Are you experiencing hot flashes, night sweats or mood swings? These could be the first signs of menopause. And for Calgary women wanting more information about this change of life, the new spring session of courses through the Calgary Women’s Health Centre at Foothills Hospital are underway.
Menopause: “It’s Not Hot” and “Smooth Sailing” is a two part session run by Ranjit Uppal a Clinical Nurse Specialist. The first session outlines what exactly menopause is and the symptoms associated with it. Smooth Sailing goes through treatment options for menopause and addresses the controversy surrounding these treatments and how to understand what’s right for you. This second session also talks about how to manage symptoms without treatment. For example, the importance of dressing in cotton, using cotton sheets, changing your diet to help with the changes in your body and much more.
This course also helps women cope with the frustration that these menopausal symptoms may last for years. It talks about perimenopause, the time when women may start experiencing symptoms in their early 40s to actual menopause where women have no period for 12 months and how this occurs usually around the age of 51. That said, some women may continue to experience symptoms into their late 50s.
Ranjit has a wonderful sense of humour which is injected into these sessions. She illustrates how having a sense of humour about menopausal symptoms can help women cope with this change of life.
And of course, Menopause, is just one of many courses offered through the Centre this spring. I encourage women to check out their website and take advantage of these classes. They’re a wonderful resource for women. They help women to feel supported, educated and empowered. And the best part?? The courses are free.
Parkinson’s Disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s and thousands of Albertans are living with it. Most people are diagnosed over the age of 65, but it can affect people in their 40s, 30s and even 20s.
Parkinson’s affects movement because of a lack of dopamine in the brain. There is no cure for the disease but there are treatments that can help improve mobility in patients.
I spoke with Dr. Ranjit Ranawaya a neurologist with the Movement Disorders Program at the University of Calgary. He says the standard treatment is a medication called Levodopa. It basically replaces the dopamine in the brain and helps to improve motor function so patients are better able to do simple tasks like buttons, brush their teeth or cut their food. The main side effect of the drug is it causes patients to sway, movements we may associate with actor Michael J. Fox.
The bad news is as the disease progresses Levodopa tends to work less well. Patients have a shorter amount of time where their movements are better, and the swaying caused be the medication may get worse. However, there is now a new way to receive this medication. Dr. Ranawaya says Levodopa is now available in Canada in a liquid form and is administered through a tube that goes into the small intestine. This allows for a more continuous delivery of medication throughout the day.
So for patients who have perhaps been bedridden by their Parkinson’s, this new way of receiving the medication may allow them to have a much better quality of life.
This is an option for patients in this later stage of disease and for whom other treatments are not an option.
However, this treatment is very expensive. It costs about 60 thousand dollars a year, compared to the pill form which is very inexpensive. Right now, Alberta Health Services only covers the liquid form of Levodopa on an individual basis and for a short time. Doctors hope that if they can prove the medication is very helpful for certain patients, that AHS will extend coverage.
For more information visit Parkinson’s Alberta.
Over 500 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer every day, yet more and more are surviving the disease. The Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery program at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre has been helping survivors recover for years. But now, new research shows, this mindfulness training is more beneficial to cancer patients than even group therapy.
Linda Carlson, the clinical psychologist who did the research and runs the program at the Centre, says mindfulness is about changing the way we think which in turn rewires the way the brain works. The mindfulness training includes meditation and gentle yoga. It helps survivors to be present in the moment, be aware and to accept a non-judging attitude. The training is so helpful to cancer patients because they often feel out of control, uncertain about the future, they have symptoms like pain, and sleep disturbance, anxiety and depression. The mindfulness has been shown to help with all of these issues.
Researchers actually found physiological evidence to prove how helpful the mindfulness training is. Researchers took saliva and blood samples and measured the levels of stress hormones, they looked at immune function and tracked cell aging. Mindfulness proved to be more helpful for all of the cancer survivors. Group therapy is cathartic and helpful but not as much as mindfulness.
I spoke with Barb Schultz, a breast cancer survivor who just finished her cancer treatments in November and also just finished the mindfulness training. She says the training helps her to return to sleep faster when she wakes in the night, resulting in up to 4 hours more sleep a night. Barb says she feels more energetic and more at peace with her situation.
The next Mindfulness program starts on April 30th at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. For more information visit their website.
If you’re feeling frisky these days, you’re not alone. Spring fever is a very real phenomenon that occurs only in the Northern Hemisphere.
Sexologist Trina Read says the increased daylight triggers changes in our body….a decrease in the amount of melatonin and an increase in the amount of testosterone. And testosterone is our sex hormone so with more if it in our bodies, it makes sense that we’re more interested in sex.
Read says it’s all very primal. Spring is really about our survival. The increased daylight means it’s time to breed to propagate the species. But also in the spring we’re outside more and getting more Vitamin D from the sunlight which boosts our energy and our mood.
In addition, spring is an assault on our senses. We’re seeing the buds on the trees, smelling the rain, hearing the birds etc. We’re also seeing people in a lot less clothing. Read explains in the winter, we’re all covered up in boots and parkas. In the spring, even if we’re not dressed provocatively, simply in shorts and a T-shirt, 60 percent of our skin is exposed. And this exposure is basically a mating call.
Read says the temperature is usually optimal in spring too. It’s often not too hot and not too cold, around 20 degrees Celsius. Research shows this temperature makes humans very happy.
The only downside to spring is there are often more breakups this time of year. Read says a study looked at Facebook profiles and found a spike in breakups in the spring. Read says people in mediocre relationships often are inspired to find a new partner in spring. Also, people tend to cheat in the spring which can lead to more breakups.
That said, Read recommends focusing on the positive. She encourages everyone to get out and enjoy their spring fever, because it’s fun and lasts such a short time.
For more information visit Trina Read’s website.
There’s no question that divorce is a difficult situation for everyone involved. But in Alberta, 13 percent of divorces end up in what’s called a “high conflict” situation. And in these situations, says Anthropology Professor Christine Giancarlo of Mount Royal University, the children are at highest risk of something called “parental alienation.” This is where one parent actively poisons the child against the other parent.
But Giancarlo says when the children are faced with parental alienation they are often at risk parental alienation syndrome. This is where the child becomes at risk for substance abuse, truancy, poor relationships in adulthood and more. The child is also exposed to “toxic stress” which is devastating for the child. This stress can cause the child to become depressed, have poor self esteem and anxiety.
So what kind of parent would do this to their child? Giancarlo says often it’s a parent suffering from some form of mental illness like borderline personality disorder, narcissism and a parent seeking vengeance. Money also comes into play, because the amount of money a parent will receive usually depends on the amount of time they’ll spend with the child. Giancarlo also found with her research that it can be either the mom or the dad doing the alienating and that the damage to the child is the same regardless of who is doing the alienating.
Giancarlo encourages parents going through a divorce to “love their kids first.” She says parents need to remember they’ll be married to their children for life. Giancarlo says when parents forget this, their children suffer. And she says there are ways to divorce respectfully, putting the child’s needs first. One option is collaborative divorce.
To avoid damaging the children, parents need to think long term about their own lives and the lives of the children. Giancarlo also says it’s very helpful to try and avoid going to court which often escalates the damage to the children.
For more information on collaborative divorce, visit this website.
There’s a fantastic new company in Calgary called Little Hippies. It’s a company dedicated to providing yoga to all children. We all know the benefits of doing yoga for adults, but this company is about making yoga available to children as well.
Founder Jenna Galloway says there is a lot of research coming out now that outlines the benefits of yoga for children. She says yoga calms them down, helps them to focus, helps them to relax and improves motor function and social skills.
Little Hippies provides yoga classes for children ages 2 to 12 and hopes to expand the program to include teenagers.
Little Hippies also has a charitable foundation that provides free yoga classes to any child who is ill, mentally or physically challenged, low-income or who “just needs a little sunshine” in their life.
I spoke with Teresa Pirie, whose 10 year old son Matthew is non-verbal and delayed and takes Little Hippies classes regularly. She says Matthew has much more muscle tone now than he ever had, he also gets a chance to be a part of a community where he’s not different, he’s just a kid who gets to play.
Little Hippies also has a yoga mat recycling program where they take used mats, clean them and then donate them to children who need them.
The overall goal is to use yoga to bring out the best in all kids.
Little Hippies runs yoga classes at studios around Calgary. Visit their website for more information on the company, their foundation and their classes.
Oil pulling is the latest fad to make the rounds on social media, mostly thanks to Gwenyth Paltrow mentioning it in a recent interview.
So I spoke with Naturopathic Doctor Beverly Huang from Grassroots Naturopathic Medicine about this trend. She says oil pulling is an ancient practice dating back two thousand years or so as a form or oral hygiene. But these days, there are claims oil pulling can also whiten your teeth, improve your complexion, pull toxins out of your body and even help with migraines and asthma.
Dr. Huang says most people use coconut oil to swish around their mouth. The general practice is to swish a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for twenty minutes every day. Dr. Huang says coconut oil contains lauric acid which has antimicrobial, antifungal and antiviral properties. She says this is why it may be useful for oral hygiene. In fact, Dr. Huang says one Toronto dentist did an informal trial in her practice with several patients who used did oil pulling for 6 weeks. Those patients all had whiter teeth and a reduction in bacteria in their mouth that would have caused cavities.
Dr. Huang admits this research is promising and the positive results are likely due to the lauric acid in the coconut oil. But Dr. Huang is not going to be recommending oil pulling to her patients. She says she simply doesn’t have enough research and evidence to do so. She says there may be oral hygiene benefits but certainly isn’t sold on any of the other health claims.
However, Dr. Huang says oil pulling isn’t going to hurt you, so if you want to give it a try go ahead. If so, she recommends using organic, cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil. This oil will have the highest amount of the lauric acid. She also says do not spit the oil out down the sink. The coconut oil with harden again once it cools off outside of your mouth and could wreak havoc with your plumbing!
Five hundred Albertans are diagnosed with Crohn’s disease each year. But the largest investment in the history of Crohn’s should help researchers find the cause of the disease.
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and the Helmsley Trust have just announced 10 million dollars to go toward the GEM Project. This project is an international research study lead by Canadian scientists, including a team right here at the University of Calgary. Co-investigator and Gastroenterologist Dr. Gilaad Kaplan says the goal is to understand the genetic, environmental and microbial factors that lead to the development of the disease. Researchers want to recruit five thousand healthy, first degree relatives of someone with Crohn’s disease. They will follow these participants over a number of years knowing that some will develop Crohn’s disease. Researchers will then compare those who acquire the disease with those who didn’t to determine the factors that lead to the development of the disease.
Dr. Kaplan explains once you understand what causes the disease, you can then investigate more effective treatment options and event prevent the disease in the first place.
The research team in Calgary has already recruited 300 participants and with this new money they’re hoping to double that number.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic, inflammatory disease of the bowel that causes pain, diarrhea, bleeding and weight loss. It is often diagnosed in young people in the prime of their life. Dr. Kaplan says the Gem Project is the best bet to help reduce the burden of the disease on patients, their families and our health care system.
For more information on the GEM project and Crohn’s disease visit their website.