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Monday, September 30, 2019

Ignite CBD Oil: Product Review


It seems that CBD oil is the new coconut oil. It can fix or cure anything (or so people claim). Evidence in many areas is scanty, but that has not stopped sellers for making all sorts of claims.

That being said, I do know many people swear by it for all sorts of things. Both friends of mine and some clients have said they find CBD very effective for insomnia and anxiety. It did not work for me for my migraines, and I personally noticed no effect when I tried the CBD infused water (I reviewed a few months ago), but I was curious about its topical uses. So when Ignite asked if I wanted to try their Recharge Pain Relief cream and Calm Pain Relief roll-on, I was happy to accept.

Recharge is lemon scented and Calm is lavender. Most of the ingredients in Recharge are non-toxic (hemp extract, aloe vera, arnica, essential oils, etc), though there are a few that some people may question such as tetrasodium EDTA. Calm contains just hemp extract, lavender essential oil, arnica flower extract, grapeseed oil, and jojoba oil.

I have been struggling with Achilles tendonitis since January. My doctor recommended using Voltaren and it has helped immensely. Now it only flairs up occasionally. When it did flare up, I tried using Recharge instead. Unfortunately, it was not helpful and I ended up using the Voltaren an hour later. I also had the girls try it, Little A for a soccer-induced bruise she was complaining about, and Big A for a sore shoulder from dance. When asked if they found it helped, they both kind of gave me "meh" answers. But they are total whiners when it comes to pain and booboos, so they may not be the best testers.

I also have a mild case of Renault's syndrome. In case you are not familiar with this condition, here is the description:

Raynaud's disease is a rare disorder of the blood vessels, usually in the fingers and toes. It causes the blood vessels to narrow when you are cold or feeling stressed. When this happens, blood can't get to the surface of the skin and the affected areas turn white and blue.

My hands and feet actually turn dark red not blue or white, but they also get numb. Sometimes I find the numbness can last a while, and a few weeks ago my toes stayed numb for 2 days and I was starting to worry. On a whim, I grabbed Recharge and rubbed in on the effected toes. I didn't really expect much, so kind of forgot about it until about an hour later I realized the numbness was completely gone. Was it a coincidence?

Well apparently not, because just this morning after driving Little A to a soccer practice wearing my sweaty workout clothes despite it being chilly, I came home and realized a few of my toes were numb again. So I used the Recharge and within seconds the numbness was gone. Okay, I am a believer!

The Calm is nice just because of the lavender, so I sometimes roll some on my sore muscles before bed.

So should you try these products? Well the Recharge definitely is helpful for me, but I cannot guarantee it will treat every ache, pain or discomfort, but hey, maybe it's worth a try! Just make sure you can cover the cost ($60USD).


Monday, September 23, 2019

Good To Go: Book Review


Recently Adam gave me a book he had read which he said I might enjoy. Good To Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn From the Strange Science of Recovery is science writer, Christie Aschwanden's new book on exercise recovery.

Adam was right, I did like this book. Even if you are not a "sciencey" type, you will likely enjoy this book. You also do not have to consider yourself an athlete to get something out of it. Even if you just workout a few times a week recreationally, there is information that is valuable here.

As soon as I started reading it, I was reminded of author, Alex Hutchinson's work (I have reviewed both of his books on this blog), and was, therefore, not surprised that he is listed in the acknowledgements and quoted on the back cover giving accolades to the book.

Its only recently that 'recovery' has become an obsession. Back when I first started in the fitness industry (1990), the only thing discussed was that you want to wait 48 hours in between strength training muscles. That was about it! Of course that was fitness not sport.

Recovery for us non-athletes is really about health and often appearance/results, but for athletes it is about performance. One thing that I have realized, however, is that recovery is conceived by many to mean reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

But one of the more recent discoveries in recovery research is that some of the strategies people find helpful for reducing DOMS (ice, ice baths, heat/sauna, etc.) actually interfere with muscle recovery. The inflammation that occurs actually assists with the healing of the muscle tissue.  Geez, kind of sucks, huh?

An interesting thing I have learned as a therapist, is that pain of any kind scares the crap out of some people, and often these folks have difficulty distinguishing DOMS from the pain of injury or illness, and it becomes a major deterrent to exercise adherence. I am still trying to come up with an effective way of helping these clients identify DOMS and get comfortable with it (or at least not view it as dangerous).

Aschwanden describes the history of the recovery industry which seems to have started in the 1960s with Gatorade and then on to Powerbar and other various bars. Ice, heat, massage, compression, various foods, beverages and supplements, and other popular recovery products and techniques are also discussed.

It was very enjoyable to read as Aschwanden describes the experiences and recovery practices of all sorts of elite athletes, which I find very interesting, as well as her own experiences trying recommended recovery products and strategies.

So what's your best bet for recovery whether you are a recreational exerciser, Olympic athlete or ultra marathoner?

Get enough sleep and listen to your body!

This doesn't mean giving up exercise because you would rather sleep past your alarm every day and because you hate exercise (you have to be able to find SOMETHING that you enjoy!). It means making sleep a priority (which everyone should do period!), and taking breaks from training or lessening training intensity when you are feeling unwell.

The macro stuff matters most: sleep, eat nutritious food, move your body.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Atlas Biomed: DNA Test Review

Another post about genetics!

You are likely aware that direct-to-consumer DNA tests are all the rage right now. There are companies like 23andme, Ancestry.com, Ancestry,ca, etc. These ones focus primarily on ancestry (obviously!). A few years ago I did 23andme for that reason. I was pretty sure I wouldn't find any surprises in my ancestry but was curious anyways. The results were, well, unsurprising. It told me I was 99.6% Ashkenazi Jewish and 0.4 percent 'other' European. But through the database, I connected with cousins through my mom's side of the family that we weren't aware of, living in California and Wisconsin. That was fun! Also, discovered a cousin right here in Toronto and briefly made contact with her.

23andme also sends health info, but it's pretty top line. There was nothing at all alarming in it, basically telling me I am not a carrier of any diseases at all. Some of it was funny too, like it said I probably like cilantro (true!), and my pee smells like asparagus when I eat it (true!) and I am not very affected by caffeine (also true!).

But both my family doctor, and my best friend, who happens to be a genetic counsellor, were concerned when I told them the company had sent health information. Both told me to take it with a grain of salt and expressed frustration that these companies send this information directly to consumers who mostly do not have enough knowledge to interpret it. I wholeheartedly agree but do not regret doing the tests.

Recently a company called Atlas Biomed reached out and asked if I wanted to try their DNA and gut microbiome tests. The tests are more focused on health than ancestry, and though I had been warned by my doctor and friend about this, I thought it could not hurt to see what came out of it. Besides, I had never had my gut microbiome tested, and it is getting increasing attention as something that may influence many aspects of physical and mental health.

Atlas Biomed is a European company that has just entered the Canadian market. It works like all the other companies in that you spit into a vial and sending it back for DNA testing. For the gut microbiome one, you have to scoop some poop into a vial. Yes, that's right, scoop some poop. That one was not fun!

Before getting my results, I received a bunch of emails containing information about the information I was going to receive. Then, about 4 weeks after sending back the vials, I got my results. This is where things got a little strange.

The Microbiome test results arrived first.


Now, let me start by saying that the week I did the poop sample, I had been eating my purple power bowl for lunch and I had immediately wondered if what you just ate would affect the results. My purple power bowl is Greek yogurt, oats, a beet and berry compute made with the konjac I sell, hemp seeds, and a small scoop of spirulina powder. This is an unusual meal for me as it is pretty high carb and low protein compared to most meals I eat...which probably explains why it doesn't keep me that full for very long. I did some research and read that what you have recently eaten can definitely affect these tests. One thing I can tell you for sure is that there were beets in the sample I sent 💩.

Based on my results, I am defined as a "Grain Lover". What? Aside from having oats a few times a week at most and whole grain bread maybe a few times a week, I do not really eat grains at all! This result is definitely puzzling.

I have normal levels of beneficial bacteria (despite taking a probiotic daily!), normal capacity for fiber (that's not what everyone who knows me thinks!!), and 'good' diversity of microorganisms. The report says I am lactose intolerant (very common for Ashkenazi Jews), but, in fact, since my pregnancy with Little A, I have been able to eat all forms of dairy no problem.

What was especially funny is that my report was followed up by recommendations on what foods I should eat. I should stay away from all dairy, of course, but then it listed a whole bunch of high fibre foods I should eat more of, many of which I already eat tons of (like sweet potatoes, squash, etc.).

In your profile, you can track foods you start eating more of to see if your 'health' improves (I guess this means if you feel 'better' but don't say what you are suppose to do if you already feel good).

The actual report contains so much detailed information about all the little creatures in my gut, it is almost overwhelming. There were some pieces of data that were actually concerning like supposedly I am at a reasonably high risk of obesity. Huh? Given my fitness level and lifestyle, even the kids balked at this. In the end, I didn't find it all that interesting and really had to wonder about the validity and reliability of the test.

The DNA test results arrived a day later.


Certain things made a lot of sense. I am at high risk for hypothyroidism (been on meds for it for 14 years!), and Type II diabetes (runs in my mom's side of the family). But I am at HIGHER risk of Alzheimer's??? What??? Also HIGHER risk of osteoporosis, Paget's bone disease, Crohn's disease (also common among Ashkenazi Jews), and urolithiasis (kidney stones, etc.).

From the DNA test I apparently have an AVERAGE risk of obesity and Parkinson's disease. Okay. But also of macular degeneration (apparently my risk is higher than average since my dad has it), and migraines (which I get!). After reading over the report once and feeling like it was telling me I am a ticking time bomb, I decided to get professional feed back. I sent it to my genetic counsellor friend.

A few days later she called me, and boy did she have a lot to say!

Her area of expertise is Alzheimer's disease, so she focused on that analysis to illustrate her concerns. My HIGHER risk of getting the disease is a 10.45% chance in my lifetime compared to the average of 7.7% for European women. She pointed out that it is still relatively low and not really something to be overly worried about. The report lists my variants on a long list of genes and what they contribute to my risk. My friend was utterly baffled by all this. She said first, the gene most strongly associated with Alzheimer's risk (apolipoprotein E or APOE) is not even listed. She also said that grouping a whole bunch of genes together to asses disease risk is something not well understood and therefore not yet really utilized until scientists understand it all better.

My friend was fortunately able to completely put my mind at ease about the entire report. Not that I was all that freaked out as I had assumed context is important. Also, I already live the healthiest life I can, so what more can I do anyways?

Some of the results of the sports/personal trait sections were way off. Apparently I am at high risk of hernias and degenerative disk disease. I have never had any back problems or hernias. Also, I am predisposed to getting grey hair prematurely. Hmm, at 44, I don't have a single one.

What was particularly interesting to me were the ancestry results. I am much less pure bred according to Atlas Biomed, in comparison to 23andme. Here are my results:

Ashkenazi Jews • 69.23%
South Europe • 23.08%
Greeks • 11.54%
Spanish • 7.69%
Albanians • 3.85%
West Europe • 3.85%
French • 3.85%
Asia 3.85%
West Asia • 3.85%
Azerbaijanis • 3.85%

Whoa, okay! But once again, my friend explained how there could be such a discrepancy in the results. Ultimately, all these companies have unique databases (they either compile them themselves or buy them). The more samples in the database that are similar to yours, the more detailed and accurate your results will be. For example, if you are Korean and there are very few Koreans in the particular database, your results will be very vague. So I asked her if the results were maybe more specific in the Atlas Biomed database because the company is European, and possibly has a higher proportion of similar samples to mine. She said this is likely the case.

So, what do I make of all this? Not much. It's fun and interesting but for me, its not going to change anything.

Do I recommend Atlas Biomed testing for you? Sure, if this stuff interests you! But several caveats. Do your research first, about the strengths and weaknesses of these direct-to-consumer DNA tests. Second, do not draw any conclusions about your health testing results on your own. If you don't have a best friend who is a genetic counsellor, at the very least, take your report to your family physician so it can be explained to you properly.

Similarly, if your ancestry results reveal some surprises, do your research about the limitations of these analyses before you go accusing one of your mother of having an affair with the mailman.

Disclosure: Atlas Biomed provided me with the testing kits for review but all opinions on this blog are my own.








Monday, September 2, 2019

You Are What Your Grandparents Ate: Book Review


I have another book review for you today and I am really excited about this one! You Are What Your Grandparents Ate: What You Need to Know About Nutrition, Experience, Epigenetics & the Origins of Chronic Disease is written by author, and fellow Toronto resident, Judith Finlayson and it is absolutely fascinating.

Finlayson has previously written many cookbooks and has a long standing interest in nutrition, but she is not a scientist or researcher, nevertheless, she does a great job of using published data to back up her claims. Perhaps because she is not a scientist, she is able to present the information in a very accessible way to readers. Finlayson provides definitions to many of the scientific terms within chapters and also in a comprehensive glossary at the back.

The topic of this book is of great interest to me, not just because I too have a long standing interest in health and nutrition, but because genetics and epigenetics are things that are critical in my professional work as a fertility/infertility counsellor.

I am assuming most of you know what genes are, but you may not be familiar with epigenetics. Essentially, epigentics refers to changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. In other words, how certain environmental or experiential factors can turn off or on particular genes.

Finlayson is skilled at telling a story so her background on the history of epigenetics will draw you in even if you do not think you are a 'sciency' person. One issue she covers is how your grandparents exposure to particular risk factors (malnutrition, toxins, etc.) can affect your health. The long and short of it is, prenatal nutrition and the prenatal environment is very important. For many of my clients this is a concern either because they are trying to become pregnant or they are using a surrogate or egg donor so they are wondering how the third party's lifestyle may affect their child's future health.

What is even more interesting is how adverse experiences affect our health. Adverse childhood experiences significantly increase a person's risk of physical and mental health issues. Stress during pregnancy from traumatic events can also have a massive impact on the future health of the child. But findings such as this need to be presented carefully. Women tend to already be highly anxious about doing what they can to get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy. A huge proportion of my infertility clients are convinced (thanks to misinformation) that the cause of their infertility is their anxiety over the infertility, or because of their life stress. It is important to note that typical life stress is not the same as going through a massive trauma (like war, natural disaster, etc.).

Finlayson also points out that the chronic stress of poverty is a major determinent of health. Again, homelessness, living with food insecurity, etc. is different than the life stress that many of worry is toxic (i.e. parenting, jobs, finances, etc.) but really a normal part of life.

One thing that is exceptionally clear, in case you had any doubts, is smoking is terrible for your health, the health of your current and future children, and pretty much everyone around you. There is almost nothing worse for health in absolutely every way. I always tell my clients it is the one lifestyle factor we know, without a doubt, can compromise fertility for both men and women.

One thing that irks me is that most people don't realize that men play a part in fertility. Traditionally, people think the woman is responsible for absolutely everything about offspring's health and wellbeing. Just another mansifestation of misogyny my friends. Men are just as likely to be a heterosexual couple's cause of infertility as are women. I see it ALL THE TIME. So I was thrilled that Finlayson includes a section about the role of sperm in epigenetics.

One thing that I've noticed in my clinical experience is that clients seem to lose more male fetuses and babies than females. Finlayson explains why this is the case. (HINT: boys are more demanding!). Low birth weight is a significant predictor for both gender of future health problems.

The first 2 years of a person's life is critical in terms of nutrition and how this affects future health. This gives me comfort as those are about the only years of my 2 children's life where I had any control over what they ate. Now they eat a typically crappy diet like most North Americans and I can only hope that the example Adam and I set will eventually have an impact on their choices.

My friends always laugh when I tell them my theory when it comes to the obesity epidemic: It will never end. They think its funny that I am so cynical, but here is why I believe this. First, we are designed to exist in an environment of food scarcity that requires an active lifestyle. We live in an environment of food abundance that requires little to no physical activity. Most human brains are incapable of not adapting to this new environment. The environment has to change, meaning governments and industry have to force populations to change the way we live, but this is not realistic especially since too many people are profiting from keeping things the way they are. Also, when obese people have children, their children are already predisposed to obesity. This latter point is discussed by Finlayson.

Readers will like that Finlayson outlines nutrition requirements for pregnancy and for prevention of chronic illnesses. I like that she includes information about how critical exercise is to health.

The book is chock full of interesting information and I am very happy I got the chance to read it. Already, I have mentioned it a bunch of times in various client sessions when we have been discussing fertility and health, etc.

So do I recommend this book? Absolutely!!

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.