Sunday, March 19, 2017

Your Sense of Smell, Pollution & Weight Gain - Are They Connected?

The sense of smell is a vital sense of perception that tends to be underrated in our lives. On a physical level smell can alert us to a dangerous situation like a gas leak or spoiled food. It also triggers our sense of taste, making food less or more appealing (imagine the odors of raw cabbage or cinnamon) On a mental level level smell is associated with the part of the brain that processes emotions and memory.  Certain smells can trigger memories and emotions in us (think of Grandma's chicken soup or homemade cookies).

The sense of smell in Ayurveda is known as the gateway to the brain.  Using aromas can affect a person's physiology immediately and they can affect a person in an unconscious, subtle manner.  Ayurveda and aromatherapy use smell as a healing modality.

If our ability to smell is impaired, life becomes less enjoyable.  Food tastes bland, we can't enjoy the aroma of flowers or a favorite perfume and the emotional high from smelling things we have grown to love.

Science has recently found pollution and other environmental factors in our modern age are ruining mankind's ability to smell.  Further, the researchers associated with the study are finding that people with weakened smell ability can no longer detect the more subtle nuances of food fragrances. Flavors become less distinct, making them crave foods with stronger, more pronounced flavors, particularly salty and sweet tastes.  These increased cravings cause people to eat more compulsively and put on extra weight.

The sensation of taste is intrinsic to out eating experience. Enjoying the smell and taste of a food enhances our enjoyment and thus our satiety. People eat more when they are not feeling satisfied.

So, how can we maintain our sense of smell despite pollution? The healthier and stronger we are, the less likely we are to lose our sense of smell.  It all comes down to good maintenance; a healthy diet, exercise (a scientific study has shown exercise lessens the the loss of smell in older adults) and adequate sleep.  It is also helpful to "exercise" your sense of smell.  Try concentrating on the smell of your food before you eat it. Also, take the opportunity everyday to smell different smells like coffee, fruit, flowers and herbs to use the smell receptors in your brain.

Yes, your sense of smell, pollution and weight gain are connected....

Stay healthy & well,

Friday, March 10, 2017

What Makes You Sweat More?

Socially no one wants to be seen sweating. It seems dirty and it looks like someone is nervous or overexerting themselves.  In the gym it is somewhat okay but people rush to shower after the workout.

Sweat is essential to human survival because it serves as the body's coolant, getting rid of excess body heat (produced by the body's metabolism and working muscles) and protecting the body from overheating. It is also a way for the body to detox from toxins. However, certain types of people and certain situations will trigger the body to sweat more.

A recent study found that the larger a person's body mass is, the more likely they are to sweat more often.  Overweight people tend to sweat more than those who are a healthy weight. Beyond the physical characteristic of the body, levels of stress and anxiety also influence sweating.  Strong emotions like anger, embarrassment and fear will bring on the sweat.  The actions of drinking alcohol, smoking and excessive caffeine can cause a person to sweat more too.

It is difficult to label what is the proper amount of sweating a person should have because it is individual.  In reality, people should be taking advantage of opportunities to sweat more instead of trying to sweat less.  Exercise and saunas are good for us, and we can shower when we are done.

Recently, I tried using plain baking soda as an antiperspirant/deodorant after I shower.  Strange sounding but it really works to keep me dry and get rid of that sweat odor.  Try it and let me know if it works for you too...

Stay healthy & well,

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Does Season Transition Mean More Colds?

In Ayurveda there are three seasons, vata, kapha and pitta. Pitta season is June through October. Vata is from November through February, and Kapha begins in March and lasts through June. The transitioning of seasons is hard on the body.  When the body is stressed or working harder, our immunity naturally lowers.  This means we need extra care.  

Currently we are in Kapha season, which lasts from the second half of winter through spring, and in many areas that means plenty of wet weather. Along with the cold in the earlier parts of the season, it is this theme of wetness that defines Kapha season. No matter what your body (dosha) type is, you will be influenced by Kapha’s prevailing qualities at this time of year.  Extra movement to flush out some of the toxins that have accumulated during the cold winter from heavier foods and less activity is the best way to begin adjusting as well as tongue scraping and possibly neti pot to move extra mucous from the system.  Plus incorporate more pungent and bitter tastes like greens and turmeric.  Yet, each type should balance the focus in the right way for them.  Vata and Kapha types both need to stay warm, but Vata needs to center and ground while Kapha needs to get moving and lighten their diet.  Pitta types like this cool weather and they are encouraged to spend time in nature to calm their competitive and goal oriented personality.

Herbal and supplement support helps our immunity.  First and foremost make sure vitamin D levels are adequate.  Research shows people with healthy levels of vitamin D suffer less from colds and flu. Vitamin C is very important, and it is found in one of Ayurveda's most popular herb of amalaki.
Zinc, oregano oil, propolis, olive leaf extract and garlic are also linked to strengthening immunity and shortening the duration of colds and flu.

By becoming stronger from within we become more resilient and less affected by the things around us.  There will always be germs.  Good self care makes us stronger and healthier.

Stay healthy & well,

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why I Eat Flax Seeds

Eating habits and food preferences are obviously personal. Moreover, in Ayurveda, whether a food is healthy is determined by a person's body type.  Flax seeds in Ayurveda have a light and hot quality as a fiber, making them a good choice for vata and kapha but not as good for pitta.

Nutritionally flax seeds are a source of fat, carbohydrate and protein, specifically 42 percent fat, 29 percent carbohydrates and 18 percent protein.  They are rated as a super-food because they are a superb source of  fiber, omega-3 fats and lignans.  Plus there are other compounds in flax seed like polyphenols, which pack the benefit of being a potent antioxidant and fight inflammation. This translates to improved digestion, lowering the risk of diseases and slowing down the aging process.

As a woman in perimenopause, the flax seeds give me fiber to keep me regular.  This means there is less of a chance of toxins building up in my body.  More importantly to ease my transition, the lignans in flax seed help to get rid of the bad estrogens (estradiol) that are associated with breast cancer risk, hot flashes, mood swings, bloating and weight gain, and these same lignans help to make the good estrogen (estrone types) that actually prevent these uncomfortable conditions. Men can also be high in the bad estrogen from certain environmental sources.  Please do not think flax seeds are a gender based food :).  I also like the high healthy fat content of flax seeds because it makes me feel full longer and nourishes my hormones and tissues.

Flax seeds can be hard to digest so take them in divided doses and be sure to drink plenty of liquid which helps to digest fiber.  Buy flax seeds in small quantities because they can get rancid very quickly.  Store the flax seeds in the fridge or freezer to maintain shelf life.  Remember flax seeds must be ground to get the most nutritional value. Flax seeds can be purchased ground but grinding them yourself will give them a higher nutritional profile.

While I may like flax seeds, they may not be a favorite for someone else. But like I told my children when they were little, try it a few times before making a final judgment.

Stay healthy & well,

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Ayurveda Explains Why We Need To Eat Less As We Age

Some people might be thinking that they didn't hear about this eating less thing as they age.  And they may not be too happy about it. Grey hair and wrinkles aren't bad we have to eat less?

Our bodies are made up of cells.  All living things, large or small, plant or animal, are made up of cells. Cells are very small usually only being able to be seen through a microscope. Cells are the smallest living units that are capable of reproducing themselves, and each cell in the body was made from an already existing cell. All parts of  the body are made up of cells, which can vary depending on their location and function.  Like all living things, cells die, but they can be replaced by new cells.  As we age, this process of replicating slows down.  No single process can explain all the changes in a cell due to aging but we can minimize the aging process with lifestyle habits.

The activity of proteins within a cell is a key factor in the health and lifespan of cells and therefore living creatures. Ribosomes are structures in the cells that synthesize proteins.  As we age ribosomes slow down thereby allowing protein synthesis to slow as well.  This is actually a mechanism to help slow down aging, as it allows time for cellular repair and processes that recycle old or dead cells.

If protein synthesis is slowing down, this means cells can get overwhelmed and stressed if there is too much protein and nutrition going in the cell.  It becomes a burden to process, which then interrupts this special time allowing for cellular repair.  Instead the ribosomes are forced to rev up which contradicts the natural process.  Recent scientific research has shown calorie restriction to slow down the ribosomes and allow more time for cellular regeneration.

In Ayurveda, the older years, which start in our mid-fifties, begins vata time.  Winter is also vata time.  Think of winter when growth and greenery look like they are shut down.  Yet, in winter, the vegetation is getting ready for a new time of growth by resting.  There is little nourishment in terms of sunlight, but the inner workings of a tree or flower exist and will manifest at the appropriate time.  In the vata time of aging, we can assist the process by eating less (calorie restriction like the research shows) and resting more.  We don't have to starve, rather we choose nutrient dense foods that are warm and nourishing, choosing to eat less often.

Rather than being disappointed by the change in diet, we can look forward to some of the other benefits of the vata body type.  Things like communication, thinking, creativity and social activity are all awesome gifts of a balanced vata type.  We can choose resiliency with the cycles of life as it changes, bringing us growth and happiness.

Stay healthy & well,