Have You Caught the Travel Bug?

January and February seem to mark a time of mass exodus from Canada.  As beautiful as our country is, it’s cold here at this time of year (at least it is usually) and it seems that everyone wants out.  For many though, the joy of traveling is marred by getting sick.  As I just returned home from a glorious three weeks away in Costa Rica I thought that rather than just sharing pictures with you and gloating, I would share some ideas for how to feel great while traveling so you can enjoy every minute of it.
1) Water water everywhere.  Hydration is your best friend.  Staying properly hydrated eases jet-lag, makes you more resilient to the sun (aka less sun burns and peeling) and helps keep things moving properly through your digestive system.  This isn’t always easy when you are in places where where beer is cheaper than water but if you are indulging your need for water goes up, not down.
Dos cervasas por favor?
2) Pack some good bugs with you.  I brought along SISU’s ‘Integris’ which is high potency and shelf stable to help deal with minor tummy troubles.  It’s not a bad idea to start taking a good probiotic before you are traveling so that your guts are in good condition.
3) Electrolytes are great for dealing with dizziness, vertigo and changes of temperature and sun exposure.  You can bring packets of something like EmergenC along with you, or you can make your own in a pinch by taking some fresh citrus juice, diluting with water and adding sea salt.
4) Bring along some homeopathic first aid in the form of Traumeel cream (bumps, bruises, bites, scratches, etc) and Rescue Remedy (stress, jet-lag, fear of flying, hyper-emotional kids).

I hope you have an amazing time wherever you find yourself for the rest of this winter.

Be the Change, Without Spending Any

By Alexis Costello

Many of us have had the experience of a life-changing year.  Maybe it came along with getting married, having a baby, traveling abroad or losing someone you love.  Would you believe that you could change your life completely simply by not spending money? This is what Calgary roommates Geoffrey Szuszkiewicz and Julie Phillips did from the summer of 2013 to this past August as they embarked on an experiment they called Buy Nothing Year.

“It felt like a fast or an addiction program where you’re slowly changing your behaviors and patterns from something you’re addicted to or that’s habitual for you,” says Julie. Not being part of the mass consumer culture helped both to develop more mindfulness and more awareness, to slow down and pay more attention to where they actually are.  “It shows where you put your focus or attention. I used to constantly want things — more, better, nicer and cheaper. I haven’t done that in a year, so my life is richer. It’s a spiritual outcome, which I didn’t expect at all.”

Between the two of them, they saved over $55,000 in the year.  Biking and walking everywhere and not going out to eat improved overall health as well.

The message that emerges from reading their story is that you don’t have to be trapped in a rat-race or in a culture of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ if you don’t want to be.  Even if your income is limited, there are ways of changing your relationship with money and with a consumer culture.

In reading the Buy Nothing Year blog, it is clear that both Geoffrey and Julie had always had lofty goals but maybe some difficulty with follow-through.  The immediate media attention their experiment got helped them to get through the initial, most difficult part of the change as it kept them accountable.  At only a month in to the experiment however they both report a shift in how they look at time, relationships, life goals and priorities.  Like a New Years Resolution in overdrive!

For most people, a shift like this might be too extreme or difficult to consider, but could you try it on a smaller scale?  This might start with participating in a ‘Buy Nothing Day’ activity in your area, or something as simple as really looking at where you spend your money in the average month and trying to eliminate a couple of frivolous expenses ($5 coffees anyone?).  There is also the option to swap/trade services or products with others, meaning that you can still get what you’re looking for, but take money out of the equation.

Times magazine in an article entitled ‘What Comes First, Wealth or Health?’ points out that money issues cause stress which is the root of many health problems, but also that your health depends on feeling good about, and in control of, your finances, something that very few people are doing.  Maybe 2015 is your year to take your health and money into your own hands and change for the better.

Quotes taken from Forbes article published August 20, 2014 “The Buy Nothing Year: How Two Roommates Saved More Than $55,000”

Follow Geoffrey and Julie at www.buynothingyear.com

Even more reasons to not eat sugar…

published in the Fall issue of Health Action Magazine

The idea that sugar is not good for you is not going to be news for most people.  Ask someone why sugar isn’t good for them though, and it becomes a little less certain.  Once we get beyond the pop and candy that we often consume sugar in, is there anything intrinsically toxic about sugar?

When my family was trekking through southern Costa Rica a few years ago we saw kids from our village walking home from school one day chewing on, what looked like big fibrous stalks.  When I asked what it was, they told me it was sugar cane.  When we tried it, I was surprised by the fact that it isn’t sickly sweet; it is tough and stringy and as you chew the stalk the tasty juice is extracted producing a sweetness much more mellow than a candy would be.

In the same way that much of the nutritional value and all the fiber of an apple is lost when it is processed into apple juice, so the fiber and nutrients that help keep sugar cane a little more balanced are lost in factories.  Even if you are eating cane sugar, you are still consuming a highly processed food that would be very difficult to eat to much of in its natural form.

Why is sugar so bad for us?  Let’s move past the things we have all heard before; past empty calories leading to malnutrition, past weight gain, past type 2 diabetes.  Let’s talk for a minute about how your body actually processes sugars and what that means for you.  Your digestive system breaks sugars down into glucose and fructose.  Your cells need glucose to function and your body will pull glucose from pretty much anything you eat.  We tend to think of fruit when we hear the word ‘fructose’, but in actuality most of the fructose in our diets comes in the form of table sugar (basically half-and-half glucose/fructose) and high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks and prepared foods (roughly 55-45%).  Unless you just finished a good workout, your liver tends to turn fructose into fat and the store it.  Some of this fat gets sent out into the blood stream as VLDL cholesterol (also known as; the very bad kind) and some stays in the liver.  This can lead to Fatty Liver Disease, a collection of symptoms which used to only be seen in alcoholics but is now occurring due to metabolic syndrome.  Just as type-2 diabetes used to be called ‘adult onset diabetes’ but we had to change the name as children with horrendous diets began to develop the disorder, so too the name of this liver condition has had to be changed to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.  The Canadian Liver Foundation estimates that almost 10% of children now have NAFLD, which will lead to serious health consequences.  This has been found in children as young as four.

While a fatty liver is a health concern the real risk is in the affect this VLDL cholesterol can have on the heart.  As study after study has shown us over the last 15 years, we got it wrong in the 80’s.  It’s not too much saturated fat that clogs your arteries and creates heart disease; it’s sugar.  A rather comprehensive study following 88,520 women over 24 years published by the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition in 2009 showed that: “Regular consumption of SSBs (sugar sweetened beverages) is associated with a higher risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) in women, even after other unhealthful lifestyle or dietary factors are accounted for.”  Large amounts of fructose have been shown to increase both triglycerides and abdominal fat in as little as ten weeks, both of which are risk factors for heart disease for both men and women.

Cancer is characterized by uncontrolled multiplication and growth of cells.  Insulin is one of the key hormones that should regulate cell growth and division, therefore many are beginning to think that consistently elevated insulin levels might be contributing to cancer.  In fact, Insulin Growth Factor (IGF) not only seems to promote tumor cell proliferation, it actually can interfere with allopathic cancer treatments like chemotherapy.  It seems like a gross exaggeration to say that all the sugar people are eating could give them cancer until you read some of this research.  In one study for instance, consumption of sugar proved to be more of a risk factor for colon cancer than consumption of any other substance, including alcohol, meat and fat.  Keeping your body more alkaline and reducing acid-forming foods is generally regarded as important for cancer prevention and sugar definitely is acidifying in the body (see sidebar).

In early March the World Health Organization published new guidelines urging adults to keep the ‘free sugars’ in their diet at less than 5% of total daily calories.  They define free sugar as added sweeteners, as opposed to the sugars that are naturally occurring in the food.  For the average adult, this would be less than 6tsp of sugar.  There is an understanding that this will be very difficult for people who are unused to cooking meals from scratch to do, since basically all processed foods contain free sugars, but it gives us something to reach for as a goal.


Sugar has an acidifying effect on the body.  Metabolism of sugars creates alcohol as a by-product, which is even more acidifying, and damages the liver which would normally screen toxic elements from the system, making them a bit of a triple-threat.  They feed candida and other bad bacteria and parasites in the digestive system creating an even bigger pH imbalance that is self-perpetuating as these beasties then cause you to crave even more sugar.  Rather than spending a lot of time trying looking up lists of which foods are acid and which are alkaline, take comfort from the fact that if you consciously try to avoid sugar as much as possible you will, by default, end up eating a much more alkaline diet, thus saving your body from the huge compensations it has to make to keep your pH steady. Unless, of course, you replace all your sugar with bacon.