TIS THE SEASON TO BE HEALTHY…

By Dr. LIsa Maddalena, ND

The holiday season can be a hectic time, full of indulgences, leaving you feeling drained and uncomfortable when it is all over. A pre-holiday detox can be a great way to support your body and mind, boost your immune system and re-set your metabolism, so that you can stay healthy through the season. I recommend that you do this for 10 days or longer. For added benefit, after your 10 cleanse days, adopt some of these changes into your lifestyle (between parties and family events) in order to maintain optimal resilience.

The ritual of a pre-holiday detox is a great way to bring the spirit of playfulness and gratitude back into your life, enlist a friend or two to take the journey with you! This is a great opportunity to spiritually expand and mindfully start training yourself to start looking for the gift in the moment. Like anything worth practicing, it can be difficult at first. Overtime, it becomes simple and easy adopting new lifestyle choices. Let the purification process cleanse negative feelings and open up clear paths in the level of feeling and deeper awareness. Above all be kind to yourself!

The Cleanse:

Start each day with a tall glass of water with lemon. Cut your lemon in quarters and let it infuse over night, this will increase the essential oil content, providing more of the medicinal properties of the fruit. Please note that lemon can be hard on your enamel therefore protect your teeth by drinking from a straw. If you can’t drink from a straw use 1 tbsp of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar in your water as an alternative. 

Ditch the coffee! Caffeine can increase adrenaline resulting in energy, and blood sugar ups and downs during the day. Consider dandelion tea instead. Dandelion increases digestive juices, and supports liver detoxification pathways. If you have trouble avoiding coffee completely, limit yourself to 1 coffee in the morning, and try an Americano since it is lower in caffeine.

Forget the alcohol. Alcohol is high in sugar, promotes leaky gut, inflames your liver, and impairs sleep quality. 

Avoid Sugar and white grains. Sugar promotes cravings and impairs the immune system. 

Eliminate Gluten and Dairy- these promote inflammation, leaky gut, and mucus formation. 

Don’t forget your essential fats. Our Luma Glow contains an optimal balance, and appropriate dose, of all of the essential fats (not just fish oil). It also contains 1000IU of Vit D. These are all important for decreasing inflammation and healing the gut.

Boost your energy and antioxidant level with a mid day scoop of “Reds and Greens” powder. This powder is equal to 3-4 servings of vegetables per scoop. In addition, it contains green tea extract, milk thistle and spirulina which promote liver detoxification, decrease inflammation, and support weight loss.

Add extra fibre. Fibre binds fats and toxins and eliminates. In addition, it keeps you full and satisfied. Consider things like ground flax, chia or hemp seeds. 

Unplug. Try turning off your cellphone, TV and computer 2 hours before bed, in order to truly relax your mind and promote healthy melatonin production. 

Get moving. During a cleanse, intense exercise is not recommended, but sweating is and important aspect of cleansing. Activities such as Yoga or a brisk walk every day can be beneficial to your body and your mind. 

Breathe. The lungs are an organ of elimination too. Every time you breathe deeply you take in more oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide. This supports your brain, improves your energy and calms the mind. 

Recommended supplements can be found at Aegis MD. 

In order to get optimal results, a detox program can be tailored to your specific needs. Book an appointment today in order to take your detox program to the next level.

A prescription for osteoporosis… more than just calcium

Although there certainly is a genetic component to osteoporosis, a good diet and exercise program are two powerful weapons to combat bone loss and fractures as you age. Let us take you on a brief science lesson in how bone metabolism works so that you will have a better understanding of what’s going on in your body.  

There are two main bone cells, osteoblasts (builds the bone up) and osteoclasts (breaks the bone down), both cells are necessary for healthy bones when they are in balance, because our bones are continuously remodelling themselves.  The problem occurs when the balance is disrupted and the osteoblasts under-perform and the osteoclasts over-perform, consequently resulting in a loss of bone.  This is where diet and exercise can really shine. Any time our bodies experience too much inflammation, oxidation, or glycation (mainly due to stress, processed food, excess sugar, over-exercising, and environmental toxins), it sets off a chain of events that culminates with too much activity of the osteoclasts (bad guys) and not enough activity of the osteoblasts (good guys).  So what are we to do?  The first thing would be to remove the substances creating the inflammation, oxidation, and glycation (as mentioned above). The second thing is to add in foods and supplements that will tame the inflammation, oxidation, and glycation.  Here are the top lifestyle habits to incorporate:

Diet and Exercise:

Supplements:

  • Multivitamin-mineral
  • Calcium (1000 - 1200 mg including what you obtain from your diet)
  • Magnesium (500 mg)
  • Vitamin D3 (1,000 – 2,000 IU or 15 min of sun exposure on most of your body)
  • Vitamin K2 – MK7 (90 – 150 mcg)
  • Fish oil (1 - 3 gm EPA/DHA)

Medication prescribed by your doctor may also be necessary and can work along side the recommendations made in this article.

The epigenetic impact of laughter

Everyone has heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine” and most people would agree that they feel better after hearing or seeing something funny.  This observation has intrigued researchers to actually test the hypothesis in a laboratory setting and what they found was yet another instance in which one positive thing leads to another.  The study published in Biomedical Research was interested in seeing how laughter could affect blood sugar levels and gene expression in type 2 diabetics.  After having lunch, the participants were required to watch either a comedic video or an information session on type 2 diabetes.  Following the funny video, seven of the ten participants had a decrease in their blood sugars levels by an average of 37.4 mg/dL. 

Even more interesting, was that participants had 39 genes upregulated, many of which are key players in boosting the immune response.  Although we don’t typically think about the things we see or hear as potential regulators of gene expression, and considering that our health and longevity depends largely on how our genes are expressed, it really sheds light on the importance of being able to enjoy the lighter side of life more often.  One of the easiest ways to live out this principle is to take a 5 min break a couple times a day and read a joke, YouTube something funny, or simply spent time with people that make you laugh.

Does your exercise program contain interval training?

If you are looking for an exercise program that requires minimal time with maximum gain (both in terms of weight loss and improved fitness), then keep reading because this strategy is for you.  But we should warn you, there is one catch, you have to be willing to work hard! The best way to accomplish this is to do short high intensity intervals separated by relatively short recovery periods.  This type of training increases your maximal aerobic capacity (Vo2max), while also boosting your growth hormone and testosterone (don’t worry women - testosterone is equally important for you, just in lesser amounts than what men need).  This type of training also burns way more calories in a shorter period of time than more conventional cardio.  Although, running or cycling is a simple way to do this training, it’s not the only way.  Any exercise routine that has you alternating between very intense moments (think… hard breathing, fatiguing muscles, and inability to talk) with short active rest periods will do the trick.  See below for examples.   

Super simple plan for running, cycling, swimming, and rowing:

5 – 10 min easy warm up

10 x (30 seconds hard + 30 seconds easy)

5 min easy cool down

Yes it really is that easy… 20 - 25 min and you are done!  You can play around with the length of the intervals.  For example, you may need a full minute recovery when you start.  Or you may want to increase the length of the hard part to 1 minute to challenge yourself more.  Variety is important to keep your body adapting and helps make things more fun.  Things such as a high intensity aerobics class or a fast paced soccer game would also fit the description.

Dr. Plaskos's Morning Routine: Question and Answer Period - Part 2

How do your prioritize your health and fitness with such a busy schedule?

I have a mental checklist that I go over every morning when I wake up. I lie in bed for a few minutes and visualize going through my day… going to the gym, preparing healthy meals, taking time to de-stress, what my evening will involve, etc. If I take the time to visualize and plan this for a few minutes then my day is much more productive because I am focusing on purposeful action rather than spontaneous reaction. 

What does your morning routine involve?

After visualizing the checklist, I get up and prepare a morning drink to fuel me for the gym. I mix liposomal vitamin C with a greens and reds powder, and adaptogens. This provides me with a concentrated shot of nutrients, antioxidants, and herbs to nourish my body and especially my adrenal glands to ensure my energy levels stay balanced. I then mix my smoothie and head off to the gym or the outdoors for a workout. I often will have an Americano or green tea as well as in the morning.   

Do your workouts and habits change during stressful periods?

I am much smarter about listening to my body now than I have in the past. When I feel tired I back off the intensity. In general my workout time has decreased as I have found that 40 - 60 min of exercise per day is what works best for me. But I don’t hesitate to take a couple days off if I need to. Its important to find a balance of being tough on yourself to commit to a workout routine even at times when you don't feel like doing it, but not to be so tough that you add additional stress to your life by working out to hard when your body is run-down. 

* The drink that Dr. Plaskos spoke of is a prototype of Aegis’s next product coming out this fall    

Dr. Plaskos's Rituals: Question and Answer Period

1. What is your go to food/meal for weight loss?

There is no perfect diet food!. It has always been about looking at what stage of life I am in and what my body needs based on the amount of exercise I am doing. With that said, I find eggs (ideally free-range) to be a very balanced and nourishing food due to the lecithin/choline (for great skin and fat metabolism) and sulfer (for healthy detoxification). Eggs pair great with veggies for a quick and healthy meal.

2. What is your favourite exercise to improve fitness?

I always think of exercise in terms of having a balance of strength, flexibility, and endurance. I use the Pilates Reformer as it accomplishes all of these in one session. It also creates awareness to focus on proper breathing. I also incorporate running and yoga each week. The key is to balance sympathetic activity (high intensity exercise) with parasympathetic activity (low intensity exercise). Many people think harder is always better, but we have to include easy exercise to prevent adrenal exhaustion. Weight loss/maintenance occurs much easier when this is balance. 

3. What are your top 3 recommendations to improve skin health?

A. Be smart in the sun and always use sunscreen. 

B. Nourish from within. Your skin tells a story of the lifestyle choices you have made. Skin can be enhanced through proper nutrition, supplementation, and stress reduction. 

C. Moisturize daily. Key ingredients to look for are ceramides, peptides, vitamin C, vitamin E, and retinol. All of which have clinical studies supporting their benefit.

4. What is your number one way to de-stress?

Spending times with your loved ones. Never underestimate the power of going for a walk with a friend. 

Connect with people on a deeper level for optimal health

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This article demonstrates the amazing complexity of how we function and how everything in life is interconnected.  Typically things that benefit (or hinder) one area of our lives will have a ripple effect into other areas.  The connection between loneliness and poor sleep is not one that we would immediately make, but an article published in the journal Sleep found exactly that.  

In this context, loneliness is defined as the difference between desired and actual social relationships.  Furthermore, loneliness reflects the quality rather than quantity of those relationships.  A sample of 95 adults were assessed for loneliness and sleep patterns and researchers found that as loneliness increased, sleep quality decreased.  Interestingly, sleep duration did not differ between the two groups.  Although sleep duration is important, sleep quality is even more important, because that is when your body is able to repair and rejuvenate itself. 

Why would feelings of loneliness affect our sleep quality?  The researchers of this article suspect that it is routed in our evolutionary past.  In traditional societies, humans required safe social networks for survival.  A lack of a secure social network results in increased feelings of alertness and vulnerability, which likely manifest at night as feeling of restlessness and fragmented sleep.    

Furthermore, another study found that women who report higher levels of loneliness have a significantly greater risk of incident coronary heart disease compared with women who were not lonely.  Researchers suspect that loneliness causes hormonal imbalance that promotes inflammation. One important point highlighted in this study was that neither social network size, nor the frequency of interactions differs between lonely and non-lonely people.  Essentially, this means that you can be around people every day, yet still be very lonely if your relationships never move past “small talk.” 

Although we love to look to the latest nutrition or exercise tip to improve our health, sometimes its as simple as spending time with the ones we love. Other times its more difficult and we have to be open to putting ourselves out there to make new friends. Either way, it is a decision you will never regret.

Establish a daily rhythm that is consistent with the rise and fall of the sun

You are probably thinking right now “Hello, this is the 21st century, how can you possibly expect me to plan my life around the rise and fall of the sun?”  We understand that this may not always be the most practical strategy to implement into your life.  We understand that it’s important to get up early to take the kids to hockey practice, to enjoy a late night out with friends, or even work into the wee hours of the morning to hit a deadline.  This is the world we live in and it’s not going to change anytime soon.  So why would we write and an article on this?  After all, we are trying to make life less complicated for you, not more.  Quite simply we would be doing you a disservice if we left it out. 

There is very strong research implicating the disruption of daily rhythms (known as your circadian rhythm) and the association with reduced mental performance along with higher rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and even cancer.  In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America researchers wanted to test the effects of a sleep and eating schedule that did not fit the traditional 24 hour circadian rhythm.  They essentially put participants on a 28 hr day to disrupt normal eating and sleeping patterns over an eight day period.  This disruption resulted in significantly lower levels of leptin (an appetite suppressing hormone) and increased blood sugar levels despite increased insulin (the beginning stages of diabetes).  In fact 3 of the 8 participants had blood sugar levels in the pre diabetic range following meals.  Although this is an extreme example of circadian disruption, the implications of straying further and further from the circadian rhythm established during our evolutionary past is what’s important.  Although the invention of electricity has provided us with many wonderful things, it has also allowed us to stay up late into the night, while being exposed to artificial light.  In essence this is going against our internal biological clock, which is trying to slow us down and prepare for us for sleep.  Anytime we try and go against thousands of years of evolutionary behaviour in a relatively short period of time (50-100 years) unfortunate consequences are likely to arise. 

So as you have probably guessed, we are not going to ask you to live as a hermit, never go out at night, or keep all lights and other electronic devices turned off once the sun has set.  That would be unpractical in this day and age and would dramatically affect the quality of life we have come to enjoy.  So a balance needs to be struck between honouring your natural circadian rhythm and still having a social life and enjoying modern day technology after dark.  A good rule of thumb would be to try and set a curfew on work and chores, for example 8 pm, in which after that time you will keep the lighting in the house lower and spend time with your family doing calming things such as talking, reading, or watching TV.  Also, try and establish a regular eating routine that begins within an hour or so of waking and concludes a couple hours before bed, roughly 8 pm.   How about going out at night?  Enjoying a social life is an essential part of health and longevity, so if your friends and family are going out, go with them and forget about your circadian rhythm!

Increase nutrient dense and decrease energy dense foods for weight loss/maintenance

Say what?  A couple definitions may be in order before we get started with this one.  Nutrient dense foods refer to foods that contain a high amount of vitamins and minerals in relation to the amount of calories they contain (think vegetables).  Energy dense foods are foods that contain a lot of calories for a given amount of food (think cheeseburger… although healthy foods such as nuts are also energy dense).  The key here is not to eliminate energy dense foods, but rather decrease their amount and choose healthier ones most of the time.

There are a few reasons why consuming vegetables at just about every meal is absolutely critical for losing weight, maintaining weight loss (often more difficult than losing it in the first place), and preventing a host of diseases.  First, vegetables contain relatively few calories, but a lot of fiber, which is quite filling and will prevent hunger.  Second, vegetables contain hefty amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and most likely other protective substances that science has yet to discover.  This second point is very important in terms of weight loss/maintenance.  Researchers theorize that when diets contain more vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals from food (and possibly supplements, but that’s another discussion), the body will be more nourished and consequently you will experience fewer cravings.  Anytime your body is deficient in a certain nutrient, it will seek out more food (because food contains nutrients) in an attempt to get that low vitamin or mineral.  The body doesn’t seem to care if it comes at the expense of additional calories.  Now of course there are other reasons for cravings and I am not saying this will cure all of those late night urges to grab a bag of cookies, but it will absolutely stack the deck in your favour when trying to overcome food cravings and addictions. 

The best evidence that we have to support this are observational studies that show people who eat more nutrient dense foods and less energy dense foods tend to fare better in weight loss/maintenance.  In a study conducted at Penn State University, the women who ate the lowest energy dense diets gained the least amount of weight despite eating the most amount of food (by weight, not calories) so you won’t have to worry about walking around hungry all day, your portions will be equal to or greater than what you are used to.  The best strategy for this is to make half of your lunch and dinner consists of vegetables (not including potatoes, sweet potatoes, or other root vegetables, which are still healthy in moderation, but should be considered more of a carbohydrate food).  At breakfast it’s a little more difficult to consume vegetables, so do your best here, but try adding vegetables to an omelet or throwing spinach in a smoothie. If that doesn't work for you, have some antioxidant rich berries in their place.  An intruiging quote from Buettner’s book The Blue Zones, which studied the longest living cultures around the world, shows just how simple health and longevity can be, while also demonstrating the importance of vegetables.  A 102 year old healthy, active woman named Kamada, had this to say when asked about her secret of longevity, “Eat your vegetables, have a positive outlook, be kind to people, and smile.”  Now it doesn’t get much simpler than that.    

Why Essential Fatty Acids are among the Most Important Nutrients for Acne and Rosacea

Although acne and rosacea are two very different conditions, they share one very important similarity - inflammation. We are familiar with inflammation that occurs when we sprain our ankle (swelling and redness), but inflammation can also signal blood vessels to dilate causing redness as in rosacea; and excess sebum production causing redness and acne. 

Fortunately there are several natural things we can do to lower inflammation. At the top of the list is to consume omega 3 fats (ALA from flax, EPA and DHA from fish) and the lesser know GLA (evening primrose oil). These are termed ‘essential fatty acids’ because our bodies can’t make them and therefore we must get them through our diet. 

Essential fatty acids reduce inflammation by altering our prostaglandin production which makes skin look healthier and more radiant. In contrast, certain fats promote prostaglandin production in the wrong direction, which causes skin breakouts, flareups, and an overall dull complexion. These include trans fat, saturated fats from animals, and highly refined vegetable oils found in many processed and fried foods. 

What does the research say about consuming essential fatty acids for acne? 

In 2014, a study that included 45 participants demonstrated that the consumption of 2 grams of EPA + DHA or 400 mg of GLA significantly reduced acne lesion count over a 10 week period (see graph below).

In another study, researchers examined the effects of EPA from fish oil along with antioxidants and minerals on acne severity. The researchers found that total acne count was decreased by 35% and inflammatory acne lesions were reduced by 67% (see graph below).

What’s really fascinating is that mental and emotional health improved on average by 24% in the participants. This is supported by several studies showing improved mental health in people taking fish oil.   

There are currently no studies on rosacea and essential fatty acids, but it is Dr. Plaskos’s clinical experience that consuming high quality essential fatty acids significantly reduces the redness in rosacea suffers.

If you are currently suffering from acne or rosacea, make an appointment with Dr. Plaskos at Contours MD to discuss your treatment options and start on Aegis Luma Glow - formulated with therapeutic amounts of a broad spectrum of essential fatty acids along with vitamin D and astaxanthin (a strong anti-inflammatory nutrient).

Build a better smoothie

One of the greatest benefits of consuming a smoothie is that in one meal you can infuse your body with several nutrients needed for optimal health. Smoothies also taste good, only require 5 minutes of preparation, and can be taken on the go.

When thinking about what a smoothie should and should not contain, there are few things to consider:

Should contain:

  • Frozen berries 
  • Handful of raw greens (spinach, leafy greens, cucumber, powdered greens supplement)
  • High quality protein powder (pea, rice, hemp), or whey protein or plain yogurt (if dairy is tolerated)
  • Healthy fats (Luma glow, coconut oil, almond butter, chia, hemp seeds)
  • Boosters: cinnamon (insulin sensitivity), glutamine (gut repair), cacao nibs (nitric oxide support), ground flax seeds (healthy estrogen metabolism)
  • Liquid (water, almond milk, or coconut milk)

Should not contain:

  • Excess sugar (honey, agave, fruit juice, sugar laden yogurts)
  • Nut (almond, coconut) milks that contain “carrageenan.” Although more research is needed, it is possible that this food additive can cause gut inflammation, so it is best avoided until further studies.
  • Whey or casien protein if dairy sensitivities exist or if acne or rosacea is present

What does a smoothie amount to for your health and well-being:

  • Water and electrolytes (especially potassium) to hydrate
  • Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds to counter toxins, pollution, and other daily and environmental stressors
  • Several vitamins and minerals to support energy production
  • Protein and fiber to stay full
  • Strong cooling properties for people that experience heat and redness due to inflammation
  • Adding the boosters above provides additional metabolic rejuvenation that is difficult to obtain in ordinary foods

Dr. Plaskos’s morning smoothie looks like this (and tastes amazing!!!):

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  • 1 cup non sweetened vanilla almond milk (Silk brand does not contain carrageenan)
  • 1 handful frozen organic blueberries or strawberries
  • 2 handfuls raw spinach
  • 1 scoop Vega Vanilla Chai Protein (mix of pea, rice, hemp protein)
  • 2 tsp virgin organic coconut oil
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1-2 tsp of cinnamon (start with one tsp and taste)
  • 1 tsp glutamine
  • 2 tsp ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup water and ice cubes
  • 1 tbsp of Luma Glow and other supplements are taken along with the smoothie

The smoothie is blended in a Vitamix (but any high power blender will work). 

Keep a Food or Exercise Journal and Share it With People

Before you put this article into the “never going to happen” category, here us out because what I have to say may surprise you. First of all, we are not going to ask you to walk around with your food journal handing out copies to every person you see, and you won’t have to display it on your desk at work, or send it out in a mass email (although all those things would probably work).  Rather, we are talking about a few very specific ways you can hold yourself accountable.  One of the most important things we have learned over the years as health professionals is that accountability is crucial if you are going to achieve your goals.  

Think about it this way, if you have someone waiting for you at 7 am to go for a run, how much less likely are you to hit the snooze button and stay in bed?  Or if you know that you are going to share your food journal with someone you really respect, what are the chances that you eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s the night before? Just like any other difficult thing in life, changing your diet or maintaining an exercise program is a whole lot easier when you have accountability and support. If you don’t feel ready to be accountable to a friend, family member, or even a professional counsellor, there are other options.  

A very interesting study published in The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity  analyzed the success rates of dieters who used an online system to help them track what they ate, how much they exercised, and allowed them to engage in online support forums.  The people who were the most consistent in recording their food and exercise, while also being active in the online support community had the greatest weight loss. Recording what you eat for a period of time can also be a great tool to increase self-awareness of your food choices.  Paying attention to your hunger levels and portion sizes is a great first step in learning to eat mindfully.

One of the best ways to become consistent with diet and exercise is to find someone that you trust and can be accountable to on a regular basis. Its amazing the effect this one little change can make.

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How a simple 'pre-meal' can help keep you lean

In a perfect world our hunger would always match our calorie needs causing us to stop eating as soon as they are met, thus allowing us to maintain a nice slim waistline.  However, due to the added stress we face today, combined with the endless availability of high calorie foods, we often need to manipulate our diets or get some help from supplements to give our bodies what they need to function optimally.

Consuming a 'Pre-Meal' high in fiber or using fiber supplements before a meal can work wonders to help control your appetite and prevent over-eating.  In an article reported in theJournal of Food Science researchers found that supplementing with 8 gm of fiber mixed with water about 15 min before a meal helped people to eat less calories and feel more satiated than without the fiber.  Eating less calories and feeling fuller is great news for anyone trying to loose weight, but what happens when fiber is supplemented over several weeks rather than just one meal?  In another study, researchers investigated exactly that and found taking 5g of fiber about 10 min before meals for 14 weeks helped overweight and obese people lose an average of 12.5 pounds, while also improving blood sugar and insulin levels.  It should be noted that the people also received diet and exercise recommendation, which should always act as the foundation for any weight loss plan. Fiber supplements should be thought of as a tool rather than a cure for weight loss. And if you are worried about the taste, don’t sweat it, these days fiber supplements can actually taste pretty good so you don’t have to worry about choking it down (capsules are also an option). 

Although fiber supplements can certainly help, when it comes to fiber we can just as easily get it from food. Consuming a 'Pre-Meal' can work similar to supplements. Steam a cup of broccoli or consume broth based soup high in vegetables before your main meal to fill up your stomach. By doing this regularly, you will naturally begin to consume less calories when eating your main meals. 

Exercise your Willpower

Typically when we think about exercise, we think about working our muscles, but what about exercising our willpower?  Can willpower be strengthened in a similar way?  Fortunately, researchers have investigated this question and what they found was quite impressive.  In one study, researchers had participants start an exercise program to see how it would affect their self-control in other areas of their lives.  Sure enough, after two months of starting an exercise program, the participants reported improvements in the following: study habits, financial responsibility, eating habits, attendance to commitments, and even cleanliness around their homes.  They were also able to reduce their smoking, drinking, and caffeine consumption.  And if all these positive changes weren’t enough, they also reported having less stress. 

Although starting an exercise program is great, it’s not the only way to strengthen your willpower.  Anything that requires you to repeatedly and consciously alter your behavior, like forcing yourself to always sit up straight, will eventually improve your willpower.  Many problems we face in our daily lives result from a lack of self-control, so it is great news that a seemingly unrelated activity (i.e., exercise) can strengthen our willpower to help us in other areas of our lives.  Willpower is just like any other muscle… exercise it and it will grow stronger, but use it too much and it will fatigue and result in uncontrolled behavior.  Finding the right balance is key. The takeaway message here is that sometimes in life we have to be tough on ourselves in order to change our behaviours and develop better self-control, which will ultimately result in self-improvement.  Just make sure to start slowly and focus on changing one behavior at a time.

Embrace the Aegis Ritual

In a modern lifestyle of going, going, going, embracing a ritual is a way to press pause to honour, celebrate, grieve and dance with the various moments and stages of our lives. 
It invites us to consciously take time in our day to sit with the sacred and anchor our hearts in gratitude, love, and be open to insight and inspiration as we dare to dream bigger…

The AEGIS Ritual is a fusion of intentional energies, physical action, AEGIS Lumisceutials and Skingestibles. 
Over the course of the next six days we invite you to embrace each step of the Aegis Ritual into your daily rhythm with us.

Day One: Breathe
Conscious breathing is the language of the nervous system balance and control. As well a secret to weight loss, hormonal balance, clarity, creativity and awareness. The AEGIS ritualing of taking a conscious deep breath is about stepping into the moment, the experience of the now, pressing the pause button, reconnecting to not stray too far. It’s about one igniting another and another until your being is illuminated with breath and your cells are dancing and your nervous system at ease. Today take a moment or many moments to pause and simply breathe.

Day Two: Rub Hands
The healing hands are the end point for endless nerves and energy meridians. What is done to the hand can reflect elsewhere – it is a smaller mirror of the body at large. The AEGIS ritualing of rubbing your hands together ignites and wakes up energy and brings you into the experience of now. It sends a signal to energy that you are about to communicate and touch base with your essence. The act of connecting your palms together gestures gratitude and a meeting in the middle, while keeping a neutral mind. Today rub your hands together for 30 seconds or longer to generate some heat (energy) and consciously transfer that heat (energy) to an aspect of yourself that needs some extra attention today.

Day Three: Set Intention
Your intentions are made of energy. Becoming aware of your thought patterns and intentions is having control over your thoughts instead of your thoughts wildly having control over you. Intentions are like your road map through life. By setting intentions that feel good for you and by ritualing those intentions daily you can avoid wandering so far off the map that you feel extremely challenged to get back on track again. The AEGIS ritualing of setting an intention sets precedence for your day for positivity and gratitude. Today set your intentions with positivity and gratitude - shoot for the stars!

Day Four: Apply AEGIS Lumisceuticals/Consume AEGIS Skingestibles
Nourish your skin inside and out. Absorb the intentional nutrient richness of AEGIS Lumisceutials and AEGIS Skingestible-Luma Glow. The AEGIS ritualing of the steps of application enhance the efficacy of the delivery and intention of your choices.

Day Five: Breathe Deeper
Over time (with practice) the breath will deepen as conscious effort is initiated to slow it down. Long slow deep breathing massages the heart and vital organs, volumizes the lungs and brings more oxygen into the body, calms and focuses the mind while soothing the nervous system. The AEGIS ritualing of breathing deeper is a reminder to step forth into your day with your breath to help you navigate in a more calm, focused, harmonious way. Today breathe deeper, expanding out to all that is around you and available to and for you… It is abundant!

Day Six: Love Yourself
Stress, negative self-talk, and the limited/distorted ways we view ourselves and demand of ourselves are often a vicious cycle. When we're stressed out, we may become more self-critical about our relationships, careers, weight and eating habits, and in turn, a preoccupation with all these aspects and facets of our lives brings more stress. The AEGIS ritualing of self-love is intended to promote self-acceptance and love to alleviate stress and ease one’s mind that is preoccupied with negative/limited thought patterns. It is intended for cultivating a positive relationship with yourself and between the mind, body, spirit, and in turn all your relationships. Today LOVE YOURSELF, every aspect of YOU! Affirm: I AM LOVE

Three Foods That Illuminate Your Skin…

When thinking about the relationship of the food we eat and the effect it has on our skin - some people appear to be luckier than others. 

At one end of the spectrum, we have sensitive individuals in which certain foods can cause breakouts, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. Many of these people realize that there is a relationship between food and their skin and therefore have strong motivation to follow a certain diet. 

At the other end of the spectrum, we have non sensitive individuals in which eating a poor diet seems to have little effect on their immediate skin health. These people generally have less motivation to consume or avoid certain foods for their skin because there are no noticeable effects in the short-term. 

However, even if eating fried or highly processed foods doesn't lead to a breakout in a few days,  the longterm effects of skin wrinkling, dull complexion, dark circles, and lack of cellular hydration are every bit as much of a reality for non sensitive individuals as they are for sensitive people. 

As with any change, it is important to ask yourself how important your skin health and appearance is? Is this something you wish to improve and preserve as you age? If so, then it is important to make the proper food choices, prioritize preparation time, and maintain a certain degree of self-disciple to not overindulge in poor food choices. 

Here are three of the best foods to prevent wrinkles and maintain a luminous glow.

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Raw vegetable juice: packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes. Raw vegetable juices are also cleansing to the liver which processes many of the toxins we ingest. A better functioning liver means that less toxins are available to contribute to skin aging and breakouts. Commit to raw juicing for one month and experience the fresh glow that will result.

Dose: 250 - 500 mL per day

Include: cucumber, celery, kale, spinach, parsley, carrot, beet, ginger, lemon (try to avoid apple, pears or there sweet fruits)

Tip: Juice enough for 2 days and store the rest tightly covered in the fridge. Total time commitment is 15 minutes to juice and clean up. Raw juices can also be purchased at health food stores and other juice bars. Juice a large batch every couple days while preparing other meals to save time. 

Sweet potato, carrots, butternut squash: These vegetables are high in carotenoids (orange pigments) which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to prevent wrinkles and sagging. A study found that high intakes of these vegetables also creates a healthy tanned appearance. Tanning in the sun creates colouration of the skin through melanization, where as consuming these vegetables creates skin colouration through the carotenoids they contain. When the study compared people that had colouration through melanization (from the sun) vs colouration though carotenoids (from sweet potato, carrots, etc.), 75.9% of examiners stated that the people with colouration from carotenoids looked more appealing.

Dose: 1 - 2 cups steamed or baked at least 5 days per week

Salmon: In addition to providing several vitamins and minerals, salmon provides two crucial nutrients for skin health: omega 3’s and astaxanthin. Omega 3’s are incorporated into cell membranes to enhance transport of nutrients, energy metabolites, and waste products. A lack of omega 3's results in stiff and rigid cell membranes. Skin health is dependent on properly functioning cell membranes in order to hold water and allow nutrients and waste to enter and leave the cell. Skin cells that lack omega 3's are unable to hold moisture and appear dull, dry, and saggy. Astaxanthin is a unique carotenoid found in algae that has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to prevent wrinkling. A study found that women consuming astaxanthin for 6 weeks showed significant improvements in skin hydration, roughness, elasticity, fine lines, and wrinkles compared to a placebo group. Astaxanthin also provides internal protection from the sun and therefore provides optimal protection when paired with a  topical sunscreen. 

Dose: 4 - 6 oz (standard portion) three times per week

Tip: Choose wild salmon over farm raised Atlantic salmon whenever possible. Aegis Luma Glow also contains omega 3’s from flax and fish, astaxanthin, evening primrose oil, and vitamin D and can be used in conjunction with regular salmon intake.

Challenge yourself to incorporate 1 or all of these foods into your diet consistently this week. Stay tuned as we will be covering two other skin super foods as well as the top foods to avoid for healthy luminous skin.


Have a Small Sweet Snack Everyday to Prevent Feelings of Deprivation

Now here is a strategy we can all get excited about.  As we have said before, making lifestyle changes is about self-discipline without self-deprivation and a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association demonstrates exactly this philosophy.  The researchers took a group of overweight women and put them on a calorie-controlled diet that included chocolate and non-chocolate snacks and drinks three times a day totalling 155 calories. The women were also educated on proper food choices and portion sizes. By the end of the 18-week study, the women lost approximately 11 lbs - So who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?  The researchers reasoned, “The anticipated consumption of the daily sweet snack may have alleviated some of the cravings commonly experienced during food restriction… This research finding suggests that any energy-controlled sweet snack of choice could be incorporated into a reduced-calorie diet as long as overall energy deficit remains.” 

The important thing to remember here is that although the women were eating chocolate or a similar sweet snack, they were maintaining self-discipline on a daily basis by keeping themselves in a calorie deficit, yet they were not depriving themselves of food they enjoy.  The most common mistake we see people make when improving their diet is trying to change too much at one time. We need to view this as a process that takes time and consistency. In the end, any strategy that helps you to eat better 80 - 90% of the time is a strategy worth holding onto.

omega 3s to optimize performance and recovery?

The benefits of essential fatty acids such as omega 3s in out diet is well documented in regards to improving cardiovascular and cognitive health. But what role do omega 3s play in sports performance? How do we get more omega 3s in our diet?

Several studies have looked at the effects of fish oil and other plant based omega 3s in athletes and the results are rather impressive. Athletes supplementing with omega 3s show increased insulin sensitivity and protein synthesis, and reduced inflammation and joint pain. This results in greater muscle strength, faster recovery from strenuous exercise, and improved body composition.

Omega 3s incorporate themselves into cellular membranes, which increases the cell’s fluidity and allows for enhanced transport of nutrients and waste products. Cells that lack omega 3s becomes still and rigid, which decreases the body’s overall metabolic efficiency.  

So what is the best way to consume omega 3s?

Diet:

  • Salmon or other fatty fish: 2 or 3 times per week
  • Grinded flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds: 1 - 2 tablespoons daily

Supplements:

  • Luma Glow Oil: my #1 recommended omega 3/6 product with added antioxidants and vitamin D for athletes. 

Please don’t hesitate to email me questions about the quality of the supplements you are taking. Supplements vary significantly in their quality and it is important to ensure you are taking the right products at therapeutic dosages.

By: Jeff scull, M.A., Aegis Research and Development | Nutrition and Triathlon Coach

jpscull@syr.edu

Is lifting weights at the top of your exercise list?

Over the last 5 - 10 years there has been a movement in the health and fitness community against chronic endurance exercise and towards strength-oriented exercise. Certain experts say that too much endurance training creates the “skinny fat” appearance by altering hormone balance, creating excessive free radical damage, and enhancing food cravings. This argument certainly has merit and doing lots of endurance exercise is not essential for optimal health or body composition. 

But before you trade in your road bike for barbells, keep in mind that endurance training offers several benefits: the release of “feel good” endorphins, more allowance of food indulgences, has a significant social component – which is arguably the greatest anti-aging strategy, and by using races as goals to work towards, it creates structure and a sense of accomplishment.

So then why is weightlifting so important? Simply put, it is a time efficient strategy that provides benefits that goes beyond endurance training, thereby optimizing hormonal balance, body composition, and performance. In fact, one study found that over a two year period, premenopausal women who lifted weights twice per week (3 sets of 8-10 reps per exercise) lost significantly more body fat and had 15% less of an increase in intra-abdominal fat (the dangerous fat surrounding our organs that is associated with several diseases) compared with a group of women not lifting weights.

When weights are incorporated correctly and at the proper intensity, it is my number 1 form of exercise for creating a leaner and healthier body composition. That is a bold statement coming from a lifelong endurance athlete. There are a few reasons for this:

  1.  Intense full-body weight lifting causes a significant amount of muscle breakdown, which is good because over the next 48 hours the food you eat is going to be directed towards muscle repair as opposed to fuelling fat stores
  2. Weight lifting causes the release of growth hormone and testosterone – key anti-aging hormones (and women need testosterone too - just in lesser amounts)
  3. Weight lifting typically does not result in food cravings as intensely as long endurance exercise

I am a firm believer that lifting weights twice per week and ensuring sufficient sleep are the two most important things you can do for your overall health, fitness, and body composition. Adding in small or large amounts of endurance exercise (depending on your goals) each week along with healthy food choices is also important. 

By: Jeff scull, M.A., Aegis Research and Development | Nutrition and Triathlon Coach

The 80% Philosophy that Promotes Health and Longevity

Hara hachi-bu… is the Japanese translation of a practice that has guided the eating practices of the Japanese for centuries and is likely one of the main reasons they have been able to gain the reputation as being the world’s longest living people.  If I had to sum up the two most important things about diet and nutrition, it would essentially boil down to… eat a balanced diet consisting of whole foods (with an emphasis on the vegetables) and make sure not to overeat.  Doing just those two things would provide you with a great foundation for optimizing your health and longevity as far as diet is concerned. 

The traditional Japanese perspective on when to stop eating is very different than what we practice in the west.  We typically stop eating when we are full (and sometimes not even then), whereas they stop eating when they are no longer hungry (which obviously occurs before you feel full).  Next time you sit down to a meal, eat slowly and pay attention to the amount of food that you have consumed when you are no longer hungry as compared to when you are full.  The difference between those two points is likely 100-200 calories worth of food, which really adds up over time.  

Researchers now believe that the reason chronic overeating is so dangerous for our health, is due to the over-activation of a pathway known in the science world as mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin).  The over-expression of this pathway is linked to the development of many signs of aging and disease, such as: cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, skin aging, osteoporosis, diabetes, and hypertension.  One of the most natural ways to slow the activation of mTOR, and thus increase longevity, is to eat fewer calories.  You don’t necessarily have to decrease the amount of food you are eating, just the calories (which means including foods high in vitamins and minerals, but low in calories at each meal… A.K.A. vegetables).  I am not going to sugar coat this one, this particular key is a difficult one to master and will take time.  If you are up for the challenge, just remember to be mindful and patient with the process and in time you will be very grateful for your new approach to eating.