stress relief

Spotlight On: Magnesium

Photo by  Radu Florin  on  Unsplash

Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash

Magnesium is one of my favourite essential minerals because it does SO much in the body, and is helpful for mental, emotional and physical conditions.  Along with zinc, it is also one of the nutrients that I tend to see signs of deficiency in many of my clients who come to see me both for Naturopathic and remedial massage treatments.

Every cell in your body requires magnesium to function, and it plays many roles in the body including converting food into energy, creating proteins and amino acids and repairing DNA.  It can also help with reducing insulin resistance, improving PMS symptoms, reducing inflammation and improving exercise performance. But some of the more commonly known roles (and the ones people tend to come and see me for) are muscle contraction and relaxation, and the regulation of neurotransmitters. (1)

Not getting enough magnesium can lead to many common symptoms including low mood, higher than normal stress levels, restless sleep, fatigue and muscle twitches and spasms.  Other symptoms that low magnesium may contribute to include high blood pressure, heart palpitations, migraines, osteoporosis and asthma. (2) Let’s have a look at some of the more common conditions and symptoms that low magnesium may contribute to:

Stress & Mood
The relationship between magnesium and stress is a two way street – stress depletes magnesium, and magnesium counteracts stress.  So when you are going through times of high stress, you need more magnesium!  Magnesium helps to reduce stress by balancing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is the body’s main stress response system.  Without enough, your cortisol and adrenaline is left unchecked which exacerbates your body’s fight or flight response.  Stress can be physical or mental, however the results are very similar.  When in this fight or flight state, your muscles become tense, which can further exacerbate stress.  Magnesium is muscle relaxant, and so can help calm both the nervous system and your muscles, reducing your overall stress levels. (3)  Magnesium also plays a role in neurotransmitter function, including those responsible for regulating mood such as serotonin, GABA and dopamine.  It is required for the body to both create these neurotransmitters and allow them to transmit, and so can be a factor in mental health and mood conditions such as depression and anxiety. (4)

Sleep & Fatigue
If a client has troubles with getting to and staying asleep, one of the first things I recommend is magnesium, especially if they’re showing any other signs or symptoms of deficiency.  Not only can magnesium help you get to sleep, it can help you get a better quality and deeper rest.  As mentioned in the previous section, magnesium can help calm the nervous system down which in turn can help promote sleep. It helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for helping you relax, and it plays a role in regulating melatonin, which is the chemical responsible for managing your sleep/wake cycle. (5) Poor quality sleep can also contribute to fatigue, and so one thing to really look at is if you are fatigued, are you sleeping poorly?  In some cases, addressing the sleep issue can help to improve fatigue.  The other way magnesium helps with fatigue is that its involved in formation and storage of the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP).  Low magnesium can also contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which has been shown to contribute to conditions such as chronic fatigue and depression. (6)

Muscle Tension & Exercise Performance
Magnesium can help reduce muscle tension and improve recovery from exercise due to its role in relaxing muscles.  Its opposing mineral is calcium, which contributes to muscle contraction – and so the balance of these two minerals in the body is important.  This also relates to how magnesium status can impact on heart palpitations and increases in blood pressure – due to increase contraction in the cardiovascular muscles. Low levels of magnesium can also increase lactic acid build up which is well known to cause post workout tension and cramping.  For those who exercise frequently, and especially endurance athletes, the need for magnesium increases due to increased sweat and overall nutrients required for the body to function. (7)

Now that you know how important magnesium is, how do you get it?  The food sources highest in magnesium include seeds, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate (yay!), whole grains, bananas, legumes, nuts, avocado and some fish. (8) However some people have a higher demand that exceeds what they may get from dietary sources alone, and may require supplementation.  I generally recommend a powder form of magnesium over tablets, because it is better absorbed.  I don’t recommend buying a cheap product from the supermarket, if you are looking for a retail product go for brands like BioCeuticals, ATP Science, Ethical Nutrients or Herbs of Gold. 

And if you’re ever unsure about whether you need magnesium or something else to help with your stress, sleep or fatigue, then please be sure to visit the Holistia Naturopathy page so that you can start your own personal healing journey!

 References:

1.         Spritzler F. 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Magnesium2018 23 April 2019. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-magnesium-benefits.
2.         Arnarson A. 7 Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency2017 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-deficiency-symptoms.
3.         Smith MD. Can Magnesium Help You Cope with Stress?2018 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.betternutrition.com/supplements/more-magnesium-less-stress.
4.         Greenblatt J. MAGNESIUM: THE MISSING LINK IN MENTAL HEALTH?2016 23 April 2019. Available from:
http://www.immh.org/article-source/2016/11/17/magnesium-the-missing-link-in-mental-health.
5.         Jennings K-A. How Magnesium Can Help You Sleep2017 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/magnesium-and-sleep.
6.         STAFF U. Low Energy Causes May Be Rooted in These 3 Nutritional Deficiencies2018 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/energy/3-top-nutritional-deficiencies-as-fatigue-causes/.
7.         PHARMA W. This is how to protect your muscles from magnesium deficiencyN.D. 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.woerwagpharma.de/en/health-topics/bone-muscle-joint-health/this-is-how-to-protect-your-muscles-from-magnesium-deficiency/.
8.         Blackmores. 10 magnesium foods for your health2018 23 April 2019. Available from:
https://www.blackmores.com.au/energy/10-magnesium-foods-for-your-health.

 

Passive Superficial Front Line Stretch

If I’ve sent you the link to this page, chances are that I have recommended this stretch for you to help open up the front of the body, especially through the chest and the front of the shoulders.

In this day of desk sitting and technology, the majority of clients I see who come in for remedial massage or structural integration work have the typical head forward, shoulders rounded posture. This posture is problematic because it can create tension and pain in the back, shoulders and neck. And that’s where most people feel it so assume that’s where the problem is.

I love this stretch because its easy to do, and that makes it doable. For most people, in the evening when watching TV or winding down for bed can be a great time to do this. To start with you may only be able to do it for 3-5 minutes, and that’s ok! As long as you do it consistently, every day. Chances are, if you’re shoulders are pulled forward and down, or your head is drawn forward, it’s something that has been building consistently over many years - and so it will take time to counteract this. And, once things are aligned a bit better - this can be a great way to help prevent the problem in future.

How to do the stretch:

1. Use either a rolled up yoga mat or a half foam roller for this. Either works, it depends on how much of a stretch you need. For many, rolling up the yoga mat can be enough to begin with. I would not recommend using a full round roller for this as it will be way too high.

2. Lie on the foam roller or yoga mat as pictured below. You will want to try and get your back nice and flat by tucking your tailbone under, and dropping your chin towards your chest a little more than is pictured below, to give you some flatness in the upper neck (but only go to where is comfortable). Have your arms out at 90 degrees (or less, if needed) with palms facing upwards. The amount of stretch and how comfortable you feel depends on where you move the arms - and you can have them wherever works for you.

3. Hold this position for however feels comfortable for you. You can start with 3-5 minutes, and then work up towards 10-15 minutes. The more time you spend at a desk or in a position which encourages your shoulders to round forward, the more important this will be for you.

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Sleep Hygiene – What Does It Mean?

Photo by Vladislav Muslakov,  www.unsplash.com

Photo by Vladislav Muslakov, www.unsplash.com

One of the common issues that I experience with my clients is sleep complaints.   This includes the ability to get to sleep, quality of sleep, and the ability to wake up feeling refreshed after getting enough sleep.  The main sleep issue that I come across is the inability to fall asleep with ease (racing mind, laying awake, anxiety, overthinking), closely followed by waking up feeling lethargic, and like you’ve not actually slept well at all.

A 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults found that sleep problems are quite common, with around 33-45% of adults having difficulty sleeping or feeling the results of inadequate sleep during the day.  Of these people, around 20% experienced problems relating to chronic insomnia.  Most interestingly, 26% of respondents stated that they use the internet right before sleep and experience sleep related difficulties.(1)  For some people, an underlying medical condition such as restless legs or sleep apnoea can cause problems sleeping, however for the majority of people its due to their sleeping and night time habits.

Lack of sleep can affect a person’s physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as their ability to work and function with day to day tasks. Not only that, it could shorten your life expectancy, and put you at risk for diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. (2)

Why is sleep so important?
When we sleep, there are many functions that the body carries out that are required for optimal health and well-being. 

Sleeping is important for maintaining memory and consciousness – and during REM sleep the brain can clear your working memory and improve the ability to process information when you next wake.  It is also during sleep that your brain is able to remove toxic accumulation of by-products of neural activity that are accumulated during the da.  This is due to the fact that when you sleep the space between the brain cells increases, allowing for the waste to be removed more effectively.

During sleep, your body also repairs itself.  The major functions designed to restore the body such as muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis and growth hormone release mostly happen during sleep.  It is also important for immune function and to conserve energy resources. (3)

So as you can see, sleep is pretty important!

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize the effect their evening and pre-bed time habits have on their ability to get to and stay asleep.  And this is where the term “sleep hygiene” comes in.   These are first-step basics that you can implement to try and help you get a good night’s rest.  Of course some of you may require more – which I can definitely help with – but this is a great place to start.

1.  Your electronic devices are probably contributing to your sleep issues
When you consider the survey results above, you’ll notice the link between using the internet right before bed and prevalence of sleep issues.  This is not a coincidence, and it has to do with both the use of electronic devices and not allowing your mind to calm down and relax before bed.  Our bodies are designed to regulate our sleep / wake cycle based on light.  Electronic devices emit a “blue light” which is fine during the day because it can boost attention and reaction times, however at night it has been shown to inhibit the secretion of melatonin, which is essential for good sleep. (4)

If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, it would probably be beneficial for you avoid looking at bright screens for a good 2-3 hours before bed.  However we all know this may not be realistic at all.  A lot of people work late, or use TV to relax after a busy day, or like to read in bed.  If you can, try for at least an hour before you want to sleep.  If even that is too difficult, it would be worth investing in a pair of red lens glasses to wear in the evening.  Red light has the least power to shift your circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin, meaning it will reduce the effect that blue light has.  Smart phones also have the ability to either install an app that will put a red overlay over the screen, or may have a night time setting that will do a similar thing.  These apps can also be installed on some desktops/laptops.  I would strongly recommend taking the TV out of the bedroom if you have one, to avoid the temptation of watching TV while trying to get to sleep.

2.  Create a routine around going to bed.
This is something new parents do for babies, to help them wind down at the end of the day and teach them that night time is for sleeping.  The same applies for adults. If you are still rushing from your day, or try to jump straight into bed after working or watching a high paced TV show then your body hasn’t had the chance to wind down, and it’s fair to expect you won’t be able to go to sleep right away. 

If this is you, then maybe it’s time to create your sleep time routine.  What sort of calming and relaxing things can you incorporate into it?  For some, it’s the making and drinking of a bed time tea.  For others, it may be yoga or stretching in the quiet of the house.  Some like to read a book (best to use a real book or a red light filter if it must be an electronic device!), meditate, breathing exercises, have a shower or bath, or have a body care routine.  Anything is possible, but the key is to establish this routine and turn it into a habit.  And then your body will start recognizing this as “preparing for sleep”, and start to wind down as you begin your routine.  By the time you want to actually sleep, your body and mind should be ready.

3.  Create a sleep environment that promotes good sleep.
If you are sensitive to light, try block out curtains and covering your clock/putting your phone face down.  If you know that your phone will tempt you to check if you hear it beeping or buzzing, turn on flight mode so that you cannot be disturbed by it (or leave it in another room).  If you are someone who requires sound to sleep, consider a white noise machine or try a podcast like “Sleep with Me”.  Make sure your bedroom is free of clutter so that energetically you are not feeling overwhelmed or feeling confined when you are in your bed.   And try not to work in bed!

4.  As always, diet is important!
It’s not just a matter of what you eat, but when you eat.  Heavy meals right before bed can hinder your sleep.  Not only that, it could cause you to wake during the night with reflux and indigestion.  This is because our bodies are designed to better digest foods while in an upright position. (5) The stomach can take up to 3 hours to empty, which is why it’s best to eat at least 3 hours before bed OR have a very light dinner. 

If you were to look at the Chinese Medicine perspective, the stomach has the highest amount of energy at 7-9am (which is why a decent breakfast at this time is a perfect way to start the day), which means that it has the least amount of energy between 7-9pm (which is when most people eat a heavy dinner).   So if falling asleep is an issue for you (or night time waking due to heartburn or digestive discomfort), consider eating earlier (by 6-6:30pm) and have a lighter, easily digestible meal – and then keep a food and mood diary and see if it makes a difference.

These are just some suggestions you can start straight away to make some changes to improve your quality of sleep.  Of course, there are a number of herbal remedies and nutritional supplements that can be helpful in promoting sleep, such as magnesium, chamomile, lavender and passionflower.  Essential oils, bath salts, and magnesium lotions can all be helpful too.  If you feel you require some guidance or further support in this area, then that is what I am here for!

 

 


References:
1.         Adams R, Appleton S, Taylor A, McEvoy D, Antic N. Report to the Sleep Health Foundation 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health; 2016.
2.         NHS. Why lack of sleep is bad for your health2015 16 Feb 18. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/lack-of-sleep-health-risks.aspx.
3.         Osiecki H. Promoting Restful Sleep: The Overlooked Factor for Wellbeing. n.d.
4.         Health H. Blue light has a dark side2012 16 Feb 18. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side.
5.         Brodwin E. Here's Why You Should Never Eat Right Before Bed2016 16 Feb 18. Available from: https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-why-you-should-never-eat-right-before-bed.

 

Spotlight On: Manual Lymphatic Drainage

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Manual Lymphatic Drainage (or MLD) is a therapy which can be extremely beneficial for many people, however it is not always very well known.  It is used to reduce symptoms of a number of specific conditions such as lymphedema, chronic sinus congestion and swelling from acute injuries.  Manual lymphatic drainage has numerous health benefits, some of which include reducing pain and oedema, improving general health and wellbeing, stimulating the immune system and reducing congestion. (1)

MLD is very gentle, using a light touch that is designed to promote the flow of lymph throughout the body.  The reason such a light touch is used because we only want to stimulate the superficial lymphatic vessels just below the skin’s surface.  By stimulating these superficial vessels, the body can increase the rate at which the fluid in between the tissues can be cleared out and move through the body.  The technique is different to other styles of massage which work to manipulate the soft tissues such as muscles and fascia, meaning a firmer touch. (1)

Your lymphatic system is complex and integrates with other body systems such as the circulatory system and urinary system.   It has three main functions – maintaining the balance of fluid within the body, helping the body defend itself against foreign particles (such as bacteria) and facilitating the absorption of fats and fat soluble nutrients in the digestive system.  The lymphatic system also facilitates the removal of waste at a cellular level.   When fluid moves from the spaces between cells into the lymphatic system, it takes with it waste products such as dead cells and pathogens.  These then can be recognized by the immune system which allows for better protection in the future against those particular pathogens.  This system also helps to drain excess fluid from tissues that cannot be returned by veins. (2) 

Manual lymphatic drainage plays a role in improving the movement of lymph throughout the body and increasing the rate at which the fluid between cells in the body enter the lymphatic system.  Because this system has no pump (unlike the cardiovascular system) it relies on movement of the body to circulate the lymph through the system.  Deep breathing, movement and digestion are all ways your body pumps the fluid around the lymphatic system. MLD, exercise and skin brushing are all excellent ways for you to promote lymphatic flow. (3)

Who is Manual Lymphatic Drainage suitable for? 
MLD is suitable for most people and a number of situations and may help reduce symptoms of:
·      Sinus congestion/hayfever/chronic sinusitis/sinus headaches
·      Tension headaches
·      Stress
·      Menstrual pain
·      Chronic pain conditions
·      Assisting with detoxification programs
·      Post injury swelling (for example sprains, strains, dislocations)
·      Post operative oedema (with clearance from your surgeon)

If you would like to book your manual lymphatic drainage appointment please follow the link below to book in.  If you would like to know more about MLD please don't hesitate to call 0410 259 273 and I will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Please be aware that MLD is not suitable for everyone, and with all clients a full case history is taken prior to treatment to determine if it is suitable for you.  If you have an acute infection/fever or systemic illness then it is advisable you remain home until you have recovered prior to any form of massage treatment.  Massage treatment when you are unwell can exacerbate symptoms and so is not recommended. (1)

References:
1.         Grace S, Deal M. Textbook of Remedial Massage: Elsevier Australia; 2012.

2.         MacGill M. Lymphatic System: Facts, Functions and Diseases. Medical News Today [Internet]. 2016 01 November 2017. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/303087.php.
3.         Willis A. Manual Lymphatic Drainage and its Therapeutic Benefits. Positive Health Online [Internet]. 2004 01 November 2017; (104). Available from: http://www.positivehealth.com/article/manual-lymphatic-drainage/manual-lymphatic-drainage-and-its-therapeutic-benefits.

 

Online & At Home Exercise Tips

Exercise is important.  We all know it.  We all hear it.  Sometimes we ignore it.  But it's a truth that you can't escape.  The health benefits of exercise are numerous, from reducing stress and anxiety, improving low mood, improving immune function and reducing many cardiovascular and hormonal imbalances (think type 2 diabetes and heart disease).

But what about those of us who honestly lead very busy lives, juggling work, family/kids, study, or even all of the above?  A gym membership is amazing if you can get there to make it worth the dollars spent.

I have been a regular gym goer for many years, and during my last pregnancy we moved house and the first thing I did was sign up for a (2 year) gym membership at a local gym.  Which was lovely, and the staff there were amazing.  Unfortunately I did not anticipate how busy my life would get, and I think I managed to make it there less than 30 times.  In two years.  You do the math on dollars wasted on that one.  While well intentioned, I just couldn't get there around my work/study timetable plus within the hours the creche were open.

So instead I started finding different options for exercising at home, around my schedule.  The kind of thing where I could go "Oh!  Baby is in the high chair eating his dinner and I have 30 mins until he starts having a hissy fit, and I have to do some administrative work and fit in some study this evening so the time to exercise is RIGHT NOW." and drop everything and just get it done.  Other days I'd set my alarm 30 mins before my normal get up time to squeeze it in before I start my day.

It is helpful if you have a way to stream the internet onto your TV.  We have a Chromecast which has turned out to be a great investment - it allows you to stream YouTube or other media sites from your computer or phone directly onto the TV.  They're inexpensive too so worth looking into if this is something you'd like to do.  

Of course it is important to check with your doctor before embarking on any new exercise regime if you have any underlying health issues or have not exercised for a while.

So - here are some suggestions!

 

YouTube - Sarah Beth Yoga
https://www.youtube.com/user/SarahBethShow

This was one of the first video channels I started using to ease back into exercise.  It categorises the yoga workouts based on length of time and style, making it easy to choose a video that suits your level and the time you have available to do your exercise.   Yoga is well known for its many health benefits, and is especially worth incorporating into your routine if you suffer from stress, anxiety, low mood, or tight muscles.

Cost: FREE, with paid options available.

 

Yoga With Kassandra
https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithkassandra

 

I came across this channel while looking for other Yoga options when I wanted to stretch out my hips, and found it to be amazing - there are SO many videos of various lengths and styles that you won't have a problem finding a variety of videos that suit you.

Cost: FREE, with paid options available.

 

Fitness Blender
https://www.youtube.com/user/FitnessBlender

Fitness Blender have soooo many videos, so there is plenty of variety.  They have heaps of workouts and many of them require no extra equipment, so if you don't have any weights or other fitness equipment you can still get an awesome body weight workout.  To me this is a great bonus as it means not only lower cost but also you can just chuck the video on and go with no set up required.  It also has low impact and advanced options for many of the routines as well as varying time lengths.

Cost: FREE

 

Sweat With Kalya
https://www.kaylaitsines.com

Sweat with Kayla is an app that you install on your phone.  It has a few different styles of workout aimed at building strength, losing weight, toning and exercising post pregnancy.  If I am to be completely honest, I found the app a little confusing, and it took some effort to find out whether equipment is needed (it is, for quite a few of the workouts).  As an all in one workout program that includes meal ideas and progress tracking it's good - and you can subscribe for 7 days for free to see if it is suitable for you.  I have kept it here as there are a lot of great reviews for it and being an app means you can exercise anywhere - but the routines and exercises didn't really grab or motivate me.  As a guided program and all in one app that you work through and track your fitness goals however it's a great option.

Cost: $19.95/month (cancel any time) with a 7 day free trial.

 

TIFFXO
http://tiffxo.com/

*** MY PICK OF THE BUNCH ***

TIFFXO is a subscription program which includes workouts (fitness AND relaxation), meal plans and progress tracking.  What I like about this one as it spells out every day what to do and what meals to make (if that's something that you find helpful) as well as other tips along the way.  The workouts are 20 minutes each day and what's awesome is that because they are a martial arts style - you don't need any equipment OR shoes.  So you can literally get up out of bed, chuck on some pants and a top (or as I have been known to do, stay in pjs!) go to your lounge, and get it done.  You can also choose to do the extra 10 minutes to make it a 30 minute workout.  Also, the FB community is amazingly supportive!

Cost:  Varies, with subscriptions available monthly, 3 monthly, or yearly - cancel any time.

 

Les Mills On Demand
https://www.lesmills.com/ondemand/

It’s finally here in Australia! Les Mills ON DEMAND allows you to workout in the comfort of your own home. So many people who have joined gyms with group fitness classes would be familiar with this, and it’s a great way to get going without having to get a gym membership, and it is SUPER affordable.

Cost: $24.99/month


So there you have it - hopefully there is something in here to spark a bit of motivation to get moving, I'd love to hear how you go with it!