What is inflammation & is an anti-inflammatory diet really that important? 

What is inflammation and is an anti-inflammatory diet really that important? 

While there are several links and risk factors related to chronic disease, the following information focuses on inflammation and its link to illness. Common questions about how inflammation relates to diet and lifestyle are also addressed.
What is inflammation anyway?

Inflammation is not always a bad thing. It’s the balance that’s important.
Inflammation is a natural process that our body uses to protect against infections, irritants, and damage. It also helps to reduce the cause of the damage by fighting the infection.
However, long-term (chronic) inflammation has damaging effects on the body, and is often associated with several health conditions, including diabetes (and other auto-immune diseases), heart disease, and excess body weight. 

Heart disease and diabetes are on the rise worldwide.  In fact, it's estimated that 90% of people with pre-diabetes don’t even know it. The first stage of heart disease is called atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and inflammation is a key issue with both atherosclerosis and heart attacks.  
These, and other chronic diseases, are serious, long-term conditions considered to be “lifestyle” diseases. This means that they tend to occur in people with certain lifestyles (i.e. not-so-awesome nutrition and exercise habits, etc.).
Diabetes and heart disease are also linked with excess body fat, as well as inflammation.  There’s a lot of evidence that improving nutrition and lifestyle can help many factors associated with chronic diseases, including reducing inflammation. 
According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health):
“People with insulin resistance and pre-diabetes can decrease their risk for diabetes by eating a healthy diet and reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, increasing physical activity, not smoking, and taking medication."


“The main treatment for atherosclerosis is lifestyle changes.”
So what type of diet is best?
A nutritious diet promotes health, reduces risk of many chronic diseases, and can reduce inflammation. 
Substances like polyphenols. flavonoids, pigments, unsaturated fats (including omega-3s), and anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals like vitamin E and selenium are showing promising results.  Foods that contain these substances may also help to improve insulin sensitivity, cholesterol levels, and gut microbiota. 

Many anti-inflammatory effects of foods containing the substances mentioned above have been demonstrated in human and animal testing.  When we look at individual components in a food, we should keep in mind that it’s the whole diet, with all foods and lifestyle components that help to promote health. One or two individual aspects don’t have the same effect as a holistic approach to improving overall nutrition and lifestyle.
What about sugar and starch?
Excess sugars and starches put stress on our blood sugar levels and increase our risk of chronic diseases. They also promote inflammation in the body.
Studies show that those who eat sweets and white bread, and drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages have higher levels of inflammatory markers, while those following a diet low in sugar and refined starch have lower than average levels of inflammation.
One possible reason is that more sugar and starch may increase production of inflammatory molecules and free radicals (unstable molecules) and give immune cells more fuel, as well as increase their activity.
You can upgrade your nutrition in this area by eating fewer sugars and starches.  Especially “added” sugars and “refined” starches.
Does fat intake affect inflammation?
Some studies show that increased levels of saturated fats can increase production of inflammatory markers and free radicals. 
Unsaturated fats like omega-3’s from fish seem to be particularly healthful. People who eat more fish tend to have lower levels of atherosclerosis and heart disease. 

Fish-based omega-3 unsaturated fats reduce inflammation in two ways. They reduce the source of inflammation, as well as increase the number of anti-inflammatory molecules.
Tree nuts are another good source of unsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory polyphenols. While nuts do contain a fair amount of fat, many studies show no weight gain after adding nuts to the diet.  In fact, many studies show that people who regularly eat nuts do not tend to have a higher BMI (body mass index) or more body fat.
You can improve your dietary fats by eating more fish and nuts. Fish and nuts contain unsaturated fats that have anti-inflammatory effects. They can also improve insulin sensitivity and even improve the health of insulin-producing cells.
Is dietary fibre linked to inflammation?
People who eat more fiber, fruits, and vegetables tend to have lower levels of inflammation. They also have lower risks of diabetes and heart disease. 
Additionally, studies show that eating fiber reduces excess body fat. This effect can be because fiber slows down absorption of food from the body, reducing blood sugar spikes. It can also be because of its interaction with the friendly microbes in our gut.
Some foods high in fiber include whole grains, legumes (i.e. beans and lentils), cocoa, seeds (e.g. sesame), tree nuts (e.g. almonds), avocados, raspberries, and squash.
Can exercise help reduce inflammation?
Regular exercise helps with many chronic diseases, as well as helping to reduce inflammation.
Levels of inflammatory markers are lower in people who exercise regularly, in comparison to those who do not. Adding regular moderate exercise to a nutritious anti-inflammatory diet lowers inflammatory markers even more.  
Is there a link to inflammation and quality of sleep? 
Both acute and chronic sleep deprivation cause an increase in inflammatory markers in the blood. Additionally, sleep loss is a risk factor for insulin resistance and diabetes. 
Inflammation can be healthy if it’s fighting an infection or healing a wound, but chronic inflammation is associated with many serious conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Two things these diseases have in common are excess body fat and increased levels of inflammation. 

There are a lot of nutrition and lifestyle issues that can contribute to chronic diseases and inflammation is one contributing factor.
The good news is that nutrition and lifestyle factors can be improved by eating less sugars and starches, eating more fish, nuts and dietary fibre, and getting regular exercise and quality sleep.
If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss your health challenges with me, schedule your complimentary 60-minute no-obligation consultation here.
To learn more about me and my holistic approach to wellness follow this link https://www.janiceinspiringchange.com

This is Janice, inspiring change


Reaching Your Goals in 2019 - How this year will be different

The holiday season is a time for traditions and gatherings with loved ones, friends, and colleagues.  The dinner table is generally the meeting spot, where all enjoy special meals, sweet treats, and good cheer.

At the start of the New Year, we realize that over the past month, our fitness routine and healthy eating were put on the back burner, so we resolve to get on track. 

The top two New Years’ resolutions are to get in shape and lose weight.  Innately, we know that adopting a healthier lifestyle makes us feel better.  Studies have proven that living a healthy lifestyle can reduce our risk for disease and it can also improve our health and ability to function independently in later life. 

With this in mind, we aim to exercise regularly and eat a nutritious diet at the start of each New Year, and for the first couple weeks of January we are motivated to get going.  By the first of February, however, many of us are discouraged and have already give-up on our goals.  In fact, research shows that only 8% of people achieve their new year’s resolutions. 

New Year's resolutions are extremely hard to keep, especially when we attempt to abruptly break life-long habits.  In fact, no matter when we decide to make a change, or how strongly we are motivated, adopting a new, healthy habit, or breaking an old, not so healthy one, can be difficult.  The good news is that even though we may struggle or give-up completely, research suggests that any effort we make is worthwhile, and that making a New Year's resolution, for example, may boost our chances of eventual success.  

I believe that if we truly want to reach our goals we will do what’s necessary to succeed.  As French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry put it, “A goal without a plan is just a wish” and planning is the key to achieving our goals. 

As we begin a new year and embark on our resolutions, it’s important to remember two things.  The first is that we CAN accomplish what we set out to do.  Once we've set our goal, we must design our course (plan of action) and follow it.  Secondly, it’s important to realize that change doesn’t happen over night.  Change takes time and every little step counts.  Every step in the right direction brings us that much closer to our goal.  

To improve chances for success it’s important to set realistic goals.  For example, a person who has been sedentary most of their life and now wants to exercise more might start with taking the stairs more often, or parking the car further from the door and walking, and eventually, working up to a more ambitious goal.  The same can be said for weight loss.  Cutting out all unhealthy foods overnight can lead to failure, but a less drastic approach of cutting back on a daily junk food, or adding a cup or two of vegetables to dinner a few times week, allows for a gradual change in the right direction.  This approach is much more sustainable in the long-term.

In today’s fast-paced world, one reason changing our lifestyle habits can be difficult is the issue of time.  Quick and convenient (processed) foods end up taking the place of healthy, nourishing foods when we’re on the go.  These less-than-ideal food choices put us on the vicious cycle of experiencing low energy, weight gain, and potential health problems, all of which make us more likely to become sedentary.  Most people agree that when they start eating better, they notice increased energy, and actually feel more like exercising.  Moving more supports healthy brain function and promotes positive thinking, which can encourage us to stick with our goals. 

With time being an issue for many, we have to consider common situations we often find ourselves in, and how we can make better choices.  

Although we have busy days, it doesn’t mean we have to forgo a healthy dinner.  With a little planning, and a crock-pot, we can have a home-cooked meal waiting for us at the end of the day.  When everything is prepped the night before (if time doesn’t allow in the morning), we can come home to a delicious meal that is ready to serve.  When we do have time to cook, batch cooking and planning for meals later in the week will free up some time.  By simply doubling a favourite recipe and freezing it in meal-size portions, healthy and quick choices will always be available.  Making an extra large dinner and refrigerating the leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day frees up time for a walk, the gym, or a little downtime. 

Many of us spend several hours in our vehicles every week running errands, stuck in traffic or shuttling kids back and forth between activities.  If we don’t plan ahead, it is easy to fall into the trap of circling through the closest drive through when hunger strikes.  Waiting until we’re famished to eat something most always lead to bad decisions, but planning ahead by carrying healthy snacks helps keep us on track. Foods that are easy to prepare, and convenient to take on the go include:

·      Carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus or other healthy dip 

·       Sliced apples with almond butter

·       Fruit

·       Healthy smoothie

·       Trail mix or nutritious energy bars

·       Raw nuts and seeds

·       Sandwiches or wraps

By setting realistic goals and putting in a little effort and organization, we CAN achieve our New Year’s resolutions and develop new, healthy and lasting habits. 

This is Janice, inspiring change

Kitchen Basics 101



“If you keep good food in your fridge, you will eat good food.”  I love this quote by personal trainer Errick McAdams, and I think it makes perfect sense.  If there is only healthy food at home we will eat healthier.  This doesn’t mean that there’s no room for a “treat” once in a while, but for the other 80-90% of the time, we will be reaching for something that supports our wellness goals.  

I think, as a whole, we have become wiser to the fact that our lifestyle has a direct bearing on our well-being.  A constant lack of energy, persistent aches and pains, and chronic digestive complaints, are only a few signs that indicate an imbalance in the body.  Although we are all different, and have unique nutritional needs, I believe most of us will agree that when we eat better, we feel better. Yes?  

Many of us are making smarter and more informed decisions before filling our grocery carts, however the task of transitioning into healthier eating can be a daunting one.  Let’s face it, with all the marketing gimmicks telling us that processed food is nutritious, not to mention the questionable food sources we have to be aware of these days, eating healthy can be challenging.  I think the first step is to shop wisely and set ourselves up for success.   If there’s little in the way of healthy food in the pantry and kitchen, how can we expect to stay on track?

One of my favorite things to do is a kitchen “make-over.”  This is where I go to clients homes and help them organize their kitchen, as well as provide tips and strategies for success with their health targets.  We also go to the supermarket together to source out the best options available.  We read labels, ask questions (butcher, baker and produce manager), and find alternatives that fall under the guidelines of my recommendations. Did I mention how much I love my job! 

For some, however, a gradual approach toward making healthier choices might seem more appealing.  By using up what’s in the fridge and pantry first, and then swapping it out for a healthier option on grocery day, the shelves will eventually be restocked with more nutritious foods.  Let’s take processed cereal for example.  When the box is just about empty, look for a whole food alternative such as oatmeal, millet, or quinoa.  If such a drastic step is not in the cards just yet, instead choose a “no-sugar added” cereal with a high fiber content.  The same goes for sweetened fruit juice.  Replace it with an unsweetened variety, or opt for freshly squeezed juice or flavored water (with sliced cucumbers, lemon or fresh mint). It's easy!

I have created a pantry make-over chart to print out and keep as a handy reference.  Over time, these new, healthier foods will become a regular part of your diet.  By swapping out the not-so-ideal foods with healthier foods, you’ll slowly but surely “remodel” your kitchen!  

This is Janice, inspiring change

SWAP THIS White flour and white bread Boxed cereal (with added sugars) White rice Sugar sweetened jam Pop, soft drinks, sweetened beverages Sugar sweetened fruit juices Margarine Cooking oils, store-bought salad dres (4).png



Is Our Health in Our Hands?

While cleaning up some files last week I came across a letter I received almost 20 years ago.  “Janice is lazy and just needs to exercise.”  What!

This was the final comment of a two-page report submitted to my health insurance company by a specialist after I applied for long-term disability.  The letter stated that I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).  The Mayo Clinic defines CFS as “a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that can't be explained by any underlying medical condition.  The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but doesn't improve with rest.”  Interestingly, the letter concluded that I was lazy, and all I had to do to improve was exercise.  

In an attempt to uncover exactly what was going on with my body, and before my insurance company denied me compensation, various blood tests were ordered.  I waited for results; hopeful that an explanation was just around the corner.  Nope.  Test after test came back "normal" and one day the probing ended.  A diagnosis was made.  Case closed.  

Needless to say, it was like having a door slammed in my face!  I was shocked and felt helpless at that time in my life.  For weeks I read and re-read this report and I got increasingly angry.  I was not going to accept this diagnosis.  No way!  I was determined to get to the root cause of my complaints.  

I was much younger then, but having an interest in health, I knew that there was a connection between nutrition and healing.  I understood the importance of a balanced diet and I also took notice of the direct relationship between eating well and feeling well.  Additionally, the courses I had taken in nursing school provided me with a broader view of how the body worked, and what it needed to perform at an optimal level.  Knowing all this, I felt I had some control over my situation.  In other words, I had hope.  

I did indeed have chronic fatigue syndrome.  Let me rephrase that.  I was infact, chronically fatigued.  Fatigue, which prevented me from doing my job properly.  Drained of energy and muscle aches so bad that, even after a good nights sleep, I was unable to climb set of stairs without stopping half way to catch my breath and to wait for the pain in my legs to subside before continuing.  So tired that on the days that I could muster up enough energy to take my dogs out for a walk, I would drive to the nearest park and sit down on a bench while they ran loose. 

I chose not to accept that I wouldn’t be able to work anymore, and that I would have to live the rest of my life this way.  It isn’t normal to feel extreme exhaustion day in day out, month after month.  Exhaustion that sleep did not relieve; pain that stopped me from moving; and a lack of energy that regular exercise (the little I could manage) did not improve.  I chose not to live on pain medications and accept this as the new normal. I chose to get my life back! 

Finally, I found an alternative health practitioner who listened to my complaints.  Further testing revealed the root cause of my complaints and a recovery plan was in sight. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic!  

I’m grateful for this letter, however, as it prompted me to be proactive about my health.  I’m sharing my experience to reach others who might be struggling to find answers and getting nowhere.  Don’t give up.  Find a way to get to the root cause of the problem and get your life back.   

My journey back to health didn’t happen over night, nor was it easy.  I was criticised, ridiculed, and received countless eye-rolls for the choices I was making.  I paid no attention to criticism, however; this was my life, and my health was my top priority!  As I embarked on this challenge I came to the realization that, for the most part, the body has the amazing ability to heal itself.  Yes, it was tough. Yes, I had to change my relationship with food.  And hell yes, it was absolutely worth it!  

Our health is in our hands.

This is Janice, inspiring change

Is it possible to eat healthy these days?


(What motivates me to prioritize my health, and how do I make it work. Part 2)

Is it possible to eat healthy these days?  I believe it is, and it’s not as difficult as one might think to live a healthier lifestyle.  Sure, it takes some thought and effort, but I sum it up to doing the best we can with what we have, in the area in which we live.   

When I consider my diet today, it looks nothing like it did 20 years ago; thank goodness, as my staple food was, admittedly, potatoe chips!  Change doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a work in progress, and as I learn more about food and my environment, I constantly tweak my choices.  I also adapt to my surroundings and make adjustments according to what’s available.  When I moved to from Nova Scotia to Qatar, I quickly realized that I had to think outside the box, try new brands, read labels and ask the local folk about the produce that was available to me.  With my interest in cooking, it was exciting to try fruits and vegetables I’d never heard of, experiment with spices that I had only read about, and taste dishes of which the ingredients had to be identified by the chef.  Being a frugal shopper, I was happy to sample local products, which were a fraction of the cost of the imported and well known varieties. 

I think, as a whole, we have become wiser to the relationship food and the environment has on our health and wellbeing.  We are making smarter and more informed decisions before filling our grocery carts.  With the Internet at our fingertips, we have the opportunity to learn about food; it’s benefits, how it’s grown, and the process it goes through before reaching our tables.  Equally, the contradictive information out there can be mind boggling and it can leave us not knowing what to believe.  It's up to us to dig a little deeper to find factual information so that we can make informed decisions about what we put into our bodies.

So, how to get started?  We are all different and what works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another.  Our eating habits stem from childhood and we have emotional attachments to food, cultural traditions, as well as family and social influences.  The first thing we need is the desire to change.  If we truly want to start living a healthier life style we will.  I honestly think it’s that simple and with that frame of mind we will start moving toward our goals.  We’ll become more inquisitive and selective of our food choices, and, as we learn more about the how food fuels our bodies, we will desire fresh produce over denatured food.  When, one morning, we wake up and realise that we feel better, have more energy, as well as a more positive outlook, we will be motivated to continually improve upon our current choices.  

Lack of energy, aches and pains, digestive complaints, illness and disease, are telling signs that the body is not in balance.  It's up to us to pay attention to the warnings that the body is unsatisfied with our lifestyle choices.  I think, deep down, most of us beleive that natural, whole food is what the body requires for optimal performance.  As John Robbins, author of Healthy at 100, writes “We all have the tools to live longer lives, and to remain active, productive, and resourceful until the very end.”

This is Janice, inspiring change

P.S. Summer is over and September is all about fresh starts, new schedules and routines.  Click here for your free Developing Healthy Habits guide and start living your healthier lifestyle today!



Does heredity dictate our future?

Does heredity dictate our future?  (What motivates me to prioritize my health, and how do I make it work. Part 1)

Any one who knew us could say that my mother and I were attached at the hip.  In the last few years of my father’s life, when distance separated us, we spoke on the phone most every day.  Sadly, I lost both of these wonderful people to cancer at ages 57 and 66.  Much too young, I think!  

When we look at our family history, most of us can list several ailments that have plagued our loved ones.  Does heredity dictate our future?  I don’t think it does.  At least, I hope not!  Surely, heredity plays somewhat of a role, but as many functional medicine specialists are currently proving, my predisposition is not necessarily my destiny.

More often than not, we are raised eating the same as the people in our household.  Likewise, our tribe, if you will, guides our diet and lifestyle choices, and in turn, we tend to develop similar habits.  Doesn’t it makes sense then, that we walk into comparable health issues?  For example, research has proven that children of obese parents have an 80% chance of becoming obese themselves.  This is a sad and staggering statistic!  Some will still argue that it's inherited, but it appears to be largely due to food choices, eating habits, and the importance placed on physical activity.  A study by the U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states that "Genetic factors likely play some role in high blood pressure, heart disease, and other related conditions. However, it is also likely that people with a family history of heart disease share common environments...the risk can increase even more when heredity combines with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes and eating an unhealthy diet."  More and more, health organisations such as The Canadian Diabetes Association and the Mayo Clinic are reporting similar findings; that healthy living plays a major role in disease prevention.

I think it's well worth taking a look at food and lifestyle choices of our tribe before deciding that we are doomed for the same fate.  Of greater interest to me as a nutritional consultant, is to study the lifestyle choices of people who have managed to avert the ailments of their relatives.

My health struggles started from a very young age, and it was only by making changes as an adult, that I began to understand that food played a direct role in my health.  That was my “aha” moment!  That was the moment when I began to connect the dots and realize that I do have some control over my destiny!

Just to be clear, I am in no way saying that I'm exempt from illness and disease, for, as we all know, there are no guarantees in life.  I do, however, believe that I can reduce my odds by making better choices and by living a healthier lifestyle.  My diet is nowhere near perfect, but it's 110% better than it's ever been.  I have tons of energy to do the things I love to do, so, at the very least, I can feel great while trying to stave off disease.

It saddens me to hear people say that there is nothing they can do about their health, that it’s hereditary.  As the saying goes “one reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up, instead of what they have to gain.”  I have a lot to gain!!

This is Janice, inspiring change

Janice, Inspiring Change

Welcome to my blog!  

Everyone wants to feel great and be healthy!  Well, it's not really all that complicated.  I'll be sharing my knowledge, experience and opinion on health related matters to help you live a healthier lifestyle. But first, a little about me…

During my childhood and adolescence I was overweight and struggled with other health problems and emotional issues.  In my late 30's, when I was teaching cosmetology, I suddenly noticed that it was difficult for me to hold my arms up long enough to demonstrate a haircut.  Additionally, I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without stopping a few times to allow the burning sensation in my legs to ease up, so I could continue.  I finally had no choice but to stop working.  After seeing countless doctors and having numerous tests, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.  One "specialist" reported to my insurance company that I was simply lazy and just needed to exercise.  Me? Lazy?  I don’t think so! 

I had hit a wall.  I was sick and tired of being sick and tired!  I knew that my body wasn't designed to feel this way and I was determined to become healthy.  

Fortunately, I found a holistic practitioner who discovered that mercury poisoning was at the root of my problems (there were other problems too, but that's content for several other blogs).  Finally, I had support and a plan in place.  I realised that it wouldn't be easy, but it was either sink or swim (figuratively), and I was drowning fast!  I grabbed onto the life line, and with determination, I rescued myself.   

I was inspired to change my relationship with food, and boy did we have a great love affair!  I immediately noticed major shifts in how my body functioned!  It was then that I got my hands on as many health books as I could...and so began my wellness journey.

I’m living proof that it’s possible to turn your health around and my own challenges have led me to becoming a nutritional coach.  I offer nutritional and lifestyle support for people, like me, who are trying to find answers to their health challenges; for those dealing with existing health conditions searching for a better quality of life; and for those looking to implement preventative measures to help ward off illness and disease, in order to live life to it's fullest. 

I feel great and I have more energy now than I've ever had!  In September 2016 I took on the challenge of learning to swim (literally) and in April 2017 I completed my first triathlon.  Not bad for a lazy person!  

This is Janice, inspiring change