Nutrition

Learn more about Nutrition and it’s effect on living a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition is a factor in stress and weight gain.

The Truth About Collagen Gummies

 

Collagen gummies are becoming extremely popular. But are they really the best solution to healthier hair and nails, pain-free joints, and better skin? In this article, we share the opinion of our award-winning team, consisting of feedback from our Registered Nutritionist, Naturopathic Doctor, Fitness Director, and Program Director. Our opinion on this matter comes from an overarching goal to see our body as a holistic system that thrives on balance. From this lens, we offer you insights you may not have considered, and a fundamental understanding that will afford you the ability to create your own opinions moving forward.

First, let’s clear one thing up right away: there is no debate as to the benefits of collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, found in the bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. It forms a scaffold that provides strength and structure within the body. It is an essential component of connective tissue and plays a crucial role in holding the body’s cells together. It also gives strength and elasticity to the skin. In summary, collagen is very important.

Our Ability to Produce Collagen Decreases With Age.

As we age, we produce less and less collagen. This causes our skin to become less elastic and wrinkle, and become thinner. This can happen as early as 25-30, and accelerates in women after menopause. This scary fact is why so many people are turning to supplements, and, lately, gummies.

Rome Was Not Built On Collagen Gummies

Collagen gummies, however, are a supplement, and therein lies a massive clue as to what our relationship with them should be. Supplements, by definition, are not primary sources or fundamental building blocks; they exist just to fill in the cracks. Unfortunately, gummies are marketed as a quick and easy way to restore your collagen levels, and, all too often, taking supplements like these causes us to overlook producing essential vitamins, minerals, and collagen naturally—which is always a much more effective and sustainable way.

Collagen gummies are crack filler, and there’s no way to build anything of significance with just mortar. We must continue to focus on the natural building blocks of our health if we are to live a long, and happy life. And if, and only IF, we cannot genuinely derive or produce enough collagen naturally from our lifestyle (nutrition, exercise, habits), then we can, and should look to supplementation for help.

So what should we be doing to naturally support our collagen levels? And when those efforts don’t quite cut it, are collagen gummies really the best way to increase our collagen levels?

Our Bodies Naturally Create Collagen

Fortunately, our bodies are nothing short of extraordinary! We have the ability to create collagen by breaking down dietary protein into amino acids. If our diet contains a variety of whole food proteins at each meal, we can consume the necessary amount of protein to create ample collagen without needed supplementation. Fabulous sources of both plant + animal protein sources (to promote natural collagen production!) include:
  • Spirulina
  • Legumes
    Seeds: especially pumpkin + chia
  • Nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts
  • Bone Broth (ideally home made). Pro tip: use bone broth instead of oil to sauté vegetables, or instead of water when making quinoa or brown rice; both great, and sneaky ways, to add protein to your diet.
  • Organic, free-to-range eggs
  • Organic, pasture-raised meats
  • Wild fish

Healthy Lifestyle Factors Support Collagen Creation

However, it’s not just as easy as eating the above items and presto, your skin starts glowing and your nails never break. There are other lifestyle factors you need to focus on to help support your body to naturally up-regulate collagen:
  • Make sure you consume enough Vitamin C, zinc, and copper, which are cofactors required for collagen cross-linking. Eat your oysters, which are incredible sources of zinc and copper, and consume plenty of red peppers and citrus fruits, which are full of Vitamin C.
  • Do not smoke, and limit alcohol consumption. Both are toxic.
  • Limit exposure to pollutants. Also toxic.
  • Avoid deep-fried foods and processed meats (bacon, hot dogs), as they contain Advanced Glycation End Products (AGE’s), which can cause the stiffening of our collagen.
  • Wear your natural sunscreen! UV damage also increases AGE’s and collagen loss.
  • Eliminate added sugar. Sugar is collagen’s enemy! Glucose and Fructose (the two most common types of sugar) link amino acids in collagen and elastin and create harmful compounds called advanced glycation end products. These damage collagen and contribute to inflammation.
  • Eat regularly throughout the day, rather than all at once, and include some protein with every meal and/or snack. This  improves absorption.
  • Thoroughly chewing your food. This also helps absorption and reduces stomach acid, which might denature (damage) the proteins before becoming collagen.
  • Take a high quality, refrigerated probiotic, or add a fermented food (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, plain greek yogurt) to your daily routine.

Hydrolyzed Collagen Powder is Better Than Collagen Gummies

If you have reached the point in your life where collagen production has diminished so significantly, or your lifestyle is not producing enough collagen no matter how hard you try, it may be time to look for a supplement. Collagen Gummies, however, are not the answer. Typically, these gummies are often just glorified adult candies, and immensely packed full of sugar, which as noted above, is collagen’s enemy! Better than gummies, is hydrolyzed collagen powder, which you can add to your morning smoothie (see our Energizing Morning Smoothie Recipe) or take directly with cold water. It will give you all of the benefits of a collagen gummie, and more, without the need to consume an over-processed sugar cube.

In summary, and as is with most aspects of our health, focus on supporting healthy (collagen) levels naturally. Follow our tips for how to do so. If those efforts fall short, look for as clean of a supplement as possible, and remember, it’s only there to fill in the cracks, not build your temple entirely.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

7 techniques to reduce stress and manage IBS symptoms

Q: I’ve noticed that since Covid, my digestive system has not been performing as well. Is there a relationship between stress and how my intestines work?

A: Studies around the gut-brain connection are increasing, and proving something that we’ve always noticed; that our digestive system talks to our brain, and our brain talks to our stomach, intestines, and other organs. Reflect on the last time you felt butterflies when you are nervous or anxious about an outcome or nauseous over an event, or even had a gut-wrenching experience. All forms of emotions can be located in our body if we pay attention and research is showing that some of the more severe or persistent feelings and thoughts can be reflected in some of our digestive system illnesses. According to Harvard Health Science, emotional and mental stress can be a major contributor to some of the common gastrointestinal illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome, gastro reflux, upset stomach, constipation, and, diarrhea. Unfortunately, these illnesses and the pain and worry associated with them can lead to increased anxiety and depression for many people, and it becomes a negative cycle.

Chronic stress affects your Gut Health & Metabolism

When stress is chronic and not managed, our sympathetic nervous system triggers the release of many hormones including cortisol to help us physically resolve a perceived threat with the options of fight and flight. Cortisol signals some organs and systems to ramp up, and others to turn off. For example, saliva and stomach acid secretions are stopped as digestion is a waste of energy when trying to outrun a mountain lion. The peristaltic contractions that move food through our intestines are also stopped to save energy for fleeing. Heart rate increases and the release of blood sugar becomes more available to power our muscles. Our sympathetic nervous system ramps us up for a survival scenario, and after the event, it’s our parasympathetic nervous system that brings us back into a “rest and digest” equilibrium for balanced health. But, what if there isn’t a cougar to outrun, but instead it’s our thoughts and feelings about situations in our life that keep us in a chronically elevated state of stress? Fast forward to the effect of having a vigilant nervous system triggering too much cortisol on an ongoing basis and the effect on our digestive system can turn into an illness. Add the fact that our parasympathetic nervous system operating from the vagus nerve’s connection to all of our internal organs connects the brain to our guts and is responsible for digestive enzyme release, intestinal contractions, immune reactions to allergens, and hormonal movement back and forth between our head brain and our gut-brain, and we can see how medical and psychological researchers are looking for ways to minimize stress’ effects on the body and brain. On a simplistic level, this communication is responsible for letting us know when our stomach is full before we stretch it with overeating, and on a complex level, it works in concert with our gut microbiome to ensure complete digestion and absorption of nutrients.

7 techniques to reduce stress and manage IBS symptoms

From research reported through the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical, and Psychiatry Magazine among others, it is becoming more mainstream to consider the inclusion of psycho-social tools and practices to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while improving gut biome, immune function, and stabilizing many digestive disorders. Here are some examples being touted as beneficial to repair the gut-brain issues that have become even more prevalent during the stress of the Covid pandemic.

1. Mindfulness training

Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to the present moment. During mindfulness practice, you are encouraged to notice and accept your thoughts and feelings without trying to change them. Over time, mindfulness helps you reduce stress by improving your ability to accept change and let go of worries. Research indicates that mindfulness can prevent and ease IBS symptoms.7,8

2. Relational Somatic Therapy

Connecting body sensations with feelings and implicit memories to heal developmental, attachment, and trauma from childhood in order to learn how to self and co-regulate the sympathetic nervous system in order to increase one’s tolerance to previously stressful triggers.

3. Cognitive behavioral therapy

Sessions with a trained counselor can help you learn to modify or change your responses to stress. Several studies suggest that cognitive-behavioral therapy provides a significant and long-lasting reduction of IBS symptoms.1,6-8

4. Hypnotherapy

During sessions with a trained professional, you enter a relaxed state and are then guided through visualizations and suggestions designed to help you control your symptoms and calm your digestive tract. Several studies support the long-term effectiveness of hypnosis for IBS.1,6-8

5. Biofeedback

During these sessions, electrical sensors help you receive information (feedback) on your body’s functions – heart rate, for example. The feedback helps you focus on making changes to manage stress and ease symptoms.7,8

6. Progressive relaxation training

These exercises help you learn how to relax your muscles. For example, you might start by tightening the muscles in your feet, then slowly releasing that tension. Next, tighten and relax your calves. Continue up the body until all your muscles – including those in your face and head – are relaxed. This progressive tightening and relaxing of your muscles are typically coupled with breathing techniques – breathe in while tightening the muscle group, breathe out when relaxing the muscles.1,6,7

7. Yoga

In a review of several studies, individuals with IBS who practice yoga experience fewer bowel symptoms, decreased IBS severity, and lower rates of anxiety compared with conventional treatment.9


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Are powdered greens good for you?

powdered greens on a measuring spoon

Q: I find that with juggling all my family responsibilities, long work hours, and fast-paced life (whether working from home or when I was traveling before Covid), that I’m not getting enough plant food in my diet. Other than a salad for dinner, I think I may be short-changing the minerals and vitamins I need. I’ve seen a surge of “powdered greens” products being marketed these days. What do you think about their benefits? Are powdered greens good for you?

A: It is very understandable that time and energy to include more (appetizing and filling) plants in our diet can seem daunting. Other than including a piece of fruit for a snack, it can feel like adding vegetables to our meals means complicating preparation and adding cook time. Consequently, if at all, we include our vegetables in our largest meal of the day… dinner.

This imbalance is where powered greens as vegetable supplements can have their place. However, let us not forget to be discerning before submitting to manufactured products designed and marketed to make our go-go life maintain its go-go-ness at all costs! From our perspective on balanced health (which includes nutrition, movement, sleep hygiene, detoxification, and mental/emotional and spiritual well-being) the branch of nutrition is primarily focused on “nutrifying” (absorbing ample nutrients), fueling, and reducing inflammation in the body and brain. If we are not averaging approximately 66-75% of our food intake from the plant kingdom, we are likely not getting enough of the nutrients required for a healthy body and brain. Phytochemicals, minerals, most vitamins, antioxidants, omega 3 oils, many amino acids (building blocks of protein), and fiber all come from the kingdom of plants. The color green is only one color from the full spectrum of phytonutrients required for balanced nutrition, with every other color provides different building blocks.

Another consideration is the potency and absorbency of the powdered greens you take. From our experience, whole, unprocessed, fresh, local, and organic are important considerations when prioritizing which form we get our vegetables from. Perhaps you are breaking your fast within 30 minutes of rising and for ease and convenience, a smoothie is all you think you have time for. Adding powdered greens to your smoothie will contribute more micronutrients than your typical banana and blueberry inclusion.

Greens powders typically have a green hue and can taste a bit grassy (so adding them to a smoothie makes them more palatable). The produce used in these supplements is generally dried and then ground into powder. Alternatively, some ingredients may be juiced, then dehydrated, or certain components of the whole food may be extracted and dried. There are also sprouted and fermented greens powders, which can provide an easier-to-digest, more absorbable option. Ensure the product label does not include artificial colors, added sweeteners, and is ideally manufactured from organically sourced vegetables in order to minimize pesticides and fungicides.

So, if we are aiming to add more plant-based nutrients across our day, and dinner is covered by a variety of raw salad ingredients, some roasted, steamed, or stir-fried veggies, and breakfast is augmented with some frozen or fresh fruit and a high-quality greens powder supplement in a smoothie, what can we do that’s healthful and easy across the workday? Remember, besides nutrifying the cells of our body and brain, we need to provide ongoing fuel for optimal brain function and energy management. Otherwise, the dreaded 2 o’clock crash hits us hard and we turn to a comforting cup of caffeine-laced coffee. But at least a 1/3 of that caffeine is going to still be coursing its way around your body by the time your head hits the pillow. Not ideal. There’s a better way: eating every 2-3 hours keeps our brain fueled for optimum mental clarity and decision-making potency. Enliven your lunch sandwich or salad with radish, endive, pumpkin, pea, or sunflower “microgreen sprouts”. A sprouted seed has many times more available minerals and vitamins than a full-grown plant and has a variety of fresh flavors to enrich your mid-day meal. A morning snack can be as simple, nutrifying, and blood-sugar-balancing as a piece of seasonally fresh fruit accompanied by a couple of tablespoons of protein-dense nuts and or seeds. And to counter the mid-afternoon energy drop we feel as cortisol wanes, consider having some pre-washed and cut veggie sticks on hand to dip into a delicious protein-based dip-like hummus, or our Golden Almond Butter Dip. Mixing our various veggie snacks with protein gives a more sustaining energy release and avoids blood sugar and insulin spikes.

In summary, utilizing quality green powders to augment rather than replace fresh, unprocessed, and potentially organic fruits and vegetables can support the cellular requirements of plant-kingdom building blocks. As an enticement to eat more varieties of vegetables, remember savoring their textures and flavors will be easier when we chew them rather than gulp them.

Learn more about Mountain Trek’s Nutrition Principles.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

The Cause of your low energy and how to fix it

Feeling tired and low on energy has a dramatic effect on your life. Being low on energy reduces productivity, happiness, longevity, and your overall health. Understanding what causes a lack of energy and how to fix it is critical, and what we aim to share with you in this article.

What Causes Low Energy

Essentially all life in the universe is composed of energy. And, energy (which is never created or destroyed) is constantly changing into one form and through utilization or decay into another. In the cells of our human body, we take in thermo-electric energy from our sun that has been converted into plant life (and up the food chain into animal life) in the form of glucose (sugar). Tiny organelles in each of our cells called mitochondria convert the sugar transported by blood (“blood sugar”) into energy to power every organ, muscle, and neuron. These 1000-2500 power houses extract energy from food and supply it to all parts of every cell in an energy currency called ATP. The healthier and more efficient our mitochondria are, the healthier and more efficient our bodies are.

How To Fix Low Energy

Now if energy is never created or destroyed, how come we feel like we are losing energy? Aging and our lifestyle choices affect the efficiency and longevity of our mitochondria. Oxidation (the bombardment of mitochondria and other cell components with “free radical” electrons from energy production), nutrient deficiencies, and environmental toxins are the root causes. According to Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, “the better a species does at protecting its mitochondria, the longer a species lives”. So, in a nutshell, we need to ensure our lifestyle supports our mitochondria operating efficiently.

Optimize Your Nutrition and Meal Timing

The primary way mitochondria are protected from ‘oxidative stress’ is through plant-based dietary building blocks containing CoQ10, manganese, glutathione, and vitamin E from omega 3 oils. Then there is the need for rest. Intermittent Fasting for as close as possible to 12 hrs through the night, gives the mitochondria a break from energy production so they can repair and regenerate.

Reduce Toxin Exposure

Decreasing toxin exposure (plastics, petrochemicals, heavy metals, alcohol, etc.) lessons damage.

Build Muscle Mass

And, building muscle mass counters the diminishing number of mitochondria as we age. Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates warn us about sedentarism contributing to a loss of muscle mass prematurely lowering our number of mitochondria and ATP production. Strength training rebuilds energy-producing mitochondria in our muscle cells.

Reduce Stress Hormone Cortisol

Stress reduction is important to lowering cortisol which through both the increase of inflammation and reduction of ATP production becomes another energy zapper.

Prioritize Sleep

It’s one thing to target longevity through incorporating as many balanced health lifestyle habits as possible (refer to the previous blog on Blue Zone Centenarian lifestyle commonalities), but living consciously now with a focus on supporting our cellular energy engines and maintaining a charged battery with deep sleep will keep you feeling youthful until your ‘due date’.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

How Chronic Inflammation Causes Metabolic Disease, Dementia, and Cancer

According to the Mayo Clinic, 90% of the illnesses they deal with are caused by lifestyle, while only 10% are congenital. These are illnesses we have all come to accept as just a part of life, aging, and luck; demential, diabetes, and cancer to name a few. But now, more than ever, we are realizing that there is something familiar, yet very misunderstood at root of those lifestyle illnesses: inflammation. Specifically, chronic inflammation.

Acute Vs. Chronic Inflammation

Acute inflammation is the body’s immune and repair response to an injury or a harmful substance or invader entering our body. Low-grade chronic inflammation is the result of an imbalance in our immune function due to ongoing stress or lifestyle choices that keep our immune system working overtime. Research is showing us that balanced health measures that prioritize regular movement (through a variety of exercises), an anti-inflammatory fiber-rich diet, deep regular 7-9 hr sleep, and stress-reducing activities like meditation coupled with trauma resolution therapy, counter chronic inflammation and reduce the likelihood of contracting these and other diseases.

Chronic Inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic Syndrome is a combination of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke (and its contribution to dementia), and cancer. These conditions include abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, impaired glucose tolerance, abnormal negative cholesterol levels, and chronic inflammation from an overactive immune system. Metabolic syndrome, obesity (over 30% body fat), and type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance) are interconnected. All 3 are linked by genetic markers, overeating an unhealthy diet, and lack of consistent movement/exercise… as well as a chronic state of inflammation in the body. Most of us think that fat cells are inert storage containers, however, newer research has shown that belly fat is metabolically active and produces pro-inflammatory substances that contribute to insulin resistance. It’s confusing, but chronic low-grade inflammation has been identified as both a cause and consequence of metabolic syndrome!

Chronic Inflammation and Cancer

When infections, autoimmune responses, or conditions such as obesity go unchecked the ensuing inflammation can promote the growth and replication of cancer cells. Type 2 diabetes (from insulin resistance) is associated with a higher risk of liver, pancreas, ovary, lung, bladder, and breast cancers. According to Harvard Health reports, chronic inflammation and high blood sugar levels also contribute to the general development of cancer cells through the damage to cellular DNA and the creation of an environment hospitable to cancer growth. An estimated 1 in 5 cancer cases stem from a combination of excess fat stores, inactivity, poor nutrition, excess alcohol use, and unresolved stressors.

Chronic Inflammation and Dementia

Dementia including Alzheimer’s, like heart disease, has its root cause in plaque build up in arteries and between neurons. Research still isn’t clear about what is behind these protein deposits, but what we know is the protein plaque deposits in brain tissue and cardiac arteries initiate an immune response. Microglia and white blood cells will attempt to eradicate the plaque, but it isn’t as easy to destroy as viruses or harmful bacteria. Cytokines and other inflammatory chemicals are released in a long-held effort which amps up the immune system creating more chronic inflammation. Research is also seeing how chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, atherosclerotic heart disease, and diabetes have been linked to an increased risk for depression! Recent findings suggest inflammation may increase depression risk by suppressing the birth of new brain cells (neurogenesis).

Though there are many ongoing experiments and tests utilizing medications like anti-inflammatories to help turn off an over-functioning immune system and lower chronic inflammation, the safest and most effective approach is to focus on lifestyle interventions like diet, exercise, stress reduction, sleep depth, and detoxification.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Food Sensitivities and Elimination Diets

We all inhabit different bodies. With that comes an almost infinite variety of genetic variations, four different blood types, and unique reactions to our inner and outer environments. Some of us have allergies to pollen, bee venom, nuts, or shellfish. Some of us get runny noses in the spring and some of us have itchy skin when we wear wool. Just as there are no two fingerprints the same in all of humanity, there is no digestive or immune system alike.

When our body finds a certain food difficult to digest, it can be like a stressor to our internal organs. If we eat too much of a particular food or eat it too often, it can not only inflame our intestinal tract but can also invoke our immune system to counteract the food particle’s effects once it passes into our bloodstream. This adds even more stress on many of our systems. Our stress hormone cortisol will rise, our mucous membranes may become inflamed, and our energy levels will drop as our body fights to eliminate the unwanted particles. A variety of symptoms ranging from those that are barely noticeable to some that are chronically depleting are unique to each of us. To add to this complexity, if we’ve been consuming certain foods over a lifetime, we may not be mindful that our body finds certain items distressing as we have desensitized ourselves to the symptoms or the energy drain.

Determining whether any particular food stresses our bodies can seem daunting. But if we take the approach of being an investigator, and bring mindful curiosity and a willingness to experiment with our nutrition, it is possible to become free of the internal stress and regain health and vitality. There are three basic categories of digestive and immune difficulties when it comes to eating.

Food Allergies

Food allergies are typically an acute immune response to proteins in certain foods that our body isn’t designed to digest and assimilate. Common allergies are shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts. The reaction is often so strong that it can be life threatening.

Food Intolerances

Food intolerances are non-immune based responses to difficulty digesting certain foods. These substances may be certain sugars or proteins which we are not genetically able to produce the digestive components to down and assimilate them. This inability can lead to digestive inflammation. An example could be lactose a sugar found in dairy foods not being able to be broken down by people who stop producing lactase after the age of 2.

Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities are again unique to each of us and could be to certain chemical compounds that are found naturally in certain foods like alkaloids in the ‘nightshade’ family, or histamines in fermented food and beverages, dried fruits and avocados, or salicylates found in some foods and medications such as aspirin. We can also be highly sensitive to certain chemical compounds found in our food such as pesticides (like glyphosate), and food additives. These foods or substances cause a delayed immune reaction that may not peak symptomatically for 3 days after ingestion, making it difficult to pin point the stress causing culprit.

Common symptoms of food sensitivities and intolerances

  • Bloating in our lower belly after eating including gas and or water retention in the bowels.
  • Irregular bowel movements or stool consistency.
  • Water retention throughout the body.
  • Joint pain.
  • Sniffling, runny nose, postnasal drip, or sneezing.
  • Itchy skin or skin eruptions like eczema, or acne.
  • Brain fog, headaches, low energy, mood shifts.
  • Asthma or other respiratory difficulties.
  • Poor depth of sleep.
  • Low functioning immune system leading frequent bouts of cold and flu.
  • Cravings for carb, fat, and salt snacks to offset the increased levels of cortisol from internal stress on our digestive and immune system.

Health professionals like a Naturopathic Dr., or Allopathic Dr. (MD) can help determine whether we are reacting to an allergy, intolerance or sensitivity. They may employ blood work, or a skin prick sampling of a specific food or chemical to look for immune or inflammation measures. At Mountain Trek, we prefer utilizing an “Elimination Diet”, in conjunction with a Naturopathic Dr., where you strategically remove suspected foods and chemicals for 14-30 days. Important to this effort is mindfully self monitoring and journalling to track physical, mental, emotional and energetic reactions when carefully and strategically adding items back into our diet. It is worth the experiment to reclaim our balanced health and energy!

Learn more about symptoms and elimination diets from Mountain Trek’s Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Kimberley.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

The Truth About Collagen Gummies

Q: I am really struggling with working from home. What should I do?

A: The world has learned a lot from the past 10 months of Covid. One of the unforeseen outcomes was a mass migration of office workers from downtown to their dens. A variety of research on the phenomena has found both positive and negative ramifications, however, one thing all university and corporate research has pointed out is that for the foreseeable future—even after Covid—work will be remote or from a hybrid of locations, and mostly virtual. How do we as managers and employees prepare for this change?

With 40% of the workforce able to work from home, and 80% of their employers planning to permit them to work part-time or full-time from home post-Covid, strategies are going to be required that build employee satisfaction and productivity for the new reality. The main struggle for homebound employees is work-life balance, distractions, and loneliness from isolation, while corporations struggle to maintain the inter-employee relationships that are so vital to trust, team collaboration, and creative synergy.

For many, the honeymoon phase of working from home is over with some 55% of employees struggling from distractions such as family-shared workspace, children and pets needing attention and support, and negative world news affecting their fear of the future. But even with more flexibility to manage work hours than ever before, 66% of 2000 office workers surveyed are working more nights and weekends than they did before, and 49% find it difficult to keep boundaries, while 59% feel less effective. The blurring of work-life balance is showing up in degradation of physical, mental, and emotional health. Lack of gym and studio access, proximity to the fridge, and the ease for interruptions from the virtual world to pop up are having a negative effect on healthy lifestyle habits as well as productivity. Physical isolation is also taking its toll. The post-grad 20 to 30-year-olds who moved to a new city for employment were counting on coworkers for friendships. Zoom fatigue is setting in and many meeting participants stay blank screened (don’t turn on video), allowing the few extroverts to carry meetings. The “heartbeat” of the office where serendipitous encounters in the hall or spontaneous collaboration at the coffee machine which build trust and relationships through countless unscheduled gestures and interactions has gone missing.

The managers of the future will need to be savvy on technology and off-site work efficiency practices, but also be able to leverage virtual relationships, trust, and team synergy if they want to be leaders in maximizing employee happiness, creativity, effectiveness, and longevity. Though many surveyed employees appreciate the trust from their managers to work from home, and the freedom to customize their day, they are often complaining of boredom and loneliness. It’s too easy for distance workgroups to lose a sense of belonging, feel disconnected from the culture of the organization, and lose sight and commitment to the corporation’s aims and objectives. This can lead to withdrawal and apathy.

Now is the time to realize we are not just coping with a singular crisis. The way we work is going to change forever. So here are some considerations for both employees and management to build the healthiest and effective virtual teams:

  • Create strategies and protocols that schedule work and life separation, while allowing for some freedom and flexibility
  • Utilize the old commute time for personal health resourcing and stress reduction
  • Invest in virtual team-building activities that transmit the corporate culture of health, connection, and co-creation
  • Utilize technologies and protocols that foster face to face small group communication for relationship and trust-building which are foundational for effective brainstorming and collaborative solution finding
  • Transfer office equipment (stand up desks) and gym pass memberships to home and virtual outlets to support physical health
  • Provide workplace and health coaching as well as counseling therapeutic support for individuals who are feeling anxious or depressed from the chronic stress of Covid, but also afterward as we empower a new way of working more virtually

We hope this article helps you with ideas on how to build a sustainable approach to long-term working from home.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: How Do I Stop My After-Work Wine Habit?

Pretty, young woman drinking some nice red wine at home, in the evening after work on her sofa (color toned image; shallow DOF)

Q: How do I stop my after-work wine habit?

A: Making new choices isn’t easy, even when we consciously know what we might prefer to do—such as kicking the after-work wine habit (substitute any post-work relaxation habit you may wish to replace). We are wired, by our survival instincts, to hunt down carbs, fats, and salts, so it’s no wonder our taste buds are a primary means for rest and relaxation in our culture—eating tells us we’re safe. But being seduced by our tongue will often derail our evenings and, subsequently, affect our sleep and following day. If this pattern repeats we will typically wake up one day and find ourselves in a hole that is tough to climb out of. However, one of the blessings of our new work-from-home reality is that we have newfound time to cement new healthy habits. With the additional time once spent on commute and travel, we can now repeat a new action more frequently and anchor it into a healthy lifestyle habit in less time.

Know it’s a need, not a want

It’s very common to want to relax and reward our efforts at the end of the day. Come 5 pm or 8 pm, or whenever it is you get home from work, cortisol (our stress hormone) has been elevated all day, helping us stay focused and on-task with zoom meetings, calls, and a mountain of emails, we’ve made thousands of choices and decisions, and our willpower is spent. Now, our brain is craving a relaxing bath of feel-good neurotransmitters—serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin—to help us let go of it all. This craving to feel good is actually a “need” we need to be conscious of if we want to make different choices at the end of the day to unwind. Our bodies need to unwind after a full day spent in a stressful, vigilant state. We are wired this way in order to regain some semblance of balance and not physically burn out (aka survive). So, whether it’s that glass of wine or perhaps some chips and guacamole, know that you are consuming these carbs, fats, and salts because of a primal need to slow down and find balance.

Rather than thinking about your post-work choice as a “should” (e.g. I should go work out, or I should eat a healthy snack), remember it’s a “need”. If you don’t proactively answer that need, your body will resort to those feel-good fats, carbs, and salts to comfort itself. Take time to honestly reflect on what need is not being met. Then you can more easily find other sources of pleasure to satiate this need.

Find Alternatives

Here are a few alternatives that could be woven into your workweek as a replacement to snacks and alcohol—proactive, healthy alternatives that will fill your need for feeling good at the end of a stressful workday, lower your cortisol levels, and bathe your body with ‘feel good’ hormones:

  • Pet an animal lovingly for 10 minutes.
  • Go for a 20-minute walk in nature. “Warm-up” your hike by spending the first 5 minutes focusing your awareness on sights, sounds, smells, and even touch. This will slow your mind down and bring it to the present moment, reducing cortisol and anxiety.
  • Meditate in a quiet nurturing place for 5 minutes.
  • Spend 20 minutes working on something creative to get into the ‘flow state’. Some great options are gardening, playing an instrument, writing poetry, or tying fishing flies—anything that captures your attention and is solely for your joy.
  • Connect your mind and body with your breath while unwinding on the yoga mat for 20 minutes.

Document Your Intentions and Experience

Make a list of 3-5 benefits that you might receive by altering your after-work routine. This will give your effort significantly more meaning. Next, write down three obstacles that could derail your efforts and match each of those obstacles with three solutions (contingency options determined in advance). Now you’re fully prepared for any curveballs.

Frequently stop, take a few breaths, and notice thoughts and feelings. Journal (before bed or after awakening is best) the insights you have noticed about your sleep, digestion, moods, mental focus, energy levels, and replacement choices. Be curious. This will help you notice and appreciate the benefits of your new habit-to-be.

Manage Cues

Cues are triggers for your bad habit. Common cues are time of day, such as happy hour, physically seeing your favorite bottle sitting on the counter when you walk in from work, your emotions, such as stress or exhaustion, and people that you may typically drink with. You should let your best friends know that you’re working on changing your habits, so when you decline their invites for happy hour, they understand why.

Create Your Own Positive Cues

Replace negative cues with positive ones. Consider setting an alarm on your phone right at 5 pm reminding you of your goals and suggesting one of your replacement actions. Write a note to yourself and stick it to your wine fridge. Put a sticky note on your office door that reminds you of your goals right as you leave work. There are so many other creative ways to help you snap out of the post-work trance and make a mindful decision on how you want to spend your evening.

Be Kind To Yourself

Do your best to be kind to yourself as you start the processes of nurturing yourself (rather than soothing or numbing) after work. Strive not for perfection, or you can certainly expect internal rebellion. Take baby steps on your journey up the mountain. Begin by setting goals that are seemingly trivial—e.g. one night a week where you have a healthy after-work activity. Then, after a few weeks of this, move on to two nights a week. Stop at no more than 5 nights a week to leave yourself room to be human.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: Why is sugar bad?

Q: Why is sugar so bad for us, and why is it so hard to avoid?

A: First, let’s redefine “bad”. Sugar, or glucose, is not “bad” for us—in fact, it is an essential form of energy for the cells of our brain and body. Our tongue even has a specific taste bud allocated to finding it for our survival. The problem with sugar is when it’s added in addition to naturally occurring sugars. This “added-sugar” is so prevalent in our manufactured food that we are taking in way too much, way too often. Let’s shed some light on “too much”; in the year 1700, the average amount of sugar intake, including natural sugars, was approximately 4lbs per person annually. That like two nalgenes full of sugar. In the year 1800, sugar cane plantations made it more available than just to the wealthy, and the average increased to 18lbs. By 1900 it was around 40lbs per person per year. Today? Depending on the study you read, the American consumes between 60 and 150lbs per adult annually! That’s like a wheelbarrow full of sugar…

This number is so high because sugar is now added to everything. The American Heart Association has put out a recommendation to limit added-sugar to no more than 9 teaspoons (150 calories) of added-sugar per day for men, and 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) for women. That gets immediately allocated with just one 12oz can of soda. Forget the fat-free salad dressing or ketchep for our french fries or vanilla yogurt that all have equal amounts of sugar. Today, almost everything that has been prepared for us has sugar added to enhance flavor or shelf-life.

To be fair, a vast amount of our food contains natural sugars. The obvious is fruit. The less obvious, however—starchy “simple carbs” like pasta, white rice, bread, crackers, and so on. The starch in these carbohydrates is a carbon chain of sugar molecules that is broken down into blood sugar by the amalayse in our saliva. By the time these foods are broken down they aren’t much different than table sugar.

But there’s a massive difference between whole natural sources of sugar like fruit or fiber covered carbohydrates like whole grains and the sugar added to soda. These natural sources of sugar come with an added benefit of fiber, which helps us avoid the ‘sugar bomb’ by slowing down the digestion of sugar, which avoids a blood sugar spike and the consequential insulin spike which leads to insulin resistance the main cause of type 2 diabetes. So, this leaves us with added-sugar and simple carbs as leading causes why Harvard labeled sugar as one of the greatest threats to our cardiovascular health. 

Some other negative health symptoms from eating too much sugar or simple carbs are:
– Premature aging as sugar can damage skin proteins, collagen, and elastin leading to premature wrinkles.
– Increased inflammation, weakened immune and hormonal imbalance as undesirable gut bacteria and yeasts that live off sugar out-compete our fiber eating positive flora communities.
– Constant cravings are a part of the dopamine reward system that our brain has been wired for survival. The Food industry capitalizes on the addictive quality of sugar in processed food.
– Inconsistent energy levels as our pancreas manages the sugar bomb with insulin and we experience an energy spike followed by a drop and crash.
– Bloating from sugar bugs off-gassing and of course belly fat
– Diseases like Heart and Cardiovascular disease, Fatty Liver, and Diabetes

To avoid excess sugar intake, avoid the top processed food sources; soda, energy drinks, sports drinks and fruit juices, grain- and dairy-based desserts. But be aware that even ketchup has as much added sugar per gram as a soda!

To add to the fact that sugar is now present in nearly everything we eat, it also elicits a dopamine response when consumed. Dopamine is a feel-good hormone, so we can actually get addicted to sugar because of the chemical response it causes. To work with dopamine-driven sugar cravings, employ mindfulness moments to ask the following questions before reaching into the fridge:

  • “Is this really what I need right now (or is it a want)?
  • what am I feeling?
  • what am I thinking?
  • what do I really need right now (if I feel, exhausted, bored, overworked, lonely, sad, etc)? Perhaps a glass of water or a crisp apple and a few nuts could meet my hunger and energy needs while connecting with a close friend could help on the emotional side.

We hope this article helps you curb your sugar intake!


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below: