Supporting Your Immune System - The Connection Between Your Brain and Gut

By: Dr. Fiona Lovely, DC

Recently, a panel of AST experts joined forces to discuss the important topic of immunity. I had the pleasure of sharing the connections between the brain and the gut and below are just a few of my takeaways.

The human immune system is made up (in part) by the 4.4lbs of organisms (100 trillion of them!) which make up the human microflora, or microbiome and cells of the lining of the gut. The health and stability of the microbiome is what you are establishing and feeding when you take your daily probiotic. Think of it like a garden to be cultivated. They are bacteria, parasites, fungi, virus living within us and helping to regulate the system. They even contribute to our DNA, our genetic makeup and our ability to adapt to any environment. Poor diet, stress, chronic disease and antibiotic therapy will diminish or eliminate the bugs of our gut. You must re-seed the garden after antibiotics and it must be inoculated with a high quality probiotic supplement ongoing. I am often asked why it is important to eat organic - remember this, the pesticides, fungicides, etc that are sprayed on our produce are not fruit and vegetable selective! They will kill off your microbiome too.

The health of these systems, the microbiome, your organ reserves and health and your voluntary inputs (nutrition, stress management, exercise, etc.) make up the terrain that dictates how healthy you are. Terrain is the term used to describe the inner environment of a human being.  The health of the terrain explains why some get sick and some do not.

What can you do to help the health of your gut?

Let’s look at stress. When you are experiencing stress, your defences diminish because the brain is sending resources to the stress response system. We are living through one of the most intensely stressful times in our history, so if you are feeling stress, you aren’t alone. Stress is our current way of life, it isn’t going away anytime soon, you cannot control it. But what you can control is your response to something stressful. Are there calming thoughts you can have when something stressful comes up? Can you pause to meditate or incorporate meditation into your daily routine?

Take a closer look at all of the different things that you are consuming daily. News? Negative people? Toxic relationships or stinking thinking? Are you a complainer? Do you engage in drama? All of these things encourage you to have both negative thinking and a survival response. When you are surviving, your blood flow shunts from the extremities to the core organs resulting in your immune system taking a back seat to critical functions.

Here are three things you can start doing today to help with gut health and thus, immunity too:

Healthy mind = healthy brain = healthy gut = healthy immunity = health.

*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.  

Acupuncture for Stress Relief

[vc_row][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_column_text]By: Dr. Vikki McGuire, DTCM and Dr. Wanda Duong DTCM

Stress is a natural reaction to the world and experiences that we are a part of and every single person will feel stress occasionally be it from work, finances, relationships or anything else, the body’s response will be the same; elevated stress levels sending the body into fight-or-flight mode. The difficulty arises when a person has elevated stress levels that are persistent to the point where it begins to take a toll on the body and starts to show up in different people in different ways.

Stress when ignored can manifest into both physical and/or emotional symptoms. It is usually only then that we start to question why we feel a certain way. Stress is a silent burden that affects us all differently, and if stress is an issue for you, just know that you’re not alone. The ‘fight or flight’ response that we experience during a stressful situation was meant to solve short-term problems, but if we are left in this ‘fight or flight’ state of being (sympathetic nervous system dominance) numerous health concerns can begin to arise. Some people may struggle with sleep issues and others might find that anxiety and depression are interrupting their life and draining their energy. Another person might notice that they’re catching colds during more stressful times throughout the year.

If this is the case for you, it might be a great opportunity to discover the benefits of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to help rebalance your body and mind and to get you back to a happy and healthy life!

Symptoms commonly associated with stress can include:

In more severe or long-term cases, stress may increase your breathing rate, increase your heart rate or your blood pressure, and consequently put your cardiovascular system at risk of a severe illness (e.g. heart-attack or heart disease), so it’s important to do whatever you can to help manage your stress.

How acupuncture can help with stress levels:

Acupuncture is a treatment where fine needles are placed into certain points in the body that will help to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissues. With regards to stress directly, there is evidence that shows that acupuncture therapy can decrease the body’s overall stress response and in some cases, help reverse the effects of it. Each of us has something called the parasympathetic nervous system which is basically the good state your body is in when you are in a relaxed state. This is a great state of being, and it is where we want to live, unless of course, you are actually in danger! Working with the flow of energy in the body, acupuncture can help bring back flow to areas of the body that may be obstructed or are experiencing an imbalance. Many people experience a very peaceful feeling immediately after an acupuncture session. Acupuncture works in both curative and preventative ways when it comes to your stress and is just one way Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctors can help with this issue.

There are many conditions addressed in Traditional Chinese Medicine are actually the result of stress manifesting in other areas of the body, so even if you don’t think your condition is related to stress, it might be worth taking a closer look with a full assessment from a DTCM.

Book in with one of our Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctors to go over all your health concerns and to find out if acupuncture could be right for you.

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

A Review of Natural Supplements for Anxiety

[vc_row][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_column_text]By: Dr. Gayle Maguire ND

There are several natural supports for mild to moderate mood disorders, though talk to your medical or naturopathic doctor first as they can interact with pharmaceuticals or other supplements, to sometimes life-threatening extent. The natural supplements with the most research are discussed below.

B Vitamins

B vitamins help in a variety of our physiological processes and I especially like using them for hormone, metabolic and neurotransmitter issues (which constitutes many things in the human body!).  A good B complex dose should "calmly energize" a person - not a caffeine-induced, jittery energy, but the feeling of having a really good sleep.  Speaking of sleep, while B's are often taken in the morning, they should help regulate the sleep cycles in the body too, so they become doubly helpful for anxiety in this regard.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a relaxant to smooth muscles which can improve the feelings of anxiety or for pre-menstrual tension. Note that magnesium can loosen the bowels, so dosing should be monitored accordingly. Ideally, magnesium is taken in a liquid or powder form for best absorption. There are a few types of magnesium, though recently magnesium glycinate has become a popular form that relates itself specifically to calming effects.

L-theanine & GABA

L-theanine is an extract from green tea that can lower cortisol levels and provide quick, though usually temporary, relief from anxiousness.

GABA is another quick fix for anxious moments, and also tends to be short-lasting.  Both L-theanine and GABA can help manage symptoms until the underlying issues are addressed.  Low levels of this inhibitory neurotransmitter have been linked to chronic pain, epilepsy and mood disorders, so some do feel the positive of effects of supplementing. Interactions are common with this product, not only with anxiety medications, but potentially others, such as blood pressure prescriptions and it’s important to note that side effects are not well studied.

Herbal Remedies

Plants with calming properties can be helpful in tea or supplement form, though allergies are common, especially to Chamomile. Other common herbs that may induce relaxation are valerian, mint, hops and passionflower. I tend to find herbal medicines in tea too low a dose to help with significant anxiety, or that the person with anxiety needs to be evaluated for hormones, thyroid function, blood sugar issues, or nutritional deficiencies. Herbal medicines for calming are perhaps a better fit for unwinding after a strenuous day or event, whereas anxiety disorders require an in-depth assessment with individualized treatment.

So often, feelings of anxiety are at least partially contributed to by imbalanced hormones, poor blood sugar control/low blood sugar, or nutritional deficiencies due to dietary gaps or digestive disorders.

Be sure to consult a professional if anxiety is an issue for you to ensure you get the help that you need.

*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.  

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Is Your Stress Contributing to Your Pain?

[vc_row][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_column_text]By: Active Sports Therapy

If you’re dealing with an injury or pain, studies show that there is a direct link between an individual’s stress level and the amount of pain that they feel. Stress and pain are considered to be closely linked so you may find it beneficial to journal your pain level and your stress level to find out if, personally, there is a correlation for you.

Stress is actually a natural reaction to the world and experiences that we are a part of and everyone will feel stress occasionally. The difficulty arises when a person has elevated stress levels that are persistent to the point where it begins to take a toll on the body.

For example, here is how stress plays out in the muscular system. When you enter a state of stress, a common response for the body is for muscles to tense up. It does this to protect you from injury in a dangerous situation and under normal circumstances, the muscles will relax again. However, if you’re always under stress, your muscles will not get the opportunity to let go and relax, leaving you with tight shoulders, a sore back, and even general muscle pain. The muscles of the neck and shoulders can often be connected to frequent headaches, sometimes referred to as tension headaches.

The good news is, there are many things that you can do to work toward reducing your stress levels.

Active Release Therapy, offered here at AST, can help alleviate the tension in your neck, back and shoulders, often with only a couple of treatments. This treatment combined with these stress relieving tips can make a huge difference when applied.

Sleep – This is so important for people suffering from high stress levels. A good nights sleep will help you to face the day in a more relaxed, energetic, and clear-headed state.

Learn to relax – Relaxing means different things to different people. Aim for an activity that you can incorporate into your daily routine. Reading before bed instead of watching TV is helpful for some. Guided meditation can teach techniques of meditation and there are some great apps out there! Check out The Daily Calm as it’s one of our favourites. Restorative yoga or simply challenging yourself to learn deep breathing techniques can all contribute to the de-stressing process.

Identify what triggers your stress – Is it work, relationships, or an overwhelming schedule? Becoming aware of your biggest stressors can help you to make a plan to manage it. For example, if you have an overwhelming schedule, you might be the type of person that has a difficult time saying ‘no’ to functions, volunteering, etc. and that might be an item in your life that needs tackling.

Ask yourself if you need support – Talking to a mental health professional can help you to deal with your stress and put you on a path to success with therapy, tools and techniques.

Balance – We all have busy lives so learning proper time management skills and ensuring that you have stress relief built in as a priority will help. This could be daily exercise, down-time or quiet time after work, putting a non-negotiable monthly massage in your calendar and budget, or time with friends. Think about what makes you happy, and then do more of that!

We hope these tips are helpful!

Please call us to book an appointment with one of our Active Release Technique certified chiropractors.

*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]