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COVID Holiday Stress: What You Can Do About It

I’ve had several patients open up about their anxiety being magnified with COVID worries, as well as how they will approach the holidays. 

To help get more insight, I had the pleasure of speaking with Registered Psychologist Cherise Gardipee, out of Daring Greatly Psychological Services.

She offered some great advice and understanding into several common concerns I hear about from patients. I’m sure we can all relate with the challenges she speaks to.

Here’s what she shared:

How do you suggest we manage our anxiety as the holidays approach?

With the holiday season quickly approaching, and the ongoing uncertainty of COVID, there continues to be an increase in worries and anxiety.

Normally, we have ongoing outlets to help relieve our anxiety and tension, or connect with friends and family to vent and distance ourselves from our distress even for a little while. With our current limitations, it is important not to become overwhelmed with the things that may not be the same this holiday season.

Create new traditions

Instead, let’s focus on what is the same, and what new traditions can be created. We may not be able to have all of our family together this year in person, but we can create new ways of connecting with video calls, or retriction-permitting winter activities that allow for safe distancing.

We can also remember to always give ourselves permission to be sad, or angry or frustrated with the world not allowing for our old ways. 

Focus on small obtainable tasks

When focusing on anxiety specifically, it can present itself in a multitude of ways. Some individuals experience an increase of irrational thoughts or fears, a sense of panic, a need for control, striving for perfectionism, and an increase of worries.

These feelings can increase due to the holidays, lack of connection due to COVID and current uncertainty within our economy and health sector. 

During these times it is important to take pause, and reflect inwards to find a sense of stability and calm. We can often resort to black and white thinking, or become over-saturated in emotion, which can be unhelpful at times. Ultimately, we would like a balance of both, connecting both logic and emotion together without becoming overwhelmed, and allowing for a decrease in distress and tension.

When feeling overwhelmed or anxious it’s important to focus on small obtainable tasks, such as taking a shower, eating well, and staying hydrated. Find one task to complete throughout the day, that can include cleaning one area or space in your home. Often focusing on cleaning a space or decluttering an area can help with creating a sense of accomplishment and provide feelings of being in control. 

Connect with others

Respecting the new restrictions, reach out to others outside of your home through phone calls, video calls, or a meet-up with others in the community. This will help you feel connected. 

Say hello to your neighbour, even if you’ve never spoken before. We are all currently in the same isolated new normal, and those that may look like they are doing well with the adjustment may be struggling internally.

Exercise and humour boost endorphins

Exercise to get your heart rate up, flooding your body and mind with endorphins is a great mood booster. 

Find ways to do things you want to do, that bring you joy.

Last but not least have a good laugh, and find humour where you can. 

How do you recommend we stay safely connected, despite COVID restrictions?

With our new normal, we have limited access to friends, family and external supports or self care rituals that we may have enjoyed in the past. Thankfully there are still ways for us to interact with those who are a source of support to us.

Online platforms

It is easier than ever to utilize a virtual format to connect with those we love. There are many different virtual options such as FaceTime, Google Meet, Zoom and even party platforms such as hangouts where one can play games while video chatting with friends or family. 

Connect with nature

We are still able to get outside and enjoy the weather. We can go for a drive, get out for a walk, snowshoe or cross-country ski. These are wonderful options that allow for us to connect with nature, and increase our dopamine and serotonin levels leading to feelings of happiness. 

What are some tools or resources for when we feel overwhelmed with anxiety?

Music and dance

Try to be more mindfully present, listen to music that you connect with, it can be music that fuels your energy, or calms you. It’s never too late to break out in dance, even if it’s a dance party for one!

Practice mindfulness and focus on direct sensations

Focus on your surroundings: what do you see, what do you feel, what do you hear?

Lastly connect with something that brings you a sense of grounding and purpose, this can be a spiritual belief, or connecting with nature.

Other community resources

If your feelings are leading to a sense of hopelessness, or lack of motivation there are community resources that are easy to engage with that can provide mental health support:

The Mental Health Foundation

Mental Health Copilots

Gratitude to Cherise Gardipee, Registered Psychologist for her invaluable insight and advice on how we can all support ourselves with the anxiety and stress of the holidays, amplified by COVID this year. We hope these tips and resources are helpful to you!

For more information on how we can support you with the stress, please book in for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Image: www.giselledekel.com IG @giselle_dekel

Yoga and Male Fertility

A conversation came up in the clinic recently regarding male factor infertility and what type of exercises can be beneficial to sperm health. Most people are probably familiar with the idea that regular exercise is good for overall health and stress management, but what types of exercises are optimal for sperm health? 

Immediately I began to think about how a regular yoga practice can contribute to overall health and aid in improving sperm parameters. It seems logical from my own point of view. The integration of movement and breathing can help calm the nervous system and decrease stress. Depending on the type of yoga you are doing, you can really get the heart pumping and increase the circulation through the entire body. For anyone who has experienced a vinyasa flow class, I am sure you will know what I am talking about. 

Research on Yoga & Male Reproductive Health

But what does the research say? Is yoga beneficial to incorporate into your wellness routine to help optimize male fertility? 

A 2013 review of studies and literature suggests that practicing yoga has an effect on the neuroendocrine axis and can have beneficial changes in the practitioners. Stress and anxiety can have an impact on fertility and yoga is very effective at reducing stress. Stress hormones like cortisol can impair reproductive function, so it is important to manage mental and physical stress that a person is exposed to. 

Included in the same review was information about a study done in 2000 where fertility patients practiced relaxation techniques such as yoga and 55% of these patients had a baby within 1 year. This review suggests that yoga has an effect to decrease the stress response within the body and improve circulation. 

“it is fair to conclude that yoga can be beneficial in the prevention of infertility and improve male reproductive health.” 

Overall the researchers suggest that according to the review of the literature, “it is fair to conclude that yoga can be beneficial in the prevention of infertility and improve male reproductive health.” 

So if you are looking for ways to decrease stress as well as giving your fertility a boost, you may want to opt for that yoga class your partner has been wanting you to try! 

If you have any questions about how we can support your reproductive health with a treatment plan including yoga, acupuncture and lifestyle modifications, contact us today for a free 15-minute online consultation.

References

PMID: 23930026

Image: IG @yoga_inder_india

Sperm: Canary In The Coalmine

It is Movember again, and we want to honour the health struggles that men come up against. Research shows there is a worldwide gender health gap. Men tend to be in worse health than women. Education and prevention strategies are vital in tackling men’s health issues including prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health/suicide prevention.  

Sperm Are A Biomarker For Overall Wellness

Because we specialize in reproductive health, we come across all kinds of interesting data. A widely cited meta-analysis published in the Journal of Human Reproduction in 2017 tells us that out of 43,000 men from North America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia – sperm counts per millilitre of semen declined more than 50% between 1973 and 2011.

Total sperm counts decreased by almost 60%. So men are producing less semen and that semen has fewer sperm cells in it and the rate of decline is steady.

Research also tells us that sperm are a biomarker for overall health, so this is kind of a wake up call, canary in the coal mine situation.

There’s all kinds of debate as to what the cause is. Surely the cause is multi-factorial: more toxins in the environment, poor diet, lack of exercise, etc…  

The good news is, studies also tell us that there are things men can do to be proactive and improve their overall health and reproductive health.

3 Ways to Improve Sperm Health And Longevity:

1. Nourishment

Eat mindfully. It’s not just about what you eat, but how you eat. Be aware of what you are eating and where it comes from. Slow down and enjoy it.

Studies show that when you slow down and pay attention to the flavours and textures of your food and take the time to chew, you will enjoy your meals more, feel more satiated and be more in touch with when you are full, which prevents over-eating.

Your body will be able to digest and assimilate nutrients more efficiently and you will cultivate a healthy positive relationship with food, based on enjoyment rather than restriction.

2. Acupuncture

Acupuncture increases blood flow, decreases inflammation and stress and regulates hormones. It has been shown to effectively treat depression, anxiety,  and improve sperm health.

3. Mindful Meditation

Mindfulness meditation has been shown to down-regulate pro-inflammatory genes. It decreases stress and cortisol and even boosts immunity. It has also been shown to help couples going through fertility treatments.

These are just a few things you can do to support sperm health and overall health. Book in for a free 15 minute phone consult if you have any questions about how we can help you!

Visit our Events Page to learn about our upcoming Mindfulness Programs.

References

3 Tips for Healthy Sperm

Hi there, we’re your sperm. We heard you are wanting to start a family. We can’t wait to help you out! We swam it over and have decided to give you some of our pro tips.

Did you know sperm counts have declined by 53% since the 70’s?! (1) We know?! Think how we must feel! Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help us out:

1. Temperature For Healthy Sperm

We noticed you have really been enjoying those nightly soaks in the hot tub. We know it’s been cold out, but please stop cooking us!

Several studies support evidence that testes exposed to high temperatures reduce both sperm output and quality (2). Thankfully, this damage can be reversed, but it may take upwards of 3 to 6 months, since it takes 64 days to generate new sperm (3). So please, keep us in mind the next time you are tempted to go for a hot soak when trying to conceive.

2. Timing for Conception

Now that you know not to over-cook us, we are going to talk about timing. How frequently should you be ejaculating when trying to create a healthy pregnancy? You don’t need to save your pennies; in this case we want you to spend! Fresh is best, thus using us more regularly, specifically every other day around your partner’s fertile window is best (4).

Research shows the 6-day period ending on day of ovulation is best (4).  So please use us, don’t store us up, we want the fresh sperm to have the highest chance for successful fertilization!

3. Nutrition for Sperm Health

Speaking of fresh, what can we say, we love our fresh nuts! Walnuts to be specific. Not only are they delicious, they are chalked full of omega-3’s, vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fat (5). They seem to give us more vitality (6) and who doesn’t want healthier and better moving sperm? So please feed our cravings, don’t be shy. Roughly 2 handfuls a day are recommended.

We hope you enjoyed our Tips for Healthy Sperm! If you have any fertility questions, we love hearing from you! Our experts at WFH are always here to support and answer questions.

Book in for a free 15-minute phone q&a today!

References

  1. PMID: 28981654
  2. PMID: 9756281
  3. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4939-2140-9_5
  4. PMID: 7477165
  5. PMID: 25747270
  6. https://doi.org/10.1095/biolreprod.112.101634

Photo: Unsplash

Does Our DNA Determine Our Destiny?

It’s not uncommon to have some type of illness in our genetic lineage that is attributed to genetics: cancer, Alzheimers, heart illness, etc.  Many of us have learned that these are generally hereditary conditions, which can leave us with a feeling of inevitability.  However, this may not be completely true.

A common misperception of the body is that our physical fate is destined by our genetic makeup.  ‘If I have the gene for cancer, I will most likely end up with cancer.’  Or, ‘if I have the DNA for Alzheimers, the future of my poor mind is indubitably doomed’.  However, while our DNA does hold the blueprint for our entire genetic makeup, the expression of our DNA is most certainly not written in stone.  

Epigenetics

Scientists have recently discovered that while the double helix strands of DNA generally remain the same, there are small organic molecules that chemically attach themselves to the outsides of the strands that can alter the expression of the DNA molecules.  These have the potential to turn a predisposition on or off.  This mind-blowing science is referred to as epigenetics.  

For example, there have been many cases of identical twins, with identical DNA makeup who have the gene for a disease.  Yet, one of these genetically identical twins will manifest with the disease, and the other one will not.  Wherein lies the difference?  It is all about our body responding to the choices we have made and the environment that we live in. 

Some of you might be thinking, “Uh Oh!!!”.  Like me, perhaps you have made choices in your life that have made your outlook a little bit detrimental?  Fortunately there is still hope for us.  

Telomeres: Chronological Age vs. Biological Age

The human body has two different ages: a chronological age and a biological age. The chronological age refers to the actual time a human has been alive, while the biological age refers to how old that human’s body seems. 

Experts consider telomeres — the protective ends of chromosomes — when calculating this age difference. Telomeres work to keep chromosome ends from deteriorating or fusing with a neighbouring chromosome, affecting how quickly cells age and die.  So, basically, the older you grow, the shorter your telomeres are.  

In a broad study, a hundred random people guessed the age of test subjects.  To a fault they guessed the biological age, rather than the chronological age.  This means that they guessed closer to the participant’s telomeres, rather than how old they actually are.  

Five years down the road, they took pictures of the same people, and once again the public guessed the biological age of telomere lengths.  Some of the participants had engaged in healthy lifestyles while in the 5-year waiting period.  The most exciting part of this study is that the public’s estimates of the participants’ ages reflected the positive effect that a healthy lifestyle had on the telomere length! 

Through the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle, through both a healthy diet and regular exercise, we can maintain our telomere lengths and prolong the advent of serious illness.  One study suggested that mindfulness-based stress reduction can even lengthen the telomere lengths. (1) Telomere shortening, or biological aging, is preventable, and even perhaps reversible.  

This is just one example of an epigenetic mechanism.  Ultimately, epigenetic processes occur at the interface between our environment and our genes.  By cultivating a healthy environment outside of ourselves and within our bodies, we can impact the expression of our DNA.  This is why working with lifestyle advice to cultivate a deeply healthy environment within yourself is key in long term preventative health care.

The Epigenetics of Chinese Medicine

The concept of epigenetics is mirrored by some of the theories in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  In TCM we have the concept of Pre-Heaven endowment and the Post-Heaven compilation of resources.  

The Pre-Heaven Essence is inherited from the mother and father at the moment of conception, and determines each person’s basic constitutional make-up, strength, vitality and individual uniqueness.  It is likened to a person’s genetic blueprint.

The Post-Heaven Essence is refined and extracted from the food and drink consumed after birth, the air we breath, the way we process emotions and how we enjoy our lives.  It is the summation of how our lifestyle impacts our body’s internal environment.  This is similar to epigenetics.

We perceive that the health of the body is controlled by the interface between our Pre-Heaven endowment, and this Post-Heaven compilation of resources.  Pathology arises surreptitiously from an imbalance between these two aspects of our body and manifests uniquely in each individual person, as no two humans have the same genetic makeup or set of lifestyle circumstances.

Through the intricate diagnosing practice of TCM, we can see the general direction that each person is heading.  The constellation of subtle signs and symptoms that present in each body, conglomerate into various patterns through which we can perceive the relative health of the Post and Pre-Heaven Essence.  (This is why our forms are so long and comprehensive – every detail matters!)  Following the recommendations from a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner are an excellent way to have a preventative and deep rooted relationship with your health.

I invite you to break free from any preconceived notion that you are at the whim of your genetic fate, and grasp on to the fact that we do have a choice in this matter.  Every day, when you choose to get out of your chair and exercise you are choosing to engage with the health of your DNA.  Every day, when you choose to eat real whole foods instead of processed alternatives, you are choosing to engage in your destiny as a healthy human being.   It is possible to steer our bodies into old age with our health intact.  

For more information on how our preventative medicine can support your DNA health, book in for a free 15-minute consult.

References:

(1) PMID: 24486564

photo: www.carlacascales.com
IG @carla_cascales_alimbau

Gratitude Is Medicine

Thanksgiving is looking a little bit different this year, amid these extraordinary times. Our Chief Medical Officer of Health is recommending that we take care to protect ourselves and to keep our gatherings small this weekend. Our neighbouring BC’s provincial health officer is encouraging people “to make our celebration large in thanks, large in gratitude, but small in size”

Gratitude knows no boundaries and although I am personally missing the big turkey dinner gathering this year, it feels like a small and temporary sacrifice to keep my cohort small this weekend – an offering of kindness and generosity to our vulnerable community members and frontline workers. We have so much to be grateful for, and to have one another’s backs is an act of love. Although we don’t need research to prove it, studies do show that practicing gratitude is good for us.

‘The Telomere Effect’, written by a molecular biologist and a psychiatric researcher, is a collaboration explaining how stress reduction and promotion of mental health can positively affect the length of telomeres and improve health and longevity.

Telomeres are protective cap-like structures at the end of each of our chromosomes. They play a critical role in cellular health, as the DNA in telomeres protects against chromosomal damage. Being in good health is associated with having longer telomeres, whereas shorter ones are associated with having health issues. Studies indicate that our positive habits and social environment can encourage telomere growth.

The book explains that in earlier tribal days, we lived in groups and each group had a delegation of trusted members who would stay up on watch during the night. The community relied on them to stay awake and alert to dangers like fires, predators or enemies. Belonging to a group and having trustworthy night-watch people was critical for survival and a healthy sense of safety.

Today, our brains are still wired to need the security of someone who ‘has our back’. Social connection is a basic human need and studies reveal that having good friends is like having good night watchmen, and even protects our telomeres.

Studies also confirm that practicing gratitude and keeping a gratitude journal increases happiness and resilience as well as physical health and longevity.

Happy thanksgiving friends, may we all take refuge in knowing that we’re all in one another’s hearts and remember to feel deeply grateful for the moments that we share near and far.

For more information on how we can support you on your path toward well-being please feel free to book a free 15-minute phone consult.

photo: www.fieldandsea.com @fieldandsea

References:

Detox Your Home and Body

We are typically exposed to many chemicals and toxins on a daily basis.  However, please don’t fret because there are simple things you can do to reduce your exposure, starting today! 

Why is it important to reduce our exposure to environmental toxin exposure? Well, because chemicals and toxins are endocrine disruptors.  

Basically, this means that they negatively impact our hormones, which are not only responsible for reproduction, but also for mood, brain function and metabolism. 

While toxins and chemicals disrupt hormones, making a mess of the menstrual cycle and impacting a woman’s ability to achieve and maintain a pregnancy, they can also reduce sperm production and quality. So this isn’t just a female reproductive hormone issue, it’s a male reproductive issue too. As we all know, it takes two to make a baby. 

So what can we do? 

We can make minor and simple changes to the water we drink, the food we eat, and the products we use regularly. 

Water consumption:

We all know that water is important to our body’s wellbeing, so it’s important to drink 1.5-2L/day to stay properly hydrated. For fertility purposes, this is especially important because proper hydration helps with liver and kidney function, which helps the body metabolize hormones and rid the body of toxins. 

Because heavy metals can be found in many water sources, I can’t stress enough how important it is to ensure yours is clean, reliable and/or filtered.

If you are unsure about your water source, please look into ways that you can have your water tested and explore different filtration systems.  

How you store your water is also important and it is best if your drinking water is stored in a glass, metal, or BPA free bottle. These bottles won’t break down and leach harmful chemicals or microplastics into your water, like commercially bought water bottles do.  

However, if you are drinking commercially produced water that is sold in plastic bottles, please please refrain from storing these in your vehicles or warm areas. As plastic heats up, it breaks down and leaches into your drinking water. 

Foods 

I recommend a well balanced diet, especially including leafy greens, vegetables and a small amount of fruit/berries. 

Certain nutrients, like B vitamins can actually bind to toxins to pull them out of our system. Foods high in B vitamins include: whole grains, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, and meat products.

If you are trying to conceive it is also very important to take your prenatal supplements, which also have B vitamins in them.  

Another nutrient that helps to detoxify is glutathione. The liver needs glutathione to assist in hormone metabolism and foods high in glutathione include: avocados, spinach and walnuts. 

Unfortunately, there can be a downside to eating these nutritionally dense foods. Despite containing essential nutrients, they can also be exposed to pesticides and herbicides, which are terrible for the reproductive hormones. 

Therefore I advocate eating organic foods when possible and especially those that are classified by the Environmental Working Group  as the dirty dozen. These are foods that carry a heavier toxic load from exposure to pesticides and herbicides:

  1. strawberries
  2. spinach
  3. kale   
  4. nectarines
  5. apples
  6. grapes
  7. peaches
  8. cherries
  9. pear
  10. tomatoes
  11. celery
  12. potatoes 

However, if it’s difficult for you to access organic produce from the ‘dirty dozen’ list, you can do a simple wash. Although this wash doesn’t reduce all of the chemicals, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (2), it does effectively remove a fair amount of the pesticides. 

Produce Detox Wash

What you need

Kitchen sink/wash basin 
3L water
1 Ounce Baking Soda

How

Fill up the sink/basin with 3 litres of water, dissolve 1 ounce of baking soda in the water and then place your produce into this bath for 12-15min. 

Time saving hack

This might seem like one extra thing that you have to do but here’s what works for me:

I make the produce bath as soon as I get home from the store and let my produce soak as I’m putting the rest of my groceries away. By the time I’m finished putting everything away, my produce is good to go!

It feels like minimal effort and making the most of multitasking!

Personal products

A lot of the products we use daily can contain high amounts of endocrine disruptors such as parabens and phthalates. Typically these are in our lotions, makeup, shampoo, and personal care products. 

I’m not expecting you to empty your cupboards and closets and throw everything out, that’s definitely not feasible or economical! However, I do encourage you to replace them with healthier versions as you run out.

I’m not here to promote one brand over another, but you can reference the environmental working group’s website.

Another handy tool is the Think Dirty App. This is an app that you can download onto your smartphone to scan products for their toxic rating.

Household Cleaners and Products 

Household cleaners carry a lot of chemicals in them. In fact, products that smell especially “good or clean” typically contain phthalates. 

One way to decrease the use of these types of products is by switching over to a vinegar and water solution.

How to make your own cleaning solution: 

  • 4 tablespoons of vinegar mixed with
  • 3 cups of water 
  • 5-6 drops of your favourite essential oil ( if you want some delicious air freshening properties )

**Please Note: Vinegar and water cleaning solution hasn’t been shown to disinfect against the COVID19 virus. Please continue to use disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide or bleach cleaners for high traffic/ touch areas.

This vinegar and water solution is for dusting and cleaning areas that don’t get a lot of traffic or hands-on use. 

Air freshening spray

To make a clean and easy room spray, all you need is:

  • A spray bottle
  • Water 
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • 5-10 drops of your favourite essential oil 

Fill the bottle mostly with water (not fully, leave some room) add the baking soda and essential oil and you are done! 

Air freshener vacuum (canister vacuums only) 

If you want to freshen the air in your home as you vacuum, you can try putting 10 drops of your favourite essential oil onto two cotton balls each and placing them into the canister portion of your vacuum cleaner. This will then disperse the essential oil while you vacuum. 

My favourite essential oil is lavender, because it has a calming effect. 

I hope that the transition into cleaner living is a smooth and burden free process for you.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us !

Acupuncture For Stress & Sperm

We all know what a negative toll stress can take on our bodies. But what about when we add a little more stress to the scenario?

For all my TTCvers, that fertility window isn’t always the ‘Let’s jump each other’s bones’ time. It sometimes feels scheduled and can be a stressful time period for both partners. Here’s where Acupuncture comes in.

This is a great time for not only women to come in for acupuncture, but it’s also a great time for men to have treatments as well!

Not only does acupuncture make you feel like putty, it stimulates that all-important parasympathetic nervous system. It helps to reduce cortisol, and improves overall blood flow to the reproductive organs in both men and women. In men, acupuncture helps give sperm an extra boost too.

A 2005 study tested men’s sperm after receiving acupuncture 2x a week for 5 weeks, and guess what?! They found an improvement in sperm quality (1)! Great news for all those men who are not only feeling stressed during that window, but who may also need some extra sperm boost.

If there is an underlying male factor issue or your man is facing high stress levels, acupuncture can help him out!

For more information on how we can support your fertility, contact us for a free 15-minute phone consult or schedule an initial consult today.

References:
1. Pei J et al 2005. Quantitative evaluation of spermatozoa ultrastructure after acupuncture treatment for idiopathic male infertility. Fertility and Sterility 141-7.

WFH on Global TV

We are floored by Edmonton’s response to the Mindful Eating for Men Cooking Class that we will be co-hosting on Dec. 1st with Chef Blair Lebsack from Edmonton’s popular farm-to-table restaurant RGE RD.

Check out yesterday’s conversation with Kent Morrison from Global:

https://globalnews.ca/video/6215189/mindful-eating-for-mens-health

First of all, men’s health is a topic dear to us. Because we specialize in reproductive health, we come across a lot of interesting data. Canadian men die on average 6 years earlier than women, and research shows that sperm counts have decreased by 50-60% in the last 40 years. This rate of decline is steady and research also tells us that sperm are a biomarker of overall health.

So because none of us women at Whole Family Health can grow a moustache, we wanted to create our own ‘Mo’ment’ in honour of Movember. We also know the way to any person’s heart is through their belly – so we teamed up with RGE RD and our Mindful Eating for Men Cooking Class was born!

It has been a delight teaming up with RGE RD to talk about and to plan this event. Together, we have sparked so many delicious conversations about bringing awareness into our relationship with food and cultivating connection with our food.

We’ve been exploring the benefits of knowing and appreciating where our food comes from, what has gone into bringing it onto our plates, how to intentionally prepare it and then how to really really savour it.

So although we love looking at the research to inform us WHAT foods to incorporate and eliminate for disease prevention, we also want to empower everyone to think about WHY we’re eating, HOW we’re eating, WHEN we’re eating and WHERE we’re eating.

Basically this all translates into enjoying our food, rather then restricting our food.

Eating mindfully also involves savouring our food and being present with it through all of our senses – textures, flavours, smells, visual beauty and even sounds! Research shows that avoiding distraction increases the body’s absorptive capacity.

We have had the delight and honour of engaging with numerous media outlets on the topic this month.

Check out yesterday’s conversation with Kent Morrison from Global:

https://globalnews.ca/video/6215189/mindful-eating-for-mens-health

The Skinny on Fats

There’s been a huge controversy about fats over the years. Do you remember the 20th century low-fat boom, which was later debunked?

With all the polarized ideas about health out there, it’s hard to know exactly what is best and it’s increasingly difficult to navigate what “healthy” means.

When it comes right down to it, on a scientific level we can deduce that there are certain vitamins and minerals that are essential for healthy living.

Among these nutrients are indeed fats and oils. Fats are needed for the assimilation of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. 

In colder climates fats can be beneficial for supplying deep, internal heat. Fats help to insulate and protect the internal organs while holding them in place.

From a Chinese Medicine standpoint, fats support our yin energy- providing comfort, security, and a slowing and grounding influence.  Much like our winter energies that drive us to seek inner warmth, to look inwards, and to store our physical energy.

Fats not only build tissues, they also enhance fluid metabolism, and send nutrients into the nervous system.  The predominantly yin aspect of fat is then converted into substantive yang, by providing the body with physical energy and warmth. This is why fats are highly valued in the human diet, we all need to feel secure & comforted. We also like to have ample amounts of energy and warmth while slowing down. 

Fats: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

There are many different kinds of fat out there and not all fats are the same. In fact not all fats are good for us. Fats can be broken down into two categories: Saturated and Unsaturated.

What Are Saturated Fats

Saturated fats primarily come from animal products such as cheese, butter, eggs, and meat products. These fats are solid at room temperature and generally have a high smoke point. They have the fewest rancidity problems of all the oils, making them beneficial for cooking.

What Are Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated Fats come from plants, animals, nuts and seeds. These oils are liquid at room temperature and can be further broken down into Monounsaturated fats, and Polyunsaturated fats.

What are Trans-Fats

Trans Fatty Acids are found in margarine, shortening, and vegetable oils. The process of hydrogenation to create these substances is particularly harmful as it creates an immune-damaging synthetic fat that elevates blood cholesterol. The FDA actually banned trans-fats in 2018, but they can still be found in some products manufactured before this date.

Fats and Fertility

The most important fats to focus on for fertility are polyunsaturated fats.  These fats contain “essential” fatty acids (EFA’s) that the body is unable to make on its own and so must obtain from our diet.

These essential fatty acids include Omega-3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA work to mutually support each other and play a vital role in our health and well being. 

EPA helps to reduce blood viscosity & clotting, lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation and prevents ischemia (ie. strokes and heart attacks).

DHA plays other vital roles in the body like supporting brain development and growth.

Omega 3’s have also been known to improve the health of our skin, nails and hair. It is also found in sperm.

EFA’s are also converted into prostaglandins, which play a key role in the function and regulation of every organ and cell in the body.

EFA/DHA and Sperm

Dietary effects on fertility are continually being researched and studied. Many studies in recent years have tested the theory of EFA’s and its effect on male fertility.

Studies show a strong correlation between low DHA concentration and low sperm quality.

Healthy sperm is dependent on the amount of EFA’s present in the diet. Fatty acid consumption has actually been found to change the fatty acid composition of sperm and semen quality. An increase in sperm membrane DHA in humans has been recorded and has been associated with higher sperm motility, normal morphology, as well as increased concentration of sperm.

Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish with the highest amount of EPA/DHA are  salmon, mackerel and sardine. Other great sources are herring, anchovy, rainbow trout, and tuna. Capsule forms of fish oils can also be found at most supplement stores and here at Whole Family Health.

Recommended dosages of fish products: Seven to ten ounces of fish per week is sufficient or 500-1000mg of omega-3 fish oil in supplement form.

Flaxseed oil is another great plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to find sources that have not been processed with exposure to light or oxygen.

Recommended dosages of flax products: four tablespoons of ground flaxseed (flaxmeal) freshly ground or bought in a tightly sealed container and refrigerated, with meals once daily; or one tablespoon of fresh flax oil taken with meals once daily.

Want to learn more about healthy eating for men’s health? Join us December 1st for a Mindful Eating for Men Cooking Class at Rge Rd. All proceeds go to Movember.

Check out our Events page or call 587-200-5589 to register, space is limited!

References:

Diet and men’s fertility: does diet affect sperm quality?Nassan, Feiby L. et al.
Fertility and Sterility, Volume 110, Issue 4, 570 – 577

Dietary Fatty Acids Affect Semen Quality: a Review V. Esmaeili-A. Shahverdi-M. Moghadasian-A. Alizadeh – Andrology – 2015

Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School: The truth about fats: the good, the bad and the in-between.Feb 2015

Pitchford, Paul.  Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. 3rd ed., North Atlantic Books, 2002.

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