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Health + Wellness

The Do’s and Don’ts of Foam Rolling

You’ve just finished your workout and as you make your way over to the stretching area you notice a woman moving her entire body over cylindrical piece of foam. She’s writhing over it, using several expletives and you wonder what the heck is she doing?! And more importantly, why?!?

Welcome to foam rolling my friend.

Foam rolling became trendy years ago when athletes used to roll out tight muscles and fascia (more on fascia here). It’s a form of myofasical release (like a massage), you do to yourself – call it self-massage.   Basically by using the foam roller and your own bodyweight you are releasing tight muscles via trigger points and increasing circulation and blood to that particular area of your body.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts that will have you foam rolling like a pro in no time!

DO pick a foam roller that’s right for you! Foam rollers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, some with knobs for added torture….I mean, relief.   To be honest, I always suggest a longer foam roller so it’s easier to use to roll out your glutes, ITB and back. Of course, if you are traveling, you may want to get a shorter one as well for ease of packing!

DON’T roll directly on a joint or bone.  Ouchy!

DO roll slowly and with even pressure, spending a few seconds on each area of the body.  Enjoy each and every sensation!

DON’T overdo it!  It is not an exercise in pain tolerance. Placing too much sustained pressure on one body part can result in damage.

DO expect a little bit of discomfort.  It should be a “good” hurt, but never unbearable. If an area is too sore or tender, try rolling on surrounding muscles first to help loosen things up.

DON’T try to foam roll your neck. It’s awkward for a reason. The neck is a very sensitive part of the body and a difficult area to position your foam roller. If you are suffering from neck pain, seek the help of a health professional (like your chiropractor, wink wink).

DO it often. Being consistent with rolling is key. It’s not enough to just roll when you are in acute pain. Try rolling every other day! You will notice a difference!

What is your favourite body part to foam roll?  Let me know!

Happy Rolling everyone!

xo

Dr Aliya

 

 

 

Babies + Kids

Babywearing 101: The benefits of carrying your baby!

Recently I attended the Canadian Babywearing School (CBS) Educators course in Milton, Ontario. As a pediatric chiropractor, I am often asked about how to correctly wear a baby in a carrier or wrap, as well as addressing any concerns from parents about positioning and comfort.

Personally, I wore both Rosie and William when they were teeny tiny! William still loves to be worn and often drifts into a pleasant slumber when we are out and about as he nestles into his wrap.

Here are a few FAQ’s I often receive about carrying your baby!

Q. What exactly does it mean to baby wear?

The term “baby wearing” has been used to describe the ancient and recently revived custom of carrying infants in cloth carriers on a parent’s body. Although it has been gaining popularity in western society, many cultures around the world have been using this method of baby transport for centuries.

PS It should actually be called baby carrying instead of the commonly used term baby wearing (we try not to think of babies as accessories lol!)

Q. What are some of the benefits of babywearing or baby carrying?

There are numerous benefits both parent and infant:

  • It’s been shown that infants who are carried are generally calmer because all of their primal/survival needs are met. Their caregiver can be seen, heard, smelled, touched and provide feeding if needed.
  • “Skin to skin” contact is maintained and a strong bond between baby and parent is established.
  • Constant motion and rhythm has a balancing and soothing effect on infants resulting in less crying and fussing overall.
  • Carrying baby offers parents practicality and freedom to multi-task while attending to their little one – a more “hands-free” approach. Many moms master the art of babywearng and breastfeeding at the same time!
  • From a chiropractic perspective, it is also a safer, back saving alternative to lugging around a heavy, bulky car seat.

Q. How do I safely wear my baby?

There are correct and incorrect ways to wear your baby and certain safety precautions must be considered.

Each carrier, wrap or sling should have an instruction booklet – read these carefully before using with baby.

Here are a few more guidelines and safety basics:

  • Check your sling, carrier or wrap for wear and tear before every use. Look for ripped seams, torn straps and damaged hardware.
  • Keep baby’s face in view and baby’s head close enough for you to kiss. Remember – “Visable and Kissable”
  • Always keep slings and carriers snug
  • Keep baby’s chin off of their chest to maintain a clear airway
  • Make sure baby’s legs aren’t bunched up against their stomach
  • Support baby’s back and keep their tummy and chest against yours
  • Do not wear baby while cooking or working with sharp or hot objects
  • Do not ride a bicycle while wearing baby

Remember to keep your baby visible and kissable at all times.

Q. What should I consider when buying a sling, carrier or wrap?

For parents who choose to baby wear, there are many factors to consider when deciding what type of carrier to use. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Choose a model that has detailed, easy-to-understand instructions. Keep them for future use.
  • It’s always great to try a product before buying. There are some great shops that specialize in baby wearing and offer one on one help – see below for recommendations.
  • Check with the retailer or manufacturer to make sure the carrier or sling meets all safety requirements and standards.

Here are a few more resources:

  1. Carry Me Close Babywearers is a Toronto-based non-profit organization committed to offering advice on babywearing. They have a meetings once a month in Toronto. Find them here.
  2. Health Canada has a babywearing resource page offering safe guidelines.
  3. Little Zen One is a great little shop in Toronto’s East End that offers 1-on-1 consultations to help you find the right carrier.

Remember like any skill, baby wearing can take a bit of practice but the benefits for baby and caregiver are amazing!

Questions about baby wearing or infant development? Feel free to contact me!

xo

Dr Aliya

 

Health + Wellness

Homemade Holiday Granola

Here come the holidays!  And while I LOVE LOVE LOVE the holiday season with all of the joy and merriment that comes with it…holy crap, your wallet and bank account take a serious beating.

This year, given my maternity leave, I am *trying* to be more budget conscious (insert husband chuckle here).  Instead of buying gifts for colleagues, friends and family this year – I thought I’d try my hand at some DIY gifts!  I should mention, I am SO NOT a DIY-er…I mean who has the time?!?  Well, apparently, this year –  I do!  Aside from a newborn  and a toddler, I find myself with a bit more time on my hands to cook, bake and do “craft-y” things.

Among all of my adventures in DIY gifts was making my own holiday granola.  I’m happy to report – SUCCESS!  I combined a few recipes I found online to perfect my own version of holiday granola which included a combination of pecans and almonds, but I also added a bit of flax and coconut for some added nutritional benefit.  YUM!

PS this recipe is vegan and gluten free (provided you use GF oats)

Here is the recipe.  ENJOY!

Ingredients:

2.5 cups of GF rolled oats

¾ cup slivered almonds

½ cup chopped pecans

½ tsp ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

½ cup pure maple syrup

1 tbsp ground flax

¼ c shredded unsweetened coconut

¼ cup melted coconut oil

¼ tsp almond extract

1 tbsp vanilla extract

½ cup Thompson raisins

½ cup dried cranberries

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Toss oats, flax, pecans, almonds, cinnamon, coconut in large bowl and set aside
  3. Combine maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla and almond extract in medium bowl. Whisk together.
  4. Pour liquid mixture over dry mixture. Make sure oats are completely coated and moistened.
  5. Spread evenly onto baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
  6. Allow granola to cool completely once evenly browned.
  7. Add cranberries and raisins to mixture once cooled.

 

Usually makes about 3-4 cups.

It is so easy to make this granola ahead of time and store in airtight container for freshness for up to 3 weeks.  I boxed my granola up into cute little holiday tins and little baggies for colleagues and friends.  Delicious gift giving complete!

 

xo

Dr Aliya

 

 

Babies + Kids

How to strengthen your baby’s back muscles!

Unfortunately these days our babies spend way too much time in carriers, car seats, highchairs and strollers! It’s important to let babies and toddlers explore the world around them. Teaching them to engage in a wide range of physical activities is important for their strength, balance and co-ordination.

As your baby grows into a toddler, “tummy time” may no longer be applicable. However there are a few ways to stimulate his postural muscles to help development and improve brain function!

Here are a few ideas:

  • Regularly tickle their back
  • Write letters and numbers on their back in the bath
  • Play on all fours (pretend to be wild animals)
  • Encourage hand-stands and cart-wheels
  • Dance!
  • Use hula-hoops
  • Rub the back of their necks along their hairline
  • Play on jungle gyms, slides, or balance beams
  • Try jumping games like hopscotch or jumping jacks
  • Play on the floor with everyone lying on their tummy

 

 

(Reference: Ticklish by Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani)

Babies + Kids, Health + Wellness

Top 5 ways to be a healthier, happier mom!

Motherhood. It can have its ups and downs. I know, from experience, that your new role as a mom can be overwhelming and taking care of yourself is not a top priority. But it should be!

Follow these easy steps to a happier, healthier mama.

  1. Take time to recover from labour and delivery

Many new mamas are super eager to get back “at it” following the birth of baby. (Trust me, I was one of those moms). But it’s important to give your body time to heal even before you tackle tasks like laundry or dishes. Even things like standing for long periods or going up/down stairs can affect your recovery. Not overdoing it will actually help you heal more quickly. You will be back in the swing of things faster than if you try to sneak in a quick workout before you are ready. Take some time to let yourself adjust emotionally as well. This is a new role and you’ll need some transition time.

  1. Breastfeed

Yes, breastfeeding provides amazing benefits to your wee one including improved immunity and higher IQ but it’s also great for you too! Moms who nurse their babes have a reduced risk of suffering from postpartum depression. In addition, prolactin, the milk-making hormone, also has a calming effect on mothers. Although I know it can be difficult in the beginning, once you’ve got the hang of it nursing can be efficient. No bottles, no sterilizing and no formula!

  1. Stick with healthy eating habits

If you are a new mom, you may be like me – RAVENOUS! I couldn’t get food into me fast enough. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s especially important to stay fueled up to support your milk supply. But even if you aren’t breastfeeding, eating healthy is important for your well-being as a new mama! Busy days with a new baby aren’t ideal for meal planning and preparing, but try your best to plan ahead and keep your pantry stocked with healthy snacks! Here are a few ideas: nuts & seeds, veggies (baby carrots), fruits (berries, apples, bananas), yogurt, smoothies.

  1. Breathe in the fresh air

I remember going crazy inside the house in early March just after my daughter was born. In Toronto it was still snowy and chilly and I was feeling mental from being with a baby all day long. My husband forced me to walk in the garden for a few minutes one sunny, snowy afternoon. What a difference! Stepping outside and breathing in the fresh air I felt instantly uplifted. Soaking in the sun is the easiest way to get your dose of Vitamin D. Strolling through the neighbourhood with your babe a few times per week will definitely give you a good dose of happiness!

  1. Keep it in perspective

We can all relate – some days are better than others. But remember, bad days don’t last forever. And when your baby is celebrating his first year birthday – you’ll wonder where the time went. Enjoy this time, soak up her sweet smile and listen to her soft coos. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you’re not on your game. You don’t have to be a supermom….you’re baby loves you for you!

Babies + Kids

My Favourites: Books for the first year of parenting

Ever been to the Parenting section of your local Chapters/Indigo? Overwhelming isn’t it?  I, myself have a stack of parenting/toddler books on my night table that I am hoping to tackle one day (when I’m not completely exhausted). On the other hand, I have loads of friends who are the “I don’t need a book to raise my kid” type – and that’s amazing.

For me, a handy resource here and there is like a helping hand and a rational voice. Let’s face it – sometimes we need all the help we can get when faced with an unruly toddler who doesn’t want to wear pants to daycare.

Here is a list of books I found useful and would pass along to friends, if asked.

The Wonder Weeks

This book was recommended to me by a patient when Rose was four months old and it was a game changer. Understanding the reasons behind fussy periods and the ever talked about regressions will help you stimulate your little one’s mental development and gives you a glance into what’s really going on in your wee one’s mind.

Well Adjusted Babies

I bought this one before I was even pregnant! As a chiropractor treating babies, it was a great resource and as a mom it was my holistic parenting bible. I found myself flipping through the pages on nutrition for healthy babies quite a bit when I was starting Rose on solids. The book is also well researched and evidence-based which appeals to my inner science geek.

Breaking the Good Mom Myth

I remember the day I picked this book up. I was feeling terrible about the fact that I had worked a full week and I had barely spent any time with my now seven month old little girl! Time was flying by, she was getting bigger and bigger and I was missing it! I felt as though the author, Alyson Schafer, was speaking to me – telling me to let go of the idea of the “perfect mom”. She does a great job of reminding parents that we can raise children without perfection or selflessness.

No Drama Discipline

Another dear patient of mine recommended this book after I told her that my 13 month old had her first tantrum. I found that the authors offer a clear and effective way for dealing with tantrums, tears and general meltdowns.   It also has a summary at the end of the book as a kind of “cheat sheet” for your child’s caregivers, keeping you all on the same page when addressing discipline.

Bringing Up Bebe

About an American woman raising her kids in France, this book illustrates a different perspective of motherhood.   At times, it made me wish I was a Parisian woman wearing skinny jeans sipping a café au lait while my daughter plays nicely beside me (not in this lifetime). It was a fun, light read and offered some interesting cross cultural observations and insights.

 

Health + Wellness

What’s all the fuss about Fascia?

Recently the term “fascia” has been highly publicized and used by many injury specialists and health practitioners. What is fascia? Is it a new structure in the body that has recently been discovered? What’s all the fuss really about?

Fascia is a thin layer of connective tissue that wraps itself around every muscle, joint and organ in the body. Think of it as a type of plastic or saran wrap for the structures underneath your skin. If you’ve skinned chicken breasts or trimmed meat, you’ve seen it – the whitish thin sheets of tissue between the skin and muscle of the meat. Although fascia is thin, it’s super strong and is responsible for the shape of our body. Often fascia can create tight knots or adhesions which can harden and thicken causing pain and limiting full range of motion. For example, a stiff and painful shoulder can be caused by thickened fascia round the shoulder muscles rather than damage to the shoulder muscle or joint itself.

Although the term fascia has been kicking around the rehabilitation and injury world for a very long time, it is now becoming recognized as an integral component to maintaining a fit, healthy and aligned body. In the last few years the importance of the entire fascial webbing system in the body has been in the spotlight. Something like a spider’s web, the fascial web is an interconnected system in which tension in one part of the body creates distortion for the whole web.

Many practitioners in the health and wellness community including myself, use “myofascial or fascial release” as a form of treatment to eliminate fascial adhesions or “knots” and re-align and rebalance the body.

Although a fascial release session is invaluable to help restore biomechanics and help the body function and move optimally, I often suggest that patients continue this work at home with one simple tool – a foam roller. This rather inexpensive piece of fitness equipment is all that is standing between you and a fascia happy body.

Here’s a great foam rolling infographic with some key exercises to get you started.

Happy Rolling!

How to Foamroll Infographic

Infographic found on greatist.com