Want to live like a centenarian?

Want to live until 100?  Check out the latest article from The Health Junction in the Fall 2013 (page 26) edition of Fusia Magazine!


THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

–  Mahatma Gandhi


***follow The Health Junction by entering your email here in the “Follow Blog via Email” box***


The Mailbox: Let’s talk about pee baby, let’s talk about you and me…

Let’s talk all the good things and the bad things that may be.  Let’s talk about Pee.

Gotta PEE

Dear HJ,
I know you’re obsessed with poop but what about pee? Pee must tell us something about our bodies. I pee a lot and sometimes I wonder if I pee too much or if I drink too much water? I find it annoying at night to get up and pee but I’m so thirsty all the time. Maybe that’s a separate issue. Also what color should my pee be, light I think?! Is it possible I just have a tiny bladder?! Are there food I can eat that absorb better/things to avoid.
Another East End Pee-er
Doing a number one is mostly fun but sometimes as per your point above it can become a bit of a hassle.  But before you get frustrated with peeing so much, let’s look at the urinary system components and their function is keeping us in homeostasis – that is keeping an internal balance despite a changing external environment.
Pee is the production of the urinary system which is comprised of the kidney’s, ureter, bladder, sphincter, and the urethra.
Urinary System
You can see above how the US (Urinary System) is anatomically constructed.  When we eat, our body takes what it needs for energy and cell repair and whatever is leftover needs to be excreted.  Poo is solid waste residue and you could consider pee the leftover liquid form of waste.  The average adult excretes about 4 cups of urine each day.
Urine is full of something called Urea and Urea results when proteins are broken down.  Urea travels in the blood stream to our kidney’s where the urea is removed from the blood via filters called nephrons.  Go nephrons!
Urea combined with water makes up urine and when it leaves the kidney’s it moves down the ureters to the bladder.  Every 15 seconds or so, a bit of urine is emptied from the kidney’s into the bladder (via the ureter).
The bladder is a cool organ which can store, in a healthy person, 2 cups of pee for up to 5 hours.  That feeling we get when we have to go to the washroom is a feedback system from the nerves in our bladder to the brain which tell us in increasing urgency that we have to empty our bladder – the more full the bladder becomes, the stronger the sensation becomes.
So, let’s breakdown your questions:
Q:  Do I drink too much water?
A:  It’s recommended to drink 8-12 cups a day (1 cup = 8 oz).  If you drink too much water it can lead to a problem called water intoxication when too much H2O causes the required amount of sodium in our body to become depleted.    Athletes may need more than 12 cups a day, and if so, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting enough electrolytes which will help you to avoid the issue of water intoxication.  If you’re a regular person and are drinking 12 cups a day…you’re good.
Q:  Why am I always thirsty?
A:  Constant and excessive thirst is actually a symptom of Diabetes – but if you’re healthy and that possibility has been ruled out, here are some other possible factors:
– Consumption of processed foods which tend to be high in sodium.
– Not drinking enough water
– Age.  As we age saliva production decreases leaving our throats and mouth feeling dry.
– Anti-Histamine medications
– Breastfeeding – especially important to drink 8-12 cups of water
– Humid and hot weather
– Exercise
Q:  I hate getting up in the night to go pee.
A:  Here are some tips to avoid disturbing your sleep from waking up to urinate via strengthening your bladder.  This applies to people who feel like they always have to pee during the day as well:
– if you genuinely feel like you always have to pee, speak to your doctor and discuss the possibility of an overactive bladder.
– do some kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
– build endurance.  Try to prolong the period of time between urination’s by 10-15 minute blocks.
– limit food that can be bladder irritants:  caffeine, soda, milk, tea, citrus, tomatoes, spicy foods, chocolate, synthetic sweeteners.
– keep your sodium intake (excluding athletes) to 2300 mg’s a day – that’s 1 tsp.
– avoid consuming more protein than is necessary. The general rule for protein consumption is between 0.5 and 0.8 grams of protein for each pound.  Ie:  130 pounds x 0.8 = upper limit.
– avoid getting constipated.  If that area of the body is full of poo, it decreases the size of the bladder and results in having to urinate more frequently.
big_Kegel Exercises01
Q:  What colour should my pee be?
A:  At least once a day, your pee should be a pale yellow.  If it’s dark yellow, it suggests you may be dehydrated.  If it’s totally clear, you might be drinking too much water.  Neon yellow?  Are you taking vitamin supplements?  These can sometimes cause the urine to appear a bright yellow.  Red?  Could be an infection (unless you’ve eaten beets) and you should see your doctor.  Murky, brown, cloudy, green, blue urine?  See your doctor.
Hope this helps!
The Health Junction

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Happiness is like peeing in your pants.  Everyone can see it, but only you can feel its warmth”

–  Unknown Author


***follow The Health Junction by entering your email here in the “Follow Blog via Email” box***

Tips for the Frugally Organic

A frequent question asked by confused consumers is “how important is it to eat organically – are the higher prices justified?”  While it’s true that organically grown food tends to be more expensive than the conventional counterparts, the nutritional, health, and environmental benefits far exceed food produced by industrial farming.

Organic vs Conventional Farming

Organic food means that it is not genetically modified (GMO), is free from pesticides and herbicides, and has not been grown from synthetic fertilizers.  Nutrient density of organic food is higher than conventionally grown crops.  Furthermore, by choosing organic you’ll help guarantee safer working conditions for farmers and enable the maintenance of nearby wildlife habitat.


Compared to industrial/conventional farming, organic food practices also produces fewer greenhouse emissions, preserves soil integrity, reduces water pollution and is the only sustainable long-term solution for preserving a variety of nutrient dense food.

Save Money Organic Food

Purchasing organic food can be costly, but it doesn’t need to be with these quick tips for the Frugally Organic:

Re-evaluate your budget and try to find more dollars to invest on organic food by cutting out on processed junk foods.

Farmer's Market

Visit a farmers market and speak to the vendors – find out what is grown organically.  You’ll be doing double duty by investing in locally grown organic food.  Wychwood Barns, The Brickworks, and Dufferin Grove Park are year-round farmers markets available in Toronto.  For a complete list of up-to-date information on Farmer’s Market’s in Toronto, click here.

Freeze your food.  Capitalize on seasonal fruits and vegetables by paying a lower price when supply is high and then dipping into your stock during the year.

Buy in bulk from places like Bulk Barn and pay a lower per gram rate.

Eat Seasonally

Sample Foods Seasonally.  Prices will always be lower in season and it’s also a great opportunity to try new foods!

Slow and steady wins the race.  Rome wasn’t built in a day!  Each week add a new organically grown food and watch your organic base grow.

And lastly, if you can only afford to purchase a few foods organically, here is a list known as the “Dirty Dozen” which includes foods with the highest concentration of pesticides and herbicides when consumed conventionally.















Go Organic

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”

– Wendell Barry, The Unsettling of America:  Culture and Agriculture


***follow The Health Junction by entering your email here in the “Follow Blog via Email” box***

Looking Crazy: Neti Pot Your Way To Nasal Health (just don’t look in the mirror)

If you have ever used a Neti Pot, you can probably relate to how totally crazy you look while partaking in this Ayurvedic method of treating nasal congestion and sinus problems.

Neti Pot

This woman sort of captures the crazy factor of Neti Pot usage but I have to say, I’ve been a fan of nasal irrigation since my friend Jacqueline introduced it to me a few years ago (visit her awesome food blog here).  A Neti Pot is a small tea-pot like gadget which you fill with warm water (about 8 oz) and some salt (1/4th tsp for each 8 oz).  Like the woman above, you tilt your head forward about 45 degrees and tilt to the side – insert the Neti Pot spout into your nostril and wait for the water to drizzle out the other side.

Nasal IrrigationWhy would you ever want to use a Neti Pot?  The idea behind nasal irrigation is that it clears out the nasal passages from mucous but also potential environmental irritants.  People who have experienced sinus pressure and headaches to seem to find some relief through the use of Neti Pots because it helps to clear out the entire nasal cavity by thinning the mucous and allowing it flow out of the nostrils.

Neti Pot2

The sense of relief that comes after a session with the Neti Pot is quite extraordinary…in fact, I couldn’t smell my delicious crock pot dinner until about 5 pm today when I irrigated my nasal cavity.  Let me tell you, it feels fresh and if you’re looking for a laugh, do make sure you look in the bathroom mirror while the spout is in your nostril.  Available at health food stores and many pharmacies.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“When diet is wrong medicine is of no use.
When diet is correct medicine is of no need.”

– Ayurvedic Proverb


***follow The Health Junction by entering your email here in the “Follow Blog via Email” box***

The Illusion of Food

A few days ago at work, a fascinating article was circulated from the Nutrition Action Health Letter (published by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest) regarding food serving size, general habits, and consumption patterns.


The gist of the article is that the more food we see, the more food we eat regardless of hunger primarily due to mindless eating and a general feeling of being unaware of our hunger signals.  In large part, I blame industry for creating the level of gluttony and outrageous eating habits we are seeing today which has absolutely contributed to the increase in chronic diseases we are seeing (Type II Diabetes, Stroke, Heart Disease, Arthritis, Hyperlipidaemia, Colitis, Crohn’s, Renal Diseases, etc).

Rate of Type II Diabetes in the United States: 1980 - 2010

Rate of Type II Diabetes in the United States: 1980 – 2010

While industry certaintly plays a role, there is a lot we can do as individuals to take better control of our health…and an improvement in the amount of food ingested can significantly  improve the way you think, feel, move, and life.

In the Nutrition Action Health Letter, author  of the book Mindless EatingBrian Wansink, was interviewed and he reviewed the major findings from his research surrounding eating habits, serving sizes, and the concept of mindless eating (eating without paying attention to hunger signals).  Here are some interesting observations that might make you think, and look twice before you eat.

Mindless Eating

  • When people are given larger servings, they eat more.  In a study where people were given a large bucket of popcorn and others a small bucket, it was found that those who received the larger bucket ate 34% more popcorn.
  • Variety prompts increased consumption.  When people were presented with candy of different colours (as compared a single colour) they ate 40% more.
  • Chicken Wings Are Insightful!  When the bones of the wings consumed were removed from the table (as compared to leaving them on the table in the control group), participants ate more.
  • Health Labels Prompt Increased Consumption.  Labeling a product “low-fat” prompts people to eat more than they would have a normal product.
  • Healthy Restaurants = Underestimation of Calories.  When someone eats at Subway, and then at McDonald’s, they are more likely to underestimate the number of calories consumed at the Subway meal.
  • You are likely to eat more when eating a meal with a fast eater.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“We don’t walk. We overeat because we’ve made it easy to overeat. We have  fast-food joints on every corner. By the way, the ‘we’ is all of us. It’s not  the government. It’s all of us doing this together.”
– Dr. Oz


***follow The Health Junction by entering your email here in the “Follow Blog via Email” box***

When you just don’t feel like it…

There are times where, if you’re like me, you just really don’t feel like it.  What is ‘it’?  ANYTHING!


Working, socializing, cleaning, cooking, and all the stuff in between.

For me, it happens when I’m either really stressed out or when I’m not being challenged (mind and body).  These days, it’s more a stress related response as I busily prepare to complete and test for my designation to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist.


Stress and anxiety have such a profound impact on the digestive system and in case it hasn’t been emphasised in prior posts, I wanted to touch upon this again.  When we are stressed, our body shuts down systems that are not vital for survival.  The two systems of the body that are commonly impacted by stress and emotional distress are the reproductive and digestive systems.


Our digestion becomes compromised and leads to malabsorption of nutrients which cascades into a ripple effect because we need the right nutrients, in the right proportions to thrive.  For example, not absorbing enough Vitamin B12 will have a negative impact on our entire nervous system which is already likely weakened due to feeling stressed in the first place.  Aside from digestion and reproduction, stress and anxiety negatively impact the endocrine, cardiovascular, nervous, immune, and respiratory systems so you can see how your entire balance can be thrown off.

Stress and Body Systems

Once of my teachers likened feeling anxious, stressed, or even depressed to having a blockage that simply needs to be released.  She said that the stagnating energy needs to be moved and actually suggested simply jumping up and down on the bed.  By the way, if you just google “Jumping on Bed” you’ll get a good laugh which should cheer you up!

Jumping on bed

I’m not into jumping up and down on a bed (what would my cats think!?) but it’s helpful to simply move when you feel emotional distress.  Do some yoga (click here for my favourite FREE online yoga resource), go for a walk, move around your kitchen (cook!), or dance (I just found this gem…you can thank me later because I’m busy getting my moves on), cycle, swim…whatever it takes.  While petting cats is the number one stress relieving mechanism (so says The Health Junction) moving is a close second in stress reduction.  So close this post down and get moving!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“I was a little excited but mostly blorft. “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.” 
– Tina Fey


***follow The Health Junction by entering your email here in the “Follow Blog via Email” box***

Easy Health Fix 101 in 100 Words: Why only H20 counts as Water


The simplest thing we can do to improve health is to drink more water.


Because your body cannot digest and absorb nutrients in an effective manner without ensuring that food is moving through the gastrointestinal track from top to bottom in about 18-24 hours.  If you want to know how to test for transit time, check this prior post out for the section on Oral-Fecal Transit Time (OFTT).  When food moves too quickly, it doesn’t get broken down properly and can’t be absorbed well – check your stool for undigested bits of food if you think this might be the case for you.  More commonly, however, is that the transit time is very long which is what we call constipation.


Constipation causes food to sit and stagnate in your intestines where toxic waste that should be long gone has a chance to mess up your bacterial balance, irritate the intestinal cells, and cause inflammation.  This is how chronic disease starts.

The easiest way to avoid constipation is to, for real, just drink more water.  8-10 cups a day.  Between meals rather than during.  Why?  When you drink during your meal, the water will dilute your gastric juices and decrease the effectiveness of both mechanical and chemical digestion.


You may find it annoying to drink so much water because visiting the washroom becomes more frequent, but as a wise man pointed out (El Branno) such a complaint is truly a modern-day problem.  Even Obama and Madonna (busiest people in the world?) have time to pick up a glass and drink and then take 30 seconds to pee later in the day.  Having a chronic disease will be much more inconvenient that making a total of 10 minutes a day to nourish your body with a nutrient we literally cannot go more than a few days without.

What doesn’t count as water?

  • tea (unless a non diuretic non caffeinated tea)
  • coffee
  • milk (this is probably the most constipating “food” out there)
  • juice
  • beer
  • wine
  • Gatorade
  • Vitamin Water

What does count as water?

  • water, from the tap.

What can I do to spice up my water?

  • squeeze some lemon
  • place some a few slices of cucumber, orange, lime into a jug and fill with water.  Water will take on the flavour of the fruit.


THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“There are only three things women need in life: food, water, and compliments.”
– Chris Rock


***follow The Health Junction by entering your email here in the “Follow Blog via Email” box***


Aging Joyfully: A Lesson from the Oldsters

I recently completed a course on geriatric nutrition and before my first class I have to admit, I was not excited.  Studying nutrition specifically geared at the elderly population is so far off the nutritional topics I am typically drawn to and so, I went to my first class with very low expectations.

What I anticipated to be my least favourite course in the program ended up being truly life changing and my perspective on aging, the elderly population, and the general concept of happiness were challenged and reformed.  The instructor, Japanese Naturopathic Doctor Mami Ishii, brought a unique perspective into a population that is generally considered unglamorous and a life stage that most of us are not looking forward to all that much.

Aging Population

Dr. Ishii had the class read Healthy at 100 by John Robbins which has literally, even after studying nutrition for over 2 years, revolutionized the way I view what constitutes vitality and healthy living.  In his book, Robbins starts by outlining the dietary and lifestyle habits of four of the world’s longest-living societies; Abkhasians (South Russia), Vilcabambans (Equador), Hunzans (Central Asia), and the Okinawans (Japan).  Each of these four places has an extraordinarily high number of people who live until and beyond 100 years and they share the same approach to diet and lifestyle.  In fact, the commonalities are staggering.


Okinawa, Japan

 What Robbins outlined in Healthy at 100 is that each of these groups eats a plant-based, whole foods diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  They eat very little processed foods and sugar and opt for whole grain carbohydrates.  The concept of retirement is null and void and “oldsters” in these areas are active and live purposefully throughout their lives.  Culturally, the older you are, the more esteem you’re given.  They are very active, yet their caloric intake is less than 2000/day.  They limit animal based products to 1% (Hunzans, Vilcabambans), 3% (Okinawa), and 10% (Abkasian).

Healthy at 100

Robbins goes into describing the changes China has undergone in the past few decades and nicely summarizes findings from one of the largest epidemiological studies ever conducted all of which you can read in a book called The China Study by Dr. Colin Campbell.  The China Study had researchers collected blood, urine, and diet journals from 50 people in each 65 counties and 130 villages selected throughout China.  Researchers analyzed the data with respect to over 50 diseases and though the results are plentiful, findings can be summarized as follows.


In areas of China that are still developing, people are dying from diseases related to nutritional deficiencies and hygiene inadequacies which includes ailments like tuberculosis, respiratory illnesses, measles, and diarrhea.  Conversely, in areas of China that have been developed the diseases have shifted dramatically to deaths from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and obesity related illnesses such as complications from Type II Diabetes.  Dr. Campbell coins this shift as death from “nutritional extravagance” because it has been directly linked to an increase in refined foods and a much higher intake of saturated fats stemming from animal foods (meat and dairy) and hydrogenated foods.  In short, the one of the largest indicators of wealth in China is the level of ones cholesterol levels.  You can bet that high levels of HDL cholesterol are not found in the developing areas of China, but instead larger more prosperous cities.


What does all this have to do with geriatric nutrition?  We should expect to live into old age and this part of the life-cycle is natural, beautiful, and meant to be experienced.  The idea that we are all going to die from a chronic illness is rubbish and believing in dying from disease is something worth reconsidering.  Reading Healthy at 100 made me reconsider my dietary choices and the overwhelming evidence that supports the longevity associated with a whole foods, plant-based diet that is low in animal based foods is undeniable.  It’s a hard revelation to come to for those us use to eating meat each day…or even several times a week.  The idea of aging joyfully and experiencing life to its fullest is definitely something I am striving for and the advice in Healthy to 100 makes it seem possible, if not expected.


Healthy at 100 is a positive and encouraging read that will inspire you to look at your diet, connect with your community, and move intentionally each and every day.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr


***follow The Health Junction by entering your email here in the “Follow Blog via Email” box***

40 Days and 40 Nights of Eco-Awareness: Plastic Bag and Coffee Cup Challenge

This past week I got an email from Toni “T-Town” De Mello, a friend of mine who likes to challenge  herself by giving something up for lent each year.  This year she had all kinds of goodies on her list; giving up Facebook, no traveling, no TV, no buying anything online, no sugar, and no fried food.  In the end Toni decided to give up swearing for 40 days and 40 nights.  Good job T-Town!

No Swearing

I’m by no means a religious person, but enjoy the idea of giving up a guilty pleasure in an effort to challenge myself and maybe even get rid of a bad habit.  Toni motivated me to think about something I do regularly that really need not be a part of my lifestyle and it just so happens that lent coincided with a course I’m taking on Ecology & Nutrition.  So, I’m on a two-fold challenge for the next 40 days and it starts with coffee.

Take Out CupsDon’t be alarmed.  I’m not going to stop drinking coffee – I’ve already tried that not once, but twice and the best I could do is cut down to one cup of 1/2 regular and 1/2 decaf coffee per day.  This challenge will be not to avoid coffee, but to avoid using takeout cups because in Toronto alone 1 million paper cups of coffee are sent to the dump each year…that’s enough to make up the length of the CN Tower 216 times.


Yikes.  All for what?  A little convenience so that my lazy behind doesn’t need to bring a portable mug with me?  Sure lots of cups can be recycled but that is still a waste of material and energy resources.  So, enough is enough.  No more paper cups for me in the next 40 days and instead I’ll use a reusable stainless steel mug.

plastic-bagWhile I’m at waste reduction, what about the loads of plastic bags used at the grocery store.  I’m pretty good at bringing reusable cloth bags but I started thinking about all those little flimsy plastic bags used for bagging produce like fresh fruit and veggies.  For the next 40 days, I’ll be using nylon produce bags or reusing old fruit and veggie bags.

Changes to coffee cup habits and plastic bag usage will help improve my health (and the health of others) by reducing waste to landfills and decreasing energy expenditure.  I feel good about the next 40 days.

What’s your nutrition or health related goal?

You may want to consider creating a SMART goal, that is something which is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Sensitive.  Here is an example of my coffee cup goal:

Specific:  refrain from using takeout cups

Measurable:  at the end of 40 days, no takeout cups will have been used

Attainable:  I can achieve this goal by bringing my own reusable mug with me to work or making coffee at the office and using a ceramic mug

Realistic:  definitely not brain surgery.  I can easily refrain from using takeout cups…this isn’t going to kill me.

Time Sensitive:  40 days.  Hopefully a lifetime.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Think globally, act locally.”

– Sir Paul McCartney

When you don’t have 2 hours and $22 to take a yoga class…

Restorative Yoga

Like many of you reading, I quite enjoy yoga but find it really difficult to actually make it to classes.  There are two reasons for this and the primary is that it’s a huge time committment.  Classes are usually at least one hour and when you factor in the time getting there and home you’re looking at 2 hours of you day.  Secondly, I’ve been finding the prices of yoga classes exorbitant these days.  With tax it can be upwards of $25 dollars which is ridiculous!  It’s a nice treat every now and then, but it got me wondering how to get more yoga into my life without breaking the bank and my schedule.

Time and Money

Earlier this week, I paid a visit to Toronto’s best esthetician Louise T who at nearly 60 is fit as a fiddle and beautiful to boot.  While we were taking care of business she mentioned the idea of finding yoga videos FOR FREE online.  It doesn’t cost a penny and puts you in charge of the time you spend in your practice.  I’ll gladly take advice from Louise T.

yoga at home

So, here is how it works.

1.) go to YouTube

2.) search for the type of yoga you like and then the number of minutes you want to spend.  ex:  “restorative yoga, 15 minutes”

3.) save the clips that interest you to your favourites and enjoy!

Here are some of the clips that I liked:

Restorative Yoga (12 minutes):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzZM-pPM0mk

Hatha Yoga @ Home (10 minutes):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAA-SZ05zSg

Hip Opening Yoga (45 minute):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lUqo5Qceh0

Morning Yoga for Flexibility (7 minutes with Tara Stiles):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRsC1YdXqOc

De-Stress Yoga (10 minutes with Tara Stiles):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqWpt1xyn8A

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Yoga is the study of balance, and balance is the aim of all living creatures: it is our home.”

– Rolf Gates


***follow The Health Junction by entering your email here in the “Follow Blog via Email” box***