On January 28 Bell's fourth annual "Let's Talk" day raised almost $5.5 million for Canadian mental health programs. The campaign was simply to start the conversation surrounding the stigma of mental health disorders. You maybe thinking that this will never affect you but that is part of the stigma.
Mental health disorders impact every Canadian. Approximately 20% of us will experience a mental illness while the remaining 80% will be affected by the illness in the form of a family member, friend or colleague. It affects people of all ages, educational, income levels and cultures. The negative connotations associated with mental health have left it vastly misunderstood especially in younger individuals. Adolescents are considered to be young and healthy but it is estimated by the World Health Organization that 10-20% experience a mental health issue. Poor mental health is strongly related to other health issues and poor development outcomes including lower educational achievements, substance abuse, violence, and poor reproductive and sexual health. Unfortunately suicide is the most common cause of death in these young individuals.
A 2002 report on Mental illness in Canada defined Mental illnesses as being characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour (or some combination) associated with significant distress and impaired functioning over an extended period of time. The symptoms of mental illness vary from mild to severe, depending on the type of mental illness, the individual, the family and the socio-economic environment.
Despite how prevalent mental health disorders are there is still a strong stigma and shame that surrounds it. The stigma arises in part due to lack of knowledge and empathy but also because of superstition, old belief systems, societal fear and exclusion of those with mental disorders. The stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger and avoidance leads to those affected with a mental disorder to stay quiet about their illness, delaying seeking treatment, not being compliant with their medications or follow-up care.
A 2008 study by the Canadian Medical Association found just how prevalent and shocking the stigma of mental illness in Canada still is. Some of the key findings are:
Be mindful that we all know more than one person with some mental illness who silently struggles each day as an estimated 500,000 Canadians miss work each day due to some form of mental illness (Mental Health Commission of Canada). When stigmas such as the above exist, it makes it very difficult for someone who has a mental illness to be open and honest about their battle or to even seek help. Awareness of the stigma exists and steps are being taken to help break it down. Bell's "Let's Talk" day is one step in the right direction. The next step starts with you opening that conversation and having it all year long. Mental health disorders simply do not disappear that fast without the proper help, love and support of family and friends.
There's no denying it, we are in the thick of cold and flu season. If you're not sick then chances are at least one person around you is: a family member; someone at work; someone at the store you were just at or even someone at the gym.
Since the flu virus is not the cartoon version commonly seen in commercials, it is hard to tell when you are being exposed to it. Other times, despite your best efforts, you still get sick. So what do you do when you finally admit that you're sick?
Hydration, hydration, hydration! A glass of water may not be all that appetizing when you're congested and feeling unwell. A glass of orange juice may seem like a good idea but when you're sick, it is better to avoid it. Yes it does contain vitamin C but it also has a lot of sugar, which hinders the body's ability to fight an infection. On the other hand, a cup of hot tea will provide the hydration you need, soothe your throat and ease your congestion. Depending on the type of tea, it can be full of antioxidants and other immune boosting herbs. If you feel vitamin C helps you then you can always add some fresh squeezed lemon to your tea for the benefits. If tea is not something you keep in the house then hot water with fresh squeezed lemon, honey and ginger is soothing and therapeutic.
It is common to lose your appetite when you're sick and the thought of food isn't that appealing. However, food is important to help your body fight your infection. Chicken noodle soup is a favorite comfort food for many of us and it is an excellent choice. The broth is warm and soothing and the chicken provides protein, which our bodies still need in an easily digestible form. Garlic and onions are great to have in your soup, as they are antimicrobials.
Sweating is important to help aid your body. This does not mean going to the gym and continuing with your regular work out while the very thought of movement is exhausting. Rather, the steam room or sauna are excellent ways to help your body sweat out the toxins. If those are not easily accessible then a hot shower or a bath can be helpful and soothing for those body aches too!
Rest is essential. Your energy levels are not the same as when you are healthy and the smallest tasks can leave you exhausted. In your typical daily life you may be a superhero but when you're sick you need to rest and that doesn't mean working from home for the day. It means sleeping as much as you need and doing nothing. You may have a lot going on in your life that taking a sick day seems difficult but by pushing through it when you're sick, it will take you longer to recover. Give yourself the few days to sleep and rest so you can return to your old superhero self faster.
It is also important to remember the simple things we do to avoid getting sick. Cover your mouth when you sneeze, wash your hands often and avoid touching your face. The last thing you want to do is pass your germs to those around you. It is no fun being sick but it is also stressful being around other sick people when the constant fear of getting sick again remains so to avoid being ill again limit the spread of your germs.
Probiotics can help boost your immune system and fight your infection. They are thought to stimulate the immune system, inhibit pathogens thus reducing their colonization. Probiotics are strain and dose specific but you always want to look for one that is a live culture and requires refrigeration. There are numerous natural products on the market for colds and flu's and certain ones are better for specific symptoms. Rather than relying on the internet to figure out which one might work for you, be sure to talk to someone who knows natural health products to ensure you are taking the right one for you. If your symptoms worsen or you are not getting better after a few days, then consult your health care provider.
The hype and attention surrounding the super food Kale has been persistent. But what exactly is Kale?
It looks like lettuce but is far more nutritious than it. It is a leafy green vegetable belonging to the brassica family, which also includes cabbage, broccoli, collard greens and brussels sprouts. It comes in various varieties and commonly is seen with green or purple leaves. The versatility of Kale allows it to be consumed raw, cooked, baked, juiced or in a smoothie.
Why is Kale a super food? Just one cup of chopped kale has only 33 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat making it high in fiber, zero fat and a low calorie food and it contains no cholesterol. Fiber is important for proper digestion, it helps with detoxification of the body and liver and it binds bile, which in turn lowers blood cholesterol levels thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Kale is also packed full of various vitamins, minerals, copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
Kale is high in iron. 100g of beef has 1.6 mg of iron while 100g of raw kale has 1.5 mg. Iron is important as it transports oxygen in our bodies, builds blood and is needed for many proteins in the body. Kale is also high in calcium, which keeps bones and teeth healthy, stabilizes blood pressure, plays a role in clotting and contributes to normal brain function. A 100g serving of 2% milk has 120 mg of Calcium while 100g serving of kale contains 150mg; meaning gram for gram, kale has more calcium than milk. Omega 3 fatty acids are also found in kale which are anti inflammatory in nature and important to decrease the inflammation found in arthritis, asthma and allergies.
Kale is loaded with antioxidants in the form of Vitamin A, C, E, K, carotenoids and flavonoids. Vitamin A is important for vision, skin and supporting the immune system. One cup of kale has 134% of the daily recommended vitamin A. Vitamin C is important for the immune system, a natural antihistamine and important in collagen formation. That same cup of kale has 134% of your daily recommended vitamin C while a medium orange has 116% of the daily vitamin C. Vitamin E plays a role in red blood cell formation, supports the immune system and prevents the formation of blood clots. Kale has 684% of the daily-recommended amount of Vitamin K, which is important for normal blood clotting and bone formation. Kale also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for promoting eye health.
Kale is delicious as a pizza topping, in a salad with balsamic vinegar and carrots, tossed with pasta with olive oils or as kale chips.
Here's a recipe for Kale, Beet, Carrot and Avocado Salad
• 1 bunch kale, stemmed and finely chopped
• 2 carrots grated
• 3 beets grated
• 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into halves
• 1/2 of pomegranate's seeds
In a large bowl add the chopped kale. Using your hands massage the avocado into the kale as thoroughly as possible. Once the kale is coated, add the grated carrots, beets and pomegranate seeds. Toss as evenly as possible.
• 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice freshly squeezed
• 3 tbsp. olive oil
• 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
• Pinch of salt
• Ground pepper to taste
Combine above in small bowl. Toss salad. Serve chilled.
Please note if you are on warfarin/ Coumadin avoid large amounts of kale due to it's high vitamin K content. As well, raw kale is goitrogenic so consume with caution if at risk.
A new year; a new you! A clean slate and a fresh start! The New Year brings the promise of a brand new year filled with new adventures, goals, accomplishments and self-growth. This is also the time of year that most of us make New Years Resolutions after a season of over indulgence, family gatherings, extravagant dinners and drinks. Self-reflection is an important part of our lifelong self-growth and resolutions can play an important role towards this. However, does it seem that you make similar resolutions each year without success?
This year approach it a bit differently.
First of all, BE REALISTIC with your resolutions. If you want to lose weight or get into better shape but hate the gym then joining the gym to exercise is not going to be a lasting change. The key is not to start training for a marathon from day one but to increase your level of activity compared to what it was before. If your normal level of activity is not very active then you just need to increase that. We all think that the gym is the only way to exercise or get into better shape yet this is not true. Approach your resolution as making changes that you find realistic and can stick with 3 months, 6 months or a year from now. They do not need to be big or drastic changes but realistic ones.
Secondly, BE PATIENT! You did not gain the weight over night so it is going to take some time to lose that weight or break that bad habit you are trying to change. Be patient with yourself even if you do not immediately see the results you expect. Remember you have just made a change towards better health and that is an accomplishment on it's own. In terms of weight loss a goal of losing 1-2 lbs. a week is realistic. Anything more than that, increases your changes of regaining that weight. You want your resolution to be a lifelong change and not a temporary one.
Thirdly, BE OPEN to the possibility of new things. If your goal is to get into better shape this year, then why not take 2014 as the year to figure out what you like to do? Pick a new activity every month and try it. You already know what you do not like to do, now make this about figuring out what you enjoy. Once you find that activity you enjoy then better fitness becomes easier to achieve. Why not try Zumba, a spin class, Aquafit or hot yoga?
On that note, instead of having New Years Resolutions for the entire year, have 12 goals; one for each month. Something big or small that you would like to work on but make it a realistic goal that you can work towards comfortably and then build on it from there.
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine in Okotoks and Calgary.
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