Nourish your Well-Being

By Tala Zakhour, dietetic stagiaire at Openspace Clinic

Our body contains connections between our gut and our brain. Our gut is sometimes called the “second brain”.

In fact, 95% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, and sleep, is produced by bacteria in our large intestine.
Knowing that there is a connection between our gut and our brain, let’s dive into how certain food items can affect our mood.

Let’s first start with the basics:

Why do we need to eat?
Food is like fuel for our bodies. Just like a car needs gas to run, our bodies need food to work properly. Moreover, the food we eat provides us with essential vitamins and minerals that can play a significant role in our mental and physical well-being. This ensures us with the necessary energy and nutrients needed to feel our best when facing challenges throughout our day.

Let’s look at the Canada Food Guide (CFG) and its recommendations for a balanced plate.

It suggests filling ½ of the plate with vegetables and fruits, ¼ of the plate with protein-rich food, ¼ of the plate with whole grains, and making water our drink of choice.
The idea is that our body needs all these different food groups to have a diverse range of nutrients which provides us with the energy we need to carry out our daily tasks.

Let’s take a closer look at these different food groups and their impact on our mental health.

Starting with vegetables and fruits:
Phytonutrients are naturally occurring antioxidants in fruits and vegetables that give them their beautiful and rich colors. Vegetables and fruits are filled with antioxidants and phytochemicals which help decrease inflammation and repair damage to the cells of our brain.
- An easy way to make sure we are getting a good amount and variety of antioxidants is by trying to add as many colors as possible to our plate. Try to eat the rainbow!

Fun Fact: Did you know?
Certain food items such as apples, kale, berries, grapes, onion, and green tea have high levels of quercetin which is a phytochemical that increases the amount of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in our brain. These are all neurotransmitters that are involved in mood regulation!

Moving on to protein-rich of food:
There is a wide variety of food items rich in protein such as legumes, poultry, meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, nuts/seeds, tofu, and soy products.
Having protein in each meal is important because it contains amino acids which are the foundation needed to produce the key neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation.

As for whole grain:
They are found in food items such as brown/wild rice, oats, quinoa, barley, and so on and offer
multiple health benefits. They are a rich source of B vitamins which help boost our mood and energy. Whole grains are also a rich source of tryptophan. According to Nutrition Australia (2018), tryptophan is an amino acid needed to produce serotonin, the “feel-good hormone” helping to regulate our mood and sleep.

How about fats?
Although fats are not a food group presented in the CFG, choosing products rich in healthy fats, such as nuts/seeds, avocados, fatty fish, soy products, and so on, is essential in a balanced diet. Omega-3, a healthy fat, can be found in many of the products stated above. However, the omega-3 specifically found in fish, seafood, and fish oil, has potentially the most benefits in improving our brain function and interacting with mood-related molecules. According to the Association of UK Dietitians (2020), omega-3 fats may help reduce low mood states in adults.
Fun Fact: Did you know?
-Fat makes up 60% of our brain.

Nutritional practices affecting our well-being:
The CFG also emphasizes the fact that taking care of ourselves doesn’t only stop at the kind of food we eat. It is so much more than that! It is also about where, when, why, and how we eat. Cooking more often and being present in the moment enjoying meals with friends, family, co-workers, and/or neighbors is also part of self-care. It can also be quite beneficial to have a certain consistency in our eating times. Eating something every 3-4 hours, helps to keep our muscles and brain well-nourished and our energy levels stable, which can positively affect our mood. This approach prevents having our blood sugar drop which may lead to feeling irritable and tired. According to an article featured in the British Journal of Nutrition, adequate hydration has also been shown to have a positive effect on our mood.

In short, by paying attention to what we eat, we can have some influence on our mental well-being, thanks to the gut-brain connection. This is an additional way to take control of our mental health.

 

References:

Selhub, E. (2022, September). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626

McManus, K. (2019, April). Phytonutrients: Paint your plate with the colors of the rainbow. Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/phytonutrients-paint-your-plate-with-the-colors-of-the-rainbow-2019042516501

Głąbska, D. et al.(2020). Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mental Health in Adults: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 12(1), 115. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010115

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. (2023). Food and Mood: Eating Plants to Fight the Blues. https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/food-and-mood

Lierberman, H. - Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. (1999). Amino Acid and Protein Requirements: Cognitive Performance, Stress, and Brain Function. The Role of Protein and Amino Acids in Sustaining and Enhancing Performance. National Academies Press (US) – Chapter 14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224629/

The Association of UK Dietitians. (2020, August). Food and Mood. https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/food-facts-food-and-mood.html

Harvard T.H. CHAN – School of Public Health. (2023). Whole Grains. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/whole-grains/#:~:text=Whole%20grains%20offer%20a%20%E2%80%9Ccomplete,section%20houses%20health%2Dpromoting%20nutrients

Oldways Whole Grains Council. (2014, June). Whole Grains: Good Mood Food! https://wholegrainscouncil.org/blog/2014/06/whole-grains-good-mood-food#:~:text=Many%20whole%20grains%20are%20naturally,and%20maintain%20steady%20sleep%20cycles

Jenkins, T. A, et al. (2016). Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis. Nutrients, 8(1), 56. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8010056

Mischoulon, D. (2020, October). Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Mood Disorders. Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/omega-3-fatty-acids-for-mood-disorders-2018080314414

Chang, C. Y., Ke, D. S., & Chen, J. Y. (2009). Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta neurologica Taiwanica, 18(4), 231–241. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20329590/

Government of Canada. (2023, November). Canada’s Food Guide. https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/

Nutrition Australia QLD Division. (2018). How Food Can Affect Your Mood. https://nutritionaustralia.org/fact-sheets/food-and-mood/

Masento, N. et al. (2014). Effects of hydration status on cognitive performance and mood. British Journal of Nutrition, 111(10), 1841-1852. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24480458/


What you need to know about Ozempic

 

By Alexia Le Blanc, dietetic stagiaire at Openspace Clinic

The prominence of Ozempic in today’s society has been hard to ignore, especially considering its popularity in social media and its innovative role as one of the solutions in the battle against the obesity epidemic. In this article, we take a deeper look at this drug, including the rise of Ozempic, its weight loss mechanisms, and essential considerations.

What is Ozempic?

Ozempic is a medication requiring weekly injection and designated for people with type 2 diabetes. It contains the active ingredient semaglutide, which is a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. GLP-1 is an incretin hormone, a type of hormone that is released by the intestines in response to food intake. This means that semaglutide will mimic the action of the natural incretin hormone GLP-1.

Its primary functions lie in increased insulin production leading to decreased blood sugar levels by mimicking the effects of the incretin hormone, while also diminishing the liver's sugar production.

The rise of Ozempic.

Despite Ozempic's explicit disclaimer on its official website that it is not a weight loss drug, the public and culture disagrees. Since Ozempic has been made available in 2018, it’s been making quite a name for itself. As people start noticing its drastic weight loss effects in diabetic patients, it started making waves.

Branded a revolutionizing miracle drug, the enticing and alluring drug is bound to cause a commotion. Countless articles, social media posts and celebrities emphasize and promote the medication’s effectiveness for its weight loss properties, often portraying it as a solution requiring minimal effort on the user’s part.

In fact, the drug has been called “the worst kept secret in Hollywood” due to its popularity among stars, and its dead giveaway of rapid weight loss. 

How does it work for weight loss?

Semaglutide, the active ingredient in Ozempic mimics GLP-1, is a hormone that regulates appetite. By activating GLP-1 receptors in the brain, Ozempic reduces feelings of hunger and promotes a sense of fullness, leading to decreased calorie intake. Also, the rate at which the stomach empties will slow down, which prolongs the sense of fullness and decreases physical hunger. This dual effect—suppressing appetite and delaying gastric emptying—prolongs the feeling of satiety, effectively curbing physical hunger. 

Think of the energy balance concept (energy in vs. energy out), its ability to decrease appetite leads to reduced caloric intake. People even report that the medication makes them forget to eat!

The FDA still has not approved Ozempic as a weight loss drug, whereas Wigovy, both semaglutide and working in similar mechanisms, is approved as a treatment for chronic weight management. They can be considered the same drug, however, Wigovy contains a smaller amount of semaglutide than Ozempic.

Considerations.

So far, this drug is starting to sound like the miracle solution for easy and quick weight loss. However, like every medication, there are important considerations and misconceptions to address.

  1. This is a life-long drug, you cannot use it to “jumpstart” your weight loss.

The effects of this drug last as long as you are taking the medication. When you get off the drug for any reason, the lost weight and associated health issues (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.) will return. 

  1. There are short and long-term side effects.

Most common sides effects with semaglutide drugs include headaches, nausea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. They are commonly experienced in the beginning stages; however, they may persist and cause the individual to quit the medication. More severe side effects, such as vision issues, pancreatitis, and certain cancers, are also possible. This drug is relatively new, long-term side effects are unknown and difficult to predict. 

  1. Who can take it?

Many factors and possible contraindications must be taken into consideration before taking this drug. It is important to discuss with a reliable health professional to determine if this drug is appropriate for your specific health situation.

 

Final thoughts.

Propelled by society’s fatphobia mentality, weight loss has been a long driving force for profitable sales in America’s economy. This societal pressure leads to compelled individuals to go great lengths to achieve the elusive “ideal” body figure. Understandably, Ozempic, or any solution related to weight loss, creates immense appeal in such a context.

However, fatphobia must not be held solely accountable for Ozempic’s soaring success and popularity. Obesogenic factors, such as a sedentary lifestyle, increased fast-food intake, and lack of homemade meals are also to blame for the climbing obesity epidemic statistics. 

Although the future of Ozempic and other weight loss-related drugs are promising, maintaining a healthy relationship with food, your body, healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle are important for mental and physical health. Amidst this journey, it is important to remind ourselves that true health and happiness go beyond weight loss.

References:

Ard, J., Fitch, A., Fruh, S., & Herman, L. (2021). Weight Loss and Maintenance Related to the Mechanism of Action of Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 Receptor Agonists. Advances in therapy38(6), 2821–2839. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12325-021-01710-0

Diabetes UK. (n.d.). Ozempic and weight loss: The facts behind the headlines. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/ozempic-and-weight-loss-facts-behind-headlines#:~:text=Ozempic%20is%20taken%20as%20once,glucose%20produced%20by%20the%20liver.

Healthline. (n.d.). Ozempic: Side effects, dosage, uses, and more. https://www.healthline.com/health/drugs/ozempic#drug-images

Medical News Today. (n.d.). Ozempic: Uses, dosage, side effects, and more. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/ozempic-face

NPR. (2023). Ozempic: Weight loss drug and big business. https://www.npr.org/2023/04/01/1166781510/ozempic-weight-loss-drug-big-business

Ozempic. (n.d.). What is Ozempic? https://www.ozempic.com/why-ozempic/what-is-ozempic.html

Singh, G., Krauthamer, M., & Bjalme-Evans, M. (2022). Wegovy (semaglutide): a new weight loss drug for chronic weight management. Journal of investigative medicine : the official publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research70(1), 5–13. https://doi.org/10.1136/jim-2021-001952

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). FDA approves new drug for treatment of chronic weight management, the first since 2014. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-new-drug-treatment-chronic-weight-management-first-2014

 


Improve syndrome

How to overcome imposter syndrome and start embracing your successes

By Sereena Pigeon, MSc., PhD candidate

Psychology intern at openspace clinic

Has this ever happened to you? After years of hard work, you finally made it to the end of a long-term goal, whether it be getting the degree, being admitted to the university program of your dreams, being chosen for the job you always wanted, or receiving the big promotion. After working late nights and long hours, showing up time and time again, and overcoming each challenge thrown your way, you finally got there! But something isn’t right – you feel like a fraud. 

Imposter syndrome is a common psychological phenomenon that leaves many successful people doubting their abilities and accomplishments and fearing that they will one day be exposed as frauds or imposters, even though there is evidence that they earned their success. Imposter syndrome can affect people from all walks of life, including students, professionals, artists, athletes, and celebrities. People as prominent as Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou, Lady Gaga, and Emma Watson have reported experiencing it themselves. If you are feeling it too, you are in good company.

While imposter syndrome plagues many, it is known to have negative consequences on self-esteem, motivation, and well-being. It might be holding you back from taking on that exciting job opportunity or receiving well-deserved awards or recognitions; all because of the fear that others might finally realize you are undeserving.

Studies have shown that while imposter syndrome can be experienced by anyone, it tends to be more common for individuals in high-achieving environments where there is pressure to perform and conform to certain standards (like grad school or other training environments and fields such as medicine or engineering).  Women and individuals from minority groups tend to be much more likely to experience imposter syndrome. For these groups, feelings of being a fraud likely stem from the discrimination and systemic bias they have been exposed to that has sent them the message that they do not belong. 

Moreover, feelings of being an imposter tend to surface during life transitions or challenges that require new skills or roles, such as entering the workforce after finishing a degree or receiving an important promotion.

The good news is imposter feelings can be overcome. Here are some strategies that can help you start truly embracing your success:

  1. Name the imposter feelings: A first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is to acknowledge the negative thoughts and emotions that are leading you to feel like a fraud. By doing so, you can begin to challenge their validity and understand their origins.
  2. Talk about it: Sharing your imposter feelings with a trusted friend, mentor, or therapist can help you gain perspective. You may discover that you are not alone and that many other people, even people you consider to be experts, have experienced similar feelings. They may even share how they have learned to cope with these feelings.
  3. Reframe challenging situations: Instead of focusing on what you don't know or can't do, try to reframe challenging situations as an opportunity to learn. Embrace challenges and try to see your mistakes as a chance to gain feedback.
  4. Practice self-compassion: Try to treat yourself with more kindness and understanding. Stop setting unrealistic expectations for yourself, as this automatically sets you up for failure. Instead, set goals that are smaller but more manageable. Being more able to achieve your goals will give you a sense of mastery and counter imposter feelings.
  5. Stop comparing yourself to others: It can be easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others. This is not only a problem because everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and thus cannot be fairly compared, but also because we tend to compare ourselves to other people’s major accomplishments without considering the small steps they took to get there nor the mistakes they made along the way. We therefore put ourselves and our accomplishments at a disadvantage. It’s also important to remember that another person’s accomplishments do not take away the value of our own.
  6. Celebrate small wins: Don’t wait for major achievements to enjoy your success - celebrate the milestones along the way too! The journey to major accomplishments can be long and tiring. Celebrating smaller milestones will help you stay motivated and bring you more appreciation for your skills and progress.

 

Feeling like an imposter may be causing you unnecessary stress. While imposter syndrome can be challenging, with awareness, self-compassion, and support, it can be overcome. The above strategies can help you learn to recognize and manage your imposter feelings, regain your confidence, and fully embrace your hard-earned success.

 

References:

Clance, P. R. (1985). The imposter phenomenon: Overcoming the fear that haunts your success. Peachtree Publishers.

Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241–247. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0086006 

Cokley, K., McClain, S., Enciso, A., & Martinez, M. (2013). An examination of the impact of minority status stress and impostor feelings on the mental health of diverse ethnic minority college students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 41(2), 82-95. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1912.2013.00029.x 

Kumar, S., & Jagacinski, C. M. (2006). Imposters have goals too: The imposter phenomenon and its relationship to achievement goal theory. Personality and Individual Differences, 40(1), 147-157. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2005.05.009 

Neff, K. D. (2011). Self-compassion, self-esteem, and well-being. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(1), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2010.00330.x 

Neureiter, M., & Traut-Mattausch, E. (2016). Predictors of the imposter phenomenon among high-achieving students. Journal of Educational and Psychology Consultation, 26(3), 291-306. https://doi.org/10.1080/10474412.2015.1124920 

Sakulku, J., & Alexander, J. (2011). The impostor phenomenon. International Journal of Behavioral Science, 6(1), 73-92. https://doi.org/10.14456/ijbs.2011.6 

Young, R. A., & Valach, L. (2003). The imposter phenomenon: A communication perspective. Interpersona, 1(1), 74-88. https://doi.org/10.5964/ijpr.v6i1.1566


Caffeine

Caffeine

Article by Sella Khouri, McGill Dietetics Student 

What is caffeine: 

 Caffeine, a xanthine alkaloid compound, is consumed widely and daily by humans. It is a popular stimulant worldwide that is frequently consumed to enhance mood, alertness, muscle endurance, exercise performance, and work productivity.

Caffeine is a natural ingredient found in coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, guarana, kola nuts and yerba mate Caffeine can also be synthesized and is added to foods and beverages, including soft drinks, energy drinks, and energy shots, and to tablets marketed for reducing fatigue. Coffee and tea are among the most popular beverages worldwide and contain substantial amounts of caffeine. These beverages have been consumed for hundreds of years and have become an important part of cultural traditions and social life.

 

 

How does caffeine impact our bodies: 

Caffeine has many impacts on our bodies and has numerous physiological effects, including cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and smooth muscle, as well as effects on mood, memory, alertness, and physical and cognitive performance.

The molecular structure of caffeine is similar to that of adenosine, which allows caffeine to bind to adenosine receptors inhibiting the effects of adenosine. Therefore, caffeine intake triggers arousal and alertness, improves mood, and causes the release of catecholamines, which induce beneficial effects on human behavior. Nevertheless, caffeine has been related to other beneficial effects such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions that are important to human health. 

A recent study showed that caffeine taken 0.5–4 h prior to a meal may suppress acute energy intake. Therefore, caffeine may play a role in energy balance by reducing appetite and increasing the basal metabolic rate and food-induced thermogenesis.

In addition, studies had shown that caffeine can reduce the risk of several diseases, such as Alzheimer and Parkinson disease. It also plays a mild diuretic effect by inhibiting fluid reabsorption along proximal renal tubules.

In terms of the relationship between caffeine and kidney stones, data from 3 large cohort studies have reported the association between caffeine consumption and a lower risk of kidney stone disease despite caffeine-rich beverages have been recognized to contain oxalate and increase urinary calcium excretion.

Safe amounts:

Age Group Recommended maximum daily intake
Adults (18 years and over) 400 mg
People planning to become pregnant 300 mg
People who are pregnant 300 mg
People who are breastfeeding 300 mg
Children and adolescents (up to 18 years) 2.5 mg per kg of body weight

 

 Side effects of excessive intake: 

Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. Caffeine can leave you feeling nervous or anxious particularly at high doses (>200 mg per occasion or >400 mg per day), increase your heartbeat or give you a headache. Caffeine consumption later in the day can increase sleep latency and reduce the quality of sleep all of which can hurt your performance. If you get any of these symptoms, try a smaller dose or simply avoid it. 

If you regularly include caffeine in your diet and you suddenly stop having it, you may have withdrawal effects such as headaches or drowsiness. 

Caffeine in the form of energy drinks and shots may have more adverse effects than other caffeinated beverages since these beverages can be consumed very quickly, and the caffeine is released into your bloodstream rapidly unlike hot coffee or tea which can be sipped slowly. Another factor could be due to lack of clarity on the part of consumers about caffeine content.

Caffeine and exercise: 

Caffeine intake has also shown ergogenic effects, which are attributed to different factors, such as enhanced substrate utilization, fatigue delay, and alertness. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and improves muscle contraction and some motor skills. Therefore, it may help by making exercise feel easier, increasing endurance and improving short-term high-intensity performance. Caffeine can be taken before or during exercise to feel the benefits.

Research show that 1 to 3 mg of caffeine per kg (0.5 to 1.4 mg per lb) body weight taken before or during exercise may improve performance. For a 70 kg (154 lb) person, this equals 70 to 210 mg caffeine, which is the amount found in 1 cup of brewed coffee.

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References:

Barcelos, R. P., Lima, F. D., Carvalho, N. R., Bresciani, G., & Royes, L. F. (2020). Caffeine effects on 

systemic metabolism, oxidative-inflammatory pathways, and exercise performance. Nutrition research (New York, N.Y.)80, 1–17. 

Health Canada (2022) Caffeine in Foods, Canada.ca. Gouvernement du Canada. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-safety/food additives/caffeine-foods.html. 

Jee, H. J., Lee, S. G., Bormate, K. J., & Jung, Y. S. (2020). Effect of Caffeine Consumption on the 

Risk for Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders: Sex Differences in Human. Nutrients12(10), 3080. 

Peerapen, P., & Thongboonkerd, V. (2018). Caffeine in Kidney Stone Disease: Risk or 

Benefit?. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)9(4), 419–424. 

Schubert, M. M., Irwin, C., Seay, R. F., Clarke, H. E., Allegro, D., & Desbrow, B. (2017). Caffeine, 

coffee, and appetite control: a review. International journal of food sciences and nutrition68(8), 901–912.

Van Dam, R. M., Hu, F. B., & Willett, W. C. (2020). Coffee, Caffeine, and Health. The New England journal of medicine383(4), 369–378. 


Healing through movement and dance

Healing through movement and dance

Article by Aïka Mathelier, MSW. 2022.

“Dance therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the use of movement as the medium of change” (Chaiklin, 1975: 701). It contemplates the psycho-dynamic relationship to movement, to dance, and the transformation of the self. Dance Movement Therapy is not about performance, skill, or beauty. It is about a personal connection, and an understanding of the bidirectional mind-body and body-mind connection, it is about the appreciation of a different way of expressing emotions, thoughts, feelings, conflicts. Dance Movement Therapy can also be about exploring strength and regaining control of what was lost through a movement expression.

“Movement change and psychological change are integrally connected. Cognition and intellectual awareness are [...] necessary for change. In dance therapy, the body and its movement are the prime tools that work toward that awareness and the unity of self” (Chaiklin, 1975: 703).

As one goes through the dance movement therapy process, they begin by finding a way to ground themselves, be present in the here and now. The starting point to a dance movement therapy session being the warm-up, it allows one to [re]center oneself, be attune with what is happening in one’s body prior to taking in what would be happening in one’s surroundings. The relationship with oneself impacts the relationship with our environment, likewise the environment impacts our perception of self.

Through Dance Movement Therapy we recognize the importance of movement in our lives. We acknowledge that through breath we move and interact with our surroundings; movement is our first connection with ourselves and with our environment. Additionally, we welcome a central connection to our body prior to engaging with others. Dance and movement can lead to powerful experiences and significant growth within the relationship we have with ourselves, which will then transform one’s external relationships. Dance Movement Therapy is not limiting, on the contrary, it is a physical, but also a psychological, emotional, and/or verbal endeavor. It considers all that has to do with existing in order to foster change, transformation, and healing.

 

 

Aïka Mathelier, MSW. 2022.


Giving Children More Control

Reduce Stress By Giving Children More Control

 

Article by Tamara Malinoff, Psychoeducator at Openspaceclinic. 

As the new school year is upon us and our children are heading back to the classrooms amid the 4th wave of the pandemic, how are we tolerating stress? Children, regardless of age, need supportive adults in their lives to nurture and guide them through stressful circumstances and events; they also need to have a sense of control over their own lives.

Stress can be helpful or harmful.

The times when our brains are most vulnerable to stress are prenatal stress, early childhood, and adolescence, this is because brains only reach full maturity by age 25. Anxiety is most likely to develop in teens because they are more vulnerable to stress with fewer tools to cope.

Let’s look at 3 different types of stress:

Positive stress is short in duration. We may feel a slight increase in our heart rate and mild changes in the body’s stress hormones. This is normal everyday stress which serves to motivate children and adults to grow, take risks, and persevere.

Tolerable stress refers to stress responses that have the potential to negatively impact brain development. It generally occurs for short periods of time which allows for the brain to recover and reduce harmful effects. Some events may include an episode of being bullied, a serious illness, separation, divorce, or a death in the family. The presence of supportive adults is crucial to help children feel safe. Additionally, this type of stress can help build resilience.

Toxic stress refers to the frequent and prolonged activation of the body’s stress system. There is a recurrence of stressful events with little reprieve. Furthermore, there is the absence of support from caring adults who would protect and minimize a child’s exposure to harmful events that a child is not developmentally prepared to cope with. Extreme exposure can be witnessing an assault or abuse which occurs regularly. This is the most dangerous one for a child’s developing brain. Also, it damages their ability to thrive.

“A poorly controlled response to stress can be damaging to health and well-being if activated too often or for too long.”

Center on the Developing Child

Toxic stress is not healthy for us, at any age. However, certain times are worse than others and can have a great impact on healthy brain development when there is excessive or prolonged activation of the stress response systems. Moreover, if the body and brain are not given the proper time to recover, chronic stress can lead to anxiety and depression. It can also lead to problematic behaviors such as binge or restricted eating, procrastination, sleep issues, and a lack of motivation to care for oneself.

Parenting styles play a role, how?

Let’s take a moment to reflect on how this may impact the way we parent our children.

The 3 main types of parenting styles are: Authoritarian, Authoritative and Permissive. (We may fluctuate between all 3).

With over 60 years of research in support of this parenting style, an authoritative parent coaches, guides, and supports their children while maintaining healthy boundaries, which is said to be the most effective parenting style, compared to authoritarian, permissive, ambivalent or uninvolved parenting styles.

This is the one we strive to be as an authoritative parents set high expectations while nurturing, are responsive, and involved.  Children raised by authoritative parents are more likely to have greater autonomy, be socially accepted, academically successful, and are generally well-behaved.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Benjamin Franklin

Parents can play a role in undue stress on their children when constantly battling over things like homework, expectations, and pressure to do well at school, social relationships with friends, and many extracurricular commitments. Chronic fighting is not healthy for families.

Give children more control and responsibility

Brains develop according to how it is used. When we give children opportunities to make decisions while they are young, helps the brain to develop, so that they can cope with stress as they become more resilient. Children need responsibilities now, not when we think they are old enough to handle it or when they are more mature.

Whose homework is it?

Many parents feel responsible to be on top of their children’s homework. The intentions are good as we want to see our children succeed. However, we may find ourselves doing the work or providing the answers, so there is not much learning happening, it becomes our homework.

I would like to propose a new approach to homework by handing over more control to your children so that homework becomes the child’s responsibility.

Now, this does not mean leaving them to their own devices and saying, “you’re on your own kid!”, the opposite is true. We remain present, supportive, and trust that they have what it takes. Trust begets more trust.

Practical tools to get the year off to a fresh start:

Be their coaches: Believe in your child’s ability to manage their own homework so that they can have the confidence to believe in themselves. We coach but must not force. The same principle applies to sports or other activities we want to enroll them in.

Connection over correction: Resist the temptation to say: “I told you so!” when they learn the consequences of not having done their work. Validate! Say: “I know how hard this is. If you need me, I am here for you”. Let them know that when mistakes happen, they are growth opportunities. Talk about your failures and struggles to do homework or when you would rather be out playing with friends. It is hard, we can empathize.

Offer support guidance:  Tell your child: “I love you too much to fight over your homework”. Instead of asking “what homework do you have tonight?”, ask: “Would you like my help tonight with any of the subjects you have for homework?”.

Build healthy habits: Children thrive on routines and structure. Teach them to eat healthy and to get enough sleep. Allow them to make choices to develop habits and routines that feel right for them. Lead by example in how we take care of ourselves, they are learning through observation.

Academic support: Children tend to do better when it is someone other than a parent to work with. However, there are different approaches to ensure their success. If they are struggling to master a subject, see about getting additional support from tutors or if their school has an after-school homework program with peers or older students. If they are strong students but struggle with time management, prioritizing assignments, or may have difficulties with executive functioning, then an academic coach to teach organizational and study skills.

To conclude, keep in mind that after a long day at school, coming home to many more hours of tutoring can have a negative impact. It is important to balance work and play.

Wishing all our students, parents and teachers a safe and wonderful school year.

References:

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2005/2014). Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain: Working Paper No. 3. Updated Edition. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.

Stixrud, W. R., & Johnson, N. (2019). The self-driven child: The science and sense of giving your kids more control over their lives. NY, NY: Penguin Books.


Reduce Stress

Children Developing a Sense of Humor

Article by Tamara Malinoff, Psychoeducator at Openspaceclinic. 

Developing a Sense of Humor

There was no shortage of pranks in our home when my children were younger. April Fools’ Day was one of their favourite days for creating chaos, but they could strike at any time. A friend once gave them a gift of practical jokes, complete with supplies and a manual. Oh, the creative things kids will do! Cream cheese on my deodorant, walking into a film of saran wrap, whoopee cushions, Vaseline on the door handles, plastic flies in my coffee…more antics than I care to remember. Yet, it is the pure innocence of their laughter that I hold in my heart.

A sense of humor is not something we are born with, but actually a learned skill that children develop. Laughing together is a way to connect, and a good sense of humor can also help children cope with challenges.

Laughter is a joyful sound and is easily understood in any language. Having a good sense of humor helps kids emotionally and socially, plus, there are many more benefits. Research has shown that people who laugh more are healthier, less likely to be depressed and may even have an increased resistance to illness.

Meet them where they are at developmentally

Similar to how children meet their developmental milestones, a child’s sense of humor develops at different ages and stages of their development.

Babies do not yet understand humor but respond to facial expressions and funny noises. They will try to imitate your joy by smiling back and connecting. Simply making a funny face can bring out those big belly laughs.

Toddlers enjoy the element of surprise and physical humor like peek-a-boo or tickles. At this stage, they may want to make their parent/caregiver laugh by pointing to the wrong answer like “where are your ears?” and they touch their nose. They may also find it funny to imitate adults by wearing your shoes and trying to walk in them.

Preschoolers 3 to 4 year’s old tend to be very silly. They are very literal at this stage so if something is not right, they will find it extremely funny – like a dog that meows or the antics of their favourite cartoon character. Also, at this stage is when potty words and sounds are a crowd pleaser for this age. Around 5-6 years, they will start using their own creative ways of expressing humor and may tell endless jokes.

As they go through the elementary school years, humor is an important way to connect with their peers by telling jokes or trying to get others to laugh. At this stage, children begin to understand non-literal humor; they may find humor in teasing and understand sarcasm around 9-11 years old.

A good sense of humor is a tool that helps children:

  • engage in play and connect socially with others
  • foster creativity and a different way of thinking
  • to be spontaneous
  • not taking themselves or things too seriously
  • see things from another perspective

Setting boundaries while developing a sense of humor

While we want to encourage their development, we also need to teach children the boundaries when it comes to humor and teasing, just as we do in so many other areas. We want to discourage jokes which are offensive and hurt others. The best way to do this is to be a good role model and avoid using humor in this way. If someone tells a hurtful or inappropriate joke, we shouldn’t laugh but rather teach them by taking the time to explain to our children why that joke isn’t funny. Likewise, we want to quickly move in when there is a lot of bathroom talk, letting them know that saying those words or making those noises belong only in the bathroom. We are teaching them about the timing of jokes and that some places, like in class, at family or religious gatherings, are not appropriate places.

Ways to encourage humor in the home

Be their role model by telling jokes that are age appropriate, clean, and fun or tell funny stories. It is important to be authentic and laugh out loud. Share the enjoyment, even if you do not find it as funny as your child, let them know you appreciate why you see it is funny for them. One parenting pleasure is to watch your children grow and realize they have your same crazy sense of humor.

Create an environment that is fun. Watch comedies together or have a game night. One game that is sure to make children laugh is to see who can keep a straight face the longest without laughing. Books are also fun. Younger children will enjoy funny pictures or silly rhyme books while older children enjoy joke books, cartoons, or comics.

Humor is an early childhood developmental skill that we can easily encourage and enjoy while we are doing it!

Whichever ways you choose to bring humor into your home, it will create lasting family memories and joy for years to come. Our children will remember these joyful, funny moments and cherish the silly fun we had.


Children Developing

Promoting Positive Self-Esteem in Children

Article by Tamara Malinoff, Psychoeducator at Openspaceclinic. 

Self-esteem is a term used to describe our sense of worth and value. It is about how good we feel about ourselves. Promoting healthy self-esteem is one of the most important characteristics in a child’s development. Having positive self-esteem can also a be a protective factor for emotional well-being and mental health.

As children grow and mature, they develop their self-concept  which is their opinions about themselves; and includes their abilities, intelligence, and their personalities. During the preschool years, children discover they are individuals and develop a positive self-concept. In middle childhood, the self-concept goes through changes and becomes more defined and logical as their cognitive development increases, and they become more aware of their social environment.

Self-esteem in middle childhood:

During middle childhood (6 to 11 years), children start to compare themselves to others, allowing them to learn about who they are as individuals and how they can contribute to society. As children become more self-aware, they can be encouraged with praise for their process, rather than praising their person. Same applies to any successes such as academic or sports, the emphasis is on the activity, or how they learn and relate to others and not because they are smart or popular.

Children with positive self-esteem:

  • are more confident and independent
  • form healthy and secure relationships
  • are resilient
  • can take responsibility for their actions
  • make better decisions – even in the face of peer pressure

Children with negative self-esteem:

  • are more negative towards themselves and others
  • tend to give up more easily
  • have nervous habits
  • act out more often
  • are overly sensitive to how other’s may perceive them

Positive tips for promoting healthy self-esteem in children:

Love unconditionally

Love sets the foundation in all healthy and stable relationships. Children feel safe when we show them consistent love; it fosters a sense of security and is essential to how they will view themselves. Connect with them every day and give them your undivided attention, look and smile at them when they enter the room. Show physical affection: hug them when leaving to do your day, cuddle together when reading stories or watching T.V., making sure to love as an action while also telling our children that they are loved. As they grow, they will take the love they receive and carry it towards building their own social network by making friends and being a team player.

 

Give children responsibilities

Everyone needs to feel like they are contributing members of society and what better way then to experience this in our own families first. Teaching responsibilities through developmentally and age-appropriate chores promotes purpose and allows children to experience a sense of accomplishment, while giving them a sense of control over their own lives. They may not do it perfectly or as well as well as we can, so it is important to encourage the process and thank them for helping out by taking care of the family and helping make things easier. We are more efficient working together and Sunday morning cleaning can turn into a fun routine that is rewarded with a beautiful brunch or fun activity.

Turn mistakes into learning opportunities

Children will make mistakes and they will fail. These life lessons teach children to accept responsibility for their actions and learn to express remorse if they hurt another person, it also teaches empathy. When they fail at something (a test, making the team) they are learning about disappointment and how to tolerate frustrations. Failure is a stepping-stone in the learning process. Allowing children to experience failure also builds resilience and perseverance to study harder and learn from their mistakes.

Positive discipline

When we see behaviors that need to change, our responsibility as parents is to guide and teach our children. Discipline methods that are severe may have the child fear a parent’s disapproval while withdrawing love and affection when they need it most. If we show conditional love to children, they will behave to show themselves worthy of parental approval, where the emphasis is now on the behavior, rather than the value of the child. It is so easy to love someone when they are loveable but love in action recognizes the person while consequences are directed towards the behaviors. Discipline means teaching, an opportunity to learn from mistakes. We want to protect a child’s self-esteem by not humiliating or shaming them, personally or publicly.

Take care of yourself

Parenting is wonderful and can also be challenging. We tend to neglect our own needs to make sure our children receive the very best we can offer. Only, this may have the reverse effect if we neglect ourselves. The core of positive self-esteem is feeling good about oneself. If we are not feeling good, it becomes difficult to model for our children. Take at least 30 minutes each day to do something that will make you feel good: read, go for a walk, listen to music, organize a closet, or coffee with a good friend. When we are not feeling good about ourselves, we may withdraw and less present to be able to connect with our children.

Ultimately, we need to accept each child for who they are as a person, not defining them by the behaviors we would want to see changed. If your child is showing signs of low self-esteem, begin by building them up daily with unconditional love. It is the most essential ingredient to the emotional health and positive self-worth of our children.


Promoting Positive Self-Esteem in Children

Mental Health Impacts Us All

 

Article  By Stephanie Paquette, Clinical Social Worker at Openspaceclinic.

As a clinical social worker, my clients grant me intimate access to the stories that have shaped their mental health trajectories.  Although the circumstances impacting their mental health vary, the themes weaving their narratives together, are similar. For example, the search for perfection and the feeling of never being good enough, the desire for trust and safety in relationships, and the need for choice, validation and acknowledgement from parents and intimate partner, are common experiences. 

When difficult circumstances arise, or when genetics and/or trauma impacts us, our worldview may shift, and our mental health may be negatively impacted. As citizens in our communities, we tend to differentiate and dissociate from other humans. Yet mental health does not differentiate, mental health unites us. Regardless of class, gender, culture, religious or socio-economic status, you cannot run-away from your mental health. When you ignore, reject, or disconnect from your mental state, it will show up in patterns of relating and communicating, in moments of difficulty or stress, and it reminds you, sometimes frighteningly so, of your vulnerabilities. Acknowledging when you need help to navigate your difficulties is a sign of strength and resilience. In doing so, you are allowing a mental health professional to help guide you and offering yourself the gift of healing.


Mental Health Impacts

Psychologist Lew Lewis Begins His Second Career

 

 

 

After a remarkable 53 year career in public education, including 47 years working out of 6000 Fielding Avenue for the English Montreal School Board and the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal, Lew Lewis announced his retirement as Director of Student Services over a year ago. But now he has decided to go into private practice with Openspace Clinic, situated at 4115 Sherbrooke St. W., a little east of Greene Avenue in Westmount. Lew is very excited about entering a new phase of his professional life by joining Openspace Clinic which he describes a wonderful and diverse group of talented clinicians and wellness professionals. The primary focus of Lew’s professional practice will be working with older adolescents and adults with challenges related to anxiety, depression, self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, life transitions, workplace issues, and stress management. Having known Lew for over 20 years, I can best describe him as a very warm, caring, and empathetic individual as well as an extremely insightful and supportive professional, widely respected by friends and colleagues alike! Lew can be reached at lew@openspaceclinic.com or at 514-833-9886.

 

 

 

 


Psychologist Lew Lewis

Leptin and its Role in Weight Loss

Article  By Rosemarie Cianci, dietetics student in McGill’s School of Human Nutrition

There is a lot of talk about hormones and their role in weight loss. Leptin is one of those, so we’ll dive right in!

What is it?

Leptin is a hormone that is secreted by fat cells when you eat certain foods and regulates hunger and fullness cues. It reacts to your body’s insulin following the intake of food items. From there, it provides information to the brain about nutrition status. It regulates body weight by decreasing food intake and increasing energy expenditure. It makes you feel full and also allows the body to burn more calories!

What does it do?

Certain foods stimulate the release of leptin more than others. For example, consuming sugars such as sucrose and glucose will cause insulin levels to increase and leptin to be released. However, fructose, which is often found in the form of high fructose corn syrup, does not trigger the release of leptin. Therefore, when you drink foods that are high in HFCS, such as candy and soft drinks, leptin is not released and the body does not receive the signals to decrease food intake. You end up eating more!

What is leptin resistance?

Leptin resistance occurs when the body does not respond to levels of leptin and does not signal fullness. This often occurs in those who are overweight or obese as they have more fat cells and therefore produce more leptin. Despite the high production, the brain does not receive the signal from leptin and it is blocked.

Leptin resistance and the lack of regulation may explain why some people have a more difficult time losing weight than others. Their brain may not be receiving the signals of fullness and increased energy burning compared to others!

Can it be supplemented?

The current recommendation is that taking a leptin supplement is not effective when compared to the body’s production. For those who have resistance, even supplements of leptin will not work because their brain does not receive signals from the hormone in any way, whether by pill or from the body’s production.

However, more studies are currently being undergone in this field and this is something that may be on the horizon. A review from 2019 showed that leptin’s mechanism of action is still being discovered and this can hopefully improve the efficacy of leptin as a treatment of obesity.

Overall, there is currently not enough research to note that leptin supplements are safe and effective for weight loss. However, since fructose blocks the production of leptin, it may be a beneficial idea to limit sources of the sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup-containing foods such as candy and soft drinks.

 

References:

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/11/2704

https://www.nature.com/articles/0802753?proof=t

https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.proxy3.library.mcgill.ca/pmc/articles/PMC7765993/

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2021.585887/full

 


Professional Dietetic Stagiare

Is it normal that my toddler is a fussy eater?

Article by Danielle Kasis Akal, Professional Dietetic Stagiare, McGill’s School of Human Nutrition. 

Fussy eating is a very normal childhood phase. There are all sorts of reasons why children of any age might decide they won't eat what you just offered. Although sometimes the reason behind fussy eating can be complex, most often than not, the reasons behind food fussiness are typical and not something to seriously worry about.

 

Why is my child a fussy eater?

You might have noticed that your child was selective in eating since weaning, or it might be that your child enthusiastically ate new food after weaning and only had developed eating problems between their first and second birthdays.

The main reason for that could be neophobia or the fear of new food. Neophobia is an evolutionary technique where babies develop a suspicion for strange food allowing their ancestors to stay away from anything poisonous. What's good about that is neophobic tendencies tend to phase out with time.

Toddlers also start to develop memories and know well that each meal is not their last. So, they quickly learn that better snacks might be around the corner and that they might be offered something nicer than what's on their plate right now. If the better snack is not at home with you, it is probably at their grandmother's house or in preschool with their toddler friends.

Through the process of refusing food, your child might also be exerting his own sense of self by making his own decision. When children are old enough to understand the joys of independence, they are so keen to put it into practice and exercise what little power they have over the adults around them.

 

Is my child trying to tell me something?

Occasionally, a child's refusal to eat may indicate an emotional problem. You might need to figure out if anything else is troubling them. For example, a gradual or even sudden decrease in appetite might indicate something is bothering your child. Usually, it might be related to a new life event like a new baby, new home or new school.

Some medical factors can also play a role in a low appetite or selective eating tendencies. For instance, zinc deficiency, food allergy or intolerance, constipation, nausea, anemia, or toxic metals accumulation might need to be ruled out by a health professional before making assumptions that your child is a fussy eater. To help with that, you can consult a qualified nutritionist to run the appropriate tests and make proper changes to your little one's diet.

When dealing with a fussy eater, remember those words: Exposure, Model and Avoid rewarding.

 

Exposure:

Given the impact of familiarity on children's eating patterns, regularly exposing your little one to a wide variety of meals and flavours is likely to result in healthier eating habits. Your child’s experience with different tastes can improve acceptance from an early age (even before birth!), according to a growing number of researches. In fact, exposure is specifically helpful in increasing your toddler's vegetable consumption.

 

Model:

According to a recent poll, the strongest predictor of children's intake of fruits and vegetables depended on their parents' consumption of those food groups. One might think that meals accessible in the house, in general, is likely the contributing factor to this. However, we tend to forget children's desire to copy the behaviour of others. Seeing what you are eating may change your toddler's preference for that food. If not, it can also increase your baby's chance to consume that food, which increases liking through taste exposure.

 

Avoid rewarding:

You may have tried bribing with reward foods, and you might have noticed that it often achieves the very opposite of what you intended it to do. You are right; rewarding does not work! It has been consistently shown that reward increases food fussiness, making your little one more resistant to try new food. Next time try to keep meals relaxed and reward-free as it will go a long way to help your child develop a more positive relationship with food.

Will it always be that way? 

The good news is that most children will grow out of fussy eating at some point before reaching adulthood. You will notice once your children start school, they will have a more varied diet. Their diet change will be influenced by what their peers are eating and their ability to make their own choices about food. So, a fussy eater toddler won't automatically become a picky eater adult, especially if they received the proper response from people bringing them up.

 

References:

Dovey, T. M., Staples, P. A., Gibson, E. L., & Halford, J. C. (2008). Food neophobia and ‘picky/fussy’eating in children: a review. Appetite, 50(2-3), 181-193.

Levene, I. R., & Williams, A. (2018). Fifteen-minute consultation: The healthy child:“My child is a fussy eater!”. Archives of Disease in Childhood-Education and Practice, 103(2), 71-78.

Mallan, K. M., Jansen, E., Harris, H., Llewellyn, C., Fildes, A., & Daniels, L. A. (2018). Feeding a fussy eater: examining longitudinal bidirectional relationships between child fussy eating and maternal feeding practices. Journal of pediatric psychology, 43(10), 1138-1146.

Taylor, C. M., & Emmett, P. M. (2019). Picky eating in children: Causes and consequences. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 78(2), 161-169.

Westrom, S., & Hilliard, E. (2021). Picky Eating as a Degree instead of Binary Choice. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 121(9), A59.


Get in their heads - Help your kids reframe the thoughts that hold them back

 

Article by Jill Shein, Psychologist at Openspaceclinic. 

As parents, we know that belief in self is one of the most important qualities to nurture in our children. But sometimes, no matter how hard we try to build them up, our kids may have a different talk track in their own minds…

 

 The problem

 A child can bring themselves down when they tell themselves things like, 

 “I’m not smart enough”… “I’m not pretty enough”… or, “I’m just not good enough”

 And they might not always tell you exactly what they’re thinking. Sometimes, it’s because they don’t want to worry you. Other times, it may be because they feel embarrassed or ashamed by how they’re feeling about themselves. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t help.

 The silver lining of this pandemic is that we are probably more attuned to kids now than we’ve ever been, having spent more time together of late out of necessity. It’s an instinct to notice a change in your child’s mood or personality, or changes in their behavior.

 For instance, maybe you’ve noticed your child is coming home from school more tense, gloomy, or more sensitive about little things that they normally wouldn’t react to. You might have a super-studious kid who suddenly rejects their homework. Your younger child may simply withdraw, or stop engaging in activities they usually find enjoyable.

 

How you can help

 

1. Inquire

The first thing you can do is simply notice and ask them what’s up.

“Hey sweetheart, I’ve noticed you seem a little down lately… what’s on your mind?”

“We all hear our own voice inside our head- what’s yours telling you lately?”  

 

2. Validate

Explain to your child that having feelings of doubt from time to time is a normal part of growing up. This is a really important step that many of us forget to take. We may rush into solution mode because we want to make them feel better, and immediately try to talk them out of that negative thought. This can be counterproductive. Instead, slow down… be sure to acknowledge where they’re at first. Reflect the essence of what you hear them saying.

 “We all have moments when we feel less-than sometimes…”

“Sounds like it feels pretty awful when you tell yourself that you don’t measure up…”

 

3. Change the frame:

Now that they’ve articulated the problem, and they feel heard and understood, you have an opening to help them shift their perspective. Ask your child how they’d like to feel, and get them to focus on the things they like about themselves- their unique qualities, skills and talents. Every child has at least a few positive traits or capabilities that they genuinely believe about themselves.

 “How do you want to feel about yourself?”

 “Let’s try something… can you write down three things you’re most proud of when you think about yourself?”

 Or, if they’re struggling to come up with an answer,

 “Let’s pretend one of your closest friends had to make a speech about you on your birthday. What nice things would they say about you?”  

 This exercise will help boost their confidence, especially if you ask them to re-read the list daily. They will learn to focus on what they do well, rather than on their shortcomings.

 “So maybe I’m not the best basketball player… but I’m a really fast runner!”

“I might not get the best grades in math, but I’m a terrific reader and storyteller”.

“I am a really great friend and people like to be around me”.

 

If your child won’t open up, or if the thoughts they’re harboring seem to be crippling them academically or socially, it might be time to seek some counseling. A trained therapist can help your child challenge the negative, self-defeating thoughts they’re entertaining and help them develop new ways of thinking about themselves and their environment. 

 

Remember: When you change your thoughts, you change your life.


#WhatIEatInADay Trends on Social Media

Article by Dorsa Alavifard, Professional Dietitian at Openspaceclinic. 

Over the last decade social media has become a huge part of our lives. Typically, the first thing we do when we wake up and the last thing we do before we go to sleep consists of scrolling through our favorite social media platforms. While doing this, we are typically bombarded with the many food-related posts out there. More recently, #WhatIEatInADay posts and videos have become increasingly popular.

These posts and videos are appealing to viewers, in particular young adults who want to lose weight, as they display aesthetic and clean meals that promise weight loss and/or replication of the figure of the individual posting the content — an individual who is typically lean, fit, and glowing. In addition, #WhatIEatInADay posts may be seen by individuals who are unfamiliar with nutrition as an easy way to follow ‘meal plans’ in order to look a certain way.

 

 

However, something to be aware of is that such posts and videos are usually coming from people who have no degree in nutrition, and may do more harm than good along the way. For example, these posts show meals that are typically restrictive in both size and the type of food consumed.

 

While this may provide one with a rapid decrease in weight, it may also deprive that individual of important micro- and macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals) that are vital for life. Specifically, such nutrients fuel our body, help maintain our muscle mass, promote growth and development, regulate our metabolism, provide us with healthy looking skin and hair, etc. In addition, if weight loss is achieved through following #WhatIEatInADay posts, based on clinical experience, it can be said that this weight loss typically is temporary and cannot be maintained long-term; simply because these diets are not realistic!

If you are looking to lose weight safely and maintain your weight loss, it is best not to rely on #WhatIEatInADay trends on social media. Diets work best when they are individualized based on age, activity level, nutrient requirements, and medical history, to name a few.

 

If you want to achieve a weight goal and want to do that through a structured meal plan, this is where a dietitian can be helpful. Dietitians have been educated to work with clients to achieve a nutrition-related goal, such as weight loss, safely, effectively, and realistically. Your dietitian will work collaboratively with you to develop an individualized meal plan to help achieve and maintain your weight goals long-term.

 

 

Reference:

Papadopoulou, Sousana K. "Rehabilitation Nutrition for Injury Recovery of Athletes: The Role of Macronutrient Intake." Nutrients 12.8 (2020): 2449.


What are the Main Philosophies of Naturopathy?

 

Article by Antonio Colasurdo Board Certified Naturopath at Openspaceclinic.

 

FIRST, DO NO HARM

Naturopaths hold to the tenet of using non-invasive modalities and medicinal substances to minimize the risk of harmful side effects.

 

VITALITY

The body has an inherent ability to heal itself. Naturopaths act as facilitators to this process by identifying and removing obstacles to health in an effort to support the healing process.

 

IDENTIFYING THE CAUSE

Illness does not occur without a cause, and causes can occur on various levels including physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. Therefore, a Naturopath must identify the cause of illness rather than simply acting on the symptomatic expression of a disease.

 

TREAT THE WHOLE PERSON

Every individual is unique. Naturopaths use individualized protocols by understanding the interdependence between the physical, mental, emotional, environmental, genetic, and social factors which may contribute to illness.

 

NATUROPATHS AS TEACHERS

Naturopaths must take time to educate and empower clients concerning their health. This cooperative relationship has an inherent therapeutic value, which may enable clients to heal.

 

PREVENTION IS THE BEST CURE

The ultimate goal of Naturopathy is disease prevention. Naturopaths thoroughly assess any risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and make appropriate interventions with the goal of maintaining health and preventing illness, as much as possible.

 


Is Lettuce Water the Cure to Insomnia as TikTok suggests

 

Article by Danielle Kasis Akal, Professional Dietetic Stagiare, McGill’s School of Human Nutrition. 

You have probably encountered multiple food and nutrition trends if you have been using the TikTok application lately. Many times, TikTok users are trying out those trends and are swearing on their success. The latest being the use of lettuce water to prevent insomnia. Lettuce water is made when one boils water, pours it over romaine lettuce and then drinks the water once it's cooled a bit. If you are wondering if lettuce could be the new herbal tea to aid with sleeping, here is our dietetic intern trying to find the truth of this matter.  

As many are more interested in the medicinal effect of food as opposed to medications, many are looking at ways to improve their life quality, including the quality of their sleep using nutrition. 

 

But does lettuce water really help with sleep?

No studies published have shown that steeping lettuce or eating lettuce that you buy from grocery stores can help with sleeping. But it is understandable why some people might think it does.

The seed oil of romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) was used in folk medicine long ago as a sleeping aid and a sedative when combined with other ingredients like opium. Today, local herbal shops in Iran continue to provide lettuce seeds to pregnant women to treat insomnia as part of their belief in Traditional Persian Medicine (TPM). In addition, researchers have found that some molecules in lettuce extract act as a sedative and pain reliever in mice. Those molecules are known as lactucopicrin and lactucin, found in romaine lettuce extract, and are studied for their properties of inducing and prolonging sleep. 

 

But what made lettuce water trendy today? 

This new TikTok trend could stem from the new study published in 2017 that you see some have mentioned in their videos. Researchers in this study have found that after young mice were fed a mix of sedative (phenobarbital) and a concentrated extract from lettuce seed and leaves, those mice slept 20 minutes longer than those who were only given the sedative.

However, many limitations exist for this study. The concentrated lettuce extract was tested alongside a sedative, which is not the same as only drinking the lettuce water. Also, the lettuce extract from seed and leaves is much more potent in molecules than just drinking steeped lettuce. Finally, mice are not human, so what works in mice does not mean it will always translate to humans.

 

Could drinking lettuce water be dangerous?

Assuming that you are washing your lettuce well and that your lettuce is not harbouring any salmonella or other microbes, placing your lettuce in boiling water is less likely to cause harm. The only thing you might need to consider is drinking a large amount of fluid before going to sleep. This might make you have frequent trips to the bathroom at night, which can be disruptive to your sleep and counterproductive in general. 

 

Then why are some finding this practice useful?

This could be a placebo effect. In fact, many studies have looked at the role of placebo medication vs no treatment on improving insomnia symptoms. It has been shown consistently that getting any placebo might help in most insomnia symptoms, such as how quickly you fall asleep, your total sleep time and your sleep quality. So, after all, this might be a reason why many are finding drinking lettuce water useful.

 

Then what can I do to improve my sleep?

You need to make adjustments during your whole day and not just at night to improve your sleep. Your diet, environment and general well-being all have an impact on your sleep.

You can start by enjoying more wholesome meals, limiting refined carbohydrates and sugar, eating more fruits and vegetables, and avoiding caffeine after 2 pm. Other changes could include getting regular exercise, a good sleep routine and avoiding electronics before bed.  

What if my sleep is not getting better with all changes?

Poor sleep can sometimes be linked to certain medical conditions. If poor sleep is a consistent issue in your life, see a healthcare provider to help you out.

 

Références: 

Kiefer, D. (2019). Lettuce for Sleep? Maybe, but Not in Salad Form. Integrative Medicine Alert, 22(2).

Kim, H. D., Hong, K. B., Noh, D. O., & Suh, H. J. (2017). Sleep-inducing effect of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) varieties on pentobarbital-induced sleep. Food science and biotechnology, 26(3), 807-814.

Yeung, V., Sharpe, L., Glozier, N., Hackett, M. L., & Colagiuri, B. (2018). A systematic review and meta-analysis of placebo versus no treatment for insomnia symptoms. Sleep medicine reviews, 38, 17-27.

10 tips to beat insomnia. (2021). Retrieved 10 September 2021, from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/10-tips-to-beat-insomnia/

 


How to Deal with Anxiety

Article by Joshua Laff, Clinical Social Worker at Openspaceclinic. 

"Have you ever had thoughts or feelings that you can’t shake off, or worries that never seem to go away?  Have you found yourself feeling afraid, but are having difficulties pinpointing exactly what it is you’re afraid of? If so, then you might very well be dealing with anxiety.

The good news is, you’re not the only one. In fact, we all deal with anxiety, but we all experience it differently and with various levels of intensity.  When left unchecked, it can have a significant impact on many aspects of your being, including your self-esteem, your relationships with others, your work life, and even your sex life.

You might also notice physical symptoms or behavioural changes in yourself, including irritability, a lack of motivation or sense of fatigue, difficulties focusing, sleeping, headaches and stomach aches, as well as a general soreness or tenseness. In more severe manifestations of anxiety, some might also experience panic attacks.

But why do we come to develop these thoughts and feelings? While every situation is unique, there are factors in our lives which can worsen anxiety, or contribute to its development.  These can include traumatic experiences, relationship problems, other health issues, financial problems, substance use, or work and study related stressors. Knowing all that, it can nonetheless remain challenging to figure out exactly where our anxiety stems from, and how to begin tackling it to begin making meaningful improvements in our lives.

That’s where seeking help from a professional counselor or psychotherapist help can make a difference. They can help you to explore your triggers and some of the underlying causes for your anxiety, and to ultimately accompany you in developing coping techniques or strategies so that you can manage your daily life effectively. In some circumstances, a professional can also provide appropriate testing to determine if your anxiety warrants more intensive levels of professional or medical assistance. If you’ve started to notice that your thoughts and worries aren’t shaking away like they used to, that they are influencing your behaviour,  are preventing you from going about your day, or are preventing you from feeling fulfilled, these are all signs that it may be worthwhile to reach out to a professional to explore it further. In the meantime, the key is to be patient and kind with yourself. With time, the right strategies, and professional help (if needed), it can become more manageable."


Bloating

 

How to prevent bloating, here are some tips to consider:

Do you often hear that someone you know complains of bloating? or it might be you?

Bloating is when your belly feels bloated after eating. This can be due to excess gas or abnormal movement of the muscles in your digestive system.  

Bloating can often cause pain and discomfort that makes your belly look bigger. For some people, bloating is more related to pressure in the abdomen without an apparent abdominal enlargement. Therefore, bloating for them is more due to increased sensitivity to gas or fluid found in the gut.

Although bloating can result from a serious medical problem, a change in food and certain eating habits can often help you eliminate or reduce your bloating sensations. Here are some tips to consider the next time you experience bloating.

 

1- Lack of regularity in bowel movements

Sometimes constipation can make bloating worse. Because the longer the stool stays in the colon, the more the bacteria in the gut ferment what's there. This will lead to gas and possibly bloating.

Eating high-fibre foods is generally recommended for people with constipation, but fibre can make it worse for people who have gas or bloating.

If you are looking for a way to prevent constipation, drink more water and become more physically active. Those are effective in letting you use the bathroom regularly.

 

2- Eating too fast

Eating quickly is not ideal if you want to avoid bloating after your meal as this will cause you to swallow more air, leading to a lot of gas production. 

You can avoid bloating by eating slowly and chewing your food properly. This will reduce the amount of air you swallow and as a result lead to less gas and bloating. 

 

3- Pay attention to the ingestion of air and gas.

Although bacteria normally produce gas in your gut, sometimes we swallow air or gas from drinks or from the way we eat. For example, carbonated drinks contain carbon dioxide bubbles that are released after they reach our stomachs.  

Other factors can contribute to increased amounts of air swallowed through eating habits. These include chewing gum, drinking through a straw and talking while eating.

 

4- Avoid high-dose sugar alcohols

Sugar alcohols, such as xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol, are sweeteners used as alternatives to sugar. You can frequently find them in sugar-free foods and chewing gum.

In general, we do not digest sugar alcohols. Our gut bacteria ferment them and produce gas as a by-product. It is important to note that when we consume large amounts of sugar alcohols, they become more challenging to digest, and as a result, we get cramps and bloating.

5- Watch your salt intake

When we eat foods rich in salt, our body tends to retain the liquid we drink, making us feel bloated.

Although you may think you're not consuming too much salt because you don't use your salt shaker frequently, right? Most of the sodium in our diet comes from processed foods, not from the salt we add to the table.

Plus, most of these foods don't taste salty, to begin with. This is why we call these sources hidden sources of sodium. Examples of foods include pizza, canned soups, salad dressings and frozen meals.

 

6- Consult a dietitian to help manage your symptoms

In many cases, bloating can be reduced by a simple change in diet. 

Your dietitian can work with you to identify the best diet changes you can make to relieve your symptoms while being the least restrictive possible in your diet. 

 

Références: 

Agrawal, A., & Whorwell, P. J. (2008). abdominal bloating and distension in functional gastrointestinal disorders–epidemiology and exploration of possible mechanisms. Alimentary pharmacology & therapeutics, 27(1), 2-10.

Agrawal, A., Houghton, L. A., Reilly, B., Morris, J., & Whorwell, P. J. (2009). Bloating and distension in irritable bowel syndrome: the role of gastrointestinal transit. The American journal of gastroenterology, 104(8), 1998–2004. https://doi.org/10.1038/ajg.2009.251

De Schryver, A. M., Keulemans, Y. C., Peters, H. P., Akkermans, L. M., Smout, A. J., De Vries, W. R., & Van Berge-Henegouwen, G. P. (2005). Effects of regular physical activity on defecation pattern in middle-aged patients complaining of chronic constipation. Scandinavian journal of gastroenterology, 40(4), 422-429.

Hyams J. S. (1983). Sorbitol intolerance: an unappreciated cause of functional gastrointestinal complaints. Gastroenterology, 84(1), 30–33.

Lea, R., & Whorwell, P. J. (2005). Expert commentary–bloating, distension, and the irritable bowel syndrome. Medscape General Medicine, 7(1), 18.

Li, J., Zhang, N., Hu, L., Li, Z., Li, R., Li, C., & Wang, S. (2011). Improvement in chewing activity reduces energy intake in one meal and modulates plasma gut hormone concentrations in obese and lean young Chinese men–. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 94(3), 709-716.

Zhou, Q., & Verne, G. N. (2011). New insights into visceral hypersensitivity—clinical implications in IBS. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 8(6), 349-355.

 


Supplements. Go Beyond the Label.

 

 

Article by Antonio Colasurdo Board Certified Naturopath at Openspaceclinic.

When clients initially come to me, quite often, a question that I’m asked by those who take dietary supplements is if their current supplement is “good”. Most people buy them online, from a business, or from a company directly. As a professional however, I cannot give a full honest product assessment based off of a label alone, and therefore require more time to look into the product.

Because of that, often times I would need to get back to the client on my opinion once I’ve conducted further research. Often times my process involves emailing the company that created the supplement directly to inquire further into specific areas.

A product label may look good, however this is the potential problem with stopping one’s inquiry at the product label:

Using a data set of 1800 patients, ingesting 375 dietary supplements with subsequent analysis, it was found that only 44% were labeled correctly. The other 56% contained anabolic steroids or other pharmaceutical agents. Problematic product markets included body building supplements, with a 72% mislabeling rate, weight loss supplements, with a 72% mislabeling rate, energy boosting products, with a 60% mislabeling rate, and general health and wellbeing products, with a 51% mislabeling rate.

 

Naturopathic Doctor News & Review – Herbal mislabeling and liver damage

As you can imagine, this is incredibly problematic, and this problem one of the reasons why, as a health professional, I am extremely picky over my opinions on supplement use. Now, I use supplements in practice; however, my recommendations MUST be based in quality, purity, and backed by current and updated scientific literature.

I need the assurance that what is labeled on a bottle, is actually contained within the bottle. This is why my standards concerning supplements is incredibly high, below are some of the things which I look into:

NPN Numbers.

Making sure that a supplement has an NPN Number is paramount. For a natural product to be sold in Canada it needs an NPN and it must be printed on the bottle sold, without one it is illegal to sell the natural product. Now we shouldn’t need to worry about this, however, one time someone walked into my office with a product that lacked an NPN which is why this is worth mentioning.

Third Party Testing.

Personally, I believe that all supplements should go through Third Party Testing; it adds to the credibility that what is claimed to be within the bottle is actually found there. However, many companies don’t perform third party testing as it can be costly. However, this is non negotiable, for me to approve a supplement it must be tested; preferably by a lab that has no affiliations to the supplement company (directly or indirectly).

Product Monographs.

Another important point, not all companies have these readily available for individuals; the only brands, that I know of, which make product monographs are companies that only give access to supplements to health practitioners.

Yes, research on natural compounds, vitamins, and minerals exist and is readily available. However, I believe that research must be performed on the specific product to validate it’s existence. For this reason, the product itself should have research performed on it.

It’s also important to note, for a Medical Doctor to approve any supplement use (or at the very least say that it won’t interfere with any medications, or that it is safe), a product monograph must be provided. Without one, the answer will always be no.

Without third party testing, product research, and product monographs, I stay away.

Certifications.

After all those hoops, I will look at one final point: is the supplement in question certified by a third party organization such as USP, NSF, Informed Choice, Informed Sport, and/or any other professional certifying organization to validate that a product is continuously being tested.

As an example, to maintain an Informed Sport certification each batch of the product in question must be tested and authenticated to make sure that professional athletes in the NFL, NHL, UFC, etc. are not taking something which can get them banned from their sport such as steroids.

If the company which created the supplement decides to discontinue testing, then the Informed Sport certification becomes null and void.

Because of this, some certifications are not only tough to get, but they are also tough to maintain.

Final Product Validations.

Only after I’ve reviewed each of those components do I look at the product label itself. Because if a product fails in any of the pervious stages, I don’t care what the label itself says.

As you can see, a label is really one cog in a much larger machine. Pushing beyond the label is where you’ll discover the validity of a supplement.

It’s easy to sell a supplement on the market, and it’s easy to make cost effective supplements available to the general public; but is the supplement in question actually beneficial for your health? Well that’s another question entirely…

Final Thoughts.

I know that as a natural health practitioner the tone of this article may seem odd; however, I caution the use of cheap supplements as many of them are filled with extra binders, fillers, lubricants, and coatings; and remember, your digestive system has to process all of these.

Not only that, but the form of a supplement will determine if it is absorbed by the body or if it passes through without or with minimal absorption. Many of the cheap supplements use cheap to manufacture forms which are minimally absorbed by the body. Because of this, you may be wasting your hard earned money.


Functional Foods

 

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Openspaceclinic.

 

Functional foods are modified foods or food ingredients that provide health benefits beyond the traditional nutrients it contains. Although foods can provide macronutrients like carbs, fats, protein as well as vitamins and minerals; some foods also contain other compounds that can provide additional health benefits. Most functional foods are used to lend protection against certain diseases—but only when eaten regularly and in specific amounts. 

Let’s look at some specific functional foods and what they do! 

Fatty Fish 

Fatty Fish, like salmon, sardines, trout or herring are considered to be functional foods. These fish are functional in particular due to their low mercury content and higher omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 fatty acids are the “special ingredient” here. This is because they are known to reduce blood pressure in those with higher blood pressure and they can help raise your “Good” HDL cholesterol (YES, there is a good cholesterol!). Omega-3s are also very important to consume during pregnancy and childhood. They are crucial for brain growth and development of infants. It is currently recommended to have fatty fish 2-3 times per week. 

Yogurt 

Yogurt is known for being a great source of calcium; but did you know it also contains probiotics and sometimes even prebiotics? Let’s differentiate the two. Probiotics are a type of “friendly” bacteria found in foods. They are microorganisms that are beneficial to gut health and our microbiome. Prebiotics are food components, such as fibers, that are not digested and are instead used as food for the previously mentioned friendly gut bacteria. Together, probiotics and prebiotics encourage a healthy gut. All yogurts contain probiotics and some contain added prebiotics. If not, add some berries to your yogurt to promote optimal digestive health!  

Tomatoes 

Tomatoes are rich in different minerals and vitamins; but the “special ingredient” here is the powerful antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is a compound found in tomatoes that has a very strong link to prostate cancer risk reduction. Since it is an antioxidant, it helps prevent cell damage. Whether it be fresh tomatoes, tomato paste or a tomato sauce, everyone, especially men over 50, should try to include more of it in their diet to keep cells healthy and to help prevent prostate cancer. 

Garlic 

Along with many vitamins and minerals, garlic contains organosulfur compounds (Eg. Allicin). Studies have shown promising evidence that these compounds can help to lower total and “Bad” LDL cholesterol. Studies also show that garlic may play a role in reducing blood pressure. Although the studies are not conclusive, we do know that garlic is safe and quite tasty when cooked right! Try to include garlic into your recipes regularly; it may not be a cure-all but it certainly provides many important nutrients and compounds to your diet. 

As you can see, foods can provide so much more than calories and carbs. Every bite of food you take, brings along so many special nutrients and compounds that help feed your body and keep it running smoothly. 

 

References 

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-health-benefits-of-omega-3

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22113870/

https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/functional-foods

https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/135/5/1226/4663991

https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/garlic


Going Vegan? Here’s some things to think about.

 

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Openspaceclinic.

Concern for the environment is rising and this is causing a shift in the way we eat. There has been a huge growth in veganism and vegetarianism which has so many benefits for the individual but also for the planet. There are many ways to follow a vegan lifestyle and the definition of the word can vary from person to person. While vegetarians will not consume any animal flesh, they may or may not still consume eggs, dairy cheese, dairy milk and other animal-based products. Vegans, on the other hand, will typically cut out all animal and animal derived foods from the diet. There also exists a form of flexible veganism where one will consume a majorly plant-based diet but allow themselves some animal derived foods on occasion. 

When we cut all animal products out of our diet, we need to think about the nutrients that we may be cutting out as well. 

Vitamin D 

Many of us know that we can get vitamin D from the sun. However, when living in a province like Quebec, it can be very difficult to get adequate Vitamin D from October to May. So, it is very important to get it from your diet. Most food sources of vitamin D come from animals. So, to avoid deficiency when going vegan, it is important to look for food items fortified with vitamin D. Fortified orange juice, soy milk or breakfast cereals can be great options. You can also speak to a healthcare professional about vitamin D supplements. 

Long chain Omega-3 Fatty acids 

Long chain Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats, meaning your body cannot produce them and you must get them from your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for the health of your body and brain. Again, most sources of omega-3 fatty acids are animal derived; however, some seeds such as chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds can provide omega-3 fatty acids to the diet. 

Vitamin B12 

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the health of your blood, nerve cells and DNA. Lack of Vitamin B12 can have serious health consequences on the body. Shitake mushrooms and nutritional yeast are great vegan sources of B12. You can also look for fortified breakfast cereals. Just like Vitamin D, there are vitamin B12 supplements available—speak to your healthcare provider to determine if that is a better option for you. 

Iron 

Iron is a mineral that is vital to the growth and development of our bodies. There are two types of iron: heme iron (coming from animal sources) and non-heme iron (coming from non-animal sources). Luckily, non-heme iron can be easily consumed in the diet; it is found in most legumes, nuts, seeds as well as raisins, figs, molasses and dried apricots. It is important to note that non-heme iron may not be as well absorbed in the body as heme iron. Vitamin C can increase iron absorption in the body. So, include some sources of vitamin C such as peppers, broccoli or oranges to increase that iron absorption! 

Calcium 

Calcium has so many important roles in the body. From building and maintaining our skeleton to blood pressure regulation, calcium helps keep our bodies strong and healthy. Everyone knows that we can get our daily intake of calcium from milk; but what if you’re vegan? Calcium can also be found in many vegan-friendly foods. Soy foods, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables can also be sources of calcium for someone following a vegan diet. 

Takeaway

All that being said, veganism and plant-based diets in general can be a great way to support the health of the environment and the health of your body. One 16-week study showed major decreases in weight, fat mass and visceral fat in the vegan participant group. As well, plants provide antioxidants, prebiotics, and fiber to the diet. These compounds and nutrients can support a healthy gut by balancing the gut bacteria; a healthy gut is the first step towards a healthy body! 

It is important to carefully plan your diet to ensure that you are getting all the nutrients you need to avoid any nutritional deficiencies. All of the nutrients we need to keep us healthy are available from vegan sources—you just have to learn where to look!  

References 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6478664/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-101

https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/nutrients/iron

https://www.healthline.com/health/vitamin-b12-foods-for-vegetarians

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-plant-sources-of-omega-3s

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-guide#faq

https://www.healthline.com/health/vegan-vitamin-d#vegan-sources

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-a-16-week-vegan-diet-can-improve-your-gut-microbes#You-are-what-you-eat

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6478664/


Can exercising help you lose weight?

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Openspaceclinic.

This topic is often very controversial. Some believe that exercise plays a vital role in weight loss, while others believe that exercise is insignificant on its own.

There is one thing we do know for sure: exercise offers so many health benefits. Exercise can do wonders for the body; regular physical activity can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and even some cancers. It has also shown to help reduce stress and anxiety in healthy adults. After hearing all that, who wouldn’t want to exercise? 

Now that we know how effective physical activity is in preventing major chronic disease and mental illness, let’s move on to the question you have all been waiting for: does exercise help you lose weight? To answer this question, let’s look at the evidence.

Fat Loss vs Muscle Loss 

When you reduce the number of calories you eat without increasing your physical activity, you lose fat, but you lose muscle as well. When you include exercise in your weight loss plan, it can reduce the amount of muscle you lose. Retaining muscle will work in opposition with fat loss and avoid the drop in your metabolic rate that you experience when you lose weight. Therefore, it will be easier to keep off the weight, which is what we’re all hoping for! 

Cardio 

Whether it’s the treadmill, the spin bike or a simple walk to the park, we’re all familiar with the famous cardio workout, also known as aerobic exercise. Cardio has been very successful in helping people burn calories; however, it plays little role in affecting muscle mass. A study done in 2012 demonstrated that aerobic exercise alone, without any calorie restriction, was extremely effective in increasing weight loss for overweight and obese men and women. Many other studies have been done as well to show the beneficial outcomes of cardio; loss of liver fat, loss of visceral fat (belly fat) and so much more. 

Resistance Training 

Think weightlifting or body weight training—these are examples of resistance training. Resistance training can increase the strength and/or endurance of your muscles as well as burn calories. Increasing the amount of muscle you have, can increase your metabolism, which allow s you to burn more calories continuously—even when you’re taking a rest on the couch. What you can take from this is: cardio is important, but resistance training can be just as, if not more important! Both types of exercise can help you lose weight, but resistance training can help you keep off the weight, which is the hardest part of weight loss!

Does Exercise Help You Lose Weight? 

The truth is: different methods work for different people. While most individuals find exercise to be very effective in weight loss, some find that they don’t lose any weight. Maybe changing your diet will be more effective for you! Most of the evidence shows that a strategy including both a healthy diet and exercise is the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off. In the end, consistency is key. Try to stay motivated and stick to a plan that works for you!  

//

References

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Rejeski, W. J. (2014). Effect of an 18-month physical activity and weight loss intervention on body composition in overweight and obese older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)22(2), 325–331. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20607

Behrens, G., Jochem, C., Schmid, D., Keimling, M., Ricci, C., & Leitzmann, M. F. (2015).

Physical activity and risk of pancreatic cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European journal of epidemiology30(4), 279–298. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-015-0014-9

Bouchard, C., Blair, S. N., & Katzmarzyk, P. T. (2015). Less Sitting, More Physical Activity,

or Higher Fitness?. Mayo Clinic proceedings90(11), 1533–1540. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.08.005

Carter, M. I., & Hinton, P. S. (2014). Physical activity and bone health. Missouri

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Chaston, T. B., Dixon, J. B., & O'Brien, P. E. (2007). Changes in fat-free mass during

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Donnelly, J. E., Honas, J. J., Smith, B. K., Mayo, M. S., Gibson, C. A., Sullivan, D. K., Lee, J.,

Herrmann, S. D., Lambourne, K., & Washburn, R. A. (2013). Aerobic exercise alone results in clinically significant weight loss for men and women: midwest exercise trial 2. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)21(3), E219–E228. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.20145

Garrow, J. S., & Summerbell, C. D. (1995). Meta-analysis: effect of exercise, with or

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Collagen supplements: truth or trend?

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Openspaceclinic.

What is Collagen? 

Collagen is a protein that is essential to the health and function of connective tissues and ligaments in our bodies. It is the primary structural protein in the body and it is found in our muscles, bones, tendons and more. For this reason, collagen supplements are believed to improve the health of these areas. 

Our bodies create collagen naturally. We make collagen, or any protein, by breaking down the protein we eat into amino acids, which are the building blocks from which our bodies can form new proteins. 

Collagen Supplements 

Collagen has recently become a trending topic. Many individuals claim that collagen powders and capsules have a plethora of benefits ranging from improved skin, bone and joint health to improved gut health. Let’s compare the research to the theory and find out if these claims hold true! 

Skin health 

Some studies show that oral supplementation of collagen leads to improved wrinkle depth, hydration and elasticity of the skin. One study also showed that oral supplementation of collagen can improve the effects of skin aging. 

Joint health 

Studies show that a daily intake of collagen can relieve joint pain and discomfort. One study even explored the effect of collagen supplementation on cases of osteoarthritis; this study found promising evidence that collagen peptides help the body to repair cartilage tissue and therefore relieved the discomfort that patients were experiencing. 

Gut health 

There does not appear to be much scientific research done to test if collagen has any effect on gut health. Most of the claims you see are supported by anecdotal evidence only. 

The Theory 

Now that we explored the scientific evidence, let’s investigate the scientific theory of the matter. 

Once you eat any protein, your body breaks it down into individual amino acids. Then, your body can use the amino acids to build collagen or any other protein in the body. It is important to note that just because the amino acids came from a collagen supplement, it doesn’t mean your body will use them to create collagen in the body. Your body will use the amino acids to make whatever proteins are needed in the body at that moment. Eating more foods rich in the proteins that help build collagen, such as meat, fish, dairy products, soy products and beans, will enhance collagen production in the body. As well, eating more vitamin C-rich foods can be beneficial, since vitamin C is important for collagen production.

To sum it up, there have been plenty of studies done to test the effectiveness of collagen supplementation. While we’re still not sure about its effectiveness, there is one thing we do know: collagen supplementation is safe and does not produce any negative, unwanted side-effects. It is important to note that although there is some promising evidence supporting these claims, there is much more research to be done! 

 

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References

Asserin, J., Lati, E., Shioya, T., & Prawitt, J. (2015). The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Journal of cosmetic dermatology14(4), 291–301. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12174

Choi Bs, D. F. A. (2019, January 11). Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. JDDonline - Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. https://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961619P0009X

Choi, F. D., Sung, C. T., Juhasz, M. L., & Mesinkovsk, N. A. (2019). Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD18(1), 9–16.

De Santis, A. (2021, March 24). Will Collagen Supplementation Improve Your Skin? Andy The RD. https://andytherd.com/2019/01/07/will-collagen-supplementation-improve-your-skin/

Kumar, S., Sugihara, F., Suzuki, K., Inoue, N., & Venkateswarathirukumara, S. (2014). A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised, clinical study on the effectiveness of collagen peptide on osteoarthritis. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 95(4), 702–707. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.6752

Magee, H., R. D. (2020). Collagen Supplements: Real or Hype? Hannah Magee RD. http://hannahmageerd.com/collagen-supplements-real-or-hype/

Oesser, S., Schulze, C., Zdzieblik, D., & König, D. (2016). Efficacy of specific bioactive collagen peptides in the treatment of joint pain. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 24, S189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joca.2016.01.370

Proksch, E., Segger, D., Degwert, J., Schunck, M., Zague, V., & Oesser, S. (2014). Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin pharmacology and physiology27(1), 47–55. https://doi.org/10.1159/000351376

Sibilla, S., & Borumand, M. (2015). Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles. Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals, 4(1), 47. https://doi.org/10.4103/2278-019x.146161

Singh, M., M. D. (2020). Bovine Collagen: Everything You Need To Know About The Gut-Healing, Skin-Clearing Protein. Mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/bovine-collagen-the-benefits-side-effects-of-this-popular-protein

T, W., L, L., N, C., P, C., K, T., & A, G. (2017). Efficacy of Oral Collagen in Joint Pain - Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Journal of Arthritis, 06(02). https://doi.org/10.4172/2167-7921.1000233


Do adaptogens help relieve stress?

Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Openspaceclinic.

Everyone experiences stress!

While short bouts of stress can be manageable, continuous stress can be hard on our bodies, both physically and mentally. Adding adaptogens to your diet is just one way to manage stress.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are a group of plants that can help our bodies cope with stress. Adaptogens can be herbs, fungi or roots; and they work with our bodies to regulate our stress response systems. Adaptogens have been newly growing in popularity; however, they actually have a long history of health benefits. For centuries, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine have been using adaptogens to battle fatigue, increase energy levels and reduce stress levels.

Some common Adaptogens

Rhodiola rosea

Schisandra chinensis

Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)

Let’s learn about them! 

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola is an herb that has been proven to help the body cope with its stress response. In addition, it has shown to improve cognitive function and mental performance in individuals experiencing fatigue. One study found that Rhodiola can even help to reduce symptoms of depression.

Rhodiola can be taken as a capsule supplement; however, in my opinion, brewing it and ingesting as tea is best!

Schisandra Chinesis 

Studies show that Schisandra has stress-reducing properties; it has a specific, beneficial effect in reducing stress symptoms under fatigue. There is also strong evidence that it can increase endurance and mental performance in individuals experiencing fatigue and weakness.

Schisandra is available as a supplement; but it can also be purchased as dried whole berries or as a juice.

Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian Ginseng) 

Siberian Ginseng is a very popular choice among the common adaptogens. It has been proven to increase endurance and improve mental performance in fatigued individuals— similar to Schisandra. As well, many patients with stress-induced depression experienced an overall mood improvement and a better night sleep as a result of taking Siberian ginseng.

Siberian Ginseng root is available in supplement format; however, again, my personal favourite is Siberian Ginseng tea.

The Takeaway

All of these adaptogens have been proven to have beneficial effects on our bodies stress response systems. They also respectively have a long list of benefits for our bodies ranging from mood improvement to improved cognitive function. However, it is important to note that there is no “magic remedy” to stress. Stress is different for every individual and while adaptogens might work for some people, it may not work for everyone.

Please remember that it is always advised to speak with your healthcare professional before taking any adaptogens!

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References 

Anghelescu, I. G., Edwards, D., Seifritz, E., & Kasper, S. (2018). Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a

review. International journal of psychiatry in clinical practice22(4), 242–252. https://doi.org/10.1080/13651501.2017.1417442

Cropley, M., Banks, A. P., & Boyle, J. (2015). The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other

 Mood Symptoms. Phytotherapy research : PTR29(12), 1934–1939. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5486

Lekomtseva, Y., Zhukova, I., & Wacker, A. (2017). Rhodiola rosea in Subjects with Prolonged or Chronic Fatigue Symptoms:

Results of an Open-Label Clinical Trial. Complementary medicine research24(1), 46–52. https://doi.org/10.1159/000457918

Olsson, E. M., von Schéele, B., & Panossian, A. G. (2009). A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study

of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta medica75(2), 105–112. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0028-1088346

Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms 

Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland)3(1), 188–224. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph3010188