FIT Talk With Tania  

Toxic smoke in the Valley

Whether you're a smoker or not, lately standing outside for any length of time is pretty much the same as standing next to a smoker.

Thankfully no summer has ever been as smoky, or as devastating, as Firestorm 2003. At least not that I can remember anyway. Any of you who lived in the Valley back then would remember. It's impossible not to really. The air thick with smoke, ash falling everywhere, people lost their homes. Truly a difficult summer. And although nothing of that magnitude is happening now, from a health perspective, many of the dangers are still the same.

Smoke. Once it gets into the Valley, it seems to hang around, meaning we're still breathing it in. The word, “Smokanagan” comes to mind right about now. Honestly, right now whether you're a smoker or not, if you're outside for any length of time, you're breathing in smoke much the same as standing next to someone having a cigarette. That smoke hovering about isn't just annoying and smelly, it's actually toxic and dangerous to our health. And although it can be worse for the frail and/or elderly, anyone with asthma or other lung conditions, as well as babies and young children, it affects everyone.

You don't have to wait for the smoke to clear to start working on removing some of those toxins from your body. In fact it's a good idea to think about what you can do today to try and pull some of those toxins out and work on cleansing your lungs and your body. Particles floating around in the air, as well as those carcinogens that you can't see, are drawn into our bodies with every breath, affecting us in many different ways.

Coughing, sore throats, lack of energy, poor sleep, headaches, and general malaise are just some of the complaints I've heard from clients and people out in the community. Toxins, regardless whether we breathe them in, consume the in food, or absorb them through our skin, all create inflammation. And with inflammation being the root cause of all disease, being proactive and eliminating as much of it as possible is a must. It's also important to note that just because you may not be experiencing any symptoms, does not mean your body is not being affected on the inside. Why not try and remove as many toxins as possible before something becomes an issue.

Everything we do to or for our bodies, and conversely even what we don't or won't do, either creates health or moves us towards disease. The negative things that we do, along with the things we choose not to do that we know we should, create inflammation. Imagine inside your body you have this bucket. Picture that bucket slowly filling up with bits of stuff, continually. Pretty soon there's so many inflammatory bits inside it's like that recycling bucket under the sink in your kitchen. Eventually you can't put even one more little bit in because it starts overflowing all over the place. Think of that same thing happening inside our bodies. People who continually do healthful things to keep the bucket from overflowing likely don't feel so bad in this smog because there's still room in the bucket. Their body is able to handle clearing the toxins. Maybe not all, but enough to keep you from feeling the ill effects. Others who continually live with their bucket brimming at the top, constantly threatening to spill out all over the place will be feeling it the most. It is important for everyone to “empty that bucket” regularly and work on keeping a good amount of room available in that bucket, rather than just keep trying to shove one more item in and hope for the best. Sound familiar?

So, what can we do to remove the toxins and create health? In general, and for our everyday lives, drinking lots water, eliminating stress, getting enough sleep, eating whole, organic foods, eliminating anything packaged or processed, and getting up and moving your body for at least 30 minutes every day. Doing these basic things alone is something anyone can do to immediately reduce internal inflammation and flush out some of the toxins. As an added bonus, when you maintain those good habits as a lifestyle, you'll probably even lose a few pounds in the process. Fun Fact; Losing just 18 pounds can reduce your internal inflammation by as much as 23 per cent.

To help detox the smoke and all the chemicals that go with that we've been breathing in lately, there are a number of easy things you can do. First of all, when you are inside, practise deep breathing. Exercising our lungs with deep breathing helps to bring more oxygen into the blood stream and up to the brain. This is especially important for people who sit long periods of time. As the hours go by, we tend to slouch, collapsing our bodies forward, bringing the ribs in close around the lungs, causing shallow breathing and restricting oxygen. Sit tall or stand, and breathe deeply, in for four counts, hold slightly at the top, out for six to eight counts, hold slightly at the bottom and repeat. Be sure to exhale fully to avoid trapping any carbon dioxide in the lungs. Diffusing or spraying some good quality essential oils around the house will also help to clear the lungs. Oils like peppermint or eucalyptus are great for this.

Incorporating more cleansing type and high antioxidant foods helps the body to flush out and detoxify as well. Chewing on peppermint leaves is easy and very beneficial. Spices like ginger, turmeric and cinnamon are rich in antioxidants and therefore work to reduce inflammation. I brew up a pot of hot water with a half fresh lemon, squeezed, chunk of fresh ginger, cinnamon stick, 1/3 tsp turmeric and let it steep. Add a tablespoon of honey for the pot if you need it a little sweeter as honey is antibacterial. Stay away from sugar, you're creating inflammation every time you eat it.

Adding in supplements such as activated carbon or charcoal that attach and bind to toxins to help pull them from the body, as well as things that promote nitric oxide production – something our body doesn't make and loses with age. Nitric oxide is key to restoring and improving circulation, bringing more oxygenation into the blood, and, therefore, throughout the body. The added benefit is increased nutrient uptake, improved immune function and increased energy. I got my activated charcoal at Nature's Fare and order my Nitro Extreme Fx online.

It's true we can never live two timelines and experience the difference in what it feels like or what happens doing some of these good things versus not doing them. But what we do know is that when we remove the toxins and inflammation, replace it with healthy alternatives, and enhance with appropriate supplements, people live longer, stronger, better lives. Who doesn't want that?

For more info on health and healthy options, check out Tania's 21 Day Kickstart and join the 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook.


Creating healthy habits

Ever notice that when our “norm” gets disrupted some of the good, healthy habits we've developed somehow fall by the wayside and get replaced with not-so-healthy habits?

Case in point, this entire past year (plus a few months) has wreaked havoc with many of our daily routines, habits and just our daily lives in general. Thankfully rules and restrictions are now minimal and it seems that for the most part things are very close to normal. But what, is normal for people now? Let's take a look from a health perspective.

For some people, having and maintaining healthy routines is and has always been at the top of their list. And come hell or high water, they seem to find a way to stick to the things that work for them. For some people. A very small portion of the population actually. Although I couldn't find any specific numbers on what that might be, I did find that slightly less than one percent of people who start a diet can maintain it for life. Now you all know how I feel about diets being four-letter words, but it just goes to show that the number of people who try to do something healthy, don't tend to stick with it. Honestly, we don't even need numbers. Just jump on social media and see how many people have been complaining of weight gain, mental health issues, stress, anxiety, etc., over this past year and you'll see.

So how do we make healthy changes and make them stick, even through a personal crisis? Even through stressful events? Even through a pandemic? Well, we know that some people can do it. They are doing it. And if one person can do it, anyone can do it.

Creating healthy habits should be seen as something positive. Focusing on all the things you can't or shouldn't have rather than on the things you can and should have is a much healthier outlook, mentally and physically. Humans don't like to be told we can't have/do something. Anyone who has kids can attest to this. Seriously, I don't like to be told I can't do/have something. Realistically though, life can't be a free for all if you want to actually create a healthy body, healthy family, healthy lifestyle. And I think most of us know this. So here's where knowing how to trick your mind and body into thinking you do have it all, while removing those things that don't align with your health goals, comes in handy.

Experts say good habits can be formed in as little as 18 days, but in some cases, can take over 200 days to stick. Why so long? Simple. Bad habits provide some sort of reward. In the case of health, eating that piece of chocolate cake tastes good. It triggers the pleasure sensors of the brain and makes us feel good for a moment. And then later we beat ourselves up about not making a healthier choice and the cycle continues.

This type of behaviour tends to happen even more when life hits us like a ton of bricks. And I think it's fair to say most of us got hit pretty hard this past year and succumbed to the cake vs. the piece of fresh fruit.

The trick to avoiding the “let me eat cake” syndrome next time life comes at you – and it will at some point – is to:

1. Quit focusing on what you can't/shouldn't have and focus on the options you can/should have to make a good choice.

2. Swap the not-so-healthy options for healthy options that still make you feel good.

3. Prep ahead of time.

4. Take things one percent at a time.

Now that it's summer, focus on all the fresh fruit and veggies and see how many colours you can add to your plate each meal. Food that's visually appealing is naturally more satisfying, makes you smile to look at it, and therefore triggers those same pleasure sensors in the brain.

Focus on creating healthy, cool, summer treats – for example pureed berries mixed with a little coconut cream makes a super healthy popsicle that kids or adults love. Sub the berries for frozen banana chunks, a teaspoon peanut butter and a teaspoon of cocoa to satisfy that chocolate ice cream craving. Adding in a good quality vanilla protein powder to either flavour makes a balanced meal and you can literally eat popsicles for breakfast if you want. I did that on Wednesday actually. Yum. These are just a few examples but the swaps are literally endless.

And then remember as you're looking at what you can have, replacing the bad with the good, making sure you've always got options available, always take it one percent at a time. Because no matter where you are in your health journey, or wherever you want to take your health, anyone can do one percent better today than yesterday. And that will keep you on track and moving towards your goals.

If you're looking for more swap options and a way to reset, restart or even just get started creating healthy habits and healthy weight loss, join the 21 Day Kickstart starting July 15. Just $99 for early bird registration when you register by July 8.

Nitric oxide and circulation

The body is a complex thing — so many parts put together perfectly that function as a well-oiled machine, day in, day out, 24/7/365.

It’s amazing really when you think about it. Oddly enough, most of us don't think about it much, if at all, unless something interrupts the function of that well-oiled machine.

Although I am a glass-half-full kinda gal, I believe that looking ahead and being preventative is not only key to avoiding sickness and disease, it's also key to a more enjoyable life.

  • Less disease
  • Better quality of life.

Simple. And one of the things that's critical to good health and longevity is circulation.

The circulatory system moves the blood through the body to deliver oxygen and nutrients to all cells, and then remove the carbon dioxide, waste and toxins.

Think of a garden hose. When it's hooked up to the water tap and you turn it on, water flows through it quickly and goes right to where you have the end of the hose directed at and those plants get the water they need to grow, or your car gets washed, etc., you get the point.

Now, what happens when you hook up the hose, turn on the water, point the nozzle in the right direction and you have kink in the hose?

Water still comes through, but it takes longer to water your plants, and it's much more difficult to wash your car effectively as there isn't enough volume to properly do the job. Same thing inside your body.

Depending on what's going on in your body, you may already be aware of any circulation issues. Many people could, however, have a little “kink” in some of those hoses and not even know it:

  • Cold or numbness in hands and/or feet
  • Swelling in feet and/or lower leg
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Diarrhea, constipation
  • Bloody stools
  • Muscle cramping
  • Joint pain, purple-ish tinge to skin
  • Sores that won't heal, especially on the lower extremities

Optimal circulation is needed to maintain health, promote healing, and to support immune and cognitive function.

The amount of blood flowing, or not flowing, through your veins affects blood pressure, digestion, elimination, energy levels, joint, muscle and vascular health, as well as cognitive functioning, retention and memory.

Clearly, it's in everyone's best interest to get the kinks out.

Although certainly not new on the health scene, nitric oxide (NO) has been something only elite athletes were focusing on to optimize performance.

NO occurs naturally and is responsible for regulating healthy blood flow, blood pressure as well as how our cells communicate with our brain and how the body protects and defends itself against diseases.

Nitric oxide is produced two ways, through:

A complicated process where enzymes convert amino acids (proteins) into NO; and food Food we eat.

The problem with these delivery systems is that around the age of 40, our bodies' abilities to convert enzymes decreases to only about 50% efficiency. And for the second, well, we are what we eat.

Nitrates are converted to nitrites, which can then be converted to nitric oxide, which give us nitric oxide and can then provide us with the health benefits mentioned above. The million-dollar question then becomes, how do I get more nitrates into my body and optimize the conversion process?

Glad you asked.

Let's just clarify by saying that if you just Google nitrates, you will likely find that it's an unhealthy chemical, something found in fertilizers and even used in killing rodents. Obviously, these are toxic and should be avoided.

When you see nitrates listed on packaged foods, these too are the chemical, not-so-healthy options.

The ones I'm referring to occur naturally in certain foods. Leafy greens such as:

  • Spinach
  • Kale,
  • Arugula
  • Cabbage
  • Bok choy
  • Watercress
  • Chicory leaf
  • Chinese cabbage

Other great sources of NO-producing elements are veggies, such as:

  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Turnips
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Kohlrabi

To a lesser degree, watermelon, apples, bananas, grapes, kiwi, nectarines, peaches, pears, oranges, and strawberries are also beneficial.

One fruit in particular that does promote nitric oxide production, the dilation of blood vessels and improved circulation is the morinda citrifolia, more commonly known as the Noni fruit, and also Indian mulberry.

For the past 2,000 years, Polynesians have used Noni fruit in herbal remedies to treat various conditions.

As with many super foods, there are many scientific papers and abstracts on the benefits of Noni with regards to NO production, circulation and its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits as well.

Being an exotic and rather little known fruit, it's unlikely you'll stumble across it in your local produce aisle. It's also not very palatable and has been described by some as the “vomit fruit” due to its unpleasant odour.

For those who would like to try Noni, I suggest sourcing out a high-quality supplement instead. As with any supplements, look for quality and bio-availability – where it came from, how it was made and how easily it will be absorbed by the body.

Looking for a reset, restart or just a way to get started? Contact Tania for info on her new 21-day, kickstart plan.

My summer favs

Wow, it's been hot lately. Looks like summer heat and sun are here in full force, just the way I like it.

I know we need the rain and I'm OK with that. It would be perfect to have it rain overnight and have the sun shine during the day. But I'll take it any way I can get it.

I do love that here in the Okanagan we have four distinct seasons, but as you may have guessed, summer is my favourite. Beach days, backyard barbecues, and bevvies — specifically frappuccinos and fun fizzy drinks. These are a few favourites I look forward to when the temperature starts to climb.

Summer, as with any other season, occasion or event, comes with its own food culture and items we all love to dive into. Eating out and/or outside for example.

Whether it's on your deck at home, restaurant patio or around a campfire, summer and eating outdoors just go together.

Who wants to heat up the house when the weather app is showing temps in the high 20s and low 30s for days? Me either. Yet, we still need to cook certain things.

Hotdogs, burgers, steaks, chicken, kebabs, and shrimp are all great on the grill. Even veggies. Rough-chopped bell peppers together with sliced zucchini and sweet potato, tossed in a little olive oil and thrown on the grill with your favourite protein, it doesn't get much easier.

Before I get called out on mentioning hotdogs, let me clarify. Hotdogs, as in the ones that come in those shrink-wrapped, 12-packs are literally mystery meat in a tube.

Before I start getting hate mail for slandering the hotdog, while naming some equally offensive treats above as some of my favs, just keep reading.

Those who know me or have followed my page or maybe joined my 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook, know that health is always top of mind. But so is chocolate. With summer weather here, let's not pretend we're not thinking about ice cream or cold drinks to go with that beach day or backyard barbecue. I know I am.

And yes, I will partake. You can indulge and keep it healthy or at least minimize the carnage.

Let's start with the hotdog, and other proteins you'll likely be grilling. Quality is key. The
mystery-meat-in-a-tube comment doesn't have to be your experience.

When you purchase from a local butcher shop, not only will the quality be better, but you'll notice it in the taste as well. It's amazing how flavourful proteins can be when all the ingredients are real food. My local favourite is Johnny's Meats in Rutland.

Now that you have the food on the grill, you're likely going to be looking for something to wash it down. I see so many people load up their grocery carts with flats or two-litre bottles of soda, juice boxes, energy drinks, ice-tea powder, etc.

The amount of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners adults and kids are consuming is crazy. I use a soda stream — without the syrups. If you enjoy fizzy drinks like I do, it's the perfect way to enjoy a nice, cold, refreshing drink without all the sugar or chemicals.

Fresh lemon, lime, frozen berries, cucumber and mint, the flavour options are endless.

Those who love the convenience of grabbing a can to take with you, try Zevia. It's sweetened with stevia, no added colours, natural flavours; it’s a much healthier alternative to soda.

If blended drinks are your thing — Starbucks frappuccinos, Tim's iced-capps, etc. — try a protein shake. A good quality, great tasting shake blended with ice and coffee (for a mocha), matcha, fruit, peanut butter or any number of real food add-ins will not only give you the same or better flavour satisfaction, it will keep your blood sugar stable and prevent fat storage to boot.

For those days when it's too hot to cook, ordering in to sit on the patio sounds like a really good idea, right?

Of course, we all should allow ourselves an off-plan meal now and again to enjoy our favourites unaltered/unsubbed with anything else, but when take out starts to take over, making better choices is in everyone's best interest.

Locally there are some great little places where you can have meals put together the way you want them to be. Chopped Leaf and Freshii are great examples of this. Or Meal Prep For You, a local company where you can order on their app to have as many meals as you want/need in a week and then just swing by and pick them up.

It’s perfect for those people who don't want to cook, don't like to cook, can't cook, but want to eat healthy, balanced meals. It's literally fast food, PFC style.

I've saved the best for last. Ice cream.

Anyone with kids cringes when they hear that ice cream truck coming because you know your kids will hound you mercilessly they get one. There are quite a few adults who love it too.

Granted kids love the cartoon figure treats, but it's much like the hotdog. Let's just say that modified milk ingredients and chemicals should not be in ice cream.

I make my own ice cream using frozen banana chunks blended with a little almond milk and either cocoa and peanut butter or berries depending on what my taste buds are requesting. Both are amazing.

Blend it a little runnier and freeze in popsicle holders and you've always got something on hand for the kids that won't have them bouncing off the walls from sugar and added colourings.

Of course, it wouldn't be summer if you didn't go out for ice cream once in a while. Hubby and I go to Amore Mio in downtown Kelowna. Technically, it's gelato, not ice cream, which I love anyway, but it's also all made in house with real ingredients.

They even have vegan options for those of us who avoid dairy and their sugar-free options are sweetened with stevia. Definitely a win.

Now, we can have our summer treats and eat them too.

More FIT Talk With Tania articles

About the Author

Nutritionist Tania Gustafson, owner of FIT Nutrition, has been active in the health and fitness industry since 1986 when she entered as a fitness instructor and trainer.

In 2011, Tania partnered with internationally renowned nutrition and fitness expert Mark Macdonald, and in 2017 officially earned the title of Master Nutrition Coach in conjunction with Venice Nutrition and the International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaches (IBNFC).

Tania is one of only five health professionals licensed and certified in Canada to deliver this proven, three-phase program of blood sugar stabilization, not dieting.Tania is committed to ending the dieting madness both locally and globally and educates her clients on how to increase health with age.

Tania is able to work with clients across Canada, the U.S. and U.K. to restore health and achieve their weight loss goals.Tania is a wife, mother of three adult children, global entrepreneur, speaker, workshop facilitator, writer, blogger, podcast host, travel junkie and self-proclaimed gym rat.

For more information and to book your complimentary health assessment go to www.fuelignitethrive.com. Check https://www.facebook.com/fuelignitethrive/  and https://www.facebook.com/groups/8weeksisallittakes/

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories