FIT Talk With Tania  

Confronting drug addiction

Health is arguably our most precious resource.

Physical, mental, emotional, financial, spiritual and environmental health all culminate together, resulting in our overall level of health.

Based largely on our personal choices - what we eat, how much we exercise, how much water we drink, how many z's we get in each night -- the level that is created allows us to either enjoy life, or suffer through it.

Along with the things we can control, however, come some that we cannot.

I'm talking specifically about changes to our environment, which we did not make and/or that are unable to change.

People who work and/or live in stressful environments are more susceptible to illness and disease, physical and emotional pain, depression.

Studies done back in the 1980s and '90s by psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser and immunologist Ronald Glaser of the Ohio State University College of Medicine, studied med students and found stress from just a  three-day exam period, compromised students' immunity.

Their bodies almost stopped producing the immunity-boosting and infection-fighting cells needed to fight tumours and viral infections.

Just three days.

Now, imagine it's not just three days of exams, but every day and coming from the environment in which you live.

And, imagine it's not just one person being affected, but entire neighbourhoods.

Being in a constant state of stress causes the immune system to shut down, putting health at risk.This is true for individuals, families and communities as a whole living in areas where environments have been negatively impacted as addiction has become part of their landscape.

Drugs, overdose, crime, and fear have recently become a reality in many neighbourhoods across B.C.

You don't have to look far. If you live in Kelowna, and more specifically Rutland, you need only to look out your window, or down the street.

If you're fortunate to not have these issues in your neighbourhood yet, you've likely seen several news stories lately on homelessness, drug addiction, facilities being constructed, the resulting negative impact on the community and council's decision this week on how to handle it.

Some may call the verbal agreement council struck with BC Housing stating that a new social housing facility planned in Rutland will remain "dry," a win.

More of us see it as a Band-Aid.

The whole situation has clearly been stressful for all concerned.

We can see what drug addiction does to someone in terms of their physical health, and sometimes we see what happens to their mental health as well.

The constant and continuous stress inflicted on the body daily is recipe for disaster -not only for the addict, but for everyone around him/her. Nobody wins when addiction is present.

Addiction is defined as a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm.

I'm quite sure no one's childhood dream is now or was ever to grow up and become an addict, lose everything and live on the streets. Yet, it happens.

There are many reasons people take drugs - some because they were prescribed, some as a poor choice.

But whether it comes via prescription or from the street, addiction is a real risk and the results are devastating.

So, what are the drugs in the opioid crisis? Prescription pain killers such as morphine, codeine, heroin, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, methadone, fentanyl are what's known as opiates.

Some are derived from the opium poppy, some are derived using chemical processing of the extracted opiate and others are created synthetically in a lab.

Some are more potent than others — fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than morphine and 30-50 times more potent than heroin — but all are addictive.

Doctors often prescribed opiates to stop or manage pain. Opiates attach to proteins called opioid receptors found on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gut and other parts of the body.

When this happens, the opioids block pain messages sent from the body through the spinal cord to the brain. Ironically, opiate addiction is physical and trying to come off actually causes extreme physical side effects and severe pain.

Alongside the opioid crises, methamphedemine or, meth, is another drug we are hearing about more often.

Although not physically addictive like opiates, meth is psychologically addictive. Meth causes an immediate rush of dopamine to flood the brain, triggering the pleasure/reward centre.

The intense pleasure is short lived. Subsequent highs are never the same as the first, causing the person to continue seeking that original sensation they will never experience again. And the addict is born.

Data reported May 15 on a Government of Canada website said "94 per cent of all opioid-related deaths in 2018 were accidental."

These people did not intend to die, but did due to an overdose or complication from their drug of choice.

The same website states "Western Canada continues to be the most impacted region of the country."

As with trying to solve any health-related issue, these statistics will only go down and neighbourhood environments will only be improved by getting to the root of the problem, rather than putting a Band-Aid on it.

The constant in all of the issues we are seeing an increase of - homelessness, increased property crime, theft, threats to personal safety — is addiction and the drugs that fuel it. That's the root.

Helping people conquer their addiction and restore health to their bodies and minds will restore health to neighbourhoods, communities, cities and beyond.

Overcoming addiction will never be accomplished by being in an environment surrounded by the very things that fuel it.


It's Time to Step Up

There's nothing like summer in the Okanagan. Long, lazy, sunny summer days spent at the beach, in the hammock under a tree in the backyard or relaxing with a cold drink on the deck.

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? Everyone needs downtime.

But when those lazy days turn into weeks or even the entire summer, the excessive downtime now becomes a downturn in your health.

Especially repeated year after year.

Those who follow my FIT Nutrition page or are part of the 8 Weeks is All it Takes Facebook group, are already set up to ensure this is a non-issue. It all started in June when many of us took part in a 28 Day Plank Challenge.

The idea, started by fellow health coach Kate Sansum from Edinburgh, was to get as many people as possible doing something fitness related.

Some started at 20 seconds, some two minutes.

But the important thing was that everyone was able to improve their time, gain core and upper body strength, and even trim a few inches from around the waist.

So why stop now?

My thoughts exactly.

So I'm continuing this month with the Step Up Challenge.

Summer is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy this amazingly beautiful place we live in, so why not explore it?

  • Walk
  • run
  • jog
  • hike
  • climb.

You choose.

Staying active builds muscle, and maintaining strength is essential to optimal functional health. We all know that if you don't use it ,you lose it and being sedentary is a sure way to poor health. It's time to Step Up.

Active people are happier, less likely to suffer from mood swings or depression, they take fewer sick days, are better able to manage weight, and therefore have a lower risk for heart disease, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases.

They are less stressed, less likely to develop osteoporosis, stronger and have better balance, and they sleep better. And especially as we age, these conditions are huge factors in determining whether we continue enjoying life, or end up suffering through it.

But don't take my word for it. Let's find out what some experts who work with our aging population are saying.

Geriatric medicine specialist, Dr. Arun S. Rao from St. Mary's Medical Centre says that:

“...multiple medical problems over time resulting in frailty...(along with) changes in strength and musculoskeletal results in falls....”

As you may have guessed, falls are one of the top reasons people enter a nursing home or care facility.

Dr. Ted Achacoso, board certified in anti-aging and nutritional medicine, elaborates saying that injuries sustained from a fall, happened because the person tried to catch themselves and were not strong enough to support their own weight.

Remember those lifestyle diseases and mental health issues I mentioned earlier?

Senior care expert Anthony Cirillo reports that chronic lifestyle diseases such as COPD and diabetes are now rivalling falls as number one, and depression is surpassing dementia as reasons people enter a care facility.

Cirillo says:

“Some of these diagnoses are preventable if we start taking care of ourselves." 

And I wholeheartedly agree.

Another notable benefit for people who are active and in good health is they seldom require medications. Aside from the fact that every medication comes with its own set of side effects, they tend to affect seniors differently, often causing dizziness.

In fact, medication is the first thing geriatric specialist, Dr. Oluwatoyin Thomas, at Mercy Health, checks when one of her patients has had a fall.

If it wasn't clear to you before just how important staying active, building muscle and strengthening our bodies is, I hope the information shared here has been enlightening and you are inspired to Step Up and take action.

I love this quote from Paul Zane Pilzer:

“There's a small demographic of people getting healthier as they age.”

And the good news is, it's not an exclusive club. Regardless of your age, level of health and/or fitness, anyone can make improvements to their health and quality of life.

At 51, I can honestly say I'm healthier and stronger than I was 25 years ago and I make a conscious effort to do something about it every day.

If you're ready to get started creating a healthier, stronger, happier you, I invite you to go to 8 Weeks is All it Takes on Facebook and join the summer Step Up Challenge.

If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.

It's time to Step Up.

Moo the milk away

MOOVE OVER - Milkin' It, For All Its Worth

Almond, coconut, cashew, hemp, soya, rice, oat, flax, and of course dairy. All types of milk, but which one(s) promote health and which promote health problems. Definitely something to take a look at.

I grew up on a farm. We grew our own veggies, raised our own beef and my dad hunted, so we also had venison. And each week mom bought milk fresh either from our cousins' or the neighbour's farm where Mrs. Shepel did the milking by hand.

I remember skimming the cream off into a mason jar and my sister and I taking turns shaking to make butter.

Back then when you heard the word “milk” it was natural to assume the dairy variety. That being said, plant-based milk substitutes have actually been around and consumed globally for thousands of years.

The Chinese first wrote about soy milk back in 1365. Coconut milk has been used in India and almond milk was introduced into Europe by way of the Middle East more than 1,000 years ago.

Rice, other nut milks, hemp, flax and most recently oat milk appeared more recently now providing seemingly endless choices. And with 54% of Canadians reporting they are open to choosing a plant-based alternative if one was available, it's not surprising.

More and more people are moving away from dairy in recent years, myself included. There are many reasons for this shift, health being a big one.

Dairy causes bloat. Healthline online reports a minimum 75% of the population are unable to digest lactose causing bloating, leaky gut, diarrhea, constipation, IBS.

Dr. James Loomis, MD at Barnard Medical Centre, has a different opinion; he says almost none can digest it.

Loomis says only those with a mutated gene are able to digest it properly and avoid symptoms. Add to the list headaches, acne, increased risk of heart disease and cancer and the fact that milk today is not the same quality it was when our parents were kids. Or even when we were kids.

The milk my mom bought from our cousins and neighbour came from cows who lived out in the pasture, feeding on grass, alfalfa, some oats (bribery to get them to come in for a milking) during the summer and munched on hay and silage (green matter sometimes combined with corn husks and apples then fermented for feed) in winter.

This sort of diet makes up only 50% of what dairy cows are chowing down on now. Today, the other half, according to the Alberta Milk website, is a combination of grains like canola, corn, soybean mixed with vegetable oil and tallow (animal fat).

If you know anything at all about grains, you'll know they are one of the highest GMO crops. And an FYI, vegetable oils are not made from vegetables. They are made from grains.

Along with the inability to digest lactose, your body also has to deal with the onslaught of GMO grains that come with their own list of issues. You are what you eat, but you are also what your food eats.

“But my doctor says I need to drink milk for the calcium...”

According to Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, there is currently no research supporting dairy for bone health.

Levin shared that in a study of 70,000 women over an 18 year period, those who drank milk received no more protection from fractures than those who didn't. If you are concerned about calcium, add in seeds, nuts, sardines, canned salmon, and leafy greens daily.

As well, Loomis and registered dietitian, Maggie Neola, R.D., recommend choosing dairy free options to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer. It's no wonder alternatives to milk are so popular. So many options to choose from, how do you know which one to use?

Most people generally let their palette decide. If it doesn't taste good, you're not going to drink it, so taste is important. Quality should also be a priority. Like dairy, soy can also cause bloating, upset stomach, diarrhea, etc.

Soy does have a good amount of protein, but the fact that it's highly processed, low quality and causes side effects makes it a no for me. Oat milk has become very popular and has a nice creamy flavour. It is a grain so choosing organic and non-GMO is best.

Oat milk is also very high in carbohydrates, so adding some protein and healthy fat with it in your morning smoothie is a must to stay balanced.

My personal favs are almond and coconut milk and I buy organic whenever possible. I also choose unsweetened almond milk and 100% pure coconut milk with no additives.

Either can be used in smoothies, baking, sauces, in coffee, and are both delicious as well as healthy.

Bottom line is, the structure of milk (and dairy products) is designed to grow a baby calf into a big cow. Quickly. And then even cows stop drinking it. Experts have assured us we're not risking bone health by abstaining but we are lowering the risk of cancer, fibroids, and type 2 diabetes.

I'm not saying you can't enjoy that ice cream once in a while, but with so many delicious, healthier options available, it's time to say mooooove over milk.


Use It, or lose it

“We come (to the Y) every day because if we don't, we can't.”

Wise words from fellow long-time Y member, Dorothy Witzke as we chatted one day about how we both just keep showing up. Not sure how long ago we met, but she's a bit of a fixture too.

Dorothy and the other die-hards who show up to workout first thing are part of what I call our morning tribe. Not sure where I got the name from, but it came out one day and seemed to fit so it stuck.

There are always new people coming and going, testing out the facilities, or the time frame or whatever it is for them but our core group, the Tribe, I'd say has been coming consistently for at least six or seven years.

Some have always worked out, some didn't start exercising until later in life. But to show up regularly to the same place at the same time, for years on end, regardless of what got them started, is pretty cool.

Some might even say it's impressive while others ask, “What the heck do you do that for?”

I'm that person who's been showing up regularly since 1987, so, of course, I think it's cool and can't imagine anyone not wanting to do what I do. But we're not all the same.

So what does motivate people to get started – and it doesn't have to be a gym, just exercise in general – to show up and keep going?

For starters, people don't really like change all that much. So in order for someone to actually make a change, the conditions have to be right. People are more apt to act on something when it stirs up an emotion rather than hearing about facts, statistics or being told it's the right thing to do.

Things like wanting to lose weight, look and feel younger, impress someone, meet someone, keep a friend happy because they invited you, or your doctor tells you you don't have a choice anymore and you need to get started right away.

All these can trigger emotions that would likely compel you to get started. Vanity, shame, love, fear are all very powerful motivators. Motivation gets people started, but what keeps, or will keep, you coming back is almost more important.

The most obvious reason for continuing to do something is that you like it. Sometimes people are reluctant to begin something because of a pre-conceived notion of what they think it will be like but after trying, they're hooked.

The next most obvious reason is getting results. Someone who starts a health and fitness program to lose weight and drops 10 pounds in the first month is more likely to continue than someone who didn't lose any.

Then, there's logistics. For some, it's as simple as the location and time worked for them so as long as they don't hate it, they will keep showing up. But for how long, that's the better question. And lastly, but most importantly in my opinion, is connection.

Making a connection in some way, shape or form is what brings people back again and again. Speaking for myself, and I'm sure Dorothy and the rest of the Morning Tribe as well, I can say it's the camaraderie.

Going to the gym is fun. I like lifting, I like feeling strong, It's a great way to start my day.

I could go to a different gym and get the same results. But I choose to show up with the rest of the Tribe every day because I feel like Norm from that old sit-com, Cheers - “...where everybody knows your name.”

We joke, give each other a hard time when we come in late, celebrate birthdays before sunrise and we check up on the ones who have been away for a few days. Clearly the connection is what makes the difference.

If you find yourself knowing you should exercise, but aren't. If you've been told to get moving but you don't. Or you were doing something but stopped and can't put your finger on why.

I suggest you find your tribe, your very own Cheers, where feeling like Norm becomes your normal. Because when you do, showing up is easy. You won't need reminders or other motivation pushing you to go because you'll naturally be drawn to show up.

And really, isn't the key to success in anything just showing up?

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