REFLECTIONS
Bury your BP in the kitchen with these foods
Published in Times of India
IANS | Feb 17, 2016
 
Don't let the high blood pressure that you have been diagnosed with scare you out of your wits. It is not exactly a disease, but only a warning sign that the food you have been eating and the lifestyle you have been leading have clogged your blood vessels and your heart is having to exert extra pressure to keep blood moving through it.
 
Just as the bad lifestyle caused it, the good one can cure it. Medicines are only an aid. The main job has to be done by your food and those are quite tasty to boot. So please go into your kitchen for treatment. Certain bounties of nature are excellent in opening up your arteries and those should be a regular part of your diet from now.
The most potent of them is beetroot juice. A glass of this shimmering liquid should be a daily part of your intake for life. Treat this as your daily medicine. You might see a drop in your readings in as little as three hours.
 
Beets are full of nitrates which cause blood vessels to expand. Besides reducing BP, these eliminate toxins. Taking nitrate in natural form is a hundred times better than taking a nitrate tablet.
 
Nitrites in killer foods like hot dogs gave you the disease; nitrates will cure it.
 
Those who happen to have kidney issues should mix it with carrot juice. Regular use may give a sharp colour to your urine. Don't be scared. That is completely harmless.
Please note that the results will not come in a day. It took you some 15 years to clog your arteries. Please give your system at least 15 months to undo the damage. Of course, medicines can show results in a matter of days but you have to account for side-effects also. So follow a two-pronged strategy. Let medicines do the SOS job. The long-term cure will come only through dietary wisdom.
 
Another prescribed diet is blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Natural compounds in them called anchocyanins are your insurance against hypertension. Eat them like crazy every day of your life. Fresh will be the best but the dried ones will also do. Besides, those are full of antioxidants.
I know it will not make you very popular with friends but garlic too has to be added to your menu. The organosulphur compound allicin that it has reduces hypertension and is also antibacterial and anti fungal. The pungent clove is also very good for those with heart conditions.
 
Other good foods for those with BP are bananas, dark chocolate (and I mean really dark, at least 85 percent), spinach, cabbage and coconut water. Plus spice up your food with rosemary, cumin seeds, cinnamon, basil, bay leaves, saffron, turmeric, ginger and black pepper.
 
But the best antidote for blood pressure is weight management. If you are on the plump side, you are almost sending a written invitation to BP.
Proper breathing is the key to body mind control
Article in The Economic Times by Amar Chandel
 
Breathing is the most essential and frequent activity that we engage in from birth till death and yet it is one of the most neglected aspects of our existence, because we erroneously presume that it is entirely an involuntary function. The end result is that this giver of life has been ignored, leading to numerous unwanted consequences.
 
Our lungs have the capacity to take in about four litres of air in each breath. In olden times, we used to take this full quota when we were active throughout the day, first as hunter-gatherers and then as crop growers. The modern lifestyle has turned us into veritable couch potatoes that barely take half a litre of air per breath. That is only one-eighth of the requirement. Our diaphragm barely moves if we are sedentary, with the result that the lower part of our lungs hardly gets any oxygen.
 
The shocking shortfall not only causes numerous aches and pains and diseases, but also leads to negative emotions like anger, anxiety and stress.  
 
Air is available free of cost, but we have to make a deliberate effort to ensure that we take in our full quota. The most important item on the to-do list is to set aside at least one hour every day for exercises which make us moderately breathless. Regular brisk walking is an ideal starting point.  In the process we will be taking a lot of air willy-nilly. 
 
 You can also train yourself to take in more oxygen even when at rest. The technique is called yogic or diaphragmatic breathing. Lie down or sit comfortably. When you start inhaling, fill your belly from the lowest part up so that by the time you have taken the full breath, your tummy is protruding as well as the chest. Hold for a few seconds and then start exhaling while at the same time contracting your belly. 
 
This should be done preferably on an empty stomach.  So reserve five minutes for this practice before breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. After you have practised for some weeks, start spending all your spare time in mindful breathing.  Suppose you are having to wait at traffic lights. Instead of ruing the delay, utilise the time for diaphragmatic breathing. As your practice increases, you will notice that you have started pumping your belly without even noticing.
 
Interestingly, many of those who lead a sedentary life tend to do exactly the opposite. They contract the belly when they breathe in and expand it when they breathe out. If you too are making that mistake, make a persistent effort to correct it because this kind of breathing is worse than not moving the belly at all.
 
Please note that you are not pumping air into the belly.  It is going into the lungs only. It's just that when you expand the belly, the diaphragm is forced to move down and the lungs can take in more air. 
 
You will soon find that your stress level has started going down. The air that you breathe, besides nourishing your body, has a vital force called Prana. The more air you pump in, the more vitality you have. 
 
There is an additional advantage.  This pumping action strengthens your abdominal muscles and helps in reducing the waist size.
 
The yogic way of breathing which involves Kumbhaka (making a big belly after a deep inhalation and holding the breath for a few seconds) and Rechaka (expelling all air and holding for a few seconds while the belly has been pulled in) helps one increase the lung capacity to as much as six litres.
How to kill those sugar cravings
What can be almost as strong, if not even stronger than hunger pangs, is sugar craving. One goes almost berserk when it strikes and one is willing to throw all dietary discipline out of the window for the sake of those sweet treats. Take heart. There are a few simple little techniques which can help you tide over those vulnerable moments.
 
Basically, excessive sugar cravings are a sign that your body is deficient in trace minerals like zinc, magnesium, chromium and vanadium that are involved in glucose metabolism. Increase the intake of yoghurt, chickpeas, almonds, oatmeal, asparagus, cheese, brewer's yeast, whole grains, mushrooms, soy beans, spinach, oat bran and brown rice to address the root cause of the problem.
 
Also, eat something spicy or with a strong flavour. Strong odours from pepper, butter, lemon or onion will tell your hypothalamus to take fewer sweets for the next few hours. But be on your guard. Don't replace the sweets with too much of meat or butter. That will be a remedy worse than the disease.
 
Inhaling the sweet scent of vanilla also calms down your sugar appetite. Not only smelling the essential oil but also massaging it on your neck and arms lowers the cravings. Mix 25 drops of vanilla oil in about one glass of water and keep ready. Apply liberally whenever cravings strike. It is better to smell like a cake than look like one.
 
Whenever you make tea, add to it a few leaves of Gurmar herb (Gymnema). The phytonutrients present in the herb form a coating on your taste buds so that sugar molecules cannot react with them. The result? Sweet things will taste far less sweet. Incidentally, Gurmar also happens to be a natural cure for diabetes.
Most low-fat foods are loaded with sugar. The fear of full fat foods has proven unfounded. All you have to take care of is the total quantity. Do enjoy full-fat granola bars and yoghurt. Your sugar intake will come down automatically. Just don't go overboard on the fats. Remember, there are no bad foods; just bad doses.
Another home remedy for addressing your sugar craving is to have a tiny bit of peanut butter. Your urge to have a sweet treat will be gone within minutes. Try it.
You will notice that your sugar cravings are the strongest, first immediately after a meal and then about two to three hours after it. While the first category is due to the force of habit, the second is indicative that your blood sugar has gone low. So, make sure that you never skip breakfast or lunch. Do take protein in some form or the other. Have mini meals every three hours.
 
Those who are sleep deprived are more likely to need a sugar fix. Even half an hour of extra sleep will not only make you more energetic but will also lower your sugar dependence. The scientific reason for this is that your brain makes human growth hormone (HGH) whenever you sleep. An increase in its quantity brings about better blood sugar control.
 
We all know that daily brisk walk is good for your heart. Well, it also controls your sugar craze. A 40-minute jog will keep your cravings under check for up to eight hours. Even 20 minutes spent in putting your legs to paces will curb the cravings for two hours. That is called killing two birds with one stone.
It is another matter that some of the runners think that running requires sports drinks. What they don't know is that these so-called health drinks are loaded with sugar. May be OK for an endurance athlete, but not for someone who just spends an hour or so on his morning walks.
How to counter side effects of antibiotics
Published in Business Standard on May 5, 2015
 
There are times when it becomes unavoidable to take antibiotics. While these may cure you of your diseases, they leave you with nasty side effects like bloating, belching, gas, constipation and diarrhea.
 
As the very name antibiotics suggests, it kills bacteria. Unfortunately, it also kills friendly bacteria which are so very valuable for your health.
Full one to two kg of friendly bacteria and yeast are present in your intestines. The friendly bacteria not only aid in digestion but also lend a helping hand in manufacturing B vitamins.
 
Not only that, these keep the omnipresent yeast at bay, thus fighting infection.
 
As a result of the intake of antibiotics, yeasts grow unchecked into large colonies, causing a condition called dysbiosis. These weaken your immune system.
 
Here are a few simple steps which can ease the situation considerably.
 
The first line of defence is cut out factors which forced you to take antibiotics in the first place.
 
Quit smoking and drinking. Dump all soda. Put aside those chocolates, sugary and starchy foods. Also out are dairy products, fatty and spicy foods, tea and coffee. Increase water intake.
 
Don't guzzle orange juice. Vitamin C is better obtained from oranges. Taking it through juices will only supply you excess sugar, which will rather worsen your condition.
 
Start taking probiotics in the shape of yoghurt on a regular basis, whenever you have a course of antibiotics. Probiotics must be continued long after the course has completed. Even otherwise, it is a good idea to make probiotics a regular part of your diet.
 
Fermented foods like pickles, pickled turnips and carrots contain natural probiotics. That earthy Kanji that your grandmother used to make will be perfect during your post-antibiotic days.
 
Eat light, easily digestible food because your digestion will be in bad shape for several months after taking those tiny pills.
 
Boil five mint leaves, an inch of ginger and about half a teaspoon of Ajwain (carom seeds or bishop's weed) in a glass of water till the water is reduced to half. Drink half a glass thrice a day.
 
Light exercise is equally important. What matters is regularity.
 
Another wonderful remedy in your kitchen is garlic. Allicin present in it gets rid of the antibiotics in the body.
 
Vitamins A, C, E, zinc and selenium are a great help. Aloe vera juice protects intestinal lining.
 
Make sure that you don't get constipated. Psyllium husk and flax seed will not only aid in bowel movement but will also relieve diarrhea by absorbing excess water.
Antibacterial oregano oil taken thrice a day provides considerable help.
Keep your spirits high for a speedy recovery
Published in Times of India on May 7, 2015
 
Your body and your mind are not two separate entities but two sides of the coin. Like electricity and magnetism, they are inseparable.
 
Whatever impacts one has a direct bearing on the other. So, whenever you are under excessive stress, your health will be affected and in the same manner, every disease will tell upon your psyche. That is why it is said that one thing that a patient does not have is patience.
 
Forewarned is forearmed. When you are in good health, prepare yourself mentally that if ever I fall ill, I will not fall into the quicksand of pessimism. Know that stress will strike you with a vengeance in those critical days. When it does, you will be better equipped to handle it rationally.
 
Ironically, most of your ire will be directed against your family members or care-givers. You will be so hyper-critical that you will be certain that they are ignoring you, if not downright ill-treating you. Pipe down. Most of your grouses may be there only because your illness has made you exceptionally sensitive.
 
Most of us do not breathe properly even when we are in good health. This problem gets aggravated when we are on sickbed. If health allows, make it a point to engage in deep breathing for at least 10 minutes every morning, afternoon and night. Preferably this should be done before breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fill your lungs completely, hold the breath for a few seconds and then exhale slowly.
 
Our food has tremendous bearing on our mood. Eat good and you will feel good. Junk food will put you in a sullen frame of mind. Be very particular about what goes past your lips. Bingeing is bad at any time; all the more so when you are bed-ridden.
 
Similarly, lack of physical activity plays havoc with one's emotional well-being. Depending on how much movement your ailment allows, try to be as much active as possible. Suppose you have a leg fracture. Make sure that at least your arms and other body parts are exercised to the maximum extent.
 
Even otherwise, keep yourself occupied in some activity or the other. The more time you have to brood, the sadder you will become.
 
One thing you will find particularly helpful is meditation. Any form of mindfulness will be enough to help you get a grip on your haywire emotions and to view your situation in the right perspective.
 
Even one night of pain proves so debilitating that one starts feeling that I am never going to recover. The sense of doom tends to become all consuming. Take heart. The worst-case scenario that you have drawn up may not be inevitable. Healthy food combined with proper breathing and meditation will help you adopt a less defeatist attitude.
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