The Clarity of a Vice-Check

One of my mentors recommends his students do a “vice-check”. In this exercise you pick a vice–like drinking coffee, drinking alcohol, eating sugar, or being excessively busy–and you take a 30 day break from it. His premise is that if you find it seriously difficult to abstain for those 30 days, you may have found a habit that is worth cutting out of your life entirely.

I think it’s an exercise that is very much worth doing. Not because I’m a machochist and love to suffer, but because when you remove a habit from your world that you are dependent on, it may force you to ask why the dependency exists in the first place.

Do you need coffee because you don’t honour your body’s need for sleep? Do you need that glass of wine because you won’t address other problems in your life? Do you need that sugar fix to pick you up in the afternoon because you forgot to eat lunch, or consistently choose unhealthy foods?

Getting rid of coffee or booze for 30 days isn’t going to change your life. But it might allow you to ask the questions that will.

4 Keys to Boosting Your Sports Performance This Season

The warm, sunny weather is driving Collingwood and area athletes outdoors to re-engage in their activities of choice. The runners are running, the cyclists are cycling, and the swimmers…well they still have a little wait for the ice to get out of the bay. Brrrrrrr.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the granular details of sports performance, it’s important to make sure the things that make the most impact are in place first. Here are four critical elements that make a difference you can feel.

Water

Water is critical for almost every biochemical reaction in the body. While we tend to just call it “dehydration”, what we’re really talking about is an inability to make proper use of the energy stored in your body, to control your temperature, to keep on top of your mental game, and to properly recover and grow. You endurance athletes know how critical those things are. Drink more. If you struggle to consume enough fluids, consider an energy/water combo, as opposed to eating sports bars or gels and then trying to drink enough separately.

Energy

Without energy from food, you can’t do the work. That’s an easy one. But more importantly, you can’t work to your potential and you can’t respond as quickly to training demands without the right food.

Finding a dietary balance of proteins, carbs and fat is critical–in Racing Weight, author and coach Matt Fitzgerald reveals that, for endurance athletes, body composition is more highly correlated with finish times than training variables–but no one is exactly sure what that balance should be, and everyone is different.

The answer? Focus on dietary quality. Yes, you need to eat enough. But you don’t need to weigh everything you eat—focus on improving the quality of everything you eat, and listen to your body. Whole foods, with as little processing as possible, will take you a long way.

Inflammation

Intense exercise creates inflammation. You’ve felt it.

Inflammation isn’t bad, though. It’s one of the things that is required for your body to initiate the process of getting stronger. What athletes should look for are ways to decrease their overall inflammatory set point from other sources. Your body has enough inflammation to deal with from your training—adding to it in the rest of your life won’t help.

One easy way to reduce the inflammation you don’t want is to ensure that you are not eating inflammatory foods. Food intolerance testing can reveal what foods your body may not be as happy with—carefully replacing those with other sources can allow you train harder and recover more quickly.

Recovery

Exercise is meant to cause damage to your muscles, bones and tendons—that’s what actually starts the process of getting them stronger. To do that, though, your body needs the right tools, and the time to work.

Make sure you give your body the building blocks it needs, like proteins and single amino acids like glutamine to rebuild muscles, as well as antioxidants like vitamin A, E C, and zinc for connective tissue repair.

Then, rest. Get away from the nighttime screens and go to bed. Listen closely to your body and watch for signs of overtraining, which can be sneaky. Overtraining, for example, can make it harder to fall asleep. You might get colds more easily, or take longer to get over them. Irritability, the “blues” or other mood shifts can also happen. These are all things that you might not connect with overtraining the way you would with fatigue or tired muscles.

Now get out there and enjoy the spring!

If you want to learn more about how naturopathic medicine can improve your athletic performance, contact the clinic at 705-444-5331.

 

 

 

The Iodine-Thyroid Connection: How To Test Your Iodine Levels

According to the 2012 Iodine Status of Canadians paper, nearly 30% of Canadians have mild to moderate iodine deficiency.

Symptoms of low iodine look remarkably like hypothyroid symptoms—weight gain, fatigue, depression, mental impairment and fibrocystic breasts. That’s not surprising, because iodine is an important component of the thyroid hormone—you can’t make it without iodine.

Why does this matter? We’ve written before about how conventional thyroid testing doesn’t always reveal problems. It’s why you can go to your doctor with low thyroid symptoms, but be told that everything is fine. One reason for that could be low iodine levels.

Why are We Low in Iodine?

There are four good reasons why iodine levels may be falling in the population, all factors related to modern lifestyles:

  1. Increased consumption of commercially prepared foods–lots of salt but no iodine.
  2. Decreased use of iodized salt at table because of health messages to reduce salt intake.
  3. Declining use of iodine-containing disinfectants by the dairy industry–therefore less iodine content in dairy foods.
  4. Bromine hidden in disinfectants, flame retardants, and medications, which interferes with the transport of iodine into cells.

So how do you find out if you’re low?

Testing Iodine Status

A new test by Rocky Mountain Analytical helps us determine your iodine status with a simple urine test. This test also evaluates your selenium status (another very important mineral that helps the thyroid hormone become active). It also measures levels of bromine, which can interfere with iodine uptake by the thyroid, and cadmium levels, which can interfere with selenium. (Cadmium is also an independent risk factor for lung and kidney disease).

Why Not Just Take More Iodine Instead?

Because too much can also be a real problem—more is not better if you don’t need it. Taking excess iodine can also shut down your thyroid. Do NOT take iodine without medical supervision.

Wondering if this test is right for you? Contact the clinic at 705-444-5331 to talk to a naturopathic doctor to learn more.