Summer 2012 Newsletter - Health tips, offers, and more from the team at Catalyst
Catalyst Integrative Health

Summer 2012

Welcome the latest edition of Catalyst's Seasonal Newsletter!

We're very excited to help you kick off the summer with some great tips and infomation from our team.

In this issue:
  • Cholesterol: Friend and Foe - Dr. Karina Wickland, ND
  • Sunny Advice - Sarah Wex, RMT
  • Guasha - Cynthia Jengseen, PhD TCM, R.TCM.P
  • Summer Tune Ups - Rebecca Stanke, RMT
  • Intramuscular Stimulation: An Effective Option for Chronic Pain - Dr. Anita Komonski, ND

Vote for us and win at!

It's Georgia Straight Best of Vancouver Time!
We love the Georgia Straight, and they've opened voting for their annual Best of Vancouver issue. This is a great way support your favourite local businesses. If we're one of them, we'd appreciate your vote!
Teas and Matcha!
One of our recent projects at Catalyst has been developing our own medicinal tea blends - we're currently selling Detox, Sleepy Kids, Healthy Pregnancy, and Tummy Soothing teas. We also now carry organic, ceremonial grade matcha!

Referral Program for Massage
Current massage patients - refer someone new to Sarah or Rebecca and they get 15% off their first visit! Refer 5 people, you get a FREE one hour massage!

Announcements & Special Offers

Electronics Recycling Program
Catalyst has teamed up with Think Recycle and we're now accepting used ink cartridges, cell phones, digital cameras, and laptops for recycling. They're a great organization that recycles these items as a fundraiser. They also give you the option of donating the proceeds - any money from products recycled at Catalyst goes to the David Suzuki foundation.

In Office Celiac Testing
We now offer an immedate and accurate test for celiac disease, right here in our lovely clinic.

The summer months are prime time for grass and weed pollens to attack. If these allergies or others such as pets, dust, or mould are a problem for you, consider talking to one of our fabulous naturopaths. There are a number of ways they can help, including sublingual immunotherapy (drops that are a scientifically proven alternative to allergy shots, and are usually covered by insurance). If you don't know what allergen is causing your symptoms, we also offer scratch tests to help you find out!

     Cholesterol: Friend and Foe
     Dr. Karina Wickland, ND

We would be dead without cholesterol.  It is the building block that makes hormones like cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, progesterone and vitamin D.  It makes bile salts, which we use to digest fat and is a crucial part of every cell membrane in our body.  It helps cells communicate and is required for healthy brain function.  Cholesterol even helps repair damage in the cardiovascular system.  When artery walls are inflamed, cholesterol goes to that area to heal it.  Unfortunately when cholesterol and inflammation mix, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is the result.

Cholesterol is commonly thought to be the enemy when it comes to heart disease.  Conventional lipid panels measure LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and HDL (“good cholesterol”), as well as total cholesterol and triglycerides.  Key strategies in preventing heart attacks and strokes have revolved around lowering cholesterol with diet, exercise and drugs.  Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.  Half the people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol.  Others have high cholesterol but no sign of heart disease.  

It turns out that focusing on levels of LDL and HDL is not enough.  These lipoproteins actually come in different sizes, or subtypes.  Small dense LDL particles are a lot more dangerous than large fluffy particles.  The same thing goes for HDL; there are subtypes that are very efficient at decreasing disease risk and some that aren’t.  This means that it is not just the amount of cholesterol you have, but more importantly what subtype you have, that predicts risk of heart disease.  To identify the different subtypes of LDL and HDL and to get a better understanding of cardio-vascular risk, I like Spectracell’s Lipoprotein Particle Profile (LPP) test.

In addition to the LPP, there are other tests that can help give a better understanding of cardiovascular disease risk.  These include:
o    Lipoprotein A levels
o    Markers of inflammation – hs-CRP, ferritin
o    Markers for clotting – fibrinogen
o    Signs of nutrient deficiencies – vitamin D, magnesium, essential fatty acids, homocysteine
o    Markers for insulin resistance and blood sugar levels – fasting insulin, hemoglobin A1C

In practice, I look at diet, exercise, and medical history, family medical history and physical measurements like blood pressure and waist circumference to help choose which of these tests will be most beneficial.  If you are interested in stepping up your cardiovascular disease prevention strategy, I am here to help.

     Sunny Advice
     Sarah Wex, RMT

Summer is here! Well, theoretically, anyway. I have no doubt that the sun will come out and play soon enough, so here's some sunny advice you can soak up before donning your finest skivvies for a proverbial day at the beach.

Cover up! Pale is the new tan. You may or may not have heard, but it turns out that direct exposure to sunlight can be very damaging to our skin and can lead to a variety of cancers including malignant melanoma-- the most dangerous type. It can also lead to wrinkles; UVA, B & C can all damage collagen fibers, accelerating the skin's aging process. It's important to note that although sunscreen is effective in preventing some skin damage, some scientists argue that it may not effectively protect against malignant melanoma. So try to spend your time in a warm breeze in the shade, and wear that saucy sun hat of yours; your healthy, gorgeous, future self will thank you.

But wait, it's not all bad! Sunlight is great for treating depression, arthritis, PMS, insomnia, acne, and psoriasis. It's also great for the liver, kidneys, and circulatory system, and UVB exposure is necessary for the production of Vitamin D in our skin (which, interestingly enough, has been linked to the prevention of cancer). And here's the thing; we only need a few minutes of sun exposure a few days a week to reap all the wonderful benefits it can provide!

Another unfortunate (and more immediate) consequence of sun-related skin damage is the dreaded sunburn. We've all had one. I'm no stranger to Lobster Sundays, though I'm now making a concentrated effort to learn from my mistakes. One thing you need to know is that a sunburn is a contraindication for massage. What does that mean? It means I can't rub it. If you know you have a massage appointment booked, please take extra care out in the sun; it would break my heart to have to turn you away because you have a sunburn (although a 60-minute foot rub doesn't sound half bad). If you are recovering from a burn and your skin is a little dry (but no longer hot, red, etc), grab a loofah or a skin brush, and give that beautiful bod a well-deserved scrub down. When your skin is dry or peeling, it can rub off during massage into tiny grey balls that I call "skint" (skin+lint). These un-a-peeling little guys can get in the way of your wonderfully relaxing massage and stick to your body-- not something you want to have to worry about when you're floating to your post-massage destination.

  • Summer is here!
  • Be careful in the sun, you only need a few minutes a few times a week
  • I can't rub you if you have a burn
  • Exfoliate your fetching figure

You can contact Sarah directly at and access her information and blog at

Cynthia Jengseen, R.TCM.P

     Cynthia Jengseen, PhD TCM, R.TCM.P 

Guasha is an important healing technique in traditional Chinese medicine.  It is a Chinese term which means to scrape away any pathogenic elements that hinder the Qi (vital energy) and blood from flowing smoothly in meridians.  Guasha can be used to treat muscular stiffness and pain in the neck, shoulders, back and limbs.  Traditional Chinese medicine believes that a blockage in the flow of Qi and blood is one of the main causes of most diseases.  Guasha can help remove the blockage and restore the balance of blood (Yin) and Qi (Yang) in the body.  Guasha involves no needles, all it needs is a smooth-edged scraping tool and some herbal oil which is applied to lubricate the area to be scraped.  The scraping tool is pressed downward or outward against the skin of the area being treated and its related meridians several times until some marks are visible. Called Sha, these marks vary from light to dark red in colour and are an indicator of a stagnation of blood and Qi inside meridians.  Sha will fade away in a few days.  Guasha can help loosen up stiff muscles and reduce the soreness caused by poor circulation inside the muscles.  It is a safe and effective technique that treats muscular conditions from the root. 

    Summer Tune Ups
    Rebecca Stanke, RMT

It’s summer time, which often means it’s time to dust off your bicycle and start pedaling after those wet winter months. Cycling to the beach, farmers markets, or on a daily commute will be the pursuit of many. With increased riding this time of year, leg tension can be a common complaint. Often, a source of leg pain for bike riders and runners stems from tight IT bands (iliotibial band). The IT Band (ITB) is not a muscle, but actually a band of connective tissue known as fascia. The ITB runs from the outer aspect of the pelvis and hip, along the lateral thigh and inserts on the outer/lower portion of the knee. Increased tension to this area can lead to ITB frictions syndrome, which is associated with pain, stiffness, stinging or even swelling around the outer knee where the ITB inserts. Some contributing factors to tight IT bands are imbalances in leg muscles, improper positioning on your bicycle or inadequate warm-up/cool-down.

Luckily, treatment for ITB pain is within your reach! Massage therapy is a very effective method for treating tight IT bands. Stretching is also a necessary component for achieving and maintaining functional ITBs. Your massage therapist, or even your good friend Google will be able to provide some helpful and easy stretches. Also, any bike shop around town will be able to offer a quick assessment to make sure your bike is positioned just right for you.

Happy cycling everyone!

     Intramuscular Stimulation: An Effective
     Option for Chronic Pain
     Dr. Anita Komonski, ND

 Many patients present to our clinic with various types of chronic pain.  Some are caused by various traumas (sprains, strains, fractures) and others by an inflammatory process such as rheumatoid arthritis.  Many people have not found an explanation for their pain – x-rays, CT scans, MRIs and lab tests all come back normal.  Physical examination of the painful area often yields decreased range of motion, tenderness, and tight bands in the affected muscles. These muscles are controlled by a specific cluster of nerves in the spinal column, and the muscles surrounding these nerves can be involved as well. What typically happens in this type of pain syndrome is that those muscles become shortened and semi-contracted and can press on and irritate the nerves, which over time become supersensitive.  This chronic nerve irritation and muscle shortening becomes a vicious cycle and results in chronic pain.

This type of pain typically responds very well to intramuscular stimulation (IMS).  The goal of treatment is to restore normal length to the shortened muscles using acupuncture needles.  Treatment differs considerably from traditional acupuncture – instead of using points along meridians, tender muscles are needled directly.  When shortened muscles are needled, they briefly spasm and the reflex reaction is to fully relax (and therefore lengthen).  The treatment also brings more blood and healing cells to the area and changes the electrical potential in the muscle, restoring proper function to the previously supersensitive nerves.  

Shortened muscles can also pull on tendons and cause inflammation (tendonitis) and irritate the joints that they move. Conditions that typically respond to IMS are:
·    Back pain (upper, lower and neck)
·    Tendonitis
·    Frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome
·    Piriformis syndrome, ischial bursitis, patellofemoral syndrome
·    Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis
·    Myofascial pain and fibromyalgia
·    Headaches and TMJ

The frequency of treatments is usually once a week or once every two weeks to allow time for the body to fully recover.  The number of treatments required will depend on duration and severity of symptoms, the health of your nervous system, as well as the presence of scar tissue.  In research done on patients with low back pain, the average number of treatments needed was 8.2.

About the Author:  Dr. Anita Komonski ND was trained to do IMS at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto while on a specialty Sports Medicine and Pain Management Rotation. For more information, please call to book an appointment or arrange a free 15 minute information session.

Comments or suggestions for future issues? Email us at, we'd love to hear your ideas!

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