Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Low Intensity Laser Therapy

      Although low intensity laser therapy (LILT) isn’t familiar to most recreational athletes, it is well known by elite and professional athletes including this year’s U.S. Olympic Team and The Toronto Blue Jays.  Clinically proven, LILT uses red light and infrared light to accelerate soft tissue healing.  LILT penetrates to the cellular level increasing the rate of cell activity including the cycle of inflammation.  The tissue heals faster because the cycle of inflammation is shortened.  As a result pain is eliminated, healing is faster, the need for drugs can be reduced or eliminated, and the body can return to its proper range of motion and alignment for an improved quality of life. 

        If the word laser scares you it shouldn’t, the FDA states “there is no evidence that low level laser therapy has any contraindications”. 
LILT can therefore be used for a wide variety of soft tissue problems including sprains, carpel tunnel syndrome, open wounds and muscle tears.  Chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis and disc inflammation will also respond well to this type of therapy.
It’s hard to believe that a treatment that is easy to administer, requires very little time (on average 15 minutes a few times a week), is non invasive, causes no discomfort for the user, has no side effects, and a positive track record is so hard to find.  For the average Canadian LILT can only be obtained through a private clinic. 

         At Healthy Habits we are licensed to offer LILT to our clients as part of our mandate, to help people permanently thrive through posture and alignment as the root of lasting physical improvement.  With the accelerated healing that LILT provides our clients can avoid secondary issues that arise after the initial injury from compensatory movements that misalign posture.  We regularly incorporate laser therapy into our training or massage sessions. 
Help us spread the word about laser therapy, we’d love to hear from you if you have a story to share about your experiences with LILT.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fermented Foods - A Condiment for Good Health

Many diets from around the world include foods that are fermented, a chemical process activated by bacteria or yeast by which sugars are converted to alcohols and carbon dioxide.  In the past it was a way to preserve food and increase or develop flavour.  We know today that fermented foods offer a number of health benefits too. 

·      Through fermentation nutrients are increased and new nutrients can be formed.
·      Digestive enzymes are increased as well as acidity, both aiding digestion and nutrient absorption.
·      Beneficial yeast and bacteria are formed that also help with digestion and nutrient absorption. 
·      As well as aiding digestion fermented foods help the body detoxify, support a healthy colon and bowel elimination, support the immune system, and help regulate blood sugar.

Likely you are enjoying fermented foods like yogurt, pickles and apple cider vinegar.  But for real health benefits you should consider having fermented foods every day, or even with each meal.  Think of fermented foods as condiments.  They are condiments for good health!  Here’s a list of fermented foods to help you out.

Yogurt                         Sauerkraut                   Miso                Sour dough bread                  
Kefir                            Pickles                         Tempeh           Pickled herring
Sour cream                  Kimchi                                    Kombucha
Crème fraiche              Cheese                         Apple cider vinegar

Don’t be fooled however by lesser versions of the above foods.  Fermented foods need to be unpasteurized.  If the jar of pickles is sitting on the shelf with no refrigeration it is pasteurized and the healthy yeast and bacteria destroyed.  Dairy should contain only two ingredients, milk (or cream) and bacteria.  Avoid dairy with the words milk ingredients.    

If you love spending time in the kitchen try making your own fermented foods.  For more information on fermented foods and how to make them yourself visit The Weston A. Price Foundation’s website (  They have a great educational video. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Is Your Nutrition Getting in the Way of Good Posture?

At Healthy Habits we help people permanently thrive through posture and alignment, as the root of lasting physical improvement.  So why do we offer nutritional services?  How does nutrition link to posture and alignment?

Since the foods we eat affect the health of all soft tissue and bone it is important that we look after our bodies with a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet.  The typical North American diet of processed foods will not do this.  Did you know that a diet that includes white flour, white sugar, nitrates, sulfites and alcohol will increase inflammation in the body at the cellular level?  This inflammation gets in the way of your body achieving positive, permanent physical change.  In the extreme you may be experiencing rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, atherosclerosis or inflammatory bowel disease.

Some nutritious foods such as night shade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant), meat and dairy can also cause inflammation in the body.  A protein called gluten, found in wheat, rye, spelt and barley, can also be a problem.

The most effective change you can make is to take processed foods out of your diet. 

Next try reducing the amount of dairy and meat that you consume and replace with lots of vegetables, legumes and fish. 

And finally, explore gluten-free options such as brown rice, quinoa and sweet potato (it is not a nightshade). 

The fall is a great time to make changes to your diet, so get out there and enjoy the harvest.  You’ll not only do wonders for your tissues, you’ll feel re-energized too.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Water For Energy!!

In our blog Recharge After Exercise – But Not With Chocolate Milk! Posted Wednesday July 25, 2012 we challenged the belief that chocolate milk is a great post-recovery drink.  For the majority of exercisers water still stands out as the ideal beverage for recovery and for hydration.  Let’s build on this further and take a closer look at hydration and how important it is for your workouts.

Did you know that even mild dehydration can lead to energy loss?  Keeping your energy up is obviously key when you workout so you can perform well and for the desired length of time.  As your muscles move your internal temperature rises.  Your body will try to cool itself through sweet.  But if it detects a shortage of water it will slow you down – muscle and mental fatigue.  By slowing down your muscle movements you won’t heat up as fast, the body is pretty smart.  If you push through the fatigue the body will slow you down further by sending signals such as dizziness, headaches and nausea. 

So avoid having a lousy workout by making sure you are hydrated before you start, and keep hydrated while exercising.  In general you should be drinking enough fluids through out the day to keep your urine clear to pale yellow (approximately 2 litres of water a day but it varies per individual). 
·      A couple of hours before you exercise drink an additional 1 – 2 cups of water
·      Top up your water right before exercise with another ½ - 1 cup
·      Have access to water during your workout and drink 4 – 8 oz every 15 – 20 minutes

Water is not only important for energy it is also used to lubricate your joints.  And with  the presence of electrolytes water affects the proper functioning of the heart, brain, balance mechanisms and muscles.    

How much water should you drink after exercise?  First measure how much water you lose during your workout by weighing yourself before and then immediately afterwards.  The weight loss is all water.  To recover drink 2 cups of water for every pound of lost body weight.  If you don’t have a scale just know to drink lots after your workout and aim to get your urine back to clear or pale yellow.

Bored of water?  Try adding some lemon to your water for a refreshing change (Bonus: lemon in water helps with digestion and cleanses the liver).  Through out the day you can also hydrate your body with herbal teas.  Milk is hydrating as well but don’t drink it like water.  Excessive amounts of caffeine are dehydrating (diuretic) and so is alcohol.  Avoid junk drinks like juice, vitamin waters, energy drinks, pop and commercial sport drinks.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Saving Your Low Back

Our last post, “Activate Those Glutes! Stretch Your Psoas” dated Friday August 12, 2012 talked about how to activate the glutes.  An important motivator for using your gluteal muscles (your buttocks) is to avoid lower back injuries.  Not using your glutes places too much strain on your lower back.  You’ve heard that you should bend your knees when you lift heavy objects.  Well that is because bending your knees forces you to squat, activating the glutes and lessening the work load on your back.    

But taking a load off your back isn’t the only way to avoid lower back injuries.  It is also important to minimize bending.  According to Stuart McGill, a well-known back expert from the University of Waterloo, the spine genetically has a set number of times that it can bend before an injury occurs.  So save your back – bend less. 

Going back to the squat to pick up objects, a correct squat will also keep your back in neutral – no bending.  A lunge and a single leg deadlift are two other good moves that do the same. 

Think about how you put on your shoes, is your spine bending?  Probably.  Instead lunge with a foot propped up on a step and save your back.  Are you bending over when brushing your teeth?  Again lunge, put a foot up on a stool and save your back.    

The single leg deadlift, where you balance on one leg with the other leg extending out behind you, also prevents your back from bending.  This move is advanced so practice first, you’ll need to work on strength and balance.  Once a pro use it in your golf game to pick up your ball, or around the house to pick up dropped items. 

Finally – don’t slouch in front of your computer!  This is likely where we bend our backs the most.  Move your bum to the back of your chair and sit up straight.  Your back will thank you.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Activate Those Glutes! Stretch Your Psoas

 When exercising with a professional you’ll often be asked to activate your glutes.  The gluteal muscles are the three muscles that make up the buttocks: the gluteus
maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles.  Often they are underutilized, during every day activities and during exercise, leading to lower back and limb injuries. 
Activating the glutes during exercise will also enhance the shape of the butt.      

One reason why we are often deficient when it comes to glute activation is our tight psoas.  The psoas is one of the largest and thickest muscles in the body. It attaches to the vertebrae of your lower back and the head of your femur (thigh bone) and is primarily responsible for hip and thigh flexion.  (pulling of the knee upwards)

When the psoas gets tight our gluteal muscles relax, this is because they are opposing muscles.  Today’s lifestyle with extended periods sitting shortens the psoas muscle.  Sit often and long enough and your body will think this shortened position is normal and your tissues will want to remain in this resting position (which for the psoas is actually tight and contracted).  Incorrect posture during standing and walking can also contribute to this problem.

To help you fire up your glutes during exercise it is therefore important to stretch the psoas first.  Once relaxed your gluteal muscles will be able to contract properly. 

To stretch the psoas kneel with the back knee on the floor and the front foot flat so the front leg is at 90degrees.  Press yourself up so the back knee raises 2inches off the floor. Hold this half kneeling position and enhance the psoas stretch by tightening the gluteus muscles in this position.    

Have a great workout!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


This week I’d like to expand on an earlier topic, the butter is bad myth (see blog, Stop Eating Dry Toast, from Monday, July 2, 2012). 

The butter is bad myth is directly related to the myth that all saturated fats are bad for us.  For disease prevention we’ve been told to get no more than 10% of our daily calories from saturated fats.  We’re cutting back on meat, consuming large quantities of zero fat yogurt, and eating dry toast because we fear butter.    

It simply isn’t true that all saturated fats are fattening, raise blood cholesterol and predispose us to heart disease. 

Did you know that saturated fats can be classified as short, medium or long-chain fatty acids?  Probably not, because the myth treats all saturated fats as one and the same.  But chain length has more affect on a fat’s healthfulness than its saturation point does.

Short and medium chain fatty acids like those found in butter, dairy, and coconut oil metabolize quickly, their first and only digestive destination is the liver.  Interestingly this means that they act more like a carbohydrate, but without spiking insulin.  Their caloric value is also closer to carbohydrates at 5 Calories per gram (rather than the 9 Calories per gram given to fats). 

Short and medium-chain fatty acids do not become fat deposits around your waist, they are used as energy. 

Short and medium chain fatty acids cannot aggregate in the blood or cause any harm.  Therefore short and medium-chain fatty acids do not have any ‘cholesterol-raising’ activity. 

Let’s stop the myths and focus on the facts!

Here are more facts – some of the health benefits of saturated fats.
·      Enhance the immune system
·      Are used for calcium assimilation (bone health)
·      Short and medium-chain fatty acids provide energy
·      Enhance structural integrity of cells
·      Transport fat-soluble vitamins
·      Contain anti-microbial properties to help maintain a healthy gut

For more facts and to get the full story please read The Last Tango with Butter available at