Athlete’s Shoulder

Athlete’s Shoulder - Resolving Shoulder Injuries with Active Release Techniques (ART)

By: Dr. David Westmacott

Athletic activities require a considerable amount of strength, coordination, and flexibility from the shoulder.  As a result, athletes participating in sports such as swimming, paddling, golf, baseball, and tennis, commonly develop shoulder injuries.  Unfortunately, when shoulder injuries occur they not only prevent optimal performance, but they often progress to the point of preventing competition and training altogether.  To make matters worse, many of the most common shoulder conditions are slow to respond to traditional types of treatment and often result in months of frustration for the athlete.

Fortunately, a new treatment technique known as Active Release Technique (ART) is proving to be a very successful method to combat many common shoulder problems and get athletes back in the game quickly and effectively.  But before we talk about why ART works so effectively, first we need to understand how the shoulder becomes injured in the first place.

Shoulder Basics – The high cost of mobility

The shoulder joint consists of the round head of the upper arm connecting to the flat surface of the shoulder blade.  This “round-on-flat” relationship is different from most other joints in the body, and as a result is capable of providing a great deal of movement.  For example, most joints allow only one direction of movements (i.e. ankle, knee, elbow, fingers).  In comparison, the architecture of the shoulder allows us to reach up overhead, back behind the body, across the chest, and into internal and external rotation.

Over time the muscles become strained and develop small scale injury known as micro-trauma.  Initially this micro-trauma is not painful, but may be perceived as a mild ache or tightness in the muscles.  Although only small, the damage still needs to be repaired.  The body responds to tissue injury in a very predictable way – by laying down new tissue to repair the damaged tissue.  With micro-trauma the body repairs the strained tissue by laying down small amounts of scar tissue in and around the injured area.  The scar tissue itself is not a problem – in fact it is a normal and necessary part of healing.

The problem occurs when the shoulder is repeatedly subjected to the same high force athletic movements.  This in turn causes the same muscles to become strained and subsequently repaired over and over again.  Over time scar tissue will build-up and accumulate into what we called adhesions.  As these adhesions form they start to affect the normal health and function of the muscles.  In fact, they will often lead to pain, tightness, stiffness, restricted joint motion, and diminished blood flow.

As these scar tissue adhesions accumulate in the shoulder region, it places more and more strain on the muscles as they must now stretch and contract against these adhesions in an attempt to move and stabilize the shoulder.  This places even further strain on the shoulder muscles, which in turn leads to more micro-trauma.  Essentially a repetitive injury cycle is set-up causing continued adhesion formation and progressive shoulder dysfunction.

As the cycle progresses the ability of the muscles to contract properly is affected and the stability of the shoulder becomes compromised.  At this point it is not uncommon for the muscles to give way, resulting in a more severe and debilitating pain.  In fact, many athletes come into our office explaining how they have hurt their shoulder during a routine task that they have done thousands of times before.  When further questioned these athletes almost always describe some mild pain or tightness in their shoulders that has been building over time.  As you can see from the explanation of the repetitive injury cycle, these types of injuries build-up over time and the more acute injury is often just the “straw-that-broke-the-camels-back”.

How are Shoulder Injuries Best Treated?

The Traditional Approach

In the attempt to relieve shoulder, a variety of treatment methods are used, either on their own, or in combination with other methods.  Some of the more common approaches include anti-inflammatory medications, rest, ice, ultrasounds (US), muscle stimulation (E-Stim), steroid injections,  stretching, exercise, and when all else fails, surgery.  Unfortunately, most of these traditional techniques generally require a long period of time before they provide any significant relief, and in many cases, provide only temporary relief from symptoms instead of fixing the underlying cause of the problem.  This can be a huge problem as athletes often want and need to get back to training and competition as soon as possible.

The main reason these traditional approaches are often ineffective is they fail to address the underlying scar tissue adhesions that develop within the muscles and surrounding soft tissues.  It is these adhesions that are binding the tissues together, restricting the normal movements, and interfering with the normal flexibility, and contraction of the muscles in the shoulder area.

Passive approaches, such as medications, rest, ice and steroid injections, all focus on symptomatic relief and do nothing to address the muscle restrictions and dysfunction.  More active approaches, such as stretching and exercises, are often needed for full rehabilitation of the condition and to restore full strength and function of the muscles, however, they themselves do not treat the underlying adhesions.  In fact, without first addressing the scar tissue adhesions, stretches and exercises are often less effective and much slower to produce relief or recovery from the shoulder condition.

One of the best things about ART is how fast it can get results.  In our experience, the majority of shoulder injuries respond very well to ART treatment, especially when combined with the appropriate home stretching and strengthening exercises.  Although each case is unique and there are several factors that will determine the length of time required to fully resolve each condition, we usually find a significant improvement can be gained in just 4-6 treatments.  These results are the main reason that many elite athletes and professional sports teams have ART practitioners on staff, and why ART is an integral part of the Ironman triathlon series.

To book an appointment to see if ART will be able to help with your elbow injury, simply call our office at 403-278-1405.

Staying Injury-Free during Hiking Season

Written by: Rachel Grant, MScPT, B.Kin

We are fortunate enough to live just a few short hours from the beautiful rocky mountains! Whether you are an avid hiker and have years of experience under your belt, or have just started to explore the trails, injury prevention should be a top priority. Hiking injuries tend to be injuries to the lower limb. These injuries can range from acute injuries such as a ligament sprain to overuse injuries such as tendonitis. The goal of this blog is to give you an idea of what injuries to look out for and most importantly some prevention tips.

The most common lower limb sprain injury tends to be an ankle sprain when you overstretch the ligaments in your ankle from rolling it on uneven terrain. A key aspect to preventing this injury is to first have proper footwear.

●  Getting fitted to a hiking boot or trail runner that fits you well and provides you support around the ankle joint for your activity is key.

●  Secondly, it can be beneficial to strengthen and stretch your calf muscles. Completing a basic calf stretch before and after hiking in the parking lot helps keep your ankle mobile. Strengthening your calf muscles with exercises such as a calf raise will provide stability around your ankle joint to tackle uneven rocks, tree roots and the steep incline and decline of a trail.

●  Adding in some challenging balance exercises such as balancing near a counter with your eyes closed or working on maintaining your balance while standing on a pillow can prepare your ankle for the mountains.Overuse injuries are the next most common injuries you can encounter. Pain at the front of the knee, particularly with the descent of a hike can result in injuries such as patellofemoral pain syndrome and/or patellar tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon). Stretching and strengthening the muscles surrounding the knee and hip joint can help prevent and treat this knee pain.

●  Stretching the front of the thigh of the quadriceps muscle before & after a hike is also beneficial to prevent this injury. A simple stretch you can add is shown here.

●  Strengthening this same muscle with exercises such as a single leg step up and down a stair, and lunges can also be very beneficial.

●  Strengthening your hip muscles such as your glutes will provide support to your knee joint. Simple exercises such as a squat and a glute bridge with a resistance band are a great addition to any workout program. Lastly, an important part of injury prevention is preparing your body for the activity by slowly building up your endurance. Starting with lower elevation and shorter hikes at the beginning of the season to gradually building up to more challenging trails builds up your muscles to tackle a full hiking season injury free! Don’t forget about taking adequate rest breaks during the hike and in between hiking days while mixing in other kinds of exercise such as cardiovascular and strength training.

Sadly, despite our best efforts, injuries may still happen. If you experience injury hiking or maybe you would like to focus on injury prevention tailored specifically to you, our team at Active Sports Therapy can design a treatment program for your goals today! Call the office at 403-278-1405 today to book in with our team of experts.

*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Naturopathic Recommendations for Allergies

By Dr. Gayle Maguire, B.Sc, ND

It's allergy season and many of us find ourselves reaching for medication for our itchy eyes and runny noses! When it comes to an ND's perspective, most natural approaches to allergies should begin prior to the season, as we hope to soothe and cleanse necessary functions in the body.  When these functions become overwhelmed, we see a worsening of allergy symptoms.  This also explains why many adults "grow into" allergies.

Many patients are surprised to experience hay fever for the first time, wondering why they never had allergies as a child or young adult.  The question is usually "Don't we grow out of allergies?".  It would appear that stresses to proper immune response, such as stress in particular, throw off our body's natural response to pollen, snow mould, and more.  This may even include food allergies and sensitivities too.

It becomes really important to look at your diet going into your worst allergy season.  Try a "break-up" with coffee, sugar, and for some, dairy products.  If stress has been high, work diligently on stress reduction and talk to your naturopathic doctor about supplements to help.

Quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant found in many vegetables can be purchased as a supplement and seems to calm the immune system very effectively for some.  Nettle, as a tea (provided you are not allergic to it!), can be an effective anti-inflammatory and immune stabilizer due to its quercetin content.  This can interact with several medications so talk to your pharmacist or naturopathic doctor first.  Probiotics and Vitamin D are other important nutrients for stable immune responses.

For more information, book a free meet-and-greet session with Dr. Gayle Maguire at AST Willow Park, 4032781405.

*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

How Traditional Chinese Medicine can help with a Cancer Diagnosis

Written by: Dr. Vikki McGuire, DTCM

We are all affected by Cancer. Whether you have been diagnosed or a close family or friend has, we have all struggled under the weight of this far-reaching disease. 

The majority of people who get diagnosed go through a series of emotions: fear, confusion, self-doubt and STRESS. 

In our society, we have not completely integrated all available therapies.  A patient may become unclear about which treatment journey to follow. It can be daunting as there are so many choices without much support from Oncology outside of their scope of practice.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a great therapy for your whole system when undergoing cancer treatments and post-treatment. It works on the mind, body and spirit through needling, cupping, exercises (like Tai-Chi Qi-Gong), Herbal and Nutritional support. 

Dr. Vikki has been working with Cancer patients (and their families) for 10-plus years. During that time, she has learned the process of Oncology and how valuable holistic medicine is through all stages of cancer and beyond. She treats symptoms of cancer such as:

Anxiety/depression

Cognitive Issues (sometimes called chemo brain) 

Dry Mouth

Fatigue

Hot flashes

Lymphedema

Ileus (intestinal blockage)

Immune system recovery

Nausea

Neuropathy

Pain 

Post-operative pain

Dr. Vikki can help navigate the holistic system and guide patients to the right providers at the right time to aid in Cancer treatments and recovery. It can be a confusing, sometimes costly and frustrating process finding the right team for yourself. 

Just because your conventional cancer treatments have ended, your healing hasn’t.  This is where TCM can be a lifeline. Dr. Vikki can help you get back to your pre-cancer health. Chemo can take up to a year to leave your system and the damage it does to the good cells takes time and support to repair. 

Whether you are recently diagnosed, part way through Western treatments or looking for post-treatment care – give Dr. Vikki and Traditional Chinese medicine a try. 

Dr. Vikki McGuire works at AST Willow Park and is currently taking new patients. Call 403-278-1405 to book your appointment today!

Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Power of Nutrition in Sports

Written By: Kira Greasley, BA, CHNC

When talking nutrition, the consensus is clear, what you eat affects not only your health, but your athletic performance and recovery. Everyone has different nutritional needs so the goal should always be to fuel the body to support any training program, provide efficient recovery between workouts, reduce the risk of illness and/or overtraining, so you can achieve your potential.

Now, how you fuel depends on the following factors:

- intensity
- duration
- fitness level, goals and pre-exercise diet

What you fuel with is reliant upon the following three macronutrients:

Carbohydrates, or carbs are your body’s clean burning fuel source and is the most important source of energy. Your daily carb intake should match the fuel needs of your training but keep in mind that all carbs are not created equal. Simple carbs like refined breads and pastas (now I am talking the white pasta), pastries and sweets are void of any nutrients and fiber, providing only a quick bump in your blood glucose levels that will be used quickly. This condition is known as bonking or crushing. Ideally, you will want to opt for non starchy and starchy complex carbs such as brown rice, broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, glyphosate free steel cut oats, and quinoa, just to name a few.

Proteins, and specifically the amino acids, form the building blocks for new muscle tissue and the repair of body cells. Amino acids are also used for making enzymes, hormones, antibodies and providing a small fuel source for exercising muscles. Extra protein is required during and after intense exercise to compensate for the increased muscle breakdown that occurs, as well as to build new muscle cells. Several studies have found that eating carbohydrates and protein together immediately after exercise enhances recovery and promotes muscle building.

Healthy fat in food provides essential fatty acids, required to transport vitamins A, D, E & K and is an additional source of energy for exercise. Omega 3’s may be particularly beneficial when training as they help

increase the delivery of oxygen to muscles, improve endurance and may speed recovery and reduce inflammation and joint stiffness. Good sources of healthy fats come from avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, the meat we buy as well as the oils we use such as extra virgin olive oil, grass fed butter, ghee, and coconut oil.

Generally, your nutritional base should be around the following: 35% Carbs, 35% protein, 30% healthy fats. Then, depending on your training level, and goal those percentages would be adjusted to make sure your body is receiving the proper fuel in the right amounts. For example, the higher the intensity, the greater the reliance on muscle glycogen. Lower intensity is fuelled mainly by fat, and moderate intensity will have half the energy supplied from muscle glycogen and the rest from fat. Once muscle glycogen stores are depleted, protein makes an increased contribution to energy needs providing those amino acids for energy and to maintain blood glucose levels. However, protein is the least favourable source of energy and should not be relied upon as an energy source. There are many calculator apps out there that can assist you with this decision.

The last component and often the most important and overlooked component is hydration. Water makes up the principle components of all bodily fluids and functions. On average, we need about 12 cups (almost 3L) of filtered water each day to stay hydrated as we lose water daily through our skin, urine, bowels & lungs. Dehydration is generally defined as a fluid deficit greater than 2% Body Weight. So in simple terms, by the time your body is letting you know you need water, you are already dehydrated. Some signs you are dehydrated include: sluggishness, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, feeling excessively hot, lightheaded and nausea. Water is the best way to hydrate, but get creative! Add some lemon, or cucumber to help with the body’s detoxification process. Berries are also a great way to add natural flavour and to receive your natural sugars to replenish those glycogen stores. Go one step further and add a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt and you have an easy electrolyte drink.

Holistically speaking, proper food intake is only one piece of the puzzle. Adequate recovery between training sessions, proper stress management and plentiful sleep are just as important as the composition of your plate.

In short, whether you are a beginner athlete, an experienced athlete, or just someone looking to improve their health, what and how you eat are

important. Food is not only fuel for the body but it is used as information that directly communicates WITH our bodies, brain & DNA. In the words of Dr. David Perlmutter “Your fork sets you on a path that leads you to a disease or back to health”

If you are looking to learn more book in with Kira Greasley at AST Willow Park today.

Treating Ankle injuries with Active Release Techniques (ART)

Written By: Active Sports Therapy with Text from Active Release Techniques©

The ankle is such a critical area for athletes as it forms the primary connection between the body and the ground. This area of the body will feel a tremendous amount of force and pressure on a regular basis. Motions such as running, jumping, and direction changing require a considerable amount of strength and flexibility from the ankle and its surrounding muscles.

Because of it’s high-impact use, the ankle is often a site of injury for athletes. Unfortunately, when these foot and ankle injuries occur they will not only hinder performance but can often progress to the point of preventing play altogether.

How Injuries Occur

Over time the muscles of the lower leg can become strained and develop small-scale injury known as micro-trauma.

Initially, this micro-trauma is not painful, but a person may describe it as a mild ache or tightness in the foot, ankle, or lower leg.

Your body responds to tissue injury in a very predictable way – by laying down new tissue to repair the damaged tissue.  The scar tissue itself is not a problem – in fact, it is a normal and necessary part of healing.  The problem occurs when the ankle is subjected to the same high workload due to the continued, repetitive, high-force athletic movements.

We will then see the same muscles become strained & repaired over and over again.  Over time this scar tissue will build up and accumulate into what are called adhesions.  As these adhesions form they start to affect the normal health and function of the muscles.  They will often lead to pain, tightness, stiffness, restricted joint motion, and diminished blood flow.

ART: Our Approach to Ankle Injuries– A Better Solution

ART stands for Active Release Techniques.  It is a new and highly successful hands-on treatment method to address problems in the soft tissues of the body, including the muscles, ligaments, fascia, and nerves.  ART treatment is highly successful in dealing with foot and ankle injuries because it is specifically designed to locate and treat scar tissue adhesions that accumulate in the muscles and surrounding soft tissues.  Location and treating the soft-tissue adhesions with ART which allows the practitioner to:

1) break up restrictive adhesions,

2) reinstate normal tissue flexibility and movement

3) restore flexibility, balance, and stability to the injured area and to the entire kinetic chain

You can think of an ART treatment as a type of active massage.  The practitioner will first shorten the muscle, tendon, or ligament, and then apply a very specific pressure with their hand as they actively stretch and lengthen the tissues.  As the tissue lengthens the practitioner is able to assess the texture and tension of the muscle to determine if the tissue is healthy or contains scar tissue that needs further treatment.  When scar tissue adhesions are felt the amount and direction of tension can be modified to treat the problematic area.  In this sense, each treatment is also an assessment of the health of the area as we are able to feel specifically where the problem is occurring.

An additional benefit of ART is it allows us to further assess and correct problems not only at the site of pain itself but also in other areas of the kinetic chain, which are associated with movement compensations and are often contributing factors to the problem.  This ensures that all the soft tissues that have become dysfunctional and are contributing to the specific injury are addressed, even if they have not yet all developed pain.

One of the best things about ART is how fast it can get results.  In our experience, the majority of ankle injuries respond very well to ART treatment, especially when combined with the appropriate home stretching and strengthening exercises.  Although each case is unique and there are several factors that will determine the length of time required to fully resolve each condition, we usually find a significant improvement can be gained in just 4-6 treatments.  These results are the main reason that many elite athletes and professional sports teams have ART practitioners on staff, and why ART is an integral part of the Ironman triathlon series.

To book in with one of our chiropractors for this treatment, please call AST Willow Park at 403-278-1405 Or AST Westman Village at 825-305-5802

Golfer's Elbow vs. Tennis Elbow

By: Active Sports Therapy

If you’ve ever experienced pain in your forearm that you notice most when you grip or pick up an object, then you may be suffering from golfers elbow or tennis elbow. Named for the sports they are most often associated with, you can suffer from either of these conditions even if you’ve never swung a racquet or a club.

What they have in common are:

What’s the difference:

Golfers elbow affects the side of the inner arm, or the medial side and is usually caused by an activity that causes the person to have repeated flexing downward motions of the wrist such as gardening, golf, or throwing a ball. Or, by repeated lifting with the palm facing downward such as laying bricks or scanning groceries all day as a clerk.

A person suffering from golfers elbow will experience pain on the inside of the elbow when lifting something. Even something as simple as lifting a coffee cup might cause the person to feel the pain and weakness associated with the condition. Making a twisting motion may cause pain as well. The person might also have swelling and weakness not only in the elbow and forearm, but also in the wrist and hand.

Tennis elbow is the inflammation of the outside of the elbow and/or forearm. If you think of a tennis player repeatedly using their forehand and backhand swings you might be able to picture exactly where one might become sore. People who are painters, cooks, and of course those who play racquet sports are particularly prone to tennis elbow.

The symptoms will be most noticeable when you need to grip something or reach for something, however, some people have tennis elbow that leaves them with a constant, nagging ache. For tennis elbow, the pain can radiate down to the wrist.

Other tips include:

It is important to see a professional and have your pain properly diagnosed as one of the above conditions, or perhaps something different. At Active Sports Therapy we can treat this condition with Active Release Techniques which have proven to be successful in the treatment of this condition. Physiotherapy, massage, muscle activation techniques, and low-intensity laser therapy may also be recommended.  If a muscle imbalance is at play, we can ensure that you know the correct exercises that will tone down or fix your condition.

*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Golf

Low energy?  You could be anemic.

Written by: Dr. Fiona Lovely, Chiropractor

Practitioner of Functional Neurology and Functional Medicine at AST

Many women complain of fatigue and low energy.  It has become a hallmark of modern lifestyle.  While there can be many reasons for fatigue, all of them worthy of investigation by your trusted health care provider, anemia is a common problem causing a woman to feel exhausted no matter how much rest she has had.  Anemia is a common cause of weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath.

Anemia is defined by a deficiency of red blood cells or haemoglobin in the blood.  These important elements carry oxygen to all the tissues of the brain and body.  There are different types of anemia but a common one for women in the perimenopausal years (35-55) is iron deficiency anemia.  This means that your red blood cells cannot carry a sufficient amount of oxygen to your brain and body leading to fatigue. 

If you know you have anemia, it’s important to know what type of anemia you have so that you may supplement your diet accordingly.  Your last lab tests will give the clues about what kind of anemia you are experiencing.  For example: you may have a deficiency of B12 or folate (vitamin B9) which can easily be supplemented with a high quality vitamin like we carry in our AST dispensary.  

Iron should be replenished by our diet.  Dark green leafy veggies, lentils, liver, red meat, and fish are good sources.  If you are eating a veggie-forward diet, please be sure to consume foods high in vitamin C with your meals to help with absorption of iron.  Cooking in a cast iron pan will also impart iron into the foods you consume.  

It helps to understand that a woman loses iron monthly with her menstrual bleed, so you must be replenishing this lost iron continuously.  If she has fibroids or endometriosis or short cycles or is bleeding heavily, then this loss of resources can be difficult to keep up with requiring an iron supplement daily.  There are many types of iron supplements, please speak to you practitioner to get the best one for you. 

Want to know more about how to feel better and have more energy?  Please tune into Episode 086 of the Not Your Mother’s Menopause podcast for tactical tools on how to correct anemia.

You can find Dr. Fiona Lovely working at AST Willow Park.

Microbiome: The Inside Facts

Written By: Kira Greasley, B.A, CHNC

Last month we talked about the importance of regular bowel movements and that being constipated or having diarrhea can be a sign that your digestion is off. So lets’ dive in a little further.

Digestion is the process of turning large pieces of food into its component nutrients by mechanical, chemical and microbial digestion. Although each part of digestion is important, we are going to focus specifically on microbial digestion.

Your gut hosts 100 trillion micro organisms which are made up of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, algae, and fungi and we could not exist without them. These microorganisms make up 70% of our immune system and are in constant communication with the brain either directly or through other mechanisms that alter the brain. Your gut has its own nervous system, known in the literature as the enteric nervous system but is generally referred to it as the second brain. We’ve all heard the common expressions “go with your gut” or “I have a gut feeling” and the data is showing there are three major routes on how our gut “talks” to the brain:

  1. The vagus nerve takes what information we put into our gut and distributes it to the brain and visa versa. This vagus nerve has many neutrons or sensors that then distribute that information out to other parts of the body. People, what happens in the vagus does not stay in the vagus on this one!
  2. Microbes make neurotransmitters and hormones that can signal the brain through our nerve networks. For example, did you know that certain bacteria in our gut produce 90-95% of our peripheral serotonin (the happy hormone). Serotonin is responsible for our emotional well being, GI motility, and is a precursor to the production of melatonin that helps us sleep. As such, our thoughts, perception and stress can literally alter the composition of our microbiome.
  3. Influencing the immune system, which interfaces directly with the nervous system throughout our entire body. In this situation, think of your microbes as a security system, are they actively surveilling or are they asleep at the wheel.

To put it all into simple terms, how we “tend to our garden” literally determines how our entire body responds. Balance between the immune system, the hormonal system, and the nervous system begins in, and is critically dependent on a healthy gut. So with all this in mind, what are some simple steps you can do?

  1. Counteract that stress response. The flight or flight stress response is a natural survival mechanism but if it is never turned off, body processes such as digestion, mental well-being, and the storage and expenditure of energy in the body become affected This is one reason for fatigue, depression, and suppressed immunity.
  2. Start looking at the foods you eat as information for your microbes, as they have a major effect, good or bad, on how they flourish. Is that information positive (bright coloured) or negative (bland colour)? Our gut bacteria need complex, fermentable starches to feed on. Hello, fruits and vegetables.
  3. Probiotics are live micro-organisms, which when administered in adequate amounts, provide health benefits for the host such as enhancing mineral absorption, strengthening the immune system and protecting the intestinal wall lining. Food items such as whole milk yogurt, Kefir, raw unpasteurized sauerkraut, true kombucha tea (not sugar drinks) and beet kvass are good options. Adding a multi-strain probiotic to one’s regimen may also improve the diversity of one's gut flora.
  4. Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibres that selectively stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in our gut. Their job is to feed the probiotics. Food items such as onions, bananas, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, miso, legumes and raw natural honey are good food sources.
  5. Expose yourself to a variety of environments including animal/pet exposure, gardens (what a great way to connect and teach your children about food or just to relax), travel if possible to expose yourself to different new gut friends, introduce a different vegetable at each grocery shop. The ways are endless!
  6. Don’t be a clean freak! There is a term called the hygiene hypothesis, which states that a lack of early childhood exposure to bacteria or germs does not give the immune system a chance to develop. Use caution when using antibiotic soaps, antibacterial cleaners, and hand sanitizers. Look for more organic cleaners where possible, your gut bugs will thank you.
  7. Unless necessary, lay off the use of antibiotics as they do not discern between good or bad bugs, they just wipe out the entire colony. With that being said, antibiotics have a time and a place, so please consult your physician.

As we have seen, our microbiota can alter quickly in response to our diet or environment. As such, it is important that we look at how we cultivate it as a life-long way of living and eating and not some short-term fad.

If you are interested in learning more or improving your microbiome from a nutritional perspective book a consultation with Kira Greasley today. Kira works at AST Willow Park and is currently taking new patients.

The Importance of Regular Bowel Movements

Written By: Kira Greasley, BA, CHNC

Let’s be honest, talking about our bowel movements can be uncomfortable, but how often you poop and what your poop looks like can be a strong indicator of your health. Changes in colour, shape and texture can reveal signs of infection, digestive issues and more.

In Holistic circles, your ideal bowel frequency is 1-3 bowel movements per day. Yes, that is per day folks, it is not Ok, to not poop! The optimum food transit time is 18-24 hours, but it can be a lot less (as long as 72 hours), depending on one's nutrition and other factors. Your stool should be a healthy brownish colour with consistency being described as “foot-long floaters”. This is where stool is passed as a formed mass which floats about midway into the bowl. Visit https:// www.continence.org.au/bristol- stool-chart for a complete visual.

Constipation refers to bowel movements which are infrequent or difficult to pass. The stool is often hard and dry. Some contributing factors include insufficient good fibre in the diet, poor quality fat, refined foods, insufficient levels of HCL and digestive enzymes (which leads to lacking the proper nutrients to help the motility of your digestive tract), lack of exercise and dehydration. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, loss of appetite, headache, lower back pain, rectal discomfort and general malaise. As the stool becomes hardened, increased toxins formed by microbes have more time to be absorbed into the blood contributing to dysbiosis (an overgrowth of bad bacteria) and inflammation.

Diarrhea is the frequent passage of watery stools. With an increase in gut motility, there is insufficient time for water in the intestinal tract to be reabsorbed into the body, resulting in the liquified stool. Often diarrhea is an isolated incident caused by a temporary problem. Chronic diarrhea is a more complex situation and should be evaluated by your doctor. Some contributing factors include the use of antibiotics and NSAIDs, food allergies, overuse of sugar and sweeteners, deficiency of HCL, overuse of antacids, contaminated water and stress. Your Gastrointestinal (GI) system is sensitive to hormones including adrenalin, the hormone released when one is excited, fearful, or anxious. Separate from the central nervous system, the gut’s nervous system regulates the processes of digesting foods and eliminating solid waste.

The health of your GI tract impacts the health of the rest of your body. If any part of the GI system is compromised, through inadequate diet or from a digestive disorder, vital nutrient deficiencies occur, and toxins are easily absorbed.

As you will learn in next month's blog, 70% of your immune system resides in your gut, so remember, what YOU put on your fork ultimately decides whether YOU are on a path to dis-ease or health.

Book in with Kira Greasley to learn how healthy dietary choices can change your life.

Kira Greasley works at AST Willow Park and is currently taking new patients.