Thursday, June 22, 2017

Relationships To Yourself And Others

Relationship is the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected. If we exist, we are in relationship, whether it be to ourselves or others.  The body needs life force (prana) to exist.  Our existence is a relationship between matter (our body) and spirit (our soul), and the prana (life force) connects these two entities.

People with a low prana tend to be weak, lack energy and are in poor health either physically or mentally.  Maintaining a good physical routine and doing meaningful work and activities help cultivate prana. Sometimes it is difficult to do the 'good' things needed to build prana because of the relationship we have with our self.  We may neglect our physical and mental health by over doing work and/or indulgences, not listening to what our body/mind really need.

In our interpersonal relationships with others we may also neglect to listen or understand what another person needs.  It is easy to become myopic and only focus on our needs.  When we are able to understand what are our needs and another's needs, we can interact better in relationships. We are less prone to miscommunication and grudges.

Having the ability to introspect and assess our personal point of view and another's point of view, allows us to manage conflict and become closer through understanding each other.  This ability needs to be cultivated because it is easy to simply react to conflict or discomfort rather than choosing to act more caring to ourselves and others.

Recently I read a wonderful book that teaches this skill through stories and examples.  The stories model situations in an enjoyable and subtle way.  The insight gained comes through compassion for others but it is very effective. I highly recommend the book for people of all ages to improve on all of their relationships. Ellen Gendelman is a licensed psychotherapist and she wrote this special book, "When Ice Cream Is Not Enough" and it is available on Amazon.

Stay healthy & well,

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Chocolate and Atrial fibrillation

What a crazy combination!? Heart issues and yummy indulgent food?

Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib or AF) is a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.  The risk factors for Afib generally are related to having other medical issues that can be risk factors for many illnesses.  Specifically, things like high blood pressure, heart disease, drinking excessive alcohol, sleep apnea, advanced age, diabetes, asthma and hyperthyroidism increase the risk.

The risk factors above are related to inflammation in the body.  The tissues in the body become inflamed and swollen, leading to decreased function and health debility.  Reducing inflammation will produce improvement in general health as well as reducing specific issues like high blood pressure or heart disease.

Determining whether a food is healthy in Ayurveda depends on who is asking the question. Pure cocoa, the bean that chocolate is made from, is very bitter (just try eating plain cocoa!).

Bitter is one of six tastes in Ayurveda (along with sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and astringent). Like each of the tastes, bitter has very specific actions in the body. Bitter brings about the cool, light, and dry qualities in the body, which translates into actions that are anti-toxic, anti-inflammatory and fever reducing.

This bitter quality of pure chocolate (lightly sweetened or unsweetened) is what gives the health benefits of reducing oxidation and inflammation.  A recent study found eating 2 to 6  one ounce portions of chocolate a week does reduce the risk of developing Afib.  Ayurveda is not surprised by this result because the bitterness of the chocolate will provide the anti inflammatory action needed for this type of result. Ayurveda teaches that food and herbs can be medicine for our body.

The connection between chocolate and atrial fibrillation is not so crazy.

Stay healthy & well,

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ashoka - Not Just a Women's Herb

Ayurveda as an ancient healing system of medicine uses food and herbs for healing and balance.  These herbal remedies have been used for hundreds of years. Some of the remedies have a story.  The ashoka tree, for example, was named for the reincarnation of a man who in his previous life was depressed and committed robberies in his broken mental state.  After overcoming his grief and making amends, his soul came back as the ashoka tree, so he could help others overcome grief and sadness.

While the story is not verifiable, the healing attributes of ashoka are known to be a powerful grief-reliever and bliss-giver.  It also has properties, such as analgesic, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory,
anti-menorrhagic and an antioxidant.  Traditionally, ashoka is used as a uterine tonic to help with excess bleeding and cramping, and is an overall tonic to strengthen the female system.  Yet, this bitter tasting herb that is bright red in color also helps with complexion problems, digestion and purification.

The emotional aspect of ashoka targets the emotional heart, known as sadhaka pitta. Sadhaka pitta is
the fuel that the heart runs on to process emotions and grief. The thought process of the brain gets affected by what it receives from the heart.  If the heart cannot process its emotions, the mind is impacted and thoughts can become negative and defeated. Constant negative thoughts and stress affect the body by releasing cortisol and other stress hormones. If these hormones stay chronically high, the physiology of the body becomes altered, leading to inflammatory states.  Depression and body inflammation generally go hand in hand.  An unhealthy cycle of inflammation and negative emotions keep harming the body.

If, however, the heart clearly processes and digests emotionally charged experiences and events, the messages to the brain are positive.  The brain can think and function optimally and support the physiology with balanced amounts of hormones.  Inflammation and negative emotions are minimized.  Ayurveda targets the sadhaka pitta with herbs, diet and lifestyle, because a healthy person has the necessary strength to process experiences rather than becoming defeated.  All the recommendations are tailored to be anti-inflammatory to stop the cycle of negative emotions and harmful physiological changes and symptoms.  Ashoka is a bitter herb that by its nutritional effect is anti-inflammatory. It is also known to uplift the spirit.

Ashoka is more than just a female tonic because of its strengthening of the emotional heart and benefit to many other inflammatory conditions.

While an herb is a wonderful way to ignite healing, the whole lifestyle has to support the herb.  Otherwise, relief will be temporary and the body will continue to become imbalanced.  A holistic approach for body and mind will help us be the happy, healthy person we really are.

Stay healthy & well,

Please note: There are times when people are clinically depressed or have had severe grief, trauma or abuse, and people should seek help from a professional. Ayurveda can support the healing process and can be a tool to manage stress to bolster professional treatment.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

How Breathing Helps Lower Blood Pressure

In Ayurveda it is taught that the life force (prana) within us is our breath.  One of the many natural healing modalities in Ayurveda is pranayama, which means the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises.  Ayurveda uses the breath to help heal people both physically and mentally.  Incorporating breathing techniques into one's daily routine is easy, inexpensive and provides many positive benefits.

Modern medicine and science have been studying the effect of breathing on health, and the findings have been very promising.  One of the leading causes of death in western civilization is cardiovascular disease.  Generally, hypertension, which is also known as high blood pressure, is one of the biggest risk factors for developing cardiovascular or heart disease.  High blood pressure occurs when the force of a person's blood against the artery walls is too high.  The heart is working too hard and the body becomes weakened from this high stress state.  Doctors usually treat this condition with prescription medication and instruct the patient to exercise more, reduce sodium intake and try to slow down (have less stress).

However, a new form of treatment has been found helpful - breathing exercises.  The breathing exercises have been shown to lower blood pressure.  While breathing exercises can lower blood pressure in the moment, it seems to only be a temporary fix for adults. The authors of the study felt to prevent and eliminate high blood pressure, the breathing exercises needed to be practiced in one's youth.  As one ages, the neurons become set and the synaptic interactions have become more fixed.

Adults can still benefit from breathing exercises and move their high blood pressure in a positive direction.  Controlled, purposeful breathing is calming because it doesn’t activate specific neurons in the brain that communicate with the body's arousal center. The reason rapid, shallow breathing is so stress-inducing is because it activates neurons that trigger arousal, which typically translates into worry and anxiety.  The deep breathing slows down the heart rate and digestion while promoting a state of calm.  Further, the body learns how to adapt to stress more positively, which keeps the heart healthier, stronger and more resilient.

Having a way to lessen and possibly eliminate high blood pressure and stress that is natural, free and practiced for hundreds of years is a good thing.  Ayurveda has always known this. Go ahead, take a deep breath and feel your mood shift instantaneously.

Stay healthy & well,

Thursday, May 18, 2017

How an Ayurvedic Herbal Staple Helps Depression

For better or for worse depression is on the rise today. Depression has become the leading psychological disorder in the western world.  It affects all age groups, but it is especially prevalent among teenagers. At the rate depression is increasing, it will be the second most disabling condition in the world by 2020.

While depression is personal and individual, a common element is some cases of depression is inflammation, specifically gut inflammation. Further, even low grade chronic inflammation is being linked to depression. Researchers at this point are not sure what came first the chicken or the egg.  Meaning, depression and mood disorders can cause inflammation in the body. Conversely, body inflammation can be a risk factor or cause of depression.

Inflammation is clearly not something we want and is bad for both the body and the mind.  Curcumin, the active ingredient in the Aurvedic and Indian spice turmeric, is a polyphenol with an amazing amount of therapeutic activities, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects.  Studies are finding the use of curcumin to help alleviate inflammation and depression.  One study even used curcumin with anti-depressant drugs and found curcurmin to be an effective choice for treatment of depression.

Ayurveda uses turmeric in food spice blends and herbal supplements because of its incredible healing properties.  Eating real food in its natural state helps with nutrient assimilation.  If one wants to use curcumin in supplement form, make sure it has been optimized for maximum absorption.  Many supplement companies submit themselves to third party testing and clinical trials to prove their quality and effectiveness.  When using curcumin, it is a good idea to use a reputable product.

While supplements are and can be helpful in treating our ailments, lifestyle changes are necessary too.  A supplement can jump start recovery, but our bodies need balancing. Otherwise, the root cause of the inflammation or other illness will continue to weaken our health.  An Ayurvedic health practitioner or Holistic Health Coach can help with making lifestyle changes.

Stay healthy & well,