Pain in your butt?

The gluteal muscles of your buttocks are among the largest and strongest in the body. They are responsible for moving your leg at the hip joint. More specifically, they extend your thigh, help with rotation, and help keep your pelvis stabilized and strong. For example, every time you climb the stairs, get out of your car, or get out of bed in the morning, your glutes kick into action. You rely on them every day.

When you do activities such as running, climbing, or squats, your glutes are loaded even more. These muscles can get tight and painful from overuse or strain and massage therapy can provide relief. Under the glutes lie the lateral rotators of the hip.

The most clinically notable of these is the piriformis muscle. It is really important to address when a person is experiencing sciatica type symptoms. The sciatic nerve can be compressed by the piriformis muscle and cause pain in the hip area and down the back of your leg, often making it painful to sit or to get up from sitting. Thankfully, massage therapy is very good at addressing this “piriformis syndrome“.

As you can see, the gluteal region of the body is an important one for day to day life as well as for more athletic pursuits. Keeping it strong is important to your overall health as it plays a big role in keeping you active and mobile. If you are experiencing discomfort or limited movement because of tightness in this area, it is wise to get it treated to prevent any further muscle or nerve involvement

About the author ...

Bring on Christmas – Hold the Stress

Some people refer this time of year as the “Holiday Season”. To me, a holiday is kicking it back on beach, or road trip. I love Christmas time, the sights, the sounds, time with family and friends, as well as the food. Planning and preparing for Christmas does not really feel like a holiday. We all know too well, there’s plenty of work involved in preparing for the Christmas. Take the stress of shopping, deadlines, putting in extra hours at work, over-indulging, over extending the credit card, and the mother-in-law visiting. Add all that to the rest of the stress that’s been accumulating over time and you’ve got the perfect recipe for burnout.

If you could change one aspect of your life that would give you the greatest chance of living a very long and healthy life, what do you think it would be? The answer is – reduce your stress. Research shows that the people who live the longest are at their ideal body weight and have the ability to handle stress well.

Our adrenal glands are our stress helpers. Their role is to help our bodies cope with all kinds of stress by releasing hormones like adrenalin and cortisol into the blood stream. Stress can be physical, emotional, psychological, environmental, or a combination of these.

What is adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is when the adrenal glands fail to carry out their normal function. This happens when stress overextends the capacity of the body to compensate and recover. Consequently, the adrenals become fatigued and are unable to continue responding adequately to further stress and ultimately, we lose our ability to cope.

Many people get into a vicious cycle of relying on coffee, and other stimulants to keep them going throughout the day. Stimulants actually weaken the adrenal glands making it harder for us to get going in the morning, so we drink more caffeine, perpetuating the cycle. High sugar intake can deplete adrenal function, so be careful with the sweet stuff.

Supplements of B Vitamins and Magnesium can be helpful in times of stress. The good news is that dark chocolate is a source of magnesium. Try to eat lots of dark leafy greens to stay strong.

If you are stressed to the max, I can help you with specific dietary and lifestyle recommendations, to assist you on your journey to optimal wellness.

To un-stress during the Christmas season, find joy in your life; delegate some of your responsibilities to others in your family. Cut back on holiday season expectations. Eat well; find time for fresh air, meditation, yoga. At the end of the day, your family and friends want you healthy. The dinner feasts, decorating and numbers of gifts under the tree are not so important……

This smoothie will have you feeling better in no time due to the high antioxidant content, magnesium and B vitamins.

STRESS BUSTING SMOOTHIE

smoothyIngredients

  • 1 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder
  • handfuls of baby spinach

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.

 

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Kathy Shackleton RHN Nutritionist
KathyShackleton.com 519 941-0280
betterhealthclinic.ca     519 415-2266

About the author ...

Kathy Shackleton, is a Holistic Nutritionist and Health Educator practicing in Dufferin County Ontario. She is passionate about using food as medicine and medicine as food. In her spare time Kathy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, yoga and volunteering with local groups and events such as Savour Fair which raises funds for students of agriculture and creates community awareness for local, clean food.

The Wiring Mess of Stress

Evolutionarily, the stress response was designed to keep us alive and safe. The caveman who did not respond to the presence of a saber-toothed tiger would have made a great lunch. So it makes sense that we are pre-wired to have the stress response.

The part of the brain involved in the stress response is in the limbic part of the brain called the amygdala. It is often referred to as the reptilian or lizard brain as in evolutionary terms, it is ancient and primal, keeping us safe. The amygdala signals that we are under ‘attack’ and tells us that we ‘lack’ so we gather more resources to survive. 

The Sympathetic and Parasympathic Nervous Systems

The amygdala receives sensory information from the outside world and then responds by activating systems that control the responses. It is connected to the autonomic nervous system that has two main branches, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic is often referred to as the gas petal, and the parasympathetic, the brake.

When the gas petal or sympathetic nervous system is activated, it’s response is fight, flight or freeze. In this state the body is aroused; heart rate increases, blood vessels are constricted to keep the blood flow to the major organs, blood pressure increases and digestion slows down. The parasympathetic response or the brake, helps us restore, refuel and relax. It is often referred to as the rest and digest system.  The body is required to be in this state to heal and repair.

Robert Sapolsky, professor at Stanford University, has defined stress as anything that knocks us out of homeostatic balance. It will move systems from functioning out of normal range. When animals become stressed, they return to a level of homeostasis quickly thereafter. They go back to grazing or caring for their young. With humans however, we can continue the story in our heads. Our frontal lobe allows us to think on a deeper level. This can help us reflect on deeper meanings and can also get us excited about new adventures, but it can also cause us to worry or ruminate about stressors in the past or anticipate possible stressors in the future that might not even happen. As Mark Twain quoted, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
Stress can actually be helpful to people. It can give them motivation and help them perform. Sometimes we need the deadline to keep us on task to finish the job, but research indicates that many people experience chronic stress. Prolonged or chronic stress can produce wear and tear on our minds and bodies and also effect our behavior. 

The see-saw of the hot and cold systems of the brain 

The amygdala cannot tell the difference between a real threat like a car coming at you driving on the wrong side of the road, (which happened to me in Australia only it was me who was on the wrong side … Oops) and perceived threats that are thoughts, feelings and beliefs in your mind.  Sometimes the amygdala can become over sensitize and activate a strong stress response for something as simple as a traffic delay.  The amygdala can even forms associations with random or neutral events like the words: test, sport, or plane, as I have become familiar with as a teacher and consulting hypnosist. The word fear has been commonly given an acronym –  F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real, because that is what is often happening.

Walter Mischel designer of the famous marshmallow experiment, describes the brain having a hot and cold system.  The hot system, the limbic system, where the amygdala is located, is emotional and reflexive.  The cold system which is slower, cognitive and reflective is associated with the prefrontal cortex.  When the amygdala, the hot system is activated by either perceived or real threat; the frontal lobe, the cold system, the area of the brain where good decision making, self regulation, weighing consequences of action, and rational thought is located, is deactivated. A metaphor useful for describing the way these two systems operate is a teeter-totter or see-saw; if one of the systems is really high, the other must be low. A lot of us have observed this when witnessing someone in the heat of emotion. An angry person who is emotionally charged and has activated the limbic parts of the brain, are often not logical or even rational. Their argument often makes no sense.  Parents and teachers have learned that it is almost impossible to have a rational discussion with an emotional child or teen. We wait until they have calmed or cooled down and their cold system is working to discuss the issue.  A highly emotional state turns off the cognitive part of the brain and this  could explain why the stressed out kid says to me that their ‘mind goes blank’.

Studies have shown that relaxing students before a test or performance can significantly increase their results. Their cognitive brain is functioning better in this state.  Being too rational, logical or having the emotional brain turned off, ‘like Spock’, can lead to people lacking in compassion. A good goal would be to develop equanimity or resilience and be able to balance the hot and cold systems and the see-saw.

Stress is universal and unavoidable, but the key is to learn effective ways to deal with it

There are things that we can learn to do to maintain equanimity when faced with stress so that we can become more resilient. It is ultimately how we deal with stress, that will effect our well-being.  Anything that calms the amygdala will release the stress and make you feel relaxed. When you are relaxed the level of stress hormones drop, and health-inducing hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, nitric oxide, and endorphins are released.  

Here are some good ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and turn on the relaxation response:

  • Exercise. People who exercise regularly often show increased vagal tone.  Because the vagus nerve is the central component of the parasympathetic nervous system, people with higher vagal tone have been shown to have more resilience to stressors.  Exercise also increases brain function, which is an added bonus.
  • Practice mindfulness. When we become mindful of our thoughts and subconscious programming we can let go of unhelpful thoughts. 
  • Do things that require focused attention.  Developing perseverance and grit can help fire up the wiring of the cold systems of the brain.
  • Cultivate positive thoughts.  Positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, compassion, hope and love to turn on the relaxation response. 
  • Be with nature. This can create a sense of wonder and awe.  These powerful positive emotions can also activate parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing.  Ancient wisdom teaches us to use the diaphragm while breathing. When doing this it is natural that your belly should move in and out, not your chest. Because the parasympathetic nervous system is activated when we breath out, focusing mentally on the outward breath can be very helpful.  

Another great way to relax would be hands on work like massage. But of course my personal favourites would be meditation or hypnosis whether they are self-guided or otherwise.  They both are great ways to calm down both the amygdala and production of stress hormones like cortisol.  It is what I call my ‘mental massage’.

Ginette,  BSc. BEd. CH.
From http://rightbrainhypnosis.com/

About the author ...

Ginette Andress has a degree in Biochemistry from the University of Waterloo, a Bachelor of Education from the University or Toronto and has been passionately teaching secondary school science and mathematics for 23 years. She received her Certification as a Consulting Hypnotist with the National Guild of Hypnotists.

The Mind-Body Connection

The mind is a powerful thing, and the body is a powerful vessel.  Knowing the fierce connection between the two, they are truly powerful allies. The mind-body connection relates to how our health problems can affect our emotions, and how our psychological state can affect how well we treat, manage, or cope with our physical issues. Even simpler, how we think can effect how we feel, and how we feel can effect how we think.

As a social worker in the addictions and mental health field, I easily recognized and concluded very early on in my career that addiction and mental health issues are symptoms of something deeper. I have never met someone who has “just an addiction,” nor have I met someone who is depressed “just because,” it simply does not work that way. I have worked with hundreds of client’s suffering from depression and anxiety while also struggling with chronic pain and fatigue.  In turn, I have worked with client’s who suffered from debilitating migraines and misused alcohol in order to deal with flashbacks from childhood abuse.  Although their stories are different, the commonality of their underlying symptoms not related to their presenting issues, is truly remarkable.

With new research circulating through the medical field, many physicians are beginning to understand how their patient’s psychological state can influence their physical well-being. We know that depression and stress significantly reduces one’s immune system, particularly during difficult times of the year, like winter. Speaking to your doctor about your mental and physical health is vitally important, as well as to your Better Health Clinic practitioner. Evidence also supports that talking to a trained counselling professional about your issues and concerns, all within a non-judgemental and supportive environment, is conducive to a healthier you; improved psychological functioning equals improved quality of life.
 
In joining the Better Health Clinic team, a new pathway has been created, a holistic and integrated approach to your care. Our hope is that by introducing psychotherapy into our repertoire of services, if you suffer from chronic illnesses, pain, depressive or anxiety symptoms, you can now easily reach out for help and find the support you need. The mind-body connection is real, and we must start listening to what it’s trying to tell us.

The next time you have a stress head ache, a new and on-going pain, or you notice that you are spending more time in bed than usual, stop and ask yourself, what else could be going on?  Visit the Better Health Clinic to support and nurture your whole-self.

About the author ...

Jordan Smith received her Masters of Social work from the University of Toronto, specializing in both mental health and addictions. Jordan is focused on compassionate, strength-based, and client-centred care all while using a motivational and recovery-orientated approach.