All Posts in Category: Lifestyle

Brain-Food for Back to School!

Help your scholar (little or big!) have the best year possible no matter their grade, avoid or decrease the number of sick days, support their emotional health when learning life lessons and optimize their healthy overall development with nutrient conscious foods choices!

The Research (in a nutshell)

Nutritional deficiencies, hypoglycemia, food allergies, high sugar consumption, caffeine, food additives, artificial ingredients, and low protein intake have all been implicated in childhood behavioural problems, most commonly characteristics associated with ADHD.

Let’s start with Breakfast

It’s been proven that children who eat breakfast perform better in school.

Most children eat breakfasts that are high in sugar and loaded with simple carbohydrates. These types of food provide energy quickly, experienced as a burst of energy, but also results in a “blood-sugar crash” or an extreme low in energy. Children and adults alike will often feel fatigued, irritable, unable to focus, dizzy, jittery or occasionally nauseated in this energy crash. Having said this, it would not come as a surprise if the child who eats a bagel for breakfast in the morning displays anger outburst, an inability to focus or forgetfulness by mid morning.

TIP: Make breakfast protein-rich and carbohydrate-poor
GOAL: Balance blood sugar levels through their school day

Try these quick protein rich breakfast ideas:

  • Homemade nut granola with milk and a piece of fruit
  • Yogurt / nut butter (if peanut, 100% peanuts with no added sugar) and an apple
  • Breakfast burrito: scrambled egg, black beans and salsa wrapped in a whole grain tortilla
  • Breakfast pizza: toasted English muffin spread with thin layer of marinara sauce, topped with a scrambled egg, light sprinkle of cheese and toasted
  • 1/2 toasted English muffin with a hard boiled egg (salt and pepper to season) and a bowl of berries
  • Scrambled eggs, a slice of cheese on a toasted whole grain toast
  • Fruit smoothie with small amount of protein powder (recipes upon request) and a toasted whole grain toast and avocado pesto mash spread

Extra Tip: Just as carbohydrates can spike your child’s blood sugar, you can just imagine what a dessert would do! Try to avoid all dessert during the school day and try to replace sweets with healthy nutrient dense alternatives.

Try these nutrient dense dessert ideas:

  • Whole grain toast with almond or peanut butter and fruit jam / ¼-1/2 banana sliced
  • Almond or peanut butter spread on apple slices
  • Nut granola with yogurt and drizzled honey
  • Homemade granola bars
  • Nut Energy no-bake balls

EXTRA TIP: If wanting a typical dessert, such as a cake or a pie – Aim to teach the importance of portion size to your children as well as baking desserts gluten free using nutrient dense flours such as almond flour, coconut flour, garbanzo bean flour, amongst others.

Lunchtime Nutrients
Getting your child involved in their lunch preparation is key! They will more likely eat what they take to school if they have a part in the decision making process. Studies have shown that children who help pick and prepare their meals are more likely to eat them.

Try these quick, easy and healthy lunch alternatives:

  • Brown rice bowls topped with meat and veggies
  • Whole grain / rice pasta salad with diced chicken
  • Hummus with veggies & whole grain crackers with almond butter
  • Burritos made with brown rice and black beans in a whole grain tortilla with tomato salsa and grilled veggies. Can be leftovers from a dinner a couple days before and can be heated or eaten cold.
  • Almond crusted chicken fingers (seems fancy, but super simple!)

KEY TO SUCCESS= Take a few hours on the weekend to shop, plan and prepare for next week’s meals.

Dr. McLaird is on Pinterest and Facebook!

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Back(pack) to School!

It’s that time of year again: the kids are heading back to school! With more and more emphasis being put on study and homework, there is a real danger that your children are being overloaded with heavy textbooks and schoolwork. Here are some great tips from the Toronto Wellness Centre’s own Dr. Jonathan Cartile DC to help reduce your child’s chance of injury from lugging their heavy bags around:
Get the right backpack!

  • Lightweight material (canvas as opposed to leather)
  • Two padded, wide (2-inches), adjustable shoulder straps on the backpack
  • Hip strap, waist belt, or frame to redistribute the weight of the backpack from the shoulders and back to the pelvis
  • Dr. Cartile suggests a smaller backpack: As we all know if there is more space in the bag then it will get filled and there is more of a chance of backpack being overloaded.

Wearing the backpack correctly:

  • Always use both shoulder straps and wear the backpack on the back rather than over one shoulder
  • Pack heaviest objects into the backpack first so they are closest to the body and lower in the backpack
  • Adjust the straps to fit the backpack snugly to the child’s body, holding the bottom of the backpack 2 inches above the waist and use the waist strap.

Correct weight:

  • Consider applying a guideline backpack weight limit as a percent of the child’s body weight. The American Chiropractic Association advises 5-10%. This is a growing and developing spine, so small mechanical stresses can have a lifetime impact.
  • If the child complains of discomfort, reduce the weight in the backpack immediately
  • Coach your child to carry only those books needed in the backpack, leaving unnecessary items at home and making frequent trips to his/her locker during the day
  • Train your child to clean out the backpack at least once a week

If needed, please discuss options with teachers and school staff about how to help reduce the physical load. Consider photocopies, online material or having the lesson plan allow for leaving heavy textbooks at one location (home or school). If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us at the Toronto Wellness Centre!

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Texter’s Neck

Technology has been a large part of making our lives easier and improving our quality of life. Over the last 30 years with the increasing usage of computers, and smart phones particularly in the last 10 years, the ill effects of these technologies on our health have become more apparent. We know all too well about carpal tunnel syndrome, short sightedness, and the risks associated with sedentary sitting, but the term Texter’s Neck is becoming more common. This is due to the flexion (bending forward) of the head for prolonged periods of time.

On average, one’s head weighs 5 Kg (11lbs.). When it sits in the proper position the force of gravity is compressive so there is little energy needed to hold the head up. With movement however, the head flexes and creates a torque vector, so there are more physical forces the body has to contend with. Our muscles and ligaments are designed to deal with these forces in short periods of time. When we stay in the flexed position for long periods of time, such as when we stare down at our phones texting away, these muscles and ligaments begin to fail. This will lead to tissue damage, sprains, strains, and pain in the neck and shoulders.

As a chiropractor, I see the affects repeated strains sprains and tissue damage on a daily basis. Many of my patients experience neck pain, which is completely understandable considering how much time we all spend on our handheld devices both for work and pleasure. Your main concern over the long term is that these issues will lead to a change in the curve of your neck. This is the start of osteoarthritis of the cervical (neck) spine. The spinal cord goes through this area to connect the body to the brain. This connection is vital to a healthy and happy body.

We only get one spine and it needs to last our lifetime, so it’s important to have it checked and maintained by a chiropractor.

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Natural Ways To Support Your Infant’s Immune System

Probiotics and the Developing Immune System

Recently, there has been immense interest in the medical research regarding probiotics and how they influence the health of the body. Apart from helping heal gastrointestinal complaints (including Crohn’s, Ulcerative colitis, IBS and Celiac disease), probiotics have been shown to relieve anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure and also prevent antibiotic resistance to name a few. We are only beginning to understand the potential of our gut flora, and some of the most beneficial and promising research relates to newborns and how we can help optimize their health for their futures to come!

Probiotics and newborns: where is all begins…

The newborn gut is a perfect environment for microbes to live with food, moisture, and warmth. Its first inoculation of bacteria comes from the environment the baby is born into. It has been shown that vaginally delivered infants harbour bacteria resembling their own mother’s vaginal, rectal and skin microbiota which are Lactobacillus, Prevotella or Sneathia spp. dominant. To the same effect, infants born by C-section acquire bacteria similar to those found on the surface of the skin, such as Staphylococcus, Corynebacterium and Propionibacterium spp. as well as the hospital environmental microbiotia. The bacterial balance may also be influenced by antibiotic treatment as well as feeding choices (breastmilk, formula, food introduction, types of foods eaten)

The varying bacterial balances, have been shown in the literature, to influence the development of certain health conditions later in life. Children born by C-section, for example, have been shown to have a 2-fold higher prevalence of atopy (a tendency to develop allergic diseases such as allergic rhinitis, asthma and eczema) than those born by vaginal delivery. Furthermore, there is evidence that more than 50% of young children with severe atopic dermatitis will develop asthma and approximately 75% will develop allergic rhinitis. This suggests a possible correlation between the type of bacteria in the gut and the presence of atopy. Several studies have been conducted to prove this theory correct using probiotics.

Probiotics are “live organisms” which when taken orally, provide significant benefit by rebalancing the good and bad gut microflora. The gut has 400 trillion good bacteria and is up to 3000 square feet in surface area (as an adult). The good bacteria in the gut are responsible for healthy post-natal development. There are estimated to be 10,000-40,000 strains of good bacteria required to support healthy development of the brain, immune system and detoxification pathways with the research continuing to discover more interconnections. The numbers and types of bacteria in the gut is ever-changing due to their fast division rate and is strongly affected by the food we consume. In one particularly large study (215 infants aged 6-12 months), a comparison between formula milk with probiotic supplementation and formula milk alone was made and a series of health markers were monitored closely. Infants who received formula with probiotics showed a 46% reduction in the incidence rate of GI infections, 27% reduction in the incidence rate of the common cold and a 30% reduction in the total number of infections at the end of study period when compared to infants who were only fed formula (Maldonado et al J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2012).

Another large trial (454 mother-baby pairs), the Swansea Baby – Allergy Prevention Trial, was conducted to investigate the effect of probiotic administration in the prevention of allergy development in infants over 6 months and following up after 2 years. The results showed a 57% reduction at 2 years. This study was the first of this kind to show supplementation of good microbiota, for only the first 6 months of life, can positively shift the developing immune system to acquire the microflora as its own ultimately creating long lasting health benefits into adulthood. This finding is groundbreaking, as when starting to supplement with probiotics as an adult, the health benefits only last with continual probiotic supplementation (as seen in the research thus far.)

Cough and colds are the most common infections we experience – often being a matter of “when” rather than “if”. Commonly adults catch a virus 2-3 times per year and children 3-8 times per year and probiotics have been shown to profoundly alleviate several aspects of inevitable annual sickness. The PROCHILD study evaluated 57 children aged between 4 and 6 years in a pre-school setting for 6 months and monitored illness. Total number of days with cold symptoms (sneezing, sore throat, cough, runny/blocked nose) had a 51% reduction in the probiotic group! The frequency of occurrence of cold symptoms reduced by 33% in the group taking probiotics. Most importantly, there was a 30% reduction in absence from preschool in the children taking probiotics! (Garaiova I et al 2014 Eur J Clin Nutr, doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2014.174)

The increasingly recognized profound impact that the microbiome has on human health cannot be underestimated – with impacts on virtually all aspects of human physiology.
Optimizing your child’s gut bacterial balance can be one of the most important things you can do to provide a foundation for health into their future. It is encouraged to talk to a naturopathic doctor or another health care professional who is educated in the latest research to help guide probiotic supplementation based on individual health needs. We are only beginning to understand the potential of this manipulation of gut flora and it provides a huge level of promise for the future.
Botanical Medicine and the Developing Immune System

Herbal medicine has been used for centuries all over the world and contrary to some belief it can be very effective in supporting a newborn’s immune system in a very gentle and safe manner. The best way to prevent infection in an infant is to grow a healthy baby during pregnancy. A healthy baby is likely to have a well-functioning immune system with optimal resistance to illness. Good nutrition during pregnancy is one the most important factors in decreasing a baby’s susceptibility to infection.

An effective way to stimulate a newborn’s immune system as they fight off a general infection is the use of botanical herbs, which have the ability to do so in a safe and gentle way without taxing the body. Botanical herbs will decrease the duration and severity of symptoms during an infection while still allowing the normal immune response to take place without suppressing it.

The following is a brief description of two herbs that the literature has found to be effective when treating general infections in newborns:

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum): mainly known for its use as an antidepressant, antimicrobial, sedative and anti-inflammatory. In addition, to it’s commonly recognized use as an antidepressant, St. John’s Wort is also known to be a sedative and restorative nervine with a potent calming effect. Its antimicrobial properties make it very effective in the treatment of upper respiratory and intestinal infections. This herb is also particularly useful in the presence of inflammation. It may also be used as an earache oil to treat the pain as well as the infection associated with ear conditions in infants.

Echinacea spp.: Well known for its immune stimulating effects, it is also a very potent anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant. It can be very useful in treating upper respiratory tract infections as well as eye infections. As an alternative to providing this herb to the baby directly, a nursing mother can also take an Echinacea tincture some of which will pass through her breast milk to the baby. Echinacea decreases the duration of colds and reduces inflammation both internally and externally, and enhances overall resistance to illness. This herb is safe for young children as long as the dose is appropriate for their weight.
The previous descriptions of probiotics and botanicals are not meant to serve as a prescription, please see your Naturopathic Doctor to learn more about safety and dosages.


Dr. Kate Mclaird, ND & Dr. Nadine Khoury, ND.



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Food as Medicine: Turmeric the Great

I’m excited to share a special recipe with you today. Chiang Mai Noodle Soup is a packed with complex flavours, and rich with turmeric. One of the most important lessons I teach is that the food we ingest should be our primary medicine. A wellness powerhouse, here are just some of the health benefits of Turmeric:
Powerful antioxidant
Boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (AKA lowers risk of     brain diseases)
Contributes to lowering risk of heart disease
Anti-cancer properties
Linked to prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
Anti-depressive effects

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Shedding the Chemical Burden

As the naturopathic doctor at the Toronto Wellness Centre, I attended the Green Living Show at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, to explore what was new on the market to offer to our patients! I was astounded at the number of new green products that are available on the market, and moreover, companies making it ridiculously easy to convert to green – there really aren’t any excuses anymore!

Did you know!?

The EWG (Environmental Working Group) conducted a survey of 2300 people and the results showed that “on average, respondents use nine products daily. These contain 126 unique ingredients. One man in 100 and fully 25 percent of women surveyed apply 15 or more products each day.” With these types of numbers of exposure to products with potential long term health effects, we need to start taking action.

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Toronto Wellness Centre Climbs the CN Tower

We are very excited to be supporting the World Wildlife Fund as we prepare to climb Toronto’s famous CN Tower as a team on April 26th, 2015!

Our team is made up of Toronto Wellness Centre staff and friends of the clinic. We’ll be climbing 1776 individual steps (that’s 144 flights) and the whole team is excited for this physical challenge!

As we prep for the climb, we’ll be training (watch out stairs: we’re coming for you!) and ensuring that each team member feels their best with regular chiropractic adjustments. Maintaining wellness is key as a big event approaches, and also for day-to-day life. After the climb, we’ll be feeling extra lucky to have two Registered Massage Therapists on hand, that’s for sure!

With proceeds going to support animals in need such as majestic right whales, powerful polar bears, intelligent Great Apes, mysterious clouded leopards, and many more, we’ll need your help. Donations can be made here to sponsor our climb and help these amazing animals!

Thank-you for your support!

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How to Bite the Sugar Craving for Good

Toronto Wellness Centre’s own naturopathic doctor, Dr. Kate McLaird ND tackles sugar, and how to handle your sweet-tooth and those overwhelming cravings:

We’ve all been there at one point or another – that strong craving for something sweet, whether it’s the sweet pick-me-up in the late afternoon, the après-dinner dessert with tea or coffee, or perhaps the ice cream cone you associate with precious family time on the weekends. Suddenly these sugar cravings start to become more and more frequent, and even harder to ignore – why does this happen!? 

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Don’t let your sciatic pain become a lifelong problem

Sciatica, foot drop, back pain, pins and needles, leg weakness, leg numbness.

If you have ever been diagnosed with sciatica, it is important to find the reason for it. Sciatica is a general term that is used to indicate pressure on your sciatic nerve. Your sciatic nerve comprises of 5 nerves (Nerve Roots) that exit your spine. These nerves exit through small holes called foramen. When these small holes are encroached into, whether it is the bone or the disc or swelling of soft tissues this is the most common place for the sciatic nerve to be pressed on. It is important to understand that pressure on the nervous system is a serious problem that can cause irreparable damage if it is not treated. For many people, their treatment consist of pain killers and anti inflammatories and bed rest. All of these things do nothing to correct the mechanical problems that are causing the pressure on the nerve. The bed rest allows all the small stabilizing muscles in your spine to waste away and lose their tone. So after your 3 months in bed you have the same mechanical problems but a much weaker back to deal with them, setting yourself up for a relapse.

If it’s your disc – The discs are central to your body and we have a lot of muscular and soft tissue protection in place. You have to understand that there has been a major injury and/or many small injuries over time to have your body break down this far, whether you have felt them or not. I conservatively tell patients that it takes years for that disc to return to 100%, even if your pain has subsided well before than. So it is important that when you undergo chiropractic treatment and get the bio-mechanics of your lumbar spine corrected, you will need to be proactive and do rehabilitation exercises and regular check ups with your practitioner to maintain the correction. Hydration is very important and reducing and flushing inflammation of the tissues and for hydration of the disc. As adult’s we don’t have a blood supply to our discs, so we rely on movement of the disc move fluids around. Think of it like a sponge sitting in some water. When you push on the sponge water flows out and when you lift your hand off, the sponge sucks it back up.

If it’s your spine – If you suffer from arthritis, both Osteo (wear and tear) and Rheumatoid (Immune response) can create changes in the quality and shape of you vertebrae. Bony spurs and calcifications can project into the foramen and narrow the space where there nerve exits the spine. These are much more difficult to treat, with conservative chiropractic care. The arthritic process has affected the spine for a much longer time frame, which translates into a much longer correction and healing time frame. Any patient at my practice that presents with this type of sciatica, we have great success with improving their condition and quality of life, but this is not a quick fix. The alternative is a lifetime of pain killers and anti inflammatories, is a destructive way of dealing with your sciatica.

I treat patients with sciatica on a regular basis and have great results with it. Conservative chiropractic care is a great first choice of treatment for the condition. Surgery sometimes is required as the damage is too vast, but once you go down the surgical route, your spine will permanently be changed and should be considered as a last resort.

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Helping Posture in the Workplace

I hope all of you have had a good chat with your health and safety team about the correct ergonomics of a desk and computer. Here is a quick picture for you.
Ergonomics Helping Posture in the Workplace
A few other easy tips to help

1. Stay hydrated, 1/3rd of your spinal height is made from your intervertebral discs, these 70-90% water. So if your body is dehydrated the discs will not be as protected from injury. Have a glass of water nearby.
2. Take breaks. We are creatures of motion, to sit at a computer/desk for long hours is unnatural to our body. Our ligaments fatigue in 50 minutes and begin to stretch, this is called tissue creep. When this starts, our joints and bones can move into positions that they shouldn’t and increasing your risk of injury. If you can get our of your chair and move for 5 minutes every 50 minutes you reduce tissue creep and risk of injury. Set a countdown timer on your computer to go off every 45-50 minutes.
3. Sit tall. We are creatures of habit. If you slouch in a chair, the odds are you will continue to do so. Make an effort to sit tall in the chair (keep your low back under you). It will take time but you can train yourself to have the good habit of sitting tall.

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