Stress is a physiological condition associated with disorders of the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. Uncovering natural remedies to combat stress continues to be a significant area of scientific research. In traditional Chinese Medicine known as Ayurveda, consumption of adaptogenic herbs is common practice to improve the body’s ability to adjust to exposures such as extreme temperatures, loud noise, strenuous physical exertion, chemical pollutants, and to help maintain cognitive function, blood glucose, lipid levels and blood pressure. Adaptogens are naturally occurring plant compounds or extracts known to exhibit protection against stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. According to Selye’s theory (Selye, 1950) the stress response and general adaptation syndrome includes three phases: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Recent pharmacological studies of individual adaptogens provide rationale to their effects at the molecular level, indicating several mechanisms of action that help the body maintain equilibrium. However, adaptogens supposedly act non-specifically, and may activate certain energy-producing chemical receptors and deactivate others to prevent overreaction to stress messengers. Combinations of adaptogenic plants may offer unique effects due to their synergistic interactions in organisms which are not achieved by isolated extracts or supplements of individual adaptogens.
The chemical compounds known as adaptogens are typically phenolics or triterpenoids. Phenolics are structurally similar to catecholamines, which activate the stress system in the early stages of stress response. Triterpenoids resemble the corticosteroids that act as stress hormones in deactivation of the stress system. Adaptogens often are included alone or in combinations in bottled beverages, herbal teas, smoothies, plant-based protein powders, and supplements. The following are adaptogens that have demonstrated beneficial health effects:
Enyeart JA, Liu H, Enyeart JJ. Curcumin inhibits ACTH- and angiotensin II-stimulated cortisol secretion and Ca(v)3.2 current. J Nat Prod. 2009;72(8):1533-1537.
Jamshidi N, Cohen MM. The clinical efficacy and safety of tulsi in humans: a systematic review of the literature. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:9217567.
Lee S, Rhee DK. Effects of ginseng on stress-related depression, anxiety, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. J Ginseng Res. 2017;41(4):589-594.
Liao, L. Y., He, Y. F., Li, L., Meng, H., Dong, Y. M., Yi, F., & Xiao, P. G. (2018). A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. Chinese medicine, 13, 57. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13020-018-0214-9.
Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 3(1), 188–224. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph301018
Selye H. Stress. Acta Medical Publisher; Montreal, Canada: 1950.
Dancing at home has presented new challenges such as having to adjust to improper flooring and/or investing in new flooring. With this in mind, what flooring is appropriate? What are some indications that I may be dancing on improper flooring? What can I do to modify if I don’t currently have access to good flooring?
Good technique and adequate flooring are both crucial for injury prevention. Up to 28% of professional dancers associated an unsuitable floor surface with re-injury (Hopper 2014). A permanent, fully sprung floor is recommended (Quin 2015). This translates into a 2 component structure. The top surface is typically wood or marley in order to provide optimal grip. Too much resistance can create added torque on joints, while lack of friction leads to increased muscular tension and falls.
The undersurface/substructure has the shock absorbing properties and typically consists of a solid or suspended subfloor with a dense foam layer underneath (Quin 2015).
It is also important to note that raked stages can triple the amount of risk for injury. In addition, floor surface variability versus lack of shock absorbing capabilities may have an even greater influence on injury (Hopper 2014). Therefore, it is important to maintain uniformity of the surface and clean regularly. Improper flooring can contribute to low back pain, sacroiliac dysfunction, stress fractures, shin splints, and tendinopathies. Occurrence of these injuries could indicate improper flooring. If you don’t have immediate access to a sprung floor, you may want to consider the following: jumping in sneakers, avoiding single leg landings, close in first or third position rather than fifth position, and/or train the components of the jumps.
Hopper, L. S., Allen, N., Wyon, M., Alderson, J. A., Elliott, B. C., & Ackland, T. R. (2014). Dance floor mechanical properties and dancer injuries in a touring professional ballet company. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 17(1), 29-33.
Quin, Edel & Rafferty, Sonia & Tomlinson, Charlotte. (2015). Safe Dance Practice: An applied dance science perspective. Pages 8-10.
By Erica Hornthal, LCPC, BC-DMT
“The Therapist Who Moves You”
These days you may find it harder to stay present, especially when being in the moment reminds us that things are not what they used to be. The inability to be present can lead to a decrease in body awareness which has a huge impact on our movement overall.
You have the power to slow down, observe, and take action. By challenging your status quo and moving outside your comfort zone you create greater capacity to handle stress and the emotions that come with it. Think of it as your emotional gas tank. Adding to your movement profile, or all the movement at your disposal, creates a larger reserve which means less breakdowns on the side of the road as well as less trips to the gas station. When you increase your movement and body awareness you get more emotional miles per gallon.
So how do you maximize your emotional miles per gallon through movement to support resilience and overall well-being? Here are some tips:
Looking for more support?
My workbook, Body Awareness for Mental Health, is for you! Rooted in theories and methodologies from the field of dance/movement therapy this workbook is designed for:
We’ve made it through the year 2020 and it is time for a new beginning and fresh perspective. Here is a delicious and healthy recipe to help you launch 2021! This vegetarian dish includes protein, fiber, and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. It is also zesty and satisfying - enjoy!
Spiced Black-Eyed Peas with Coconut Milk - recipe makes 6 servings
2 cups dried black-eyed peas
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 large red onion
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
1 habanero chile
1 tsp. ground turmeric
3 medium tomatoes
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup low-sodium broth
1 cup fresh cilantro
2 green onions
As dancers return to the studio, it is important to gradually introduce jumps to prevent lower leg injuries. Foot and ankle injuries are often incurred during dynamic movements like jumping, and improper flooring, poor technique, and fatigue can increase the risk of injury.
Here are some important tips to lessen the likelihood of sustaining injury during jumps:
Russell J. A. (2013). Preventing dance injuries: current perspectives. Open access journal of sports medicine, 4, 199–210. https://doi.org/10.2147/OAJSM.S36529
Stress is the tension felt when faced with a new, unpleasant, or threatening situation. The hormone surge we experience during stress produces an automatic physical reaction as well an emotional response that can be controlled and managed. The physical signs of stress include increased heart rate, perspiration, headaches, appetite changes, dry mouth, frequent urination, and diarrhea or vomiting. The emotions that accompany stress are typically anxiety, irritability, and fearfulness which often lead to impulsiveness, increased use of drugs or alcohol, and overeating.
It is very important to find alternative coping strategies for stress that aren’t harmful to your health and performance. Taking care of your body and mind with adequate sleep and proper nourishment are critical. If overeating during stress is an issue for you, it is also helpful to establish an emotional outlet other than food. Fueling your body at regular intervals with balanced meals and snacks can often prevent the urge to overeat, even during stress. There are a number of nutrients related to brain function, including vitamin B12, B6, and folate. Some good sources of B12 are beef, fish, shellfish, dairy, and fortified grains. Vitamin B6 can be found in meats, whole-grains, vegetables, nuts, and bananas. Dark leafy vegetables, okra, asparagus, fruits, beans, yeast, mushrooms, orange juice, and tomato juice, and fortified grains are good sources of folate. With the wide array of food sources, a balanced diet generally provides adequate quantities of these nutrients, so it is only necessary to supplement if a deficiency exists. The essential omega-3 fatty acids are also necessary for mental and physical health due to their role in regulating inflammation and interacting with mood-related molecules in the brain. Food sources of omega-3 fats include fatty fish, flax and hemp seeds, walnuts, and canola oil.
Additionally, there are amino acids and other dietary components that serve as precursors for neurotransmitters that function in mood stabilization, feelings of pleasure, learning and memory. The table below outlines the functions and food sources of some relevant examples. With adequate intake of high-quality proteins and/or a variety of seeds and legumes, adequate intakes of these dietary components can be achieved. It is important to recognize that a lack of the precursors needed to synthesize neurotransmitters can result in altered mood and poor coping skills. Consider integrating food sources of these neurotransmitter precursors, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids to promote mental stability and wellness, even during the most stressful of times!
The VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL-Depression Endpoint Prevention (VITAL-DEP): Rationale and design of a large-scale ancillary study evaluating vitamin D and marine omega-3 fatty acid supplements for prevention of late-life depression. Contemporary Clinical Trials, May 2018.
Haggerty, J. (2020). Vitamins for Bipolar Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 8, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/vitamins-for-bipolar-disorder/
Do you feel pain or clicking in the back of the ankle joint and/or big toe joint with pointing the foot? Is it painful to tendu, releve, plie, or go en pointe? If so, it may be attributed to flexor hallucis longus (FHL) dysfunction. This is a common overuse injury seen in dancers and is often referred to as “dancer’s tendinitis” (Wentzell, M). The FHL plays a major role in foot/ankle stabilization and balance on pointe and demi pointe. Because the FHL muscle crosses two joints, its demands are up to three times higher than that of single joint muscles (Wentzell, M), making the joint especially susceptible to overload with repetitive pointe work, releve, and extreme ranges of plantarflexion.
The FHL muscle originates on the posterior fibula. It passes under the medial malleolus through a fibroossues tunnel (green arrow on the far right of the image below), intersects with the flexor digitorum longus tendon (middle arrow), and passes between two sesamoid bones before attaching to the undersurface of the big toe (left arrow). During pointe work, the FHL tendon can be directly compressed as it passes through these points. Compression or entrapment at any of these sites can lead to pain and injury to the tendon. This can be the result of overuse or poor technique en pointe.
Returning to dance after an FHL injury should be gradual. Focus on mastering the basics of your technique. With early diagnosis and treatment, this can be managed to facilitate a quicker recovery and smooth return to dance.
1)Wentzell, M. (2018). Conservative management of a chronic recurrent flexor hallucis longus stenosing tenosynovitis in a pre-professional ballet dancer: a case report. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 62(2), 111.
2) Rowley, K. M., Jarvis, D. N., Kurihara, T., Chang, Y. J., Fietzer, A. L., & Kulig, K. (2015). Toe flexor strength, flexibility and function and flexor hallucis longus tendon morphology in dancers and non-dancers. Medical problems of performing artists, 30(3), 152-156.
2) Chew N.S., Lee J., Davies M., Healy J. (2010) Ankle and Foot Injuries. In: Robinson P. (eds) Essential Radiology for Sports Medicine. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-5973-7_3
Anemia is a common blood disorder in which the body lacks adequate red blood cells to carry oxygen to tissues. The reduced oxygen delivery results in fatigue and weakness, and can severely interfere with exercise capacity and performance. Causes of anemia include inadequate dietary intake, poor absorption of nutrients, blood disorders, or lack of red blood cell production from the bone marrow. Nutritional anemias are usually detected with blood tests that assess the size and number of red blood cells.
Symptoms of anemia include:
Iron is important at any age, but particularly during stages of rapid growth. The high demands of dance training make dancers susceptible to iron deficiency because iron is lost in sweat. Menstruating females are at additionally elevated risk of developing anemia. The average adolescent should consume 6-8 mg of iron each day and dancers and athletes should aim for 9-12 mg per day to help distribute additional oxygen to working muscles and account for any iron that is lost through sweat.
The second and third most common nutritional anemias are related to folate and vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia is unique in that it causes neurological problems and can take years of inadequate supply before symptoms develop. Inadequate levels of B12 are sometimes caused by poor absorption due to a lack of intrinsic factor (the protein that transports B12 to its absorption site in the gut) or a stomach disease. Folate deficiency manifests quickly and is typically a result of a poor diet or alcohol abuse. Folate needs are approximately 200-400 mcg/day and needs increase to 500-800 mcg/day during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Deficiencies of copper, zinc, and vitamins C, A, and B6 can also contribute to anemias.
Eating a balanced diet can help you avoid both iron and vitamin-deficiency anemias. There are two kinds of iron found in foods. Iron that is found in animal products (e.g., beef, chicken, eggs) is called heme iron, and the body can absorb 15-18% of heme iron. In contrast, the body only absorbs approximately 5% of non-heme iron, which is found in plant foods such as grains, dark leafy greens, dried fruits, and nuts. Vitamin B-12 is found in meat and dairy. Citrus, green leafy vegetables and legumes are rich in folic acid. A daily multivitamin can also help fill in any gaps in nutrient intakes from food and help prevent nutritional anemias. Be aware that iron supplements can result in toxic levels of the mineral and should only be used if instructed by a physician.
John Beard, Brian Tobin, Iron status and exercise, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 72, Issue 2, August 2000, Pages 594S–597S, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/72.2.594S
Faramarz Naeim, Chapter 23 - Disorder of Red Blood Cells: Anemias, Editor(s): Faramarz Naeim, P. Nagesh Rao, Wayne W. Grody, Hematopathology, Academic Press, 2008, Pages 529-565, ISBN 9780123706072, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-370607-2.00023-5.
Dancers often ask themselves: Do I need to take time off after a performance? How long should I take for a break? How can I safely train to get in shape after a break? Is it safe to do multiple dance intensive programs? Dancers need to know that sufficient rest and recovery periods are needed to reduce the negative effects of overtraining. Lack of recovery time can adversely affect technique, energy level, mood, performance, strength, and injury risk. In addition, a gradual return back to dance is needed after a break to avoid injury and can be implemented through a periodization program.
Periodization involves a gradual increase in training intensity alternating between work and rest with the dance performance at the peak of the cycle. This type of progression allows for recovery and prevents overtraining. A periodization schedule can be broken up into four phases: preparation, building, performance, and rest.
Periodization is underutilized in dance training, yet is essential for ensuring peak performance and longevity in dance. If you have been on a hiatus from your typical dance class schedule, consider using a periodization approach as you return to your regular dance training.
Quin, Edel & Rafferty, Sonia & Tomlinson, Charlotte. (2015). Safe Dance Practice: An applied dance science perspective.
Research continues to shed light on the health benefits of nuts and seeds. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds are well-known options, but there are several lesser-known varieties of readily available seeds with potential health effects.
General Characteristics of Seeds
Seeds contain the embryo of future plants. To support their development from embryo to plant, seeds are endowed with ample energy and nutrients. This efficient packaging makes seeds calorie dense, so it is important to be aware of appropriate portion sizes when eating seeds as a snack or ingredient. Unique nutrition profiles exist for different seed varieties, therefore, including a diverse array of seeds in your diet can promote health. Seeds are typically a source of protein, unsaturated fats, minerals, and phytonutrients. For individuals with nut allergies, seeds and seed butters offer excellent substitutes!
Consider trying one or all of these tasty and nutritious superstar seeds:
Sesame seeds are a good source of fiber, which not only supports digestive health but may play a role in reducing risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease. Some studies indicate that regular consumption of sesame seeds may help reduce cholesterol and triglycerides. Sesame seeds also provide phytonutrients (lignans and phytosterols) that may have cholesterol-lowering effects. These tiny seeds supply 5 grams of protein per 3-Tbsp serving and the micronutrients B-vitamins, iron, zinc and copper. Unhulled sesame seeds are especially rich in calcium, a nutrient vital to bone health. Try adding sesame seeds to cereal, stir-fries or steamed veggies, smoothies, or salad dressings. Check out the Sesame Spring Salad recipe for another delicious idea!
Pumpkin seeds contain a range of beneficial nutrients, including sterols, magnesium, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Research indicates that the nutrients in pumpkin seeds may protect against type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as promote bone health. Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, which the body converts into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation. Pumpkin seeds are a great snack and add crunch and taste to recipes. Top a salad with pumpkin seeds or make homemade pumpkin seed butter by blending whole, raw pumpkin seeds in a food processor.
Tomato seeds may be more difficult to digest than most seeds, but they are worth the trouble since they provide a healthy dose of vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. The seeds also contain lycopene, a phytonutrient known to reduce cancer risk; cooking helps activate lycopene in tomato seeds. The seeds are often consumed dried, but can be enjoyed in tomato sauces or as part of whole tomatoes.
Carolina Alves Cardoso, Gláucia Maria Moraes de Oliveira, Luciana de Almeida Vittori Gouveia, Annie Seixas Bello Moreira & Glorimar Rosa (2018) The effect of dietary intake of sesame (Sesamumindicum L.) derivatives related to the lipid profile and blood pressure: A systematic review, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 58:1, 116-125, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2015.1137858
González, Mónica, M. Carmen Cid, and M. Gloria Lobo. "Usage of tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum Mill.) seeds in health." Nuts and seeds in health and disease prevention. Academic Press, 2011. 1123-1132.
Sesame Spring Salad
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
7 radishes, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon pepper
In a large saucepan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add asparagus; cover and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and immediately place asparagus in ice water. Drain and pat dry.
Transfer to a large bowl; add radishes and sesame seeds. Place dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake well. Pour over salad; toss to coat.