Sunday, December 3, 2017

Does How Fast You Eat Matter?

In our busy 24/7 society, the more we accomplish the better. Even more praiseworthy is the ability to do more quickly.

How many times do people use the expression, "I am just going to grab a quick bite." After all, taking time to eat seems a little self indulgent. Most people pick up your breakfast and lunch at the drive through and eat it fast in the car or on the train, trying to finish before the next task. This is considered efficiency and discipline.

Ayurveda teaches that one should eat meals slowly, taking time to chew and enjoy the meal. Meals should be eaten in a quiet, pleasant atmosphere as this promotes good digestion. When one digests food well, nutrients are absorbed and waste is eliminated. Poor digestion allows toxins (ama) to build up which causes illness and weight gain.

While it would seem that calories in is what causes weight gain, that is only part of the story. Digestion is an important body process that is essential for good health. Young people can get away with poor digestive habits for a awhile. Then as a person ages, poor health habits add up and cause illness and uncomfortable symptoms in the body. First, poor digestion manifests as gas, bloating, acid reflux, constipation or food sensitivities. Next real illness sets in causing other diseases like metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and more.

A recent scientific study has found continuing the habit of fast eating was connected with greater weight gain, higher blood sugar, higher levels of low-density lipoprotein ('bad' cholesterol) and a larger waistline. The participants in the study were tracked over five years and those with fast eating habit were at a much higher risk for developing the listed problems or had begun experiencing them.

Eating fast is only a short cut to poor health and weight gain. Yes, how fast you eat does matter.

Stay healthy & well,

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ayurveda Can Explain Why The Time Of Day Matters For Wound Healing

New research has established that wounds sustained at night heal significantly slower than wounds received during the day. The accelerated daytime wound healing occurred because the skin cells moved more rapidly to repair the wound and there was also more collagen (the main structural protein in skin) deposited around the wound site. The study acknowledged that circadian rhythms regulate almost every cell in the body, and manage many processes such as sleeping, hormone secretion and metabolism in a 24 hour period, but the study heads thought our bodies have evolved to compensate to heal as we are likelier to become wounded during the day when we are typically more busy.

Ayurveda teaches the importance of our body's internal natural clock, also known as circadian rhythm.  When we live in sync with nature's clock, we feel balanced and healthy. In Ayurveda, there are two 12 hour cycles that are each divided into three smaller cycles. Each 4 hour smaller cycle within each 12 hour cycle is governed by the three doshas (vata, pitta & kapha), which are also body types.  Establishing a routine that jives with the basic cycles is a powerful healing tool.

In Ayurveda, night is the time for sleep which gives our bodies and minds a time to regenerate, an essential component for health. Even modern science has found shift workers that work the night shift have poorer health and are at a higher risk for many diseases.

The hypothalamus, a section of the brain that governs many functions such as thirst, hunger, mood, libido and more, is affected by the light received from the eye. Specifically, cells in the retina send information about light to the hypothalamus, which will then regulate the glands and their hormone secretions. Light received at night causes the body system to become active, which is really disrupting the body's sleep process. The surge in activity disturbs the beneficial processes that occur at night during sleep. Further, even if the body becomes 'awake' it is going against the natural sleep system, which will handicap the normal 'awake' state activities.

Wound sustained at night cannot heal as well because they were received at a time when the body would naturally be in a restful, inactive state. Ayurveda and science both agree. The body's natural circadian rhythm can be used in many other areas to promote happiness and well being.

Stay healthy & well,

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Will Crying Help Stress?

Crying is generally thought of as a sign of weakness and to be avoided in public at all costs. It is socially acceptable to cry at hearing good news. Yet, when someone cries at bad news or even difficulty, people comment, "Oh he/she is taking it really hard. I hope they will be okay."

Crying is really beneficial. It is thought of as self soothing behavior that causes the body to release hormones like oxytocin and endorphins. After a good cry, people feel less stressed and have a reduction of pain. There is a physiological benefit to crying.

Stifling the urge to cry hurts someone both emotionally and physically. They are denying the strong emotions that they feel. These emotions need to be released or processed. Otherwise, they remain as stress in the body and alter our body's ability to function well. High levels of cortisol (the body's stress hormone) in the body hurts digestion, the body's ability to sleep and causes inflammation and pain. A simple cry allows the emotions to process and releases hormones that stabilize the body's hormones and function.

Maybe if people focused on the benefits of crying, it wouldn't be judged as a weakness. In crying people are revealing how strongly they feel about a certain situation. Initially, these people appear weak. I think there is a certain courage in showing how one really feels. There is a benefit to dealing with the powerful emotion and looking to move forward. The crying begins the process.

It is also important to note that not everyone reacts the same emotionally. Some people do have a thicker skin so to speak and are less reactive in certain situations. In Ayurveda, there are three basic body types (doshas) and they have different emotional reactions. Kapha is more stoic. Vata will cry easier, and pitta can wait to cry longer than a vata type, but their tears will release a mix of anger, frustration and sadness. Pittas are the type that need to learn that crying is good for them.

So, yes, a good cry will help stress.

Stay healthy & well,

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Do You See It & Can You Feel It?

There are things we know to exist without really having seen them. What do I mean.  In the current age of technology we use things that we cannot see. Think of electricity running through wires allowing us to use televisions, toasters, charge our cell phones and more. We never see the electricity but we rely on it being there and use its service. Moreover, we never doubt its existence.

Clearly, there must be some other things that we do not see but can still benefit from. It is our power of visualization and positivity.  People who received a flu vaccine and reported a positive mood on a questionnaire had an enhanced response to the vaccine and produced more antibodies to the flu virus.
People with tumors who meditate had a better outcome on their tumor growth than those who did not. Further, think of the placebo effect, which has been a common phenomenon.  A beneficial effect is produced by a placebo drug or treatment, that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and is, therefore, related to the patient's belief in that treatment.

In our age of science and proofs, we should never discount the power of the human spirit to imagine something and make it a reality or the power of feeling in a good mood and how it impacts one's health.

Only you can make it happen for yourself. To get a little help, surround yourself with positive people, uplifting reading material and some time with nature.

Stay healthy & well,

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Preparing Our Bodies For Fall

According to a Wall Street Journal article I read, there are two types of people in this country, and their differences have nothing to do with politics. There are those who love fall and those who hate it. I am in the fall haters category. Maybe because I have too much vata (a body type or dosha) or maybe because I associate fall with the beginning of school, but I do know that I need to ease into fall.

In Ayurveda, transitioning into the next season is a big deal.  It is taught that the change of season is hard on the body and that little changes can help us and improve our overall health.

Summer is pitta season which was warm and promoted much agricultural growth. Too much warmth can leave one feeling dried out, dehydrated. In summer there is moisture with the heat but as fall comes, there is wind and a feeling of dryness. Notice how the leaves are drying out and falling off or how flowers seem to wilt.

Normally when treating vata, one uses warming heat. However, this heat needs to be balanced for two reasons. One, the pitta heat needs to gently release as nature is letting it and the season go. Two, vata is very sensitive and erratic. Too much heat will aggravate vata causing symptoms like sleeplessness, anxiety, poor digestion, constipation and low immunity.

A cleanse is the best way to balance the transition to fall.  Fasting is generally not done in Ayurveda as it is considered depleting. However, switching to a bland, simple natural diet and using a few medicinal herbs will create the perfect cleanse. Foods like brown rice, lentils and mung beans are good choices.  Vegetables like zucchini, asparagus and carrots are nice to use as well. Using energetically cooling spices like cilantro, coconut, peppermint, coriander, fennel, and mint is helpful.  Healthy fats are important in any diet, but the fats should be used sparingly and the types recommended are ghee and coconut oil.  Drinks should be at room temperature and should be water or unsweetened herbal teas. Taking aloe vera juice (1/4 cup) for two to three morning will also aid elimination and cool the digestive tract. Amalaki is a rejuvenating herb that has the ability to gently cleanse as well.

Doing this routine for 3 days will help reset the body for fall in a gentle way. Add vata pacifying activities like meditation, regular meals,, sufficient sleep and warm foods like soups to complete the fall transition.

I am not sure I can say that I will like fall or be able to let go of summer any easier, but at least my body will be up for the new season.

Stay healthy & well,