unable to keep up with the demand and stimulation from the brain to keep producing cortisol and adrenaline, resources eventually become depleted and exhaustion sets in. Cortisol levels end up continually low, leading to feelings of chronic fatigue and the incapacity to deal with stress, or to recover energy despite resting. The body simply runs out of ways to manufacture stress hormones, leaving you tired. All the time.

Stress-related disorders often surface at this time. Early in this stage, symptoms of fatigue, lethargy and low mood may worsen. As this stage progresses, further disturbances in the endocrine system may develop, including a disruption in adrenal-ovarian communication for women. When full adrenal exhaustion settles in, symptoms similar to Addison’s disease may present, and include complete exhaustion, an overall weakened state, weakened immunity and weight loss.

Integrative practitioners are acutely aware of how this unfolds in the body. While most patients understand that ongoing stress can be harmful, appreciating the full impact that adrenal fatigue has on the entire body is sometimes difficult to explain to patients. They may believe that ongoing stress is just a way of life and have difficulty making the necessary changes.

Alarm phase
During the first phase of the stress reaction, alarms are activated and the adrenal glands are capable of making significant amounts of hormones, primarily adrenaline and cortisol to mount an appropriate stress response. Increased arousal and alertness are needed to combat the stressor. The body prepares to “fight” or “flee”.

Resistance phase
With ongoing stress, the adrenals strive to keep up with the demand to produce more stress hormone, but now at the expense of other hormones including DHEA and subsequent sex hormones, progesterone, testosterone and estrogen. Pregnenolone, the master adrenal hormone and precursor to sex hormones and cortisol, is shunted towards the production of cortisol. This is known as the pregnenolone steal or cortisol shunt.

Burn-out (or down) phase
Eventually the body runs out of substrate material to produce stress hormones and cortisol levels decline, along with other key hormones, namely DHEA and sex hormones. Patients in this stage will feel extreme fatigue, diminished libido, irritability and depression among other symptoms.

If you’re feeling more tired than usual, or if you suspect that you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue, it’s important to bring it up to your practitioner or Naturopathic doctor. He or she can recommend a course of supplementation or steps you can take toward feeling better.

It’s also worth noting that there is no quick fix for adrenal fatigue; in the same manner that it took months – possibly even years – to wear out your adrenals, it will also take some time to replenish your stores and repair the damage that stress has taken on the body. Everyone is different, and (depending on severity) it can take anywhere from six months to up to two years to feel yourself again.

CanPrev recommends:

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Updated: This post was originally published on February 28, 2016.

This year, forget the resolutions – it’s all about evolution

What is it about a new year that stirs us to take stock of our lives and start the cleansing of body and soul?

Quit smoking, cut back on junk food, spend less, save more are all very positive and beneficial entreaties – if, in fact, that’s what you’re ready for. Change never happens a moment before its time, so this year instead of cutting back or doing more or less of the things you think you should be doing, make a list of all the things you want to do. Then find a way to make them happen…

The big picture

Is it really the extra ten pounds, or an inactive lifestyle that’s got you feeling sluggish and depressed? Is it you, your partner, or your relationship that needs an overhaul? Is it that all the people you’re meeting are unsuitable, or are you subconsciously picking them because you don’t feel you deserve any better?

Evolution, not resolution

Ok, so maybe it is the ten pounds. What now? Suddenly eliminating all of the food and signing up for the grueling 4-days-a-week Death By Burpees class is a sure-fire recipe for failure. Take it slow! You have the whole year to achieve your goal. Remember: slow and steady wins the race.

Ignore the peanut gallery

Are you living your life for some unseen audience? Do you feel trapped under the watchful eye of your mother, ex, or friend? Do you feel like you need their approval or admiration? Why? If you’re worried about constantly being scrutinized by the people close to you, then perhaps you need to re-examine the importance of that particular relationship. Toxicity has no place in your life.

Stop comparing yourself

Your friends are married, you’re still single. You’re freelancing and your peers are 9-to-5. With benefits. And RRSPs. You may feel as though everyone is living a grownup life, and you’re still waiting for yours to begin. Or are you?

Re-define what success and happiness mean to you. Those married friends are obligated to report their every action and expense to another person. You just spent 600 bucks on snowshoes and it’s no one’s business but yours.

Your friends have to jockey for vacation time based on seniority, while you just scored a trip to Italy on one of those last-minute getaway deals. They say the grass is always greener, but it’s about high time you realize that the better-looking lawn might actually belong to you.

Start today

The scariest part of change is actually putting it into action. And don’t let anyone belittle your dreams or dismiss your ideas. Always wanted to bellydance? Learn to ski? Skydive? If it’s a question of money, put away 25 dollars a week (more if you can afford it) until you’ve saved enough.

Need someone to babysit/walk the dog/water the plants while you’re out? Trade favours with a friend or neighbour. Cook dinner in exchange for taking little Fifi out for a poop. Or offer to help your cousin paint her apartment in return for looking after Junior for a few hours. It only takes a split-second to make a decision that could change your life for the better.

A wise person once said that the only way to start is to start. So what are you waiting for?