Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall into Health: Ten Imperative Immune-Boosting Tips


The first rounds of colds and flus have already started to pass through the city, and it's still close to 20 degrees out!

These respiratory infections come in waves, and it is virtually impossible to avoid exposure to the viruses and bacteria that fester indoors in the cooler months. Guaranteed, you will find bountiful colonies coating door handles, communal pens, subway poles, bank machine buttons and especially on your colleagues friendly handshaking hands.

Wash your hands and use sanitizer they tell you...but if you did this as much as you needed to, your hands would become raw and dry. Plus, it's enough to drive you to paranoia! 

Do try to keep your hands clean as best as you can, but instead of worrying excessively about your exposure to pathogens, an often overlooked tactic is to support your immune system. Your immune system is your body's natural defense system to fight off invaders. If it is functioning well, it will be able to keep you healthy even in the presence of bacteria and viruses.

Here are ten ways to maintain your immune strength:
  1. Drink plenty of water  - This helps with circulation and elimination, and ensures your cells are hydrated to function optimally. In the cooler months, warmer liquids (at least room temperature) are easier for your system to process
  2. Consume seasonal foods that elevate your mood - Complex carbohydrates, found in whole grains, sweet potatoes, parsnips, fruit, will stimulate serotonin production, thereby improving your mood, which in turn strengthens immunity
  3. Do not stress - High levels of stress will depress your immune system. Find a new approach to stressful situations, if you can, or find techniques for stress-reduction (meditation, deep breathing, enjoyable hobbies, exercise)
  4. Exercise - There is no easier way to increase your energy, elevate serotonin, and turbocharge your immune system than regular physical exercise.
  5. Sleep well - Ensure that you get adequate rest, your immune cells and tissues need this essential time to recuperate and regenerate
  6. Sunlight Exposure - In addition to increasing vitamin D in your body, sunlight also increases serotonin (and for us Canadians, take 2000 IU/day of a good quality vitamin D3 supplement)
  7. Take a vacation - For some people who really detest the cooler months, the best and only antidote is a quick trip to a sunny destination to recharge your batteries.
  8. Supplement Essentials for immune health - A good multivitamin, vitamin C, B-complex, echinacea, fish oil and oregano oil are beneficial to support immune cells and combat pathogens.Talk to your Naturopath for a regime that works for you.
  9. Reduce sugar and refined carb intake - A surefire way to depress your immune system and increase your risk of illness is to eat these foods; avoid them and you will be much better off.
  10. Get outside! - A huge reason that people get ill in the cold season is that they stay indoors...not because they are outdoors, as is commonly thought. Re-circulated air and indoor toxins will prevent your immune system from optimal functioning, but if you dress warm (definitely wear a scarf!) and enjoy the fresh outdoor air, your body will be better equipped to fight off impending sickness.
Enjoy the colours and beauty of autumn and Happy Thanksgiving!
Makoto Trotter

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Do you Hara Hachi Bu? Understanding the art of eating until 80% full

Hara hachi bu is a practice culturally associated with the people inhabiting a small group of islands south of the main islands of Japan called Okinawa. Hara hachi bu is a simple rule used by Okinawans whereby they eat until they fill about 80% of their stomach’s capacity. The literal meaning of hara hachi bu is approximately “stomach full to eights parts of ten”.

The idea itself sounds pretty basic, but likely not as simple as it sounds to incorporate regularly – but it may be aided with an explanation.

You may be familiar with that feeling after a delicious monster holiday feast (say at Thanksgiving or Christmas as an example) where you think to yourself, “Yep, still got room for just one more slice of pumpkin pie.” So you pile it in, maybe have an extra one or two for good measure on top of that, and feel nice and pleasantly full and content.

…Fast-forward to an hour or so later and you are so incredibly stuffed full, you feel like you are ten months pregnant, and ready to burst at the seams! So what the heck is up with that?

Your stomach has stretch receptors, which trigger hormones that indicate your level of satiety. The catch to this is that there is a delay of about 20 minutes before you actually experience this sensation. Starting to make sense?

So, basically, you already WERE that full when you took that extra helping or two, and that put you even past that point, but you just were not capable of feeling the sensation of complete beyond-over-stuffed-ness until your body processed it 20 minutes later!

Use this concept in mind in order to stick to Hara hachi bu. If you eat every meal until you are just 80% full, your stomach will be perfectly full (ie. not overstuffed) shortly thereafter. Try it out for a few days, and you will get the hang of it. Your health and longevity will thank you for it.

Okinawans are one of the only societies who incorporate a type of calorie-restriction as part of their ingrained culture. Could this be the secret to their long lives? I’m sure it plays an important role**.

Keep in mind that Okinawans still have the highest per capita of centenarians (people who live until 100 or older) in the world. Hard to believe, but almost a THIRD of their population lives until one hundred years of age. How many 100 year olds do you know where you live?

Some people tell me that they don’t want to live too long because they will be old, frail and miserable. This is all a matter of perspective because 80 year olds are generally much more spry and energetic in Japan, and are not perceived as being “really old” as they are in North America. If you believe it, you will be it. Start re-framing how you view aging.

Do you hara hachi bu? If not, now you can.

As they say in Japan…Ganbatte!! (“Be strong & good luck with this endeavour!!”)

** NB: Keep in mind that Okinawans also eat a diet chock full of fish, vegetables, seasonal fruit, whole grains, seaweed, fermented foods (like miso & natto, both made from fermented soybeans) and have a regular intake of quality green tea (ie. not from Tim Horton’s). Also, very importantly, Okinawans live with a feeling of ikigai, which translates to something like “having a purpose” rather than focusing on an end goal of retiring and relaxing at a certain age. The feeling of ikigai is incorporated into even seemingly mundane daily activities, but they are regarded in the big picture as having a larger more meaningful purpose.

All I’m trying to say here is that it takes more than just hara hachi bu to get you to live to a hundred. You can eat Kraft Dinner for every meal until you are 80% full, but this likely won’t extend your life. :)

Makoto Trotter

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Saved by a Sensational Smoothie - How to Make Awesome Power Protein Smoothies


The other night, after putting our sweet little baby Aria to bed, Makoto and I were dying for a late night snack.  We had just come back from visiting my family in Vancouver so we hadn't had a chance to go grocery shopping yet.  I'm also really weird about making us eat all the food in our house before we leave for vacation so that when we get back, we can start fresh with new groceries.  Sure, I could have sent Makoto out for ice cream and salt and vinegar chips, but we had indulged so much during our holidays that we wanted something healthy....but still yummy.

At that moment, our fridge contained:

1.  Some freaky looking shrively carrots and half a tub of moldy hummus (Makoto was SUPPOSED to eat these for a snack before we left)
2. A bottle of Sapporo Beer
3. A tupperware container filled with my nail polish collection (keeping nail polish in the fridge really does help it from thickening!)

While splitting the beer, we realized we are hippy naturopaths and always stock ingredients for a sensational smoothie!!  WOO HOO!!!!!  Smoothies are delicious, nutritious and are a great high protein snack!

Here are some tips on what to stock in your freezer and pantry to make sure you always have the ingredients to make a sensational smoothie!

1.  Frozen fruit and avocados - when you see bananas, berries, pears, apples, mangoes, etc in that weird clearance section at your grocery store that we all peruse out of curiosity but rarely buy anything from, proudly grab those almost moldy fruits and stock up on cheap, ripe fruits for your smoothie.  Bring them home, wash them and freeze them.  Avocados are AMAZING in smoothies....a great shot of healthy fat and it also gives your smoothie a creamy, milkshake like consistency.

2.  The protein - our favorite protein powders are rice, hemp and pea proteins.  My absolute FAVORITE protein powder is Thorne Vegelite in chocolate.  1 scoop of this mixed with coconut milk, water, a frozen banana and avocado is heavenly.  It tastes like a chocolate banana milkshake.  Makoto likes to use hemp hearts (3Tbsp has a whopping 10g of protein) and he blends it with lots of fresh berries/coconut milk/water.

3.  The liquid - to prevent the protein shake from being too thick, we use half non-dairy milk (coconut milk is my fave) and half water.  

4.  The good fat - throw in a tbsp of olive oil or nutrasea fish oil while yer at it!

5.  The boost - I use this as an opportunity to throw in some health boosting extras like a shot of spirulina, manuka honey, probiotics....even a handful of spinach.

Protein smoothies are a great high protein/low carb breakfast option as well!  If the thought of having to clean out a blender prevents you from making smoothies, use a stick blender...so much easier.

We didn't want to wake up the baby so Makoto went outside with our blender to make the smoothies....totally worth it!  YUM YUM!

:)
Aileen Lim-Trotter

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Key to Happy Parenting.....


IS TO SURRENDER TO IT!! 

Ok...we may not know the *key* to happy parenting but Makoto and I have definitely learned that we are much more relaxed since we have completely surrendered to our *new* life as parents!  It's really very odd....we still see our friends, eat the same food, visit the same places, etc but it's on a completely different time schedule.  For instance, we much prefer to have lunch get together with our friends now instead of dinner get togethers as Aria is in the bathtub by 7...7:30pm maximum in order to get ready for bed.  We are also up at 6-7am every morning now (it feels SO weird to actually be the first inside cafes in the morning..or sometimes even having to wait at their locked front doors hoping they will open soon!) so we get a lot of our errands done 1st thing in the morning instead of after work.  Instead of trying to force an ideal schedule with the baby, we've become very realistic about what can be done with having a bouncing baby in our lives.

One morning, we were up at 5am.....Aria was smiling and cooing away and Makoto and I were just staring at her with bleary eyes.  This is when we did our 1st morning "count" (note:  parents are obsessed with counting....how many poops did she have today?  how many oz of milk did she drink?  how many dirty diapers? etc)...."how much sleep do you think we got last night?'  The answer is always the same....."I lost count after the first 2 feedings".  We decided that we would no longer compare our new sleep schedule to our pre-baby sleep schedule because it was...well...just too depressing!  I can't even remember the last time I slept for more than 3hrs straight!  now Makoto and I high five each other if she "sleeps in" until 8am.  Instead of asking how many hours of sleep we got, we've decided to just ask each other if we feel well rested enough to get through the day.

That's the craziest part of parenting.....it's honestly the hardest thing we've ever done but we love doing it.  Some days are better than others...but no matter how hard things get, there are these sweet moments where I look at Aria and just know that everything will be okay.  Don't get me wrong....I'm that crazy anxious first time parent that will probably follow her to school every day....but somehow we'll manage to get through it......I can't believe it's already been 6 months!  Yay!

Here are some tips on what has helped us get through the first 6 months:

1.  Take the never ending free parenting advice that is *graciously* thrown your way with a grain of salt - you know your baby best and no two babies are alike!  (yes...i realize this tip is being followed by a list of more advice :P  Please take what you need from it :))

2.  Make sure to control your blood sugars with adequate protein intake and not overdoing the carbs....even if you're convinced that 10 chocolate chip cookies will miraculously turn you into superwoman....it never does :(  The last thing your baby needs is a freaky sleep deprived hypoglycemic parent :P

3.  Don't panic about sleep.  A lot of people told us to sleep when the baby sleeps...umm...sorry...I'm not a robot that can just fall asleep when told.  In fact, I found that when Aria has a nap, that's when we are the most energetic because I finally have some time to just relax.  Also, a lot of people find that if you do sleep when your baby naps, you wake up even more groggy when your baby wakes from their nap so it isn't even worth it.  If you can have a power nap, GREAT!  If not, just use this time to rest.....have a cup of tea, catch up on your favorite blogs or just watch some tv :) 

4.  Network with other parents.  I am SO grateful for our group of mommy/daddy friends.  We appreciate and love all of our friends but I know that when Aria is having a system meltdown and I have to stop in the middle of the park to breastfeed, my friends with kids won't even bat an eyelash and will instead offer to watch my stroller for me while I nurse.  It is SO helpful gabbing with other parents about the day to day stuff.  As a naturopath, I can be objective about introducing solids, how to treat a diaper rash, etc but no one taught me about the "in-between stuff"....there seriously should be a prep course on what to do with your baby between the diaper change-feeding-napping times.

5.  Hang in there!  It does get easier!  Remember....if you were thrown in to any job full force, there would be a learning curve so be patient with yourself!
 
:)
Aileen Lim-Trotter

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Easy Gluten Free and Dairy Free Cake....I Promise!



Hi Everyone!  I hope you are all doing grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat!  I've been busy with our little sumo empress (Aria is already a whopping 17.5lbs at 4.5mos!  Breastmilk is aweeeeeeeesome!) but we are happy, healthy and enjoying this sunny Spring weather.

We've been hosting a lot of playdates with Aria's little bff's :)  I try to cater to my friends' special dietary needs which usually includes being gluten and dairy free.  Gone are the days where it was just us naturopathic hippies that would bring our own gluten/dairy free desserts to gatherings....I'm finding that when I present a g/d-free treat to our "normal" friends, it's greeted with ohhhhhhhs and ahhhhs instead of groans.

It's quite trendy right now to be gluten free so I find that many people are trying it to see what all the buzz is about.  You may find no change at all but a percentage of folks that are sensitive to gluten will find themselves feeling fab....that lingering headache, never ending bloating, foggy thinking and chronic skin rash may finally disappear once you choose to eliminate gluten out of your diet.  (note:  if you really want to see if you are allergic to gluten, our clinic offers allergy testing). 

I've also been dairy free as the lactose in dairy can travel into your breastmilk and cause your little one's tummy to become upset.

I make this cake often and recommend it to my friends and patients who are looking for a RIDICULOUSLY YUMMY g/d-free dessert.  It's also super economical to make unlike most g/d-free desserts that you buy at the store....and best of all...it's embarrassingly easy to make.

First of all.....go to Food Basics and buy yourself one of these gluten free cake mixes....it should be around $3.  If you don't have a Food Basics near you, you can use another gluten free cake mix....the key is to use more dairy free milk than the box instructions usually call for....you want the batter to have a nice smooth consistency):



If you follow the directions on the box, the cake will turn out dry, gross and crumbly.  So instead, please follow my modifications:

Other ingredients needed:
1/2 cup Earth Balance (soy free) butter
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil (you don't have to put this in but i love putting a shot of this healthy medium chain fatty acid into the dessert!)
2 large eggs (I haven't tried this recipe yet with egg replacer....if you do, please let me know how it turns out!)
1 cup + 2Tbsp Dairy free milk (you choose.....I use flax/coconut/hemp/whatever is in the fridge)
1tsp vanilla extract

Now you can follow the preparation instructions on the box as well as the baking times.  If you have used another cake mix, just cream the butter and coconut oil first until fluffy then add the remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.  Before you pour your batter into the prepared pans, it should look like this in consistency:



Voila (see pic at the top of this post)!!!  I wanted to take a pic of the whole cake but Makoto already got into it!

Oh....I topped it with my fave frosting:
2 cups  Demerara brown sugar
Dairy free milk
1/2 cup Earth Balance butter

-  Put the demerara brown sugar into a sauce pan and just moisten with some milk (around 1/4c).  Bring to a boil and stir carefully for 3min making sure it doesn't boil over.  Take off heat and stir in the butter.  Use an electric beater and beat until it thickens and becomes this delicious frosting (around 7min).  I usually put the sauce pan in a shallow cold water bath in the sink while beating to cool it faster.

You can also heat some Chocolate Coconut milk to make a deelish dairy free hot chocolate for your guests too and serve it with your new favorite cake! :):):)


Have cake...and eat it too!!  Enjoy!
:)
Aileen Lim-Trotter

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sweets From the Earth


We were happy when Sweets From the Earth asked us to guest blog for them because we looOOoooOOve their desserts!  Their vegan (read:  egg/dairy free and not to mention gluten, wheat and nut free) Chocolate Cheescake and Flourless Cashew cookies are our two top faves and have been there for us through several happy celebrations!

Check out our blog entry at http://www.sweetsfromtheearth.com/blog/!

Happy Spring!
:)
Aileen Lim-Trotter

Friday, January 13, 2012

Preggy Time: Third Trimester, Labour and Delivery...and Now :)



I didn't have time to finish my third trimester blog before the baby came so I thought I'd write about everything up to now all in one entry :)  Mostly because at this point, the 3rd trimester is just a distant memory since time with the baby has thankfully been a blissful experience for me....and....the labour part...or mostly the pain of it...trumped any of the peaceful memories of the 3rd trimester! :P

The third trimester was smooth sailing for me except that the baby grew and grew and became heavier and heavier to carry around.  I also should have just lived in the bathroom as all the pressure on my bladder made me visit the little girl's room every 45min-1hr!  Our little girl was breech until the 35th week and then she remarkably turned!  We went to Miami for one last quick getaway and I did a lot of swimming which, I swear, did the trick.  I also had Makoto give me frequent acupuncture treatments to help turn the baby and I spent as much time as I could walking on my hands and knees up and down our living room.

Labour and Delivery -  We had a quick and completely natural birth.  But.....Oh.  My.  Gawwwwwwwwd.  Ok....I don't want to scare any of my patients or my friends that are soon to give birth...and please keep in mind that every birth experience is different...but HOLY SCHMOLY was it ever painful!  People keep asking me to describe it...and the closest way I can describe it...which is still a very distant comparison....is going in for a root canal without proper anesthesia!  The entire process was a fast one for us.....8hrs from start to finish.  I...of course, being the first time mom and naturopath that I am, decided that I would try for a natural labour.  This meant that I was not prepped for an epidural....so of course, half way into it, when the contractions really started kicking in (oh...and I was that *lucky* girl that quickly progressed from contractions 20min apart to 1min apart within an hour...and...to top it off...they came in PAIRS) I begged my nurse (who was aweeeeeeeeeeeeesome!!) for an epidural.  Buuuuut....apparently the hospital was TOO BUSY and there were no anesthesiologists available to give me an epidural!!!  I seriously wanted Makoto to find a blunt object and knock me out with it!!  It's amazing how the availability of the anesthesiologists can dictate how many natural births may take place!

So basically....I was lying on the bathroom floor in the delivery room like a crazy wild woman....in so much pain that I could barely move.  Makoto was super supportive but there is honestly so much your partner can do for you at this stage.  He tried everything to make me feel better....held me in the different position that we practiced that was *suppose* to help decrease the pain, massage my lower back, telling me loving words, bringing me nanaimo bars (which usually makes me so incredibly happy)....but really, I just had to close my eyes and focus through the pain.  When I seriously thought I was going to pass out, our nurse (who was VERY pro natural birth) asked me to get in the bath tub.  She had placed an exercise ball in there and wanted me to sit on it.  I re-iterate....I COULD NOT MOVE.....but her and Makoto somehow convinced me to get in the tub and sit on the exercise ball.  She then placed a stream of warm water on my lower back and had me lightly bounce on the ball.....whatever the mechanism is, it totally worked!  The pain went from super @#$%(@ craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy ouchie to just craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy ouchie...enough to get me through another hour of contractions...and enough to get me to fully dilated!! 

I have heard that the pushing stage is suppose to "feel refreshing"....uhhhhhh.....this was not my experience.  Pushing is like having to have a crazy workout when all you want to do is pass out from exhaustion.  My team of medical doctors (there were 3 interns in the room with us that doubled as our cheering squad :):):))  and nurse kept telling me to "push through my bum and not my legs"...what the heck does that mean?!?!?  Oh...did I mention that they make you hold your own legs up while pushing!!!  Your knees literally need to be at your ears.  Ladies who are about to give birth...seriously practice this at home before going in!!  At one point, they asked if I wanted a mirror to see the top of the baby's head....in my delirium, I said "sure".  That lasted about 2sec......you think that you would be motivated by seeing your babies head but instead, all I saw was craziness down there....and I certainly didn't want to keep watching unrecognizable things happening to my body!!!! :P

After about 45min of pushing, our sweet little angel came into this world....it was early afternoon and the sun was streaming into the room.....I'll never forget that moment for as long as I live :)

At this point, you still have to deliver the placenta and this is when you get stitched from any tearing but because the baby was now peacefully laying on my chest, I don't even remember if that part was painful or not.  Since there were no complications during the delivery, they actually let Makoto have the last pull of the baby and place her on my chest!!  That was VERY AWESOME :) 

Here are some things we learned:
1.  Makoto and I laughed as we unpacked our hospital bag when we came home....we packed a head massager, massage lotion, all my hypnobirthing materials, a wide selection of music, reading material, snacks, essential oils, natural bubble bath........we didn't even have a chance to touch this stuff.  What we did use and were so incredibly thankful that we did pack was a HEATING PAD.  Makoto would place this over my back, chest, tummy....whatever I needed during the delivery and it really helped to soothe me in between contractions.  We also gave our nurses the natural diapers and diaper balm that we packed so that they could use them right from birth.

2.  Even if you want to try for a natural birth, be open to asking your medical team to prep you for an epidural...juuuuuuuuuuuust in case you change your mind. 

3.  Don't be too attached to your birth plan.  I had been practicing hypnobirthing techniques all throughout my pregnancy....ummm....I listened to my hypnobirthing track on my IPod for about 15sec....it did not work for me.  What did work was listening to relaxing music for the early stages of my contractions.  We also wanted to try for a squatting birth to help decrease perineal tears....but in the end, I was on my back.  Be open to trying all different types of techniques.....you don't know what will work for you and what does work may change hourly so keep switching it up!

4.  Our nurse pulled out a bottle of olive oil and gave me a perineum massage in between contractions while in the pushing stage to help stretch things out and decrease tearing.  Apparently all nurses are trained to do this and most hospitals have olive oil in the delivery rooms just for this purpose!!

5.  No matter how crazy the pain is, you do honestly forget about it once the baby arrives :)  Ok.....it may take a week or two to forget about it but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat to meet my little baby.

I can't believe how fast the time has gone by.  Baby Aria is doing great!  She is a good little feeder and sleeper...thank heavens!  I highly recommend spending the first month hibernating (I seriously lived in pajamas for a month) so that you can bond with your baby and take your time learning how to breastfeed, survive the night waking and teaching yourself how to function on interrupted sleep.  It's amazing how tired I am in the middle of the night yet I still get excited to wake up and see her and can't believe how much time Makoto and I can spend just watching her sleep :) 

I highly recommend motherhood
 :)
Aileen Lim-Trotter
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