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23 and 1/2 Hours

A Fantastic message. I couldn’t have said it better myself – and I definitely couldn’t have drawn it better!

All The Best for 2012!!

Happy New Year from all of us at the Magna Health Centre!

Dr. Davis and I are  looking forward to a fantastic year of health and wellness blogging. We appreciate all the great feedback we have received on the site, and hope that you will continue to share the gift of health with your friends and family. 

We have some great things coming your way in 2012 so read, remember and pass it on!


Dr. Stephanie Milley & Dr. Christine Davis

Keeping Holiday Stress Levels in Check

The holiday season is nearly here. It’s the wonderful time of year when we indulge in food, drink and celebration. For the most part the holidays bring feelings of love and joy. However, work deadlines, holiday shopping and family events can also be a source for stress, fatigue and even sadness. One study by Greenberg Quinlan and Rosner  in 2006 surveyed thousands of people in the US and found that there was a substantial increase in the following emotions during the holiday season. 


Fatigue  68% 
Stress  61%
Irritability  52%
Bloating  28%
Sadness  36%
Anger  25% 
Loneliness  26%

 The study also noted that holiday stress has a particular impact on women.  Women are more likely to report an increase of stress during the holiday season because in many cases they are still doing most of the meal preparation, decorating the home and shopping for gifts. In addition, they have a harder time relaxing during the holidays and are more likely to fall into bad habits to manage their stress, like comfort eating.

 Holiday stress also has a strong  impact on lower middle-income individuals. This group feels the weight of stress from work plus the seasonal rush to find time to get everything done. In addition, their worries about money are heightened by the commercialism of the season and the pressure to spend a lot of money.

 The holiday season also means that people are much more likely to behave in sedentary ways like watching TV, sleeping, eating and drinking to manage their stress.

 So what should we be doing to help manage our holiday stress levels? Here are 5 techniques which will help to keep you calm and stress free this holiday season.

 1) Deep Breathing: Studies show that engaging in deep breathing activities 3-5 times a day can decrease blood pressure, anxiety and stress. Try this technique.

Sit comfortably and close your eyes. With your mouth closed, exhale deeply through your nose. Imagine that you are pouring the breath out of a jug, starting at the top of your chest and moving down through your mid-torso and into your diaphragm. Pause for two counts at the bottom of the breath, then inhale through your nose. Refill the “jug” slowly, counting to five (or seven if you can make it). Start at the bottom, expanding your diaphragm and belly, then your mid-torso, and lastly the top of your chest and lungs. Pause for two counts and exhale as before. Repeat 5–10 times.

 2) Progressive muscle relaxation: This technique is useful when trying to relax after a long day.  It helps the mind focus on just the activity at hand, and not on the millions of other things that are on your “to do” list. Try this technique. With the eyes closed and in a sequential pattern, a tension in a given muscle group is purposefully done for approximately 10 seconds and then released for 20 seconds before continuing with the next muscle group. The mental component focuses on the difference between the feelings of the tension and relaxation.

  3) Get organized: Creating lists of what needs to be accomplished in the short-term (today) and long-term (this week) will help you prioritize holiday tasks. Creating a budget for gift giving helps you lay out how much you can afford per person and will help you manage the financial stress that can go along with overspending on holiday gifts. Lastly, planning social events in advance on a monthly calendar will help you ensure that you are not overextending yourself with social obligations and parties.

 4) Create Strategies to Minimize Stress: Shopping earlier or shopping online can help decrease the stress from store line-ups and mall parking. You may also consider forgoing gifts entirely and donating to your favourite charity. Lastly, delegating responsibilities such as chores, cooking, and purchasing presents means that you are  more able to enjoy the season instead of dreading the responsibilities that go along with it.

 5) Make Time for Exercise: It is important to aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day. Using an online tool like will help to monitor your exercise levels and food intake over the holiday season.

 This season concentrate on positive emotions and staying healthy. Only then can you really enjoy the best of what the holidays bring.

Dr. Steve Rallis’ Chocolate Banana Protein Smoothie

Written by: Dr. Christine Davis, Naturopathic Doctor

Great source of Magnesium and Antioxidants!

1 Cup Almond Milk
10 Almonds/ 1 Tablespoon Almond Butter
1 Tablespoon Ground Flax Seeds
1 Tablespoon Raw Cacoa
1 Frozen Banana
15-20 g Protein Powder

Blend until Smooth!

Dr. Steve Rallis- Chocolate Banana Smoothie

How to get a Good Night’s Sleep!

Written by: Dr. Christine Davis, Naturopathic Doctor

Establishing a great sleep routine:

Develop a calming bedtime routine– try reading or meditation. Don’t read stressful or emotionally charged material as this can be more stimulating. Try a hot bath, shower or sauna about 2 hours before bedtime, keeping the water hot for at least 25 minutes to stimulate the drop in body temperature before bed. Keep household lighting dim from dinnertime until you go to sleep to prepare your body and hormones for sleep.
Establish regular sleeping hours– keeping a routine will help you maintain a regular circadian rhythm. Try to get in bed before 11 pm. The adrenals (your stress glands) renew themselves from 11pm-1am. Try slowly moving back your bedtime by 15-30 minutes until you reach this goal.
Sleep 7-9 hours a night– if you still feel tired after 9 hours, it’s time to visit your doctor to look into other sources of your fatigue.
If you can’t sleep, get up and do something else. Sometimes making a “to do list” or writing in a journal can be helpful to get things off your mind.
Create bedroom “Zen”- remove clutter, homework, calendars and anything else that could cause you stress. Use calming essential oils like lavender. Choose comfortable bedding that isn’t too warm or itchy. Remember, the bed should be used for sleeping and sex only.
Sleep nude– wearing tight clothing will increase your body temperature and interfere with melatonin release while you sleep.
See the light first thing in the morning– daylight and morning sounds are key signals that help waken your brain. Turning on lights or opening the blinds will reset your body clock and ensure that your melatonin levels drop back down, ensuring better energy throughout the day.

Things to Watch/Avoid:
Alcohol– Alcohol can impact brain chemicals as you sleep. An ounce or more two hours before bedtime can be disruptive as your body will metabolize the alcohol while you sleep. It shortens total sleep time and prevents you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep (where most healing and renewal takes place).
Fluid intake– Try to avoid fluid intake 2 hours prior to sleep to decrease those mid-sleep washroom visits.
Caffeine– Caffeine is metabolized at different rates in different people. Most people will metabolize caffeine in 4-5 hours, however some people will take much longer. If necessary try to only have caffeine in the morning. Caffeine impacts cortisol which can result in mid-sleep waking around 2-4 am.
Bedtime snacks– Try to avoid snacking 2 hours before bed. Watch out for bedtime snacks that are high in sugar or simple carbohydrates. (for example breads, cereals, muffins, cookies, or other baked goods) These foods will create a quick spike in your blood sugar levels, and a resultant drop in blood sugar. This drop in blood sugar stimulates adrenalin, glucagons, cortisol and growth hormone, all of which will stimulate the brain and keep you more awake. If you do need to eat, go for protein-rich, high-fiber snacks like a few almonds and half an apple. The protein will contain tryptophan which will be converted to serotonin and melatonin and the sugar from the apple may help the tryptophan reach your brain.
Napping- If you’re getting a good sleep at night you shouldn’t need to sleep during the day. If you must, limit nap time to 30 min.
Exercise timing– exercising fewer than 3 hours before bedtime may be too stimulating and can impede your ability to fall asleep. Yoga and strength training may not be as stimulating, but pay attention to your body on this one. Exercising 3-6 hours before sleep may actually enhance your deep sleep as your body will attempt to repair itself after the physical stress. Exercise will increase your body temperature (not good for sleep) and then slowly decrease it (good for sleep).
Alarm Clocks- waking up suddenly to the blaring wail of an alarm clock can shock your body and interrupt you in the middle of a sleep cycle. Look for a sunrise alarm clock with natural light built in that simulates a sunrise, OR an alarm that gradually gets louder, or plays soothing classical music.
Light at Night– Make your room as dark as possible. Light disrupts the circadian rhythm of the pineal gland and as a result, hinders the production of melatonin. If you go to the bathroom at night, try to keep the lights off.
Electromagnetic fields– also disrupt the pineal gland and production of melatonin and serotonin. EMFs are emitted through digital alarm clocks and other electrical devices, if you use them, leave them three feet away. Turn off the TV.
Activities– avoid stimulating activities such as watching TV, using the computer and doing work-related activities. Computers raise dopamine and noradrenalin keeping you more awake.

Sleep tight!

In the Spirit of Mo-vember: Prostate Cancer, What Do We Know?

Short, dark mustache

Image via Wikipedia

Whether it be a Handlebar, a Fu Manchu or a Mr. Belvedere, mustaches are making their appearances this month thanks to Mo-vember. The prostate cancer awareness project first started in Melbourne, Australia in 1999 and has been gaining attention ever since. What is the message from this month-long whisker-fest? Men, go get screened for prostate cancer. So in the spirit of Mo-vember, this author thought it was only fitting to share some of the facts on prostate cancer.

The good news is that if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer your odds of surviving five years are roughly 90%.  The bad news is that researchers haven’t figured out how to prevent prostate cancer, and this could be because they are looking at two different versions of the disease. The first is a slow-growing version that men may die with, but not die from. The second is an aggressive and potentially fatal version which has a faster onset and progression. Both forms of the cancer seem to exist, but we do not yet understand why there is a difference and what to do about it.

What we do know so far is that there are certain things that help the prostate and other things that harm it. Below are a look at a couple of things researchers are working on.

1) Green Tea 
Several studies have shown a link between a high consumption of green tea and a dramatic reduction in prostate cancer. The downside is the affective amount is at least 5 cups a day, an amount that few people drink. High quality green tea extract is being looked at as a supplement, but unfortunately we are not there yet. In the mean time, green tea has many other fantastic qualities, and it is an easy and inexpensive way to potentially protect the prostate. So drink up!

2) Tomatoes and Lycopene
While lycopene can be found in watermelon, carrots and papayas the greatest quantity comes from tomato sauce. Studies have shown that men who had the highest levels of lycopene in their blood were 60% less likely to be diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. Whether it’s lycopene or something else in tomato products, we know that it’s certainly beneficial to include tomato products in your diet.

3) Flaxseed
The estrogen-like compounds found in flaxseed may be responsible for slowing the rate of cell division in the prostate gland. This could translate into slower growth of  cancerous tumours. Further research will dictate how the role of flaxseed fits in to prostate cancer treatment, but in the mean time eating a tablespoon a day may be a reasonable supplement.

4) Diet, Exercise and a Healthy Lifestyle
We all know the benefits of following the advice of author and health activist Michael Pollan. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly vegetables.” Regarding exercise we know that excess weight wreaks havoc on all of our bodily systems. Now we have other reasons eat well and remain active. The risk of fatal metastatic prostate cancer is 54% higher in those who are obese compared to those of normal weight.  Other studies have shown that men who are overweight are no more likely to get prostate cancer, but they are more likely to die of the disease. In other words, this is one of the thousands of reasons to eat well and exercise.

In conclusion, prostate cancer awareness is a year round effort. For this month though, go ahead and grow a mustache, but more importantly call your doctor and arrange for a prostate check.

Glowing From The Inside

Everyone knows the importance of eating a healthy diet for weight control, but how much do we know about eating for healthy skin? People spend a great deal of money on age-defying lotions, but few know that the most important skin care products come from your grocery store.  Read on to find out what tips we recommend to regain that inner glow and to keep it from fading.

  • Eating the right kinds of protein. Protein is necessary for cell repair. Our favourite picks are fish, followed by these other protein-packed animal products: egg whites, skinless chicken and turkey breast.
  • Healthy fats are essential. Fats and oils  provide anti-inflammatory protection and antioxidants. Look to fatty fish for anti-aging omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna are among your best bets. Also include extra virgin olive oil. It has the double benefit of helping your skin and possibly lowering your bad cholesterol.
  • Avoid  sugar and high-glycemic carbohydrates. This category of food includes potatoes, rice and white pasta which can cause a spike in blood sugar resulting in harmful chemical changes in your body. These foods fuel the creation of  free radicals and the break down collagen, therefore ranking them among skin’s greatest enemies. Our bodies need carbohydrates though, so get your fill from low-glycemic fruits and vegetables.
  •  H2O please.  While the number of glasses per day is still open for debate, we do know that drinking plenty of water between meals means that our cells are staying hydrated and also enzymatic properties are functioning optimally during meal times.
  • Green Tea. This beverage deserves a category all its own in any article about foods for healthy skin. Green tea’s anti-inflammatory properties, and its ability to protect cell membranes may help prevent or reduce the risk of skin cancer. A study published  in the Archives of Dermatology shows that whether taken orally or applied to the skin, green tea can reduce the risk of damage from ultraviolet light (such as the burning rays of the sun), and thus reduce the risk of skin cancer.

For more information on how to best balance a healthy diet, contact your local healthcare practitioner trained in nutrition. Or if you are in the area contact our clinic in Aurora, ON.

Understanding Heartburn

Written by: Dr. Christine Davis, Naturopathic Doctor

Did you know that heartburn affects 25-35% of the US population? Heartburn (or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is not only painful, but it can also lead to other complications including: asthma, chronic cough, dental problems, Barrett’s esophagus (a change in the lining of the esophagus that can increase the risk of cancer), esophageal ulcers and narrowing and scarring of the esophagus.  It is a result of stomach acid spilling into the esophagus from the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (the valve that separates your esophagus from your stomach).

The traditional medical solution has been to block the acid production, which will alleviate the pain and also the damage from occurring.   However, in blocking the acid production, you block a key step in the digestion process. Stomach acid is necessary to digest food, especially protein and micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B12. Stomach acid activates digestive enzymes in your small intestine, the molecules that break down the food into smaller parts for absorption.  As well, it acts as a barrier from harmful bacteria.  Therefore, blocking acid production from occurring can result in more serious complications such as irritable bowel syndrome, depression, fatigue, dementia, hip fractures and osteoporosis.

So, what can be done?

Firstly, get tested at your doctor for H. Pylori, hiatal hernia and ulcers.  H. Pylori is a bacteria that can exist in the stomach and is a major contributor to ulcers and gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). Hiatal hernias and ulcers can sometimes mimic the pain of GERD.  It may be necessary to have an endoscopy to assess for the presence of stomach ulcers before initiating treatment.

Secondly, identify food triggers and sensitivities.  There are several basic food triggers including: fried foods, alcohol, caffeine, soda, spicy food, tomato and citrus.  It is important to be mindful of these common triggers when eating.  In more recent years, it has been found that food sensitivities including dairy and gluten have a strong link to heartburn.  An IgG Food Panel can tell you what foods you are most sensitive to.  Junk food, processed foods and overeating can all contribute to GERD.

Thirdly, talk to your naturopathic doctor about natural remedies to soothe and heal the gut including DGL, glutamine, marshmallow, slippery elm, zinc and magnesium.

Study shows caffeine “perks” us up

Roasted coffee beans, the world's primary sour...

Image via Wikipedia

Let the coffee drinkers of the world rejoice. A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has discussed a positive relationship between caffeine and depression. This study looked at more than 50,000 women who were free from depression at the beginning of the study. This group was followed for 10 years to observe the relationship between caffeine and depression. Interestingly, those who drank 2 to 3 cups of caffeinated coffee a day had a 15 % decrease in depression, and those that drank 4 cups a day had a 20% decrease.  Those who drank decaf coffee or other beverages with lower caffeine levels such as tea did not show the same association. The study also found that regular coffee drinkers were more likely to drink more alcohol, be current smokers and were less likely to be involved as volunteers or in community groups. They also had less obesity, fewer blood pressure issues and lower rates of diabetes.

The proposed relationship between caffeine and depression is as follows. Depression is caused by an inadequacy in  3 neurotransmitters, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. A deficit in these neurotransmitters results in changes to brain chemistry thereby producing symptoms of depression such as decreased mood, motivation, activity level, sleep etc. The current thinking is that caffeine works on neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in the brain thereby mitigating the chemical changes caused by depression.

While we do know that some caffeine increases our alertness, enhances psychomotor performance, and let’s be honest makes people happy, we also know that too much caffeine can cause jitters, palpitations and insomnia. So while this study does bring some interesting possibilities to future mental illness research, it does not mean that we should all run out and overdose on Starbucks.

Increase Your Core, Decrease Your Pain

Anyone who has ever suffered from back pain will tell you they’ll try ANYTHING to get back to feeling normal again. Drugs, lotions, hanging upside down by their ankles, you name it. For some reason, what many people don’t try is preventative care.

Research has shown  that increasing our core stability (meaning the muscles in our midsection) is one of the greatest tools one can use to both treat and prevent low back pain. I can hear the groaning now, “Exercise?! I don’t like going to the gym. I don’t have any equipment. I don’t have enough time in the day.” What if you didn’t need a gym membership, no equipment was necessary, and you only needed the time it takes to make your morning coffee?

Dr.Stuart McGill, professor of spine biomechanics at Waterloo University has come up with three exercises dubbed the “McGill 3” that are the  key exercises for back pain prevention and treatment. Give them a try. All you have to lose is your pain.

Lie on back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, hands resting behind head. Suck stomach in and curl body to lift shoulder blades off floor. Maintain abdominal hollow as you lower slowly back down .Keep neck in neutral, elbows back, do not pull on head. If having difficulty maintaining neutral neck position, exercise can be performed with hands on chest. Stop if the exercise causes pain.  Repeat 15 times, 2 sets.

Lie on one side with knees bent, weight supported by elbow/forearm which rests directly below the shoulder. Knees, hips and shoulders are in line. Raise hip off floor, moving spine from side flexed to neutral alignment. Maintain abdominal hollow. Avoid rotating backwards or forwards. Hold position for 3 relaxed breaths, slowly lower and repeat. Stop the exercise if it causes pain. (Modify with weight supported on bent knees) Repeat 15 times, 2 sets.

On hands and knees, keep back flat and maintain an abdominal hollow. Slowly extend one leg behind while at the same time reaching opposite arm in front until parallel with floor. Keep trunk stable, avoid twisting. Hold for 3 relaxed breaths, slowly return to start position, repeat. Stop if the exercise causes pain. Repeat 15 times, 2 sets.

Do each of the exercises as prescribed every other day.

For pictures and printable instructions click here: McGill 3