Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Craving Sugar? You Can Blame It On Your Gene

Some people have a harder time saying no to sweets, while others can take it or leave it. Why is it people react so differently to the very same sugary snacks?  It seems that it's not just our taste buds but it is in our genes.  People with certain gene variants of GLUT2 seem to prefer sweet foods and drinks which puts them at risk for becoming overweight and developing cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders like diabetes.

People might be thinking what is a person to do?  After all, my genes made me do it is the perfect excuse.  It may initially feel that way until someone becomes overweight, imbalanced and manifesting illness.  Ayurveda offers a solution based on how it treats individuals not people with a general guideline and one size fits all suggestion.

Kapha is one of the three main body types (doshas) in Ayurveda.  It is sourced from the elements of water and earth, manifesting with its principle of stabilizing energy, structure and immunity.  Ayurveda counsels kapha to eat of the tastes of bitter, pungent and astringent to remain balanced and very small amounts of the tastes of sweet, salty and sour are recommended as those tastes tend to be heavier, grounding and building.  Kapha being the energy of stabilization and structure does not need to become more of that.  Rather, it needs to be balanced in its function without becoming heavy and/or too big.

Eating foods that are better for its type will help kapha remain balanced and not become addicted or excessive to the sweet taste.  Add other balancing lifestyle recommendations for kapha like movement and change will further strengthen the ability of the kapha type to make lifestyle choices that positively maximize their special, unique gifts rather than becoming too heavy or solid.

The desire for the thing that will harm us means we are out of balance. A balanced, happy person is usually able to make the right choices for health, energy and happiness.  If you are craving sugar or anything else that makes you feel out of control, talk to an Ayurvedic health practitioner to take the small steps that will add up to big changes, freedom and balance.

Stay healthy & well,

Monday, August 15, 2016

Feeling In A Funk? A Few Quick Tips

We all have bad days, bad weeks, or even bad months.  Sometimes it feels like we are trapped in a bad movie or circumstances we wish we didn't have.  It can be hard to find the way out of a bad mood.  The main thing is to focus on shifting the energy. Can I get myself to think about something else and get distracted?  This should not be done with alcohol, food or drugs.  There are many natural, easy things to do that can take you out of the negative slump.  A little perspective change can do wonders.

Shifting the mood requires two types of actions. One is taking new action. The second is stopping negative action.  Even if one can't take initiative for something new, there is tremendous power and victory in stopping the negative.

First, stop feeling bad about feeling in a bad mood.  We are human and it is impossible to be positive all the time.  Instead, allow yourself to be present with your emotions, label the negative emotion (anger, sadness, fear, etc) and let it move through you. Just feel it and it will pass in a couple of minutes.  You may still be aware of the negative feeling but it won't feel like that gut wrenching power it originally had.  Avoiding a feeling is the perfect way to make sure it stays with you.

Second, stop bringing up the problem to everyone you are friends with rather than just confiding in a special confidante.  This magnifies it and lets it suck up your energy. A bad situation may make you angry. Label and feel the anger. Next, focus on what you can do rather than on how bad it is.  Even if the only thing you can do is get through the day, feel pride in that. There is power in carrying on without needing to bring other people into the story.

Third,  Lose your expectations of how things should be.  We are not in charge and feeling entitled to a certain result only brings negativity and disappointment.  Instead of feeling like a victim, be grateful for what is positive in your life and appreciate it.  This is very important.

Fourth, get out in nature and boost your mood.  It is one of the quickest ways to turn everything around.  If you exercise by doing a brisk walk or taking a bike ride, you have found nirvana. Ayurveda recommends going outside the first thing in the morning with the rising sun for depression and mood elevation.

Fifth, stop the thinking and ruminating.  Just do something. It can be cooking, coloring, reading a book or cleaning a closet, but it stops the affront of negative thoughts.

You can shift your funk, and you can even feel happy.

Stay healthy & well,

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Full Moon and Your Sleep

Some people think a full moon is thought of as romantic or a time for the werewolf in you to come out. Astrology says a new moon is the time when the full light of a situation is clear, with the feeling of positive energy and a chance to move forward.

Ayurveda teaches us that creating harmony with our environment is an important way to create health.  The cycles of nature, like the moon, our circadian body rhythm and the seasons, impact our body and spirit.  It is vital to incorporate changes into our daily routine so we can transition seamlessly with the natural changes that are a part of our life.

Getting adequate and restful sleep is one of the essential pillars of health in Ayurveda.  Many experience interrupted or poor-quality sleep related to a variety of factors that can include room temperature, noise, light, pets and evening activities.  According to a recent study the nights of a full moon can negatively impact a person's sleep.

The study found people had a harder time falling asleep and experienced poorer quality sleep.  A drop in the hormone melatonin was also found in the study participants.  Melatonin is a hormone that is linked to natural-body clock cycles and helps the body transition to sleep.  Melatonin disruption can also occur by being exposed to bright lights in the evening or too little light during the day.

Melatonin may be thought of as the sleep hormone but it has been linked to good health by positively affecting women's menstrual cycles, helping with irritable bowel syndrome, men's prostate health, migraines, ant-aging and more.  A reduction in melatonin can cost more than a good night's sleep.  Therefore, preparing for the full moon's melatonin dip is a good way to avoid having a bad night's sleep spiral into something worse, especially if our health is already out of balance.

Besides for taking a supplement, melatonin can be naturally raised by a few life style changes. Getting fifteen minutes of bright sunlight in the morning by walking or just being outside is a good way.  Two, make sure the room you sleep in is completely dark, being mindful of the shades and electronics.  Third, make sure the use of electronic devices is stopped at least an hour before bed to avoid the blue light glare that disrupts melatonin production. Fourth, do not consume caffeine past noon. Finally, find ways to relax in the evening (yoga, meditation, reading). Stress raises cortisol which also impairs the production of melatonin.

The full moon is beautiful as are all the gifts nature shares. and being conscious of how our body interacts with these gifts can lead us to better health.

Stay healthy & well,

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Ayurveda Helps With Staying Grounded During Travel

Travel brings a change in routine.  Sometimes people travel for business and other times for leisure, but either way the change of our daily chores and surroundings adds a sense of freshness to life.

Movement, creativity and inspiration are some of the characteristics of the body type (dosha) of vata.  Vata on a physical level governs all the movement in the body. For example, it is responsible for movement of the muscles, elimination, respiration, and heart rate.  These essential functions have a natural, regular cycle.  Vata also is related to the flow of thoughts and emotions.

The excess movement created by traveling in long car rides, trains or airplanes can cause an imbalance of vata. The disruption of these body cycles can cause stress in the body and may result in discomfort or illness.  This is why many people feel spacey or out of it after a day of travel, especially vata types.  Sometimes more concrete imbalances happen, like anxiety, irregular digestion, constipation, and difficulty sleeping.

Stopping travel and movement isn’t the answer. Rather, one must know how to stay grounded by keeping vata in balance when traveling. Making some simple preparations prior to travel will help one's body and mind function smoothly.

Hydration is very important.  Make sure to drink warm herbal teas or water and lemon.  Vata likes warmth so the warm beverage temperature is preferable.  Hydration also means taking care of your skin with natural moisturizers like sesame or coconut oil, especially in the form of self massage (abhyanga). Next, honor the time change of your destination. Go to bed and wake up at the hours of your destination. Use sunlight to reset your body’s rhythms by rising early and taking a walk or bike ride in the early morning, rising sun. Meditation is another tool to use to maintain balance. Bring a soft and warm sweater for traveling because you have no control over the temperature.  Vata is extremely sensitive to cold.  Also, traveling can interfere with digestion, so try to eat less on the days of physical travel (like in an airplane, train or car).

Taking care of our body when traveling allows us to experience the freshness and rejuvenation of travel without becoming imbalanced. Bon Voyage!

Stay healthy & well,

Thursday, July 28, 2016

When The Coach Needs A Coach

When I was younger, I use to think that authority figures or experts had it all together. They seemed to know all the right things to do. As I developed more of a sense of self, I realized people have different things together and we all need help at one time or another.

Normally, I am strong in holding together my health routine and executing my basic responsibilities. There are certain times I get thrown off but I am usually able to pull it together.  Recently, I was blessed to marry off my second oldest son and attend the wedding of my favorite (and only) brother, about a week later.  Between travel arrangements to bring another son home from Israel, my daughter in from upstate New York for 2 weddings and being an active planner and participant in both weddings, I had a hard time keeping the routine.

I was careful with what I ate and made sure to swim or walk daily, but I didn't have time to really check my emails, research and learn new things and blog.  I was cut off from social media and was interacting with family instead.  This was good for me because I felt like I was immersed in this experience. Sleep was difficult to get because I was very involved with so many things, but overall I felt okay.

Then, it was all over and I had to catch up on old emails, correspondence and tasks. Feeling incredibly overwhelmed and annoyed at myself for not being better prepared (my irritating perfectionist inner critic), I had a really hard time getting started between the somewhat large to do list and my judgmental mind.

In my really down state, I looked for some new lessons.  The first thing to do is ignore all the mind chatter. Second, pick one or two things that need doing.  Next, start just a small part of them with no intention of finishing them.  After doing this a couple times, things fell into place.

For example, my email inbox was horrendous (and it still is pretty bad). I set the goal of dealing with a days worth of email and for no more than 7 minutes.  As I got started by investing some time, I could do much more than 7 minutes. I even felt motivated to get more done.

The moral is just do one small step. The action will lighten the resistance and propel you forward.  It will also lead you to other efficient and effective action.  Once I was less nervous about my to do list, I realized how I was tired from this jam packed month.  My negativity wasn't just sloth and poor planning, there was a physical component.  Holistically, we are both body and spirit.  If my spirit is down, it can come from my mind but my body state can weigh down my spirit too. It is important to be conscious of the holistic model when trying to move past difficult situations.

Stay healthy & well,