Apr 152019

In traditional Chinese medical theory, one of the best ways to stay healthy is to live in balance with the seasons. Balance, in this context, means mindfully crafting your diet and certain aspects of your lifestyle based on what season it is.

An easy way to think about this is with fruits and vegetables: we are lucky these days to have grocery stores stocked year round with fruits and vegetables from every corner of the globe at all times of year. That makes it possible to enjoy asparagus into the winter months in northern climates where asparagus would never naturally grow at that time of year if at all. Chinese medical thought prescribes realigning our diets with what would be available to us in the region where we live and at each time of year. In this way, we’re aligning ourselves with the rhythms of the earth. Not only that, but eating fresh, local fruits and vegetables probably means they’re going to be better tasting fruits and vegetables in the first place, because they’re fresh off the vine and ripened close by. Living in balance with the seasons helps to keep us healthy and free of disease, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Each season is also connected to one of the main organ networks and a related element, both based on associations with what is happening in our bodies and in the natural world. In spring, Chinese medicine says we should be attentive to our livers. Springtime is all about new life and life-giving processes. The liver provides essential support to our lungs, heart and circulation system – in other words, all the life-giving systems in our bodies. The liver also stores and distributes nourishment to the whole body. It also filters toxins from the blood and breaks them down for elimination.

When the liver is functioning properly, there is functionality throughout the whole body, and we feel a physical and emotional freedom and expansiveness that allow us to take on the essence of springtime.

Here are four ways to tweak your lifestyle this spring in order to support balance in your liver.

Rise and shine

Make it a habit to wake up earlier in the spring than you were during winter. Notice if getting up earlier allows you to have more energy during the day.

Exercise more

Try to incorporate more movement into your daily life during the spring. Especially during spring, exercise is a great way to battle depression and anxiety that can creep in due to a liver imbalance.

Add sour foods to your diet

The flavor connected to the liver is sour. Adding lemon to your water is a simple way to do this that will help you digestive and emotional health.

Keep breathing

Be intentional about developing or maintaining habits that help you to de-stress during spring. Springtime can feel like a burst of energy compared to winter, but it is important to make space each for downtime and not get too busy too fast.

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Nov 152018
control blood pressure

Diseases can be classified as infectious or lifestyle diseases. While the former is largely due to involvement of external pathogens, lifestyle diseases are often considered preventable, as they are often the result of our own faulty dietary and lifestyle habits. Hence, they are also referred to as lifestyle diseases.

Hypertension belongs to the category of lifestyle diseases. Often referred to as a ‘silent killer’, it is important that you get your blood pressure checked often, and keep it under control. High blood pressure is the result of increase of arterial blood pressure, causing the heart to pump blood into the arteries at a quicker rate and it is detrimental to the overall health of a person.

Ayurveda considers high blood pressure as a result of imbalance of two doshas – vata and pitta. The Ayurvedic treatment for high blood pressure aims to balance these doshas. At times, an imbalanced kapha can also cause high blood pressure.

High blood pressure requires a calculated approach of treatment, and Ayurveda helps you with that. If you are already hypertensive, Ayurveda suggests the following simple lifestyle modifications that may help you in managing your blood pressure in an effective manner.

1. Importance of Dinacharya

Maintaining a proper daily routine (dinacharya) is vital to balance your blood pressure levels. Therefore, remove all unnecessary distractions that come in the way of following a healthy daily routine. Fix a proper sleep-wake schedule, a definite time slot to work-out and meditate. Have a gadget-free time at least one to two hours prior bed time, and sleep early. Also, make it a habit tow ake up early and do any form of mild exercise or yoga. Such a schedule ensures that your body’s natural biorhythm remain balanced and ensure normal blood pressure levels.

2. A good night’s sleep is crucial

A good night’s sleep is vital to ensure that all our body parts are well-rested and ready for the activities of next day. Sleep rejuvenates the tissues of the brain and all parts of the body. Ayurveda believes that a good sleep pattern helps in balancing doshas and also helps in formation of ojas (energy). This is the reason that when you do not get enough rest at night, you may feel more weak or fatigued the next morning. Applying a little sesame oil on your head and soles of the feet during bedtime, can help you have a relaxed sleep. Similarly drinking a cup of lukewarm milk with a pinch of turmeric during bedtime is considered to be beneficial for a good sleep.

3. Avoid stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are associated with hypertension. Meditate every morning for 15 to 20 minutes, apart from practicing controlled breathing techniques like ‘Bhramari’ and ‘Anulom-vilom’. Meditation fills your mind with positivity and brings peace of mind and calms your body and soul.

4. ‘Abhayanga’ can help

Vitiated vata dosha can cause hypertension. Therefore apart from doing gentle exercises in the morning, practice ‘Abhayanga’ (self-massage) with sesame oil, as it helps in balancing the doshas in the body. Abhayanga is also good in improving circulation in the nervous system and lymphatic vessels. You can do self-massage at home, and once in a few days, get a massage done at a good panchakarma centre.

5. Focus on diet to maintain ideal body weight

A balanced body weight plays a key role in keeping diabetes and blood pressure at bay. To achieve this, avoid eating junk food, packaged and processed foods as they do not have ‘prana’. Substitute them with fresh vegetables and fruits cooked in a healthy manner.

Some dietary modifications to rebalance the vitiated doshas in case of a person with high blood pressure, as suggested by Ayurveda are staying away from triggers and intake of food that helps the body achieve a state of equilibrium. The best way to do this is to follow a vegetarian diet.

Include vegetables such as bitter gourd, parsley, garlic and drumstick, and fruits such as watermelons, guavas, bananas and grapes. Dairy products such as milk, cottage cheese and butter are good additions too.
However, take care to cut down on caffeine, as it is believed to further irritate the system and shoot up the blood pressure.

Similarly reduce intake of salt in the diet, and reduce the amount of cereals and pulses. Also, remember to completely avoid eggs, red meat when trying to balance the doshas and reduce the incidence of high blood pressure attacks.

6. Exercise is a ‘must’

Regular exercise helps in keeping your mind and body healthy, and keeps all diseases at bay. Apart from contributing to the overall wellness of your body, it also helps reduce high blood pressure.

Practice gentle exercises such as brisk walking for 30 minutes. Also include yoga and meditation as part of your morning routine. While breathing techniques and meditation helps by keeping you stress-free, walking has shown to reduce blood pressure and improve heart health.

Apart from recommending these lifestyle modifications to alleviate symptoms of hypertension, there are several herbs prescribed by ayurvedic experts to manage hypertension and protect the internal organs of the body. Some of recommended ones are ‘Gokshura’ (a diuretic and ACE inhibitor), ‘Sarpagandha’, and ‘Gulkand’ (uplifts mood and keeps tension at bay).

Note: Although hypertension is common among people over 50 years of age, the in the present generation several youngsters are seeking treatment for hypertension. Apart from following the suggested lifestyle measures, consult a doctor if you have a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher.

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Mar 232017

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, Weep and you weep alone”

— Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1855–1919).

The above thoughts expressed more than a century ago tell us the importance of laughter.

Man is born to be healthy. Health not only means absence of diseases, but also a natural feeling of well-being, a self-contained enjoyment of happiness and fulfilment with joyful behaviour comprising not only of the physical, mental and social well-being but also of the spiritual well-being.

Time old philosophy of four generic factors are the fundamental determinants of life – Aahaar (nutrition), Vehohar (Behavior), Vichar (Thinking), and Aachar (Conduct). Their norms, value and strength control the mind-body coordination exhibited as life. Humor and Laughter are the key to alter the behavior, thinking and conduct.

Increasing industrialization, urbanization, changing social and moral values have caused tremendous increase in stress and strain in day-to-day life, which in turn is a very big contributing factor for many of altered lifestyle related diseases such as ischemic heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, cancers and some forms of mental illness. It is high time that each of us realizes the importance of “Lifestyle Modification” in prevention and management of many of these diseases.

Candace Pert writes ‘Emotions registered and stored in the body in the form of chemical messages are the best candidates for the key to the health connections between mind and body’. According to Pert, this job is accomplished by complex molecules called neuropeptides. These neuropeptides are the means by which all cells in the body communicate with one another. Building more humor and laughter in your life helps assure that these chemical messages are working for you and not against you. The mere fact that you feel better after a good iaugh is not enough for the scientific community of so called “Evidence Based Medicine”, but data have started accumulating to quench their scientific thirst.

Laughter and Immune System

In 1980 departing editor of world famous “New England Journal of Medicine”, Dr. Franz Ingel£inger wrote that 85% of all human illnesses are curable by body’s own healing system (Immune system). Immune system responds favorably to positive attitudes, thoughts, moods and emotions such as love, hope, intimacy, optimism, joy, humor and laughter, and negatively to negative attitudes such as pessimism, indifference, hate, hopelessness, anger, loneliness, anxiety and depression”. In short a positive attitude to life is key to happiness.

Several studies have shown that watching as little as 30 -60 minutes of a comedy video is enough to increase both salivary IgA (Immunoglobulin A) and blood levels of IgA, which are often referred to as the body’s first line of defense against upper respiratory viral and bacterial infections.

Immunoglobulin M and G also increase following laughter, so does the compliment- 3, a substance which helps antibodies to pierce through defective and infected cells to destroy them. Humour has been found to alter cellular immunity in a positive way.

Humour has also been shown to increase level of gamma interferon, a complex substance that plays an important role in the maturation of B-cells, growth of cytotoxic T-cells, and activation of NK cells.

All this evidence makes it clear that humorous individual have a stronger immune system.

Effects of Laughter on Pain

Appreciation of pain depends to a certain extenent on frame of mind and prevailing environment. It is well known that during war, severe gunshot injuries are tolerated with little pain. Recently this has been explained on the basis of “Gate theory of pain”. Similarly, humour also helps in reducing severity of pain. Max Eastman has rightly said that “Humour is the instinct for taking pain playfully”

Humour and Stress

That humour is the biggest stress reliever has been a well-know fact for centuries.

Limited research carried out on stress related hormones and humour has shown that laughter affects at least four neuroendocrine hormones associated with stress response. These are epinephrine, cortisol, dopa, and growth hormone. These hormones are related to bodies? “Fight or Flight” response.

Laughter and Cardio Respiratory System

Laughter provides a handy source of cardiac exercise. Heartbeat remains rapid for nearly 15 to 20 seconds after a good Belly laugh. From cardiac point of view this can be described as “Internal Jogging”. As laughing can be repeated many times, one can give the heart a good workout.

Laughter is not a substitute for good exercise for cardiac toning but for elderly persons and bed-ridden patients this can be considered as a good source of cardiac conditioning.

In one study it was found that persons who led humorous life had a lower resting heart rate. Laughter may also help in lowering blood pressure as an adjunct with other life style modification programs, but scientific studies are needed to substantiate this fact.

There are many studies that have linked Coronary Artery Disease to Type-A personality; studies have also shown relationship between hostility and heart diseases. Humor and laughter may be use in countering bad effects of hostility and type-A personality, but concrete scientific studies have not yet been made in this field.

Laughter and Breast-fed New Born

Laughter even affects breast-fed new-born infants. In a scientific study it was found that among the mothers who breast-fed their infants and actively used humour and laughed more frequently had fewer upper respiratory infections and their infants also had less infections as compared to those who did not do so. This could be attributed to higher levels of Immunoglobulin-A in the breast milk of these mothers.

Other Benefits of Laughter

Dr. Heiko Hayarshi of Japan University in a study found that those diabetic patients who watched a comedy show had smaller rises in their post meal glucose as compared to those who watched a humorless show, meaning there by that positive emotions like laughter help in decreasing blood sugar level.

Dr. Malcolm Harthers found that Laughter increased active Testosterone (male hormone) level especially in elderly people. If this is found true in large controlled studies, this may explain the secret of longevity in humorous persons and confirm a common layman’s observations that persons with a good sense of humor get sick less often.

Bhagwat Gita says ‘laughing drives away grief which is an important contributory factor for many mental ailments. This could be boon in present day scenario where mental illness is on a steep rise.

Humour is known to reduce frequency of cold and upper respiratory infections. This may probably be explained by a high salivary IgA levels in these persons.

After critically evaluating the above information, it makes sense to conclude that the individuals who have a better developed sense of humor, i.e. those who find more humor in their day-to-day life, remain happy contented, and have a stronger immune system and better health. This view has also been expressed by Bernia Siegel, M.D. who said, “The simple truth is that happy people generally do not get sick.”

Daily vitamin D supplements may reduce asthma attacks

 Daily vitamin D supplements lowered the risk and severity of asthma attacks, according to a new review of nine clinical trials, which involved 435 children and 658 adults, most of whom had mild to moderate asthma.

Reviewers found that oral vitamin D supplements ranging from 400 to 4000 units a day reduced the risk of attacks requiring medication by 37%. The number of attacks requiring emergency intervention decreased by more than 60% among vitamin D users.

But taking vitamin D did not appear to have a meaningful effect on daily symptoms as measured by a long function test and questionnaires. The authors suggest that vitamin D triggers antiviral and anti inflammatory responses that might decrease the risk for lung infection.

“We don’t yet have the evidence to say that everyone should take it,” said lead author, Adrian R Martineau, a professor of respiratory infection at Queen Mary University of London.

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