Family

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Reduce Your Stress and Build Happier Kids

Parenting can be both the most difficult thing you have ever done and, at the same time, the most rewarding. The whole endeavor would be so much easier if they slid you the “owner’s manual” when you got to take your little bundle of joy home from the hospital. If you misplaced yours, like I did, here are five points that can make your life a lot easier and give your kids the start in life they deserve.iStock_000013790134XXLarge

“Your home needs to be a miniature version of how society functions.”

1. Do your best – let go of the rest.

I know this first one sounds kind of cheesy, but it’s actually true. The last thing your kid needs is an uptight mom or dad who’s so afraid to make a mistake that they’re no fun to be around.

Parenting is an extremely important job, but you don’t have to be perfect to be a good at it. Actually, when you screw up you have an opportunity to make your kid stronger while building a better relationship with them—all at the same time.

How it works is like this: when you mess things up (try to change your baby when she’s hungry; misjudge your teen when he’s being honest; etc.) your child’s brain goes into a bit of chaos and the relationship is strained. However, when you take responsibility for messing things up, apologize, and fix it, you actually build trust in you and in the relationship.

Your child’s brain also comes out of chaos and establishes stability at a higher order of organization. This is nature’s way of protecting both you and your kid from the natural screw-ups that all parents do. So the take away here is you can let yourself off the hook. Don’t stress out—just do your best and make it right when you mess up.

2. Have a philosophy and a goal to organize your parenting plan.

Any trip is way easier when you have a good idea about where you’re going. A clear understanding of what you want to accomplish as a parent is like having destination when you’re travelling. The whole point of parenting is to create healthy, happy, successful, responsible members of society before you release them into the wild.

What this means then is that, over the 18 or so years you have them, they have to learn how to look after themselves and figure out how the world works. Your home needs to be a miniature version of how society functions.

That means the positive and negative consequences that happen for you when you’re walking around in life also need to be reflected for your kids in your home. If you don’t want your kids to be rude to their boss and get fired when they are on their own – then you can’t tolerate them being rude to you.

3. Show lots of love and lots of discipline.

Many parents have probably heard that you need to balance between love and discipline in order to be a good parent. Unfortunately, that’s not really how it works. You actually need lots of love AND lots of discipline to be effective.

You need to have unwavering and unconditional acceptance for who your child is (their “being”) regardless of their behavior. At the same time, you also need to have very clear rules and consequences for what they do (their “behavior”). Both these things need to be communicated consistently in your words, actions and attitudes. An example would be, “Little Johnny or Susie, I love you. There’s nothing that you can do to make that change. Because I love you I also have these rules for how you act so that you can learn how to function on your own one day. I also love you enough to always follow through on the consequences we talked about when you don’t follow the rules.”

4. All the adults play (hopefully as a team).

Consistency is extremely important to kids. That means that whatever rules you set up you have to be willing and able to follow through all the time. It also means that all the adults involved with the kids should back each other up as much as possible.

When you “throw your partner under the bus” you undermine their authority but also your own—and you confuse your kids in the process. Except in the case of abuse or other unacceptable behavior, support your partner’s decision in front of kids.

If there’s an issue, go somewhere private and discuss things until you both can agree on a course of action. If something needs to be changed the parents who originally dealt with the kids presents the change to the children.

For example: “We talked it over and we think this is a better way to go” rather than “Your mother doesn’t agree with me, so I guess we’re doing it her way, again” complete with eye rolls. Anyone can all be either too hard or too soft at different times. When you go back you will have a more appropriate response that actually builds the relationship (remember point #1) and your credibility as a parent.

Sometimes it’s not possible for all the adults to be on the same page—like in a shared custody situation. If the parent or parents on the other side don’t support your program you can still provide consistency to your kids when they’re in your home. Let them know that the rules of the other house should be followed when they’re there but the rules in this house need to be followed when they’re here.

When you can support the adults and the other home, even when you don’t agree, you make it much less confusing for the kids and provide them with much needed stability and balance. You also end up being someone they can count on to be reasonable and therefore trustworthy.

5. Remember that you’re the one in charge.

Your kids don’t have to give you the authority or the respect you deserve—it’s already yours. When you remember this and step fully into your leadership role you give your kids the confidence, safety, and happiness they deserve. You end up having more fun too.

Resources

Hold On To Your Kids.

Gordon Neufeld and Gabore Mate

Power Parenting

(CD). Dr. Ganz Ferrance

Parenting From the Inside out.

Daniel Siegel

 
 
 

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Six surprising ways that your gut health can affect your chances of reproduction

Hand on bellyMost people don’t realize that there is a strong connection between gastrointestinal health and fertility. This is because the health of the gut affects the reproductive system in many subtle ways.

The obvious signs of digestive problems include constipation, diarrhea, heartburn or acid reflux, abdominal bloating, sharp or dull abdominal pains, gas, and urinary irritation. But many other symptoms show up when the gut isn’t working properly, including chronic sinus, ear, or vaginal infections; joint pain; headaches; foggy thinking; fatigue; and mood disturbances. All of the systems of the body are interconnected, and subfertility or infertility can definitely be related to gut issues as well.

Here are six ways that gut problems can cause a decline in fertility:

1. Poor nutrient absorption:

If your gut isn’t working properly, then you won’t be able to fully digest your food or absorb all of the nutrients from it. You can end up with nutritional deficiencies because your body can’t fully process the food you’re consuming. This can adversely impact many systems of your body, including your immune system, your liver, and your reproductive system, because of shortages of the trace minerals and vitamins needed to support those intricate processes.

2. Suboptimal hormone production:

A significant part of the body’s hormone production actually happens in the gut. If there are shortages of nutrients due to malabsorption, then the body will be lacking the building blocks needed to make those hormones. Furthermore, if the endocrine cells in the gut are damaged, then they can’t do their job of producing hormones, including reproductive hormones. Moods are also affected since the gut cells manufacture many key neurotransmitters.

3. Toxic buildup:

The digestive system is designed to eliminate wastes fairly quickly, so that they don’t linger in the body. Healthy bowels should move after every meal, so constipation is a cause for concern, particularly if bowel movements aren’t occurring daily. If the gut is sluggish, then the wastes held in the colon for extended periods of time can result in toxins being reabsorbed into the bloodstream. When wastes accumulate without being excreted, this creates a drain on all systems of the body.

4. Leaky gut syndrome:

When healthy, the intestines are coated with a protective mucus membrane that only allows very small pre-digested molecules to pass through the intestinal walls into the bloodstream. When the gut is chronically irritated, as in the case of food allergies or conditions such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, the protective barrier gets eroded and large food molecules get through to the bloodstream when they shouldn’t.

This can lead to chronic inflammation in and around the gut as the immune system attacks these foreign substances that shouldn’t be passing through to the blood stream. This puts the immune system on a constant state of high alert, which isn’t conducive to fertility, since the body’s resources are diverted away from reproduction to deal with the ongoing threat of invasion, thereby compromising hormone balance and the quality of sperm and egg production.

5. Food allergies or intolerances:

iStock_000015975067LargeIt’s a chicken-or-the-egg situation with food intolerances and a leaky gut, since these conditions are related and can exacerbate one another. Allergic foods contribute to inflammation in the gut, which damages the gut lining and creates those ‘leaks.’ Similarly, a leaky gut causes undigested food molecules to get into the bloodstream, which stimulates the immune system and can create a chronic allergic reaction to that food due to prolonged exposure. Gluten in particular can be correlated with reduced fertility because gluten can suppress thyroid function, and undiagnosed thyroid issues frequently show up in cases of so-called “unexplained” infertility.

6. Dysbiosis:

Did you know that there are 10 times more bacteria in the human body than there are human cells? Our bodies operate in a symbiotic partnership with healthy bacteria. The microflora in the gut can help digest food, synthesize nutrients, break down toxins, improve immune function, and protect us from dangerous or infectious microorganisms. If the healthy bacteria in the gut are compromised or overwhelmed by harmful bacteria, this leads to a state of microbial imbalance or dysbiosis. This imbalance can affect the entire body.

Where reproductive health is concerned, vaginal flora keeps the pH balance in the vagina at a healthy level and helps ward off infections from yeast and other pathogens. Frequent vaginal infections, bladder infections, or cervical inflammation can be a sign that the body’s microbes are out of balance. It’s important for women to address this before giving birth, since recent research shows that a vaginal birth inoculates a baby’s immune system and digestive system with microbes that will affect that child’s health for decades to come.

Recommendations For Gut Health:

Chew every bite of food thoroughly. This pre-digests your food and cues your gut to release the right digestive enzymes to process what you’re eating. It also makes meals a more calming experience.

Drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day. Chlorine is toxic to the healthy bacteria in your gut so if you drink tap water, make sure to filter it.

Follow a nourishing whole foods diet that emphasizes fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and healthy meats and fish. Choose organic produce and free-range, organic, antibiotic-free meats wherever possible.

Replenish healthy gut bacteria by taking probiotics or eating unpasteurized traditionally fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, or kombucha.

A hearty daily fibre intake keeps your digestion running smoothly. The proverbial “apple a day” provides soluble fibre, and ground flax or psyllium husk added to smoothies can help cleanse the colon.

Trust your gut and notice your reactions to foods. If something doesn’t sit well with you, pay attention, even if the reaction is subtle.

Often, your allergic foods are the ones that you are addicted to. Do you have a favourite food, something you could never give up and would drive through a snowstorm to get? If so, this could be a red flag for a toxic food addiction.

Remove foods from your diet that harm the gut or feed the bad bacteria. These include anti-nutrients such as refined sugar, refined flours, alcohol, trans fats, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners, and all of your personal allergenic foods.

If you do need to take antibiotics for any reason, be sure to replenish your gut flora by taking probiotics and consuming traditionally fermented foods.

 

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Find out how birth control hormones can damage your fertility

Taking the birth control pill is so common for today’s women that it’s almost a rite of passage, on par with getting a driver’s license or graduating from high school. But most women taking birth control don’t want to prevent pregnancy forever – they just want to delay it until the right time in their lives. Here’s where the problem comes in: although these methods are marketed as safe and reversible, between 16 percent and 44 precent of women will have trouble conceiving after discontinuing birth control hormones.

Pill. Close up of a pill on female tongue.

In my practice, I work with women who are struggling to get their menstrual cycles back to normal after years of taking the pill. With infertility rates in Canada rising, it’s important to look at how these powerful drugs affect a woman’s chances of getting pregnant when she decides she is ready to become a mother.

What is a Contraceptive Endocrine Disruptor (CED)?

There are several categories of hormonal birth control, including birth control pills, the shot, the patch, the vaginal ring, and the hormonal IUD. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll refer to them as Contraceptive Endocrine Disruptors (CEDs), because they all prevent pregnancy by disrupting a woman’s endocrine system in order to stop her from ovulating.

It’s commonly believed that CEDs trick the body into thinking it is pregnant, or that they mimic natural cycles. This isn’t true: the hormonal profile of a woman on CEDs doesn’t resemble pregnancy or any naturally occurring human state. In fact, it would be closest to an artificially-induced chemical menopause.

CEDs use patented synthetic estrins and progestins that behave very differently in the body than a woman’s natural estrogens and progesterone. These unnatural hormones affect the entire body, including the nervous system, cardiovascular health, digestion, blood pressure, bone density, moods, and immunity.

How Contraceptive Endocrine Disruptors (CEDs) affect fertility

After discontinuing CEDs, it takes a while for the synthetic hormones to fully leave the body and for the woman’s endocrine system to resume ovulating. It typically takes between six and 12 months for healthy menstrual cycles to return after stopping birth control pills, although in some women it can take 18 to 24 months or longer. With injectable shots like Depo-Provera or implants such as Norplant, it can take up to three years for healthy cycles to resume.

“It typically takes between six and 12 months for healthy menstrual cycles to return after stopping birth control pills.”

Not all women are affected equally by CEDs. The impact of these drugs on the body depends on many factors, including the type of drug and the dosage, and individual factors such as genetics, diet, supplement use, activity level, and health of the liver and bowel. The women who are most likely to bounce back quickly and see their ovulation return in six months or less are those with robust health who have no previous history of endocrine disorders (such as hypothyroidism or diabetes). Women who started taking hormonal birth control only after they were already reproductively mature, or after a pregnancy, are also less strongly affected.

Are rising rates of CED use connected with rising rates of infertility?

It’s very common for girls in their early teens to start taking CEDs before their menstrual cycles have stabilized and remain on them continuously for a decade or more. In addition, CEDs are increasingly prescribed to treat other health concerns such as acne, PMS, or irregular, painful menstruation.

Most women are not presented with any other treatment or birth control options by their health care providers. They are rarely informed of all the side effects and potential consequences of taking CEDs, and if they can’t tolerate one brand, they are told to switch to a different brand or a different delivery method. In my practice, I often hear women say, “If I’d had any idea of the effects it would have on me, I never would have taken it.”

Meanwhile, up to 15.7 percent of couples in Canada are experiencing infertility, a rate that has almost doubled since 1992 (8.5 percent) and tripled since 1984 (5.4 percent). Although there is some connection to the delayed start of childbearing due to social and economic factors, it’s worth noting that even women in the 18-29 year age range – the peak years of fertility – are showing the same increased infertility rates as their older counterparts.

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Avoid these added pressures as a caregiver during the festive season

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Family, friends, food and fun? Or tension, anxiety, dread and even depression? The upcoming holidays will have very different meanings for different people. Family caregivers (or those supporting aging parents) can face many negative emotions at this time of year. Why? Busy caregivers can become even more overloaded and overwhelmed with seasonal demands as well as societal expectations to feel festive – understandably difficult when one is faced with a loved one’s physical and/or mental decline. After caring for both of my own aging parents, I readily admit that this time of year is not always smooth; however, there are proven methods to manage, cope and survive.

SHARE THE WORK: Why should you host the family holiday meal? Suggest potluck instead where everybody will bring a dish to serve. Remember also that many hands make for quicker cleanup after the meal is done.

LEARN TO SAY NO: Numerous invitations will be extended to celebrate at numerous social gatherings. If you are not ready to join in the fun, it’s perfectly acceptable to politely decline. Conversely, however, a party with family and/or friends could be just the ticket for caregivers to enjoy themselves.

WATCH YOUR BUDGET: Getting caught up in gift-shopping for family and friends can happen, but curtail your spending. Perhaps keep your credit card at home and shop with either cash or a bank debit card, to avoid receiving a massive credit card bill in the mail after the holidays. If you have a large family (or even if you don’t …), consider drawing names for a gift exchange. With this approach, you can better choose a more thoughtful gift for just one person, rather than a whole group of people.

TAKE CARE OF YOU: Granted, this advice pertains to caregivers year-round, but it is specifically important around the holidays. Prioritize your own health, eat well, and rest. Alternatively, arrange for either formal or informal respite care when someone else can watch Mom/Dad and allow you some time, find someone with a sympathetic ear who can just listen or buy yourself a present – you deserve it!

Handling the holidays also means caregivers must decide where to celebrate. Can Mom/Dad join you at a family member’s home or is she/he restricted to a long-term care centre? If an aging parent can come to your home all the better, but consider the following:

DECORATIONS: Excessive decorations may confuse a senior (as your home may seem foreign).

Clutter: Wrapping paper and ribbons strewn over the floor can become tripping hazards for an older person.

NUMBER OF GUESTS: Large crowds can complicate matters for a senior. More people in a room means more names to remember, more conversations to follow and more noise/activity to deal with. Keep your guest list to familiar faces only, rather than invite others who a senior may not know.

QUIET TIME: Provide Mom/Dad with some rest time in the guest bedroom. Alternatively, collect the excited kids and get them outside to go skating or tobogganing.

If a parent remains bed-bound, you can still celebrate the holidays at the care centre. Visit with them and share familiar photos of special times from the past. Recount your own memories and see what Mom/Dad can remember too (even if the facts are not quite correct). Wrap up a present to bring to Mom/Dad or simply gift your companionship. Decorate their room by placing cards on a bookshelf. Bring in a portable cd player (clear this with the care home staff first so to not disrupt the other residents) and listen to seasonal music. Ask young children to draw or paint a holiday picture to hang on the room wall.

Finally, traditions often play a major role in the holidays; however, doing things and celebrating the way you always have may not be possible. In this case, create new traditions that are both senior and family-friendly. Bundle up for a sleigh ride at Ft. Edmonton Park? View the lights at Candy Cane Lane? Take in a holiday movie at a theatre? Attend a holiday concert at the Winspear Centre? Go out for dinner at a nice restaurant? Work on a jigsaw puzzle together? And new traditions can remain personal … I have begun personally donating a frozen turkey to a local food bank and often volunteer as a delivery driver for Santa’s Anonymous.

The holidays can be a trying time; however, by handling them rather than them handling you, you can better enjoy them.

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Global Edmonton’s Carole Anne Devaney and Jennifer Crosby on their baby journeyGlobal_Expectations_2

Being a journalist is no easy task, but throw in co-anchoring a news desk and expecting a baby and it becomes beyond a full plate of never ending meetings, appearances, long hours and a delicate balance of maintaining good health and responsibilities. WELLNESS Magazine was lucky enough to sit down with Global Edmonton’s Carole Anne Devaney, co-host of The News Hour, and Global Edmonton’s Jennifer Crosby, co-host of the Morning News and News Noon Hour to discuss their journey so far. Both are expecting their first child (Jennifer on Oct. 19 and Carole Anne on Nov. 11) and like all mothers, they encounter the joys and nerves that come along with a new child, but also the extra challenges of a high-profile position.

Global_Expectations_3Jennifer Crosby

Co-Host of the Morning News and Noon News on Global Edmonton

This is your first child, has it been everything you expected?

I’ve been so lucky to have had a healthy pregnancy so far and that’s the most important part. It’s going great and we’re both very excited.

Has it been difficult to maintain your hectic schedule while expecting?

I imagine lots of moms-to-be find the same thing… there is a lot to do to get ready for the baby and you’re doing all of it while maintaining your regular schedule and while being sleepier! It helps a lot that I love my job – my schedule doesn’t really feel like work. And I’m not doing it alone – I have the perfect partner in my husband David. 

Have you been able to exercise? If so, what has been your go-to exercise?

That’s one thing that hasn’t gone as planned. I injured my back and any kind of movement was very difficult for a while. I’m being cautious with it now by doing as much walking as I can, plus yoga. I’ve done yoga for years and it’s important to me to make that holistic practice part of my pregnancy.

What are you most nervous about in becoming a new mom?

There are a lot of unknowns and that can be a bit scary, but luckily I have a great support system. Five of us at Global Edmonton are expecting this fall or winter and having colleagues in the same boat has been fun and helpful. And both of my sisters have young children – it helps so much to be able to call them with my 101 questions. 

How is your husband holding up over his first pregnancy too?

David is so excited – and he’s been nothing short of amazing. I’m lucky to have a partner who is so supportive and so understanding. Plus, he’s great with children and I know he’ll be an awesome dad.  

You decided to wait to find out if it’s a boy or girl? Were you tempted to find out earlier?

As with any surprise, it’s always tempting – at least a bit. I completely see why people find out in advance. But we both like the idea of being surprised – we think it will add to the fun.

Does waiting make it more difficult to prepare in terms of clothing and decorating the baby room?

Not at all – my favorite colours happen to be ones that are considered “gender neutral” like orange, navy, green and yellow – so even if we knew if we were having a boy or girl we’d use those colours. Our nursery is going to be navy and white, with an accent colour still to be determined. That project is underway right now and has been a ton of fun.

What will you miss most about being away from Global?

I really love my job, and while I expect to love motherhood too, I know I’ll miss work while I’m away. Anchoring the morning and noon News is the best gig a person could have. We have the privilege of sharing the important news of the day and connecting with our viewers as they go about their mornings – and we also have a little fun along the way.

Global_Expectations_4Carole Anne Devaney

Co-host of The News Hour on Global Edmonton

This is your first child, has it been everything you expected?

Yes! And better! People let you eat first, open doors for you, offer you their seat, ask how your feeling… it’s amazing! I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much. That being said, I didn’t expect the process to be so long. I feel like I’ve been pregnant for two years!!

Has it been difficult to maintain your hectic schedule while expecting?

I’ve really slowed down. I honestly felt like I was burning out in December, so I made a point of not having every morning and night planned like before. And then I got pregnant not long after that… and since then, I’ve tried to maintain that slower pace as much as I can.

You mentioned that you still exercise lots. Has that been a challenge or a pleasure?

Exercising has saved me! I still do group classes and train with my trainer but the intensity is way down. It just feels good to sweat when all you do is gain weight!! At least you’re moving. I would be going crazy if I couldn’t workout two-to-three times a week!!

You have decided to use a mid-wife during your pregnancy? Why did you make that choice?

After doing our research, choosingmidwifery just made sense for us. It’s such a personal choice, and there’s nothing you could tell us that would change our decision. As long as you are comfortable with it, that’s all that matters. I love the relationship we’ve built with our midwife, the one-on-one care she provides, and the overall idea of not being in a hospital. 

What are you most nervous about in becoming a new mom?

I’m most nervous about something wrong happening to our child… health wise… or someone hurting her. In the news business, we are often exposed to the more tragic and ugly side of humanity. It’s hard to turn it off and I often take that home with me. My husband is also exposed to similar things as a firefighter.

What are you looking most forward to in becoming a new mom?

What I look forward to the most is raising her… All the firsts that come with having a child, and that deeper love it brings. Children bring such a different dimension to your life and I truly believe they change it for the better.

How is your husband holding up over his first pregnancy too?

My husband is even more excited and supportive than I thought he would be. It’s so nice to share this journey together and to experience all the ‘firsts’ with each other. I think he was expecting me to be ‘moodier’ than I have been, so he’s just so grateful for that!

What will you miss most about being away from Global Edmonton?

I think I will miss the excitement of daily deadlines, breaking news, and writing. I will miss the social side of work because we are a close group, but many of my friends will be on maternity leave with me so we’ll be catching up during play dates instead!

Will this be it for children, or do you see yourself having a big family?

We see ourselves having at least one more. If it’s another girl, maybe we would try for a third. My husband has three sisters, two step sisters, a female dog… he’s always surrounded by women so it would be nice for him to have a boy to bond with! But we’ll start with one…

To view the Global Edmonton segment please click below.

Global

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Holistic strategies for boosting sperm count

fertility_1Many men don’t give their sperm count a second thought unless they find themselves facing fertility challenges. For couples trying to conceive, those little swimmers play a crucial role. Fertility declines with age in males just as it does in females, but there are fewer heroic medical interventions available to men with fertility issues.

Fortunately, it’s possible to boost sperm production naturally by adjusting diet and lifestyle. Fertility is a reflection of overall health, and from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that a healthy body would be a better reproductive unit than an unhealthy one.

The sperm production cycle takes three months to complete, so it takes a minimum of 3-6 months of consistent lifestyle changes in order to naturally affect sperm count. But as the body becomes well-nourished and vitality is restored, virility usually follows suit.

THE FOLLOWING STRATEGIES CAN INCREASE SPERM NUMBERS WHILE IMPROVING OVERALL HEALTH.

FOOD: Eat a healthy diet that emphasizes whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, meats raised without hormones or antibiotics, and naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and traditional sourdough breads. Limit sugars, white flour, and refined or processed foods with added chemicals and preservatives. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water!

BAD HABITS: Quit smoking and drinking alcohol. Numerous studies have shown that smoking is correlated with a decrease in semen volume, sperm motility and sperm viability, while embryos fertilized by smokers have a lower implantation rate. Both tobacco and marijuana smoke can harm fertility. Alcohol consumption can also damage sperm, and drinking reduces fertility in men because the stress on the liver increases estrogen levels.

TEMPERATURE: Keep the boys cool. For optimal sperm production, the testes need a temperature about 3 degrees Celsius lower than the core temperature of the body. Consistent exposure to heat, for instance in hot tubs and saunas, can interfere with the scrotum’s natural ability to maintain these necessary lower temperatures. Laptops may cause a similar problem because of the heat of the device on the lap, as well as remaining seated with your legs close together for long periods of time.

ENVIRONMENT: Limit exposure to household and industrial chemicals. Researchers in various countries have pointed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment, such as those found in pesticides, plastics, defoliants, oils, and cleaning agents. Many of these chemicals mimic estrogen, which is naturally present in the male body in small quantities, but can disrupt testosterone and sperm production when absorbed in larger quantities. Heavy metals, solvents, and certain cosmetics also disrupt the body’s hormone balance. Use protective measures to limit exposure to toxins in the workplace and ensure that chemicals are stored and disposed of correctly. Around the house, try using non-toxic and enzyme-based household cleaners, replacing yard pesticides with organic alternatives, and avoiding plastic food wrap and packaging, especially when heating foods.

CLINICAL: Get screened for underlying endocrine issues, particularly thyroid dysfunction. The thyroid gland regulates the body’s metabolism, and if it’s not functioning correctly, it can throw a whole bunch of the body’s systems off-kilter, including reproduction. Undiagnosed thyroid issues are a major contributor to many unexplained cases of infertility. Thyroid dysfunction can be present even when blood tests are normal, so it’s important to be assessed clinically by a doctor, naturopath or qualified health practitioner who is familiar with thyroid diagnoses.

RADIATION: Keep your cell phone out of your pants. Recent research has shown that exposure to mobile phone radiation reduces sperm mobility and increases the proportion of deformed sperm. To reduce this risk, carry your cell phone in a bag or briefcase. If you need to have your cell phone close at hand, consider an arm holster instead of a belt holster. Use a landline phone where possible and don’t make a habit of sleeping with your cell phone next to your bed, so leave it in another room overnight instead.

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Forward planning is key to a difficult situation

With our country’s rapidly aging population, the day will come for many when you must provide (or help to provide) care for an aging parent/friend/partner. Regrettably, many potential caregivers completely disregard this fact and are caught unaware. I speak from personal experience as I once thought that both my parents were the pictures of good health. Maybe so at one time; however, getting older is a fact of life and as we age, our health can decline. 

caregiving

The road from maintaining good health to requiring complete medical care and placement in a long-term care facility isn’t easy for either a senior or a family caregiver. Family members must take on new responsibilities as caregivers, balance their own lives and watch as mom/dad mentally and physically weakens. If remaining cognitively aware, mom/dad may realize that they are losing their prized independence and must hand over much of that control to their children. Whether it is his/her own car keys or complete decision-making ability, nobody, young or old, likes to give up something they know and love. You can make this process easier for all parties involved with getting ready.

PREPARE YOURSELF EMOTIONALLY

As a caregiver, your emotions will run the gamut. When my dad was in his care home, there were days I laughed, cried, felt frustrated and didn’t even know what to feel. Often, there is nothing a caregiver can do but stand by and helplessly watch. 

Whether the process is slow or quick, losing a loved one (or even the thought of losing this special person) can be immensely challenging and rightly so – you are losing someone you love and care for deeply. To better manage, build yourself a strong support circle; these will be the people you know and trust the most. Most importantly, they will be empathetic to your situation. 

Support groups, offered through senior’s organizations and health associations, can be another option. These will provide a safe environment where caregivers can share and learn from each other. Admitting to yourself, and others, that you need help — from whatever source — at this time is not a sign of personal weakness. 

EXAMINE YOUR OWN FAMILYíS MEDICAL HISTORY

Did a great-grandmother have cancer or did a great-grandfather suffer from heart disease? If the ailment is hereditary, another relative may be stricken with the same condition. Before mom/dad ends up requiring eldercare, take some time to learn about the specific condition. Search the Internet or read books (be wary of the source of information – what are the writer’s credentials?), visit your local library or, best of all, ask your family doctor what to expect.

READ THE WILL

Many of the most difficult decisions may have already been made by a senior when he/she was better able to do so. While acting on these requests can become intense, you and your siblings can find comfort in that you do not have to decide what might be best for a dependent adult who may not be able to decide what is best for him/her. Having a set route to take greatly reduces the anxiety and potential squabbling between family members who are trying to decide what may be most appropriate. 

Remember that, whatever you do, caregiving can be a difficult ride. There are many, many emotional buttons (for both you and your other family members) that can be pushed during this time. Thinking ahead and finding ways to deflect these buttons, to the best of your capabilities, will greatly help reduce your own anxiety and help you best prepare for these future challenges.

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Finding time to carve out daily exercise remained the biggest hurdle

family cyclingBack in June, my 11-year-old son, Ronan, and I decided we wanted to work together to improve our cardiovascular fitness, shed some pounds, increase the strength in our legs and have fun as a family. We were lucky enough to have Lucki’s Exercise Equipment provide us with two fantastic upright stationary bikes to achieve our final goal—to be able to cycle 25 kilometres in one sitting.

Over those three months, I have to admit, I was slow out of the gate. A busy work schedule, several out of town weddings, and the everyday hustle and bustle of life just seemed to get in the way. Thankfully, I had my son to motivate me. He was downstairs hitting that bike for at least an hour a day for a minimum of five days a week, and eventually he shamed me into dedicating at least an hour a few times a week. Our agreement was that unless I was at a work meeting or at one of my soccer games, that I had to spend from 7 pm to 8 pm with him on the bike. To make it fun, we created a mix of some of our favourite motivational music (insert Eye of the Tiger) to keep us focused while sweating on the bikes.

After three months, we did manage our goal of biking 25 kilometres in one sitting, but carving out that time on a daily basis remained the biggest challenge. However, my son did manage to shed 10 pounds in preperation for his hockey season, and we both agree that our legs became much stronger and our general fitness improved greatly. With the winter months ahead of us, somehow we have a feeling that we will have a lot more time to continue our fitness regime. Good health to you!

Why Stationary Bikes? Aerobic exercise, such as riding a stationary bike, has several benefits beyond the obvious calorie-burning perks. When compared to some other stationary fitness machines, such as treadmills, the exercise bike’s low-impact workout ranks high because it will put less stress on your knees and other joints. Additionally, riding a stationary bike indoors can help you get the benefits of cycling without having to tackle inclement weather. The next time you hop onto an exercise bike, several workout tips can help you ride your way to a better level of health and maximize the health returns you reap.

Adjust the Seat Before climbing onto an exercise bike at the gym or at home, adjust the seat so it fits you and not the previous rider. When you’re sitting, your leg should be perfectly straight when the pedal is at its lowest point. If your seat is too high, you won’t be exercising as efficiently as you could. Seats that are too low can tire you and put unnecessary stress on your knee joints.

Do Intervals Riding slow and steady may give you time to watch a TV show or flip through your favorite magazine, but it won’t push you to your limits and maximize the workout you get in the time you have. Doing intervals — alternating between pedaling quickly and more slowly — strengthens your leg muscles more. Try riding as fast as you can for three minutes, then slowing to a comfortable pace for three minutes, and repeating over the course of your biking workout.

Don’t Go Too Long, Too Soon Working your body too hard before it’s ready can increase your risks of injury. If riding an exercise bike is new to you, don’t try to do too much the first few times. Try riding for just 10 to 20 minutes the first time you work out, then slowly add a couple of minutes on each subsequent workout until you’ve hit your cardio goals. In general, most adults should strive for 30 minutes of cardio five days a week to start reaping the health benefits of constant aerobic activity.

Special thanks to Lucki’s Exercise Equipment for providing the upright stationary bikes.   www.luckis.com

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WELLNESS EDITOR & SON TAKING 3-MONTH FITNESS CHALLENGE

Family-01We often hear about growing obesity rates, not only in adults, but also increasingly in children. Often times, children will take their fitness cues from their parents. If the parents are couch potatoes, often times children will follow suit and engage in less fitness activities than others.

WELLNESS decided to turn that trend on its head the next few months with a stationary cycle challenge for WELLNESS Editor-in-Chief Colin McGarrigle and his son Ronan. The challenge? To ride together at least 45 minutes a day for three months, with an eventual goal of being able to bike 25 kilometres in one sitting. Take our challenge, or tell us what your family is doing to stay fit together! We have compiled some tips below for getting the most out of stationary biking, as well as the daily workout our editor is doing. Tell us your story at colin@wellnessalbertamag.com to win a prize.

Special thanks to Lucki’s Exercise Equipment Ltd for providing the CardioMax 850 Upright equipment. For more information on what they offer, visit luckis.ca

How to Get the Best Indoor Cycling Workout

Hit the Right Height

The biggest mistake people make is to set the bike seat too low. When pedaling, the leg should be bent about 25 degrees at the bottom of the rotation. This relieves your quads from doing all the work.

Get Up, Stand Up

When doing fast-paced runs, stay seated. To add intensity, lift your butt off the saddle for a few seconds. For hill climbs and slow jogs with heavy resistance, stand up and hold the front of the handlebars, keeping hips over the saddle to work your core, legs, and butt.

Move to the Music

Good music can make any ride better, as long as you match your pedal stroke to the beat. Try riding to your favorite song. Pedal fast enough to stay with the beat, then add a quarter turn of resistance every 30 seconds, five times in all.

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Vitamin D enhances fertility in both men and women

shutterstock_172122569It feels great being out in the summer sunshine, especially after one of Edmonton’s notoriously long winters. The sun’s rays on the skin fill us with warmth and vitality, and the long bright days encourage activity.

The bright sun isn’t just a mood booster – it’s also a vital source of vitamin D. Many people know that vitamin D helps with strong bones, immunity, and even as a cancer preventive, but less well known is its essential role in human fertility.

Having optimal blood levels of vitamin D improves fertility in both women and men while also enhancing the health outcomes of newborn babies. This is a critical health issue in a northern city like Edmonton, where obtaining vitamin D through sunlight exposure is negligible in the wintertime.

Vitamin D’s Role in Fertility

Vitamin D is unique because it can be produced by the skin in response to UVB rays from the sun or ingested in food. It’s important for calcium absorption and bone health, and it also plays a key role in many of the body’s hormone processes.

In men, vitamin D improves semen quality and raises testosterone levels. A recent study found that men who were deficient in vitamin D had fewer motile sperm and a higher rate of sperm abnormalities.

In women and in animal studies, low vitamin D levels have been correlated with impaired fertility and endocrine conditions such as

endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The impact on fertility shows up even in cases of assisted reproduction. One study of IVF cycles using donor eggs found dramatic differences in outcomes based on the women’s vitamin D levels. Of those women with adequate vitamin D, 59% gave birth, while only 31% with insufficient vitamin D levels gave birth.

Studies have found higher rates of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and preterm birth in pregnant women with low vitamin D levels. All of these conditions, of course, affect the health and well-being of the infant.

 

Challenges for Northern Climates

Here’s where it gets tricky. At Edmonton’s far northern latitude, the sun’s angle is not high enough to produce vitamin D in the skin from October through March. In a 2009 study of patients at three medical practices in Edmonton, blood tests revealed that only 31.75% of people had adequate levels of vitamin D. Unless you’re a snowbird who winters in Arizona, it’s critical to get extra Vitamin D in the winter months when we can’t get it from sunshine.

Dietary Recommendations

vitamin D image-01Vitamin D is found in foods such as butter, beef liver, egg yolks, and certain fatty fish including cod liver oil. It is also added to some fortified juices and cereals.

If you’re not keen on increasing your intake of liver and cod liver oil, consider a good quality vitamin D supplement. The Vitamin D Council suggests that doses of 5,000-10,000 iu per day are appropriate in cases of deficiency. Ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels before beginning a protocol, and then monitor them every few months so you can see if the supplements are making a difference. Taper off to a maintenance dose once you have reached healthy levels.

If you are wanting to implement a natural fertility protocol, it’s helpful to also take supplements such as beta-carotene, a B-vitamin complex including folic acid, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. Consulting with a holistic practitioner can help you figure out what supplements are suitable for your situation so that you can customize them for your health along with diet and lifestyle changes. It can take 3-6 months to see the effects of a natural supplement protocol on your body, so if you’re trying this approach, be patient and stick with the program for the long term.

Now get outside and get some sun while it lasts!

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