Tuesday, 11 October 2016

10 Simple Ways to Increase Your Physical Activity

by Travis Saunders

Regardless of your shape or size, physical activity has been shown to add years to your life, and life to your years. But believe it or not, the benefits of physical activity are not restricted to exercise performed in the gym. In fact, one of the easiest ways to improve your health may be through increasing the amount of low intensity physical activity you perform throughout the day. For example, simply increasing the number of steps that you take each day is very likely to reduce your risk for diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It’s still uncertain if this light intensity physical activity can reduce body weight, but it is clear that individuals who engage in high amounts of light intensity physical activity are healthier than those who do not. In fact, there is good evidence to suggest that simply reducing the amount of time spent sitting each day may reduce risk of death independently of other lifestyle factors (for one previous post on this topic, click here).

Peter and I have discussed the importance of daily physical activity in several posts over the past few months, so today we have decided to offer some practical ways that you can incorporate physical activity into your daily life. These are tips that we have found work well for us, and we think they may work well for you as well. Try one or two, and once they’ve become part of your routine try a couple more. We would also love to hear your own tips in the comments section below.

Without further ado, here are ten simple ways to become more physically active:

1. Take the stairs as often as possible.

This one is as simple as it sounds. If you have to go up two floors or less, opt for the stairs. Ditto if you have to go down three floors or less. If you have to go up or down a distance that is too great for you to walk at the moment, walk the first few flights, then take the elevator the rest of the way. Remember, every time you take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, you are making a decision that will positively affect your long term health.

2. Drink plenty of water.

This sounds odd, but it’s a trick that I’ve been using for years. If you are constantly sipping water throughout the day, you are going to have to pee at least once an hour. Every time you have to pee, you have a guilt-free excuse to go for a 5-minute walk to the washroom and back! To crank it up a notch, use a washroom in another part of your building, which may give you an opportunity to use the stairs as well. It’s easy to forget to take a 5-minute walk-break every hour, but it’s impossible to forget to go pee.

Added bonus – staying well hydrated may also reduce feelings of hunger, and can often reduce chronic back pain. So this is really a win-win-win.

3. Park as far from the front door as possible.

Another simple but effective tactic. Whether you’re at the mall, work, or school, parking the car at the edge of the parking lot forces you to walk just a little bit further than you are used to. It will only add a few seconds to your trip, but if you do it everyday it could add years to your life.

Added bonus – less chance of getting dinged by shopping carts and teenage drivers.

4. Clean your home regularly.

I’ve got to admit, this one was Peter’s idea (as any of my former roomates can attest, cleaning is not my forte). Most people don’t realize what a good workout cleaning can be, especially if you have a large home. Cleaning involves plenty of walking, lifting, and stretching – all of which are very good for your body. Washing dishes by hand can also be an easy way to burn a few extra calories, and to spend some time chatting with other members of your family (I spent many hours drying pots and pans for my Mom growing up).

5. Gardening and yardwork.

Yardwork is great because not only does it increase your physical activity, but it also gives you an excuse to be outside. Pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, trimming the hedge, and raking leaves are all very physically taxing and like cleaning, they use a range of muscle groups.

6. Disconnect your cable for the summer.

Time spent watching TV is an independent predictor of disease, especially for kids (for a great article on the topic by Ekelund and colleagues, click here). It’s not surprising when you think about it – the only time that most kids aren’t moving around is when they’re sitting in front of the TV. Get rid of the cable, and suddenly you’ve got one less reason to spend your days sitting on the couch. If you’re like me, after a few weeks without cable, you might start to wonder why you ever had it in the first place. And if, like me, you need to watch the NHL playoffs – walk to the local pub/sports bar with your friends on game night.

7. Buy a pedometer.

Pedometers are beeper-sized gadgets that count the number of steps that you take each day. They are a terrific way to measure the amount of physical activity you are getting each day, and can also serve as a great motivator to make the decision to walk whenever possible. Aim for at least 10,000 steps each day, but any increase is likely to bring health benefits, so don’t feel bad if you can’t get up to 10,000 right away. A high quality pedometer costs just $20, and are available online from Speakwell, a Canadian company based in British Columbia.

8. Use active transportation and public transit.

I have only been living in Ottawa for a week, but already I am in love with the bike paths. I have a beautiful 20 minute bike ride to work each day, and I can’t imagine a better way to start the day. It takes about 4 minutes longer than driving (but is significantly cheaper since there’s no parking fee to lock up my bike). Walking, roller blading, and biking are all great ways to get around, and they often take a lot less time than you’d expect.

If the trip is a little too far to hoof it, consider taking public transit. As researcher Ugo Lachapelle discussed in a recent interview here on Obesity Panacea, individuals who take public transit are more likely to meet physical activity recommendations than those who don’t take public transit. This is because most transit trips involve at least some walking to and from stops. And remember that most major cities have bike racks for buses in the summer, and allow bikes on trains during off-peak hours.

Many workplaces offer free or discounted transit pass programs, so be sure to check if your employer has such a program.

9. Have “walk-meetings”.

In an ideal world, we would all have 45 minutes for a relaxed lunch. If you happen to enjoy this luxury, consider taking half your lunch break to go for a walk either alone or with someone else you work with. It will help wake you up for the afternoon, as well as giving you a chance to chat with your co-workers (you could even use it to kickstart that workplace romance you’ve been planning for so long).

If you don’t have time to take a large walk break at lunch, consider having “walk-meetings”. Whenever you have to meet informally with co-workers, turn the meeting into a short walk. If it takes 5 minutes to discuss the project you are working on, that means you just got 5 extra minutes of physical activity! Peter and I used to frequently walk to the local grocery store on our lunch break, all the while discussing projects we were working on. It was a chance to get out of the lab, to talk about our work, and to get some physical activity all at the same time.

10. Go for a family walk after dinner.

This one was Peter’s idea, but I have to admit that we did this almost every night when I was a kid in my family as well. My sister and I would hop on our bikes, my parents would walk behind us, and the four of us would go for a half hour trip around the neighborhood. It’s another chance to spend some time together, get outside, and get some exercise all at the same time.

As you can see, none of the tips we’re suggesting is earth shattering. In fact, most of them are things you could start doing immediately, and cost absolutely nothing at all. Like I mentioned in the introduction, try out the tips that seem most realistic for you at this point in your life. Once you’ve mastered them, consider trying a couple others. And please share with us your tips for making physical activity a part of your day!

Disclaimer: While the activities we have suggested are all low to moderate intensity, speak to your physician if you have any health concerns before increasing your physical activity levels. The information here should be used as a general guide only, and should not be construed as specific medical advice. Also, work place romances are usually a bad idea, so be careful with that as well.


Monday, 10 October 2016

Controlling Your Willpower

Take half an hour to discover insights into how your willpower and motivation work.  It might save you from yourself!

Kelly McGonigal - Controlling Our Willpower

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Why I Started Biking to Work

Another hotel bathroom, but this one had good air circulation which meant that mirror didn’t fog up. When I pulled back the shower curtain I got a shock—that naked dripping guy looking back at me was getting old, bald, and really, really fat. Something had to be done. But…

Old – nothing I can do about that.

BaldComb-over? Toupe? Nothing I can do about that (and keep my dignity, anyway).

Fat – I can do something about that…if I have to…I guess.

What to do? I hate to exercise, and I don’t have time for it anyway. When I looked out the bus window a few days later, I saw a guy riding a bike and thought, “I have one of those.” I mulled it over for a few weeks, then the end of the month arrived: it was time to buy a new bus pass and the price was going up to $50. My old mountain bike was collecting dust. It was time to act.

I went to the thrift store and picked up a used backpack, put my bus pass with one day left on it in my pocket (just in case), headed off to work…and survived.

Things have changed over the years: the backpack was replaced by a sweet garment bag, the beat-up mountain bike is now a dedicated commuting machine, the office moved to a new building four miles further away, bus passes are now $72, and I am fifty pounds lighter.

I’ve learned to question assumptions about what it means to get to work: I used think my commute was just a requirement of life, now it is a valuable part of my day. I’ve also learned that I can even do something about old and bald.

  • Old–I look and feel younger (studies show that those who get regular exercise have a body age lower than those who don’t).
  • Bald–your hairline doesn’t matter when you are wearing a bike helmet.

One more thing: hotel mirrors don’t scare me anymore.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Is it Possible to Bulk Up On a Vegan Diet?

Is it Possible to Bulk Up On a Vegan Diet?

by JJ Muenz

If you’ve ever thought about how to build muscle on a plant-based diet, you’ve come to the right place.

Some people picture vegans as willowy and lean, but vegans come in all shapes and sizes. Whether your goals are to lean out, run faster, or put on muscle, it can be done on a vegan diet.

Why Switch to a Vegan Diet?

People come to vegan diets for numerous reasons. I tried a vegan diet for four years, but had no idea how to do it the right way.

I failed miserably, eating inflammatory foods and enough carbs to cause a 20-pound weight gain. If I had researched or talked to healthy vegans who knew how to cook, my experience with veganism would’ve been quite different.

Don’t turn into the chips and salsa, corn tortilla, and black bean burrito vegan eater that I was, and take the advice from star athlete Pat Reeves.

Vegan power lifter Pat Reeves, who has followed a plant-based diet for more than forty-four years, originally started her vegan diet to fight cancer, but continues because of her high levels of energy. Four years ago, at age 66, she became the oldest competing weightlifter in Europe. And just last year, she broke her own deadlift record.

Pat Reeves’ Daily Vegan Meals

Here’s a quick look at Pat’s daily meals, via veganbodybuilding.org:

Breakfast: Sprouted groats, plus fruit, homemade soy/almond yoghurt, sometimes dehydrated into ‘biscuits’ and topped with fresh fruit and seeds

Midmorning: Nut/seed milk, fruit

Lunch: – At least 8 types of sprouted greens, plus tofu (I make this and yoghurt and this is basically my only cooked food), or sprouted pulses, plus a dressing,

Mid-afternoon: Vegetable pate with crudities, a sprouted grain and fruit,

Evening meal: Similar to lunch, perhaps a raw warmed-through soup, but I will use different vegetables, grains etc.

Other vegan athletes say to eat these foods in abundance when trying to bulk: black lentils, beans, nuts, protein shakes with at least 40 grams of vegan protein, coconut oil, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, broccoli, high fat almond milk, asparagus, tomatoes and olive oil.

So if you are looking to bulk up and lean out, incorporate these foods into your diet. As you probably know, every body is different, so it will take some trials to see what food works best for your unique body.

You could do well on sprouted foods, or a bag of trail mix filled with nuts, sunflower seeds and goji berries or maybe high fat almond milk is the ticket to your prime-bulking venture.

Either way, diet is a part of the equation, but fitness must be incorporated to make your vegan bulking a success.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Thailand scrapping squat loos for sit downs due to alarming number of arthritis cases

Just over 85% of households and public facilities use ankle-high Nile pans, but these are being blamed as a cause of osteoarthritis of the knee

Thai people were relieved yesterday... to hear the country is scrapping its squat loos.

The Public Health Ministry revealed it will remove 90% of their bog-standard toilets by 2016 and replace them with sit-downs.

The poop-ular move comes due to an alarming number of people suffering from squat-related arthritis.

Just over 85% of households and public facilities use ankle-high Nile pans.

But these are being blamed as a cause of osteoarthritis of the knee.

Deputy Minister, Cholanan Srikaew, revealed that six million natives – and some expats – have the ­condition.

It is also hoped new facilities will improve tourism, which earns 7% of Thailand’s gross domestic product.

A source said: “Prolonged periods of squatting have been found to cause arthritis. It is hoped the new toilets will save a few more knees and boost tourism.”

Friday, 1 July 2016

3 Mindful Things To Do Before You Fall Asleep

You can't force a better night's sleep—but it does help to try something new.

By Elisha Goldstein

Do you find it difficult to get a decent night’s rest? Do you spend a good deal of the night tossing and turning? Then you might be among the ranks of the 30% of adults in the United States who are regularly sleep deprived, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Fortunately, there’s a few key habits that can help you turn over a new leaf—or in this instance, a new pillowcase. As Jason Ong, a sleep psychologist at Rush University Medical Center reminds us: “Each night is a new night. Be open and try something different! What you have been doing to this point is probably not working well.”

Try these three mindful tips for a better night’s sleep and see what you notice:

Before you go to bed:

1. Say goodnight to your devices: The first thing we need to pay attention to is getting our screens out of the room. If you have your phone or a tablet lighting up your bedside table, it’s going to disturb your sleeping patterns. It’s best if it’s not in your room at all. It’s creating activity in your mind that you have to pay attention to.

2. Don’t force it: We have to stop trying to fall asleep. Our brains are too smart for that. The moment we’re trying to do something, we’re creating stress on top of it. So we don’t want to try and fall asleep. See if you can let go of the notion of trying to fall asleep at all.

3. Try a body scan meditation: Bring mindfulness into the sleep experience. You can do a gentle body scan practice where you’re being curious about just noticing sensations in your body and your breathing. When your attention wanders or becomes frustrated, see if you can just take note of that and gently come back to being with what’s here. When we allow ourselves to be with what’s here, the body naturally goes to rest, which is what it wants to do.


Article source

Friday, 24 June 2016

Office cake culture is 'danger to health'

Having cake at work to celebrate colleagues' birthdays, engagements or just surviving the week is a danger to health, a senior dentist argues.

Health editor, BBC News website
Office cake
Image: Thinkstock

Prof Nigel Hunt, from the Faculty of Dental Surgery, at the Royal College of Surgeons, says "cake culture" is fuelling obesity and dental problems.
At the organisation's annual dinner for dentists, he will say workplace temptation stops people losing weight.
And staff should be rewarded with fruit, nuts or cheese instead.

Sugar rush

In the speech, he will say: "Managers want to reward staff for their efforts, colleagues want to celebrate special occasions, and workers want to bring back a gift from their holidays.
"But for many people the workplace is now the primary site of their sugar intake and is contributing to the current obesity epidemic and poor oral health."
He will say nearly 65,000 adults every year need hospital treatment for tooth decay.
Prof Hunt will say: "Cake culture also poses difficulties for those who are trying their hardest to lose weight or become healthier - how many of us have begun such diets only to cave in to the temptation of the doughnuts, cookies or the triple chocolate biscuits?"

Fruit platter

While he does not believe office cake should be banned, he will say it should be purchased in smaller quantities and consumed only with lunch.
Dentists recommend cutting down on sugary or starchy foods between meals as they give bacteria fuel to produce acids that decay teeth.
At the dinner, which is being rounded off with mint panna cotta, British strawberries and chocolate soil, Prof Hunt will say: "Ideally office workers should consider other alternatives altogether like fruit platters, nuts, or cheese.
"Responsible employers should take a lead and avoid such snacks in meetings."

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Exercising After a Task Improves Memory

Here's another reason to hit the gym

by Alexandra Sifferlin

Working out might keep the brain sharp, and according to a new study, exercising four hours after learning a task can improve memory.

In the new report, published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, researchers found that exercising four hours after a memory task increased brain patterns associated with memory, and helped people retain information better than people who exercised immediately after or people who did not work out.

Seventy two people partook in a picture-location memory task for about 40 minutes. Then, the people were either randomly assigned to 35 minutes of exercise right away, exercise four hours later, or no exercise at all. Two days later, the people came back to see how well they remembered what they had learned, and their brains were scanned. The people who exercised hours later had better recall and stronger and more clear activation in the areas of their brain associated with memory retrieval.

“There is good evidence from animal data that the release of certain neurotransmitters—dopamine and norepinephrine—leads to a biochemical cascade leading to the production of so called plasticity related proteins,” says study author Guillén Fernández, director of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour at Radboud University Medical Center in an email to TIME. “These proteins help stabilize new memory traces, which would otherwise be lost. Physical exercise is at the start of this sequence, because it is accompanied by the release of dopamine and norepinephrine.”

The idea that regular exercise has an impact on brain health, including memory, has been reported in many studies and Fernández says the new report adds to the evidence by showing a single session of exercise can aid in memory retention.

The number of people in the study is small, so it’s hard to say whether people should start pacing workouts exactly four hours after learning something important. Still, the study authors argue that their study is a proof of principal that exercise should be considered as a strategy for long-term memory.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

People ignore healthy options despite experience from loved ones, study shows

UK adults are not taking steps to reduce the chances of developing illnesses, even someone they know has experienced a serious condition, according to research released today by Royal London.


Heart disease is the least-ignored condition, with 55% of people taking steps to avoid it.

The life insurer believes this is because they don’t know what to do or don’t believe there is anything they can do.

Based on a survey of 2,093 UK adults, almost nine in 10 (85%) know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis or a stroke.

However, 70% have not taken action to reduce the chances of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. More than half (58%) has not done so to avoid suffering a stroke.

This is followed by cancer (56%) and diabetes (56%). Meanwhile, more than two fifths (42%) have not taken steps against heart disease.

Commenting on this, Trisha Macnair, community doctor at Milford Hospital and Royal Surrey County Hospital, argues “there is so much” that people can do to stay healthy and help prevent serious conditions.

“They may have a vague idea of a few things they should be addressing, but even if they witness a loved-one battling with illness, this is often still not enough to motivate them to protect themselves,” she said.

Macnair is also calling on more action from policymakers and health authorities to encourage people to improve their health, such as facilitating gym access with funding or raising tax on alcohol to reduce consumption.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are the illnesses where respondents are least confident of knowing how to reduce their risks of developing, with 59% stating they don’t know how to or don’t think there is anything they can do.

Cancer is the second biggest condition where 51% of people demonstrated limited confidence, followed by stroke (44%), heart disease (25%) and diabetes (25%).

Debbie Kennedy, head of protection for Royal London Intermediary, said the findings showed a link between people taking action against developing illnesses and the instances of these falling, “making a strong case for the nation to start taking some simple steps to lead a healthier lifestyle”.

Heart disease is the least-ignored condition, with 55% of respondents having taken steps to avoid it and only 11% saying they do not know how to do so.

Royal London added deaths caused by disease of the circulatory system in the UK were down 4.1% from 2012 to 2014, according to the British Heart Foundation.

The research also found that as people get older, they are more likely to have taken preventative measures.

Those aged 55 and over are the most likely to have taken steps to reduce their chances of developing them, while people aged 25-34 and 35-44 are the least likely to do so.

Macnair said younger people tend to push health to the back of their mind because they had “other more exciting things to focus on”.

“Younger people especially tend to feel invincible and don't want to dwell on health issues or imagine they might one day develop a chronic illness,” she said.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Exercise Slows Brain Aging By 10 Years

Being more active can be an effective way to combat memory and cognitive problems

by Alice Park

We know that exercise is good for the body and the brain. But actually being physically active, at least on a regular basis, isn’t always easy.

For days when you just don’t want to break a sweat, there’s new motivation in the form of scientific evidence: physical activity can slow brain aging by as much as 10 years, reports a new study published in the journal Neurology.

It’s among the first studies to actually put a number on how beneficial exercise can be for the brain. The researchers asked a group of 1,228 men and women of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds living in Manhattan about their regular exercise habits. They also answered questions that tested their cognitive abilities, including their memory, organization, reasoning and thinking speed. Five years later, they performed the same tests on about half of the study group.

People who reported doing more physical activity showed higher scores on cognitive tests—consistent with previous studies linking more exercise to better brain health. But when the researchers adjusted for the effect that factors like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease can have on brain function, the link disappeared. Conditions like these could impair blood flow to the brain and therefore compromise cognitive functions, says Dr. Clinton Wright, associate professor of neurology and public health sciences at University of Miami and senior author of the study. “That suggests that people with low physical activity levels also had a greater burden of those risk factors,” he says.

He and his colleagues then focused just on people in the study who didn’t have these blood flow risk factors, and compared their cognitive scores at the beginning and end of the study. They found similar trends showing that people who exercise more had higher cognitive scores, while those who were less physically active tended to have lower scores. This time, even after accounting for the contribution of possible confounding factors, they found that this trend remained strong in two areas in particular: thinking speed and memory of specific past events.

They also found that people who exercised less showed sharper declines in their cognitive scores than people who were more active. The drops were equivalent to the declines found during normal aging over about 10 years, they concluded.

The data doesn’t prove that exercise can actually reverse or prevent a slowdown in higher level thinking skills. But it does suggest that physical activity may help people with blood flow issues to the brain, such as stroke patients, maintain their cognitive status. Wright is already studying such a group of patients who will wear activity monitors and be randomly assigned to a physical exercise program or not to see whether there is any difference in their test scores over time.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The truth about poo: we’re doing it wrong

Who knew sitting on the toilet was bad for you? In her best-selling book Charming Bowels, microbiologist Giulia Enders explains how to go to the loo

The gut is not designed to 'open the hatch completely' when we’re siting.

by Annalisa Barbieri

In my large Italian family, I grew up with the subject of poo, bottoms and constipation readily – and far too frequently – discussed at the dinner table. I’d be about to raise a raviolo to my mouth, only to hear how someone’s piles had popped, just that morning.
This doesn’t mean I’m anal (sorry) about the subject. It’s fascinating away from the lunch table. Late last year, I read that we are pooing all wrong: we should be squatting, not sitting, on a toilet bowl. Then a book called Charming Bowels by Giulia Enders caused something of a storm in its native Germany and I got fully immersed in the subject.

Enders is studying in Frankfurt for her medical doctorate in microbiology. She is utterly, charmingly obsessed with the gut, gut bacteria and poo. She writes and talks about her subject matter with such child-like enthusiasm, it’s infectious. And, yes, we have been pooing all wrong. Enders tells me about various studies that show that we do it more efficiently if we squat. This is because the closure mechanism of the gut is not designed to “open the hatch completely” when we’re sitting down or standing up: it’s like a kinked hose. Squatting is far more natural and puts less pressure on our bottoms. She says: “1.2 billion people around the world who squat have almost no incidence of diverticulosis and fewer problems with piles. We in the west, on the other hand, squeeze our gut tissue until it comes out of our bottoms.” Lovely.

But not to worry. Although you can climb on your toilet seat and squat (“It might be fun!”), we can iron out the kink by sitting with our feet on a little stool and leaning forward. The book even has a helpful drawing by Enders’ sister.

Then there are the sphincters. One of them we probably all know about – the one we open consciously – but there is also another, inner one, which is operated unconsciously. This ani internus sends a sample into the chamber between the inner and outer sphincter for the sensor cells to analyse and decide if it’s “safe” to fart or poo: “Yes, you’re at home. No, you’re in the office.” If it’s not safe, the sensors send it back in. But, if the inner sphincter is ignored enough times – say, because we are too shy to go to the loo for fear of being overheard – it sulks and can switch off. That’s one of the reasons constipation can occur.

Enders loves her inner sphincter. “Learning about those two sphincters really changed my perspective on life,” she says. “Those inner nerves don’t care for other people; they have no eyes or ears. Finally, something that only thinks of me! So, now I can go to the toilet anywhere. I worship that muscle!”

But the gut – and Enders’ book – is about far more than poo (although there is plenty there, about consistency, frequency, buoyancy, colour and laxatives, to keep the most forensic of scatologists happy). Enders’ big thing is bacteria. Our gut, which comprises two-thirds of our immune system, is full of the stuff. Two kilos’ worth, in fact. Our bacteria fight pathogens, are involved in blood-group development, digest our food, extract energy, produce hormones and can affect our mood. This gut/brain connection is a fairly new area of medicine, which Enders is very excited about. And she’s not alone: the American biochemist Rob Knight told science journal Nature that the field “offered at least as much promise as stem-cell research”.

“There is an increasing interest in the gut microbiota and health and disease,” confirms Dr Ayesha Akbar, consultant gastroenterologist at St Mark’s hospital in London. “There is a huge number of gut bacteria which, in health, maintain a balance. However, an imbalance has been linked to many chronic disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease and obesity. There is a suggestion that they may also be linked to psychiatric disorders and mood, with the majority of evidence coming from animal studies. Further research needs to be performed in humans in this area.”

Enders’ own interest in this link started when she was a new student. She met a man at a party whose breath was “the worst I have ever smelled – almost faecal”. The next day, he killed himself. “Could a diseased gut,” she wonders, “also have affected his psychological state?” She is keen, though, to point out that depressive disorders are multifactorial and not always connected to the gut; much more research is needed. The first human study of the effect of intestinal bacteria on the brain was only conducted only two years ago.

Enders admits that writing about a possible connection between our psychological state and the gut was “the hardest part of the book for me. A professor would have been scared of putting it in the book, but I feel people are being robbed if they don’t know about this research.”

As well as some serious issues, there are plenty of entertaining nuggets in the book. Did you know that our spit contains a painkiller more powerful than morphine: opiorphin? We have it only in minute quantities, so that we’re not off our heads all the time. Eating, though, releases more of the chemical and Enders wonders if this is one factor in comfort eating. And guess what? Your appendix – that bit of people always say is of no use – is actually made entirely of immune tissue and is a veritable larder of the best, most useful bacteria for the gut.

Enders’ book is full of stuff like this. I hate to say it, but it is the perfect toilet book. Thankfully, it has also been translated into Italian, so that’s Christmas sorted.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Bike to Work This Summer

Today ... is the perfect day to execute on your latent desire to begin biking to work.

We most often think about habits and resolutions in January, but when it comes to creating a bike commuting habit, summer rules because:
  • The weather is great. The sun is shining, temperatures in the morning are cool enough to prevent you from getting sweaty but warm enough that you don’t need to wear or pack a lot of gear. There is also loads of sunlight, so you don’t need to worry so much about dark roads.
  • Workplaces are more relaxed. Many employers take a more casual approach to summer, relaxing dress codes and hours. Depending on your equipment and your ride, you may decide you can gently ride to work in your business casual clothing and leave your spandex at home.
  • More people are on vacation. This translates into fewer meetings and (anecdotally, at least) less traffic. Fewer meetings mean you can plan your summer more effectively, and less traffic means a more relaxed commute.

With these three advantages in mind, here are some tips for setting yourself up for successful commuting this summer.

Give yourself a reason.

Why do you want to ride anyway? Do you want to be more active? Lose weight? Get some color? Whatever it is, starting with why and writing it down is the best way to stay motivated.

Make a plan.

If you know what you want out of your commute, you can set a sensible goal or habit. Goals look like “I will ride 60 days between now and Labor Day.” Habits look like, “I will look at my weather app each day morning after I get up and if there is no rain forecast, I will ride to work.” Goals for work for some, habits for others.

Address your worries.

Ask yourself what worries you. Are you concerned about being sweaty? Are you worried about your route? Securing your bike? What excuse are you going to use next week and what can you do to mitigate it?

When you were a kid on summer vacation, you probably spent a lot of time on two wheels. You may now be an adult, but this summer, you can recapture the feeling every morning.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Five Top Health Benefits of Swimming

Swimming is hailed as a wonder sport, and it’s not difficult to understand why. But perhaps you still need a little persuasion to head to the local pool for a few lengths. After all, with it being so cold outside you’ll be more tempted to add layers – and lots of them – rather than peel them off down to a swimsuit. Ah, but remember that indoor pools are heated – and once you start swimming you’ll quickly warm up. Swimmers also have the advantage of a number of health boosters.

Top five health benefits of swimming

Strength builder: Think about dolphins. I doubt you’ve ever seen a fat dolphin! Now think about top swimmers. Ever seen a weak professional swimmer? That’s because the movement and exercise of swimming improves muscular strength and muscle tone. Health experts also tell us that  swimming increases bone strength, which is epically important for post-menopausal women.

Low on impact: Swimming, unlike most other aerobic sports, gives your body a good workout but without any pounding or impact to your skeletal system. How so? When your body is submerged in water, the body only needs to deal with a small percentage of your actual weight because the water is doing the rest. So if you have stiff muscles and sore joints, swimming is the perfect exercise.

Good for your heart: Research shows that 30 minutes of exercise per day, such as swimming, can reduce significantly reduce your chances of coronary heart disease and also reduce your blood pressure.

Longer life: A study at the University of South Carolina found that people who swam regularly suffer lower death rate. The research found that of the 40,000  men, aged 20 to 90, who were tracked fro 30 years, those who swam had 50% less likelihood of premature death. It’s thought that the same is true for women.

Easy breathing: Asthma sufferers can find it tough to exercise outdoors in winter, or cope with the dry atmosphere of gyms. However, swimming allows you exercise in moist air, which can help to reduce exercise-induced asthma symptoms. Some other studies have also shown that swimming can actually improve the condition overall.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Dietary supplements often promise more than they deliver

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by Julie Corliss

Years ago, troubled by intermittent bouts of intense nausea that befuddled my doctor, I turned to a naturopath for help. In addition to suggesting some changes in diet, she recommended an herbal supplement called slippery elm bark. I dutifully took it for several weeks. My nausea faded away and hasn’t returned. I’ll never know what did the trick—the slippery elm bark, the diet changes, or the tincture of time.

As someone who’s dabbled with herbal and other dietary supplements, I’m in good company. About half of Americans say they take least one dietary supplement. That term covers vitamins, minerals, herbs, and related products. As a nation, we spend more than $32 billion each year on some 85,000 different supplements. Some people, like me, use them to treat a specific ailment. But many others just want to improve or maintain their health.

Unfortunately, some people fall prey to unscrupulous supplement peddlers. Take the octogenarian profiled in an article published online this week in JAMA Internal Medicine. Three clinicians from the University of California, San Francisco describe how the man, worried about memory loss, was spending nearly $3,000 a month on more than 50 supplements recommended by his “anti-aging” physician, plus hundreds of dollars more on other products he chose himself. Most of the products had no proven benefit on memory, and some may have contributed to the memory loss he was so worried about.

“This is an extreme example of a person who was essentially ripped off by someone he trusted to care for him,” says Dr. Pieter Cohen, a dietary supplement safety researcher and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. But there are many other examples of people who either waste their money or are harmed—sometimes fatally—by dietary supplements.

People often assume that dietary supplements are harmless because they are “natural.” Lax marketing standards make the problem worse. Supplement makers can claim their products enhance health, despite a dearth of evidence in most cases. Unlike pharmaceuticals, which undergo extensive testing to prove they’re effective and safe before they can be sold, dietary supplements can be sold with without proof of effectiveness, safety, or purity.

As Dr. Cohen noted in a perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine, the FDA has found more than 500 supplements adulterated with pharmaceuticals or closely related compounds. (You can hear an interview with Dr. Cohen about the safety of nutritional supplements here.) The offenders include stimulants, bodybuilding steroids, antidepressants, weight-loss medications, and supplements aimed at treating erectile dysfunction. All can cause unwanted side effects and may be especially risky when taken with other prescription medications.

For example, a man prescribed nitrates to treat his chest pain should not take an erectile dysfunction drug such as Viagra. Doing so can cause dangerously low blood pressure. “So he takes an ‘all-natural’ herbal supplement instead. But he’s actually getting the Viagra his doctor told him not to take,” says Dr. Cohen, noting that many products contain compounds similar to or identical to Viagra, sometimes in doses higher than prescribed versions of the drug.

Many experts agree that the laws to regulate supplements need to be reformed. But Congress has shown no appetite for that, and any changes will probably be years in the making. In the meantime, if you’re interested in taking a dietary supplement, what steps can you take to minimize the risk? Dr. Cohen offers these tips:
  • Consider only single-ingredient supplements. In a multi-ingredient supplement, knowing which substance is having an effect—either good or bad—is impossible to tease out. Also, these products are more likely to be adulterated with banned drugs. So stick to single-ingredient supplements.
  • Do your research. At MedlinePlus, a health information website for consumers from the National Institutes of Health, you can find information about the effectiveness, usual dosage, and drug interactions of dietary supplements (see www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/herb_All.html). Some of the listings feature data from the independent Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, which provides unbiased, up-to-date facts and ratings on the safety and effectiveness of more than 1,100 natural medicines.
  • Talk to your doctor. Few health care providers have the time to stay current on the staggering number of supplements on the market. But they can check if a particular ingredient interacts with any of the medicines you’re currently taking.
  • Look for the USP or NSF stamp. The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and NSF International are independent, nongovernmental organizations that test dietary supplements. USP verifies the identity, quality, strength, and purity of supplements; NSF confirms that the supplement contains the listed ingredients and nothing else. Look for one of these stamps on the label, but keep in mind that neither indicates anything about the effectiveness of the product.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Rev up your workout with interval training

Interval training can help you get the most out of your workout.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Are you ready to shake up your workout? Do you wish you could burn more calories without spending more time at the gym? Consider aerobic interval training. Once the domain of elite athletes, interval training has become a powerful tool for the average exerciser, too.

What is interval training?

It's not as complicated as you might think. Interval training is simply alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity.

For instance, if your exercise is walking — if you're in good shape, you might incorporate short bursts of jogging into your regular brisk walks. If you're less fit, you might alternate leisurely walking with periods of faster walking. For example, if you're walking outdoors, you could walk faster between certain mailboxes, trees or other landmarks.

What can interval training do for me?

Whether you're a novice exerciser or you've been exercising for years, interval training can help you jazz up your workout routine. Consider the benefits:

  • You'll burn more calories. The more vigorously you exercise, the more calories you'll burn — even if you increase intensity for just a few minutes at a time.
  • You'll improve your aerobic capacity. As your cardiovascular fitness improves, you'll be able to exercise longer or with more intensity. Imagine finishing your 60-minute walk in 45 minutes — or the additional calories you'll burn by keeping up the pace for the full 60 minutes.
  • You'll keep boredom at bay. Turning up your intensity in short intervals can add variety to your exercise routine.
  • You don't need special equipment. You can simply modify your current routine.

Are the principles of interval training the same for everyone?

Yes — but you can take interval training to many levels. If you simply want to vary your exercise routine, you can determine the length and speed of each high-intensity interval based on how you feel that day.

After warming up, you might increase the intensity for 30 seconds and then resume your normal pace. The next burst of more intense activity may last two to three minutes. How much you pick up the pace, how often and for how long is up to you.

If you're working toward a specific fitness goal, you may want to take a more scientific approach. A personal trainer or other expert can help you time the intensity and duration of your intervals — which may include movement patterns similar to those you'll use during your sport or activity — based on your target heart rate, the ability of your heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to your muscles (peak oxygen intake), and other factors.

Does interval training have risks?

Interval training isn't appropriate for everyone. If you have a chronic health condition or haven't been exercising regularly, consult your doctor before trying any type of interval training. Recent studies suggest, however, that interval training can be used safely for short periods even in individuals with heart disease.

Also keep the risk of overuse injury in mind. If you rush into a strenuous workout before your body is ready, you may injure your muscles, tendons or bones. Instead, start slowly. Try doing just one or two higher intensity intervals during each workout at first. If you think you're overdoing it, slow down. As your stamina improves, challenge yourself to vary the pace. You may be surprised by the results.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

How can I get Turmeric into my Daily Diet?


Dear Ask Ayurveda:

“I have been hearing a lot about turmeric lately and all of its amazing health benefits.  I have acne and liver issues and I have read that turmeric may be useful for these conditions (among many others).  I do not typically use many spices in my meals and never cook Indian dishes.  Do you have any suggestions on how I can get turmeric into my daily diet?  I do not have any experience cooking with it, but it sounds like it would be really beneficial for me so I would love to find some ways to sneak it in.”  Turmeric Novice

Dear Turmeric Novice:

I am happy you are discovering all of the powerful health benefits that this golden root has to offer, as this is one of my favorite spices/herbs of Ayurveda.  I use it myself daily in recipes and teas, and have experienced many of turmeric’s health benefits first hand.  As an Ayurvedic practitioner, I often prescribe it in my client’s individual herbal formulas and use it prevalently in my Ayurvedic apothecary collection as well.  Luckily there are countless ways to incorporate turmeric into your daily routine, whether it be by adding it to your meals, using it in a tea or taking it as an herbal remedy. 

Before I provide some ways to get your daily dose of turmeric, I would like to share the wide range of health benefits turmeric has to offer.  Indeed it will be very good for both your acne and liver issues!

Health Benefits of Turmeric:

  • Cleanses and strengthens the liver and the blood
  • Increase the digestive fire
  • Burns toxins
  • Increases circulation
  • Prevents Alzheimer’s
  • Great for skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis
  • Beautifies the complexion
  • Treats skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis
  • Regulates the blood sugar
  • Relieves arthritis and other inflammatory conditions
  • Increases heart health
  • Anti-asthmatic
  • Anti-allergenic
  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-aging
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-cancerous
When it comes to turmeric, if we really want to obtain these health benefits and see results, then it is typically good to get a solid dose of it in each day.  Sprinkling a pinch onto your meal once a week or so will not get you much results.  Therefore it is useful to find tasty ways to incorporate it into your daily routine; whether it be in your meals, drinks, smoothies or taking it as an herbal remedy.  I personally tend to do all of the above! 

To begin, let’s start with some simple tricks to get turmeric into the actual diet.  A great way I have snuck it into my daily diet routine is by adding it to my oatmeal spices.  Mixing the turmeric with cinnamon and other sweet spices is a tasty way to sneak it in each morning.   

Try my Ayurvedic Breakfast Spices!   

Turmeric can be added to just about any recipe.  I use it in my soups, stir-fries, sautés, meat dishes, rice dishes, quinoa recipes and of course kitchari.  Please remember that a recipe does not have to be labeled Indian or Ayurvedic to incorporate turmeric.  Here are some recipes that I use regularly to get my daily turmeric fix.  As you can see, I use turmeric in pretty much everything that I make, even my Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Food Recipes with Turmeric:

  • Coconut Curry Hummus Recipe
  • Summertime Quinoa Stir-Fry
  • Sautéed Kale with Golden Tahini Sauce
  • Healing Bone Broth Recipe
  • Ayurvedic Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Ojas Increasing Oatmeal
  • Red Lentil Dahl Recipe
  • Root Veggie Stew
  • Roasted Butternut Squash and Coconut Soup
  • Classic Cleansing Kitchari
  • Rejuvenation Kitchari
  • Christmas Kitchari 

Another way to get turmeric into the daily routine is with teas, smoothies and other drink recipes.  It can basically be used just as you would ginger, although it contains its own unique taste and will bring a beautiful golden color to your recipe.  Here are some great beverage recipes that incorporate turmeric and all of its goodness.  My personal favorite is the Golden Milk Recipe.

Drink Recipes with Turmeric:

  • Golden Milk
  • Ayurvedic Chai
  • Tulsi, Ginger, Turmeric Tea
  • Rejuvenating Ojas Drink
  • Golden Spiced Lassi- An Ayurvedic Probiotic Drink
  • Amazingly Addictive Hemp Milk
  • Energizing Sweet Potato and Chia Seed Smoothie

Finally a great way to get a larger dose of turmeric in daily, is to take it as an herbal remedy.  This can be mixed into a powdered herbal formula, taken as a tincture, infused into ghee, mixed in a medium such as aloe or honey or simply taken in water.  I generally do not recommend taking herbs in a capsulated form, as they are less potent and do not absorb as readily. 

Here are a few turmeric home remedies that you can try, followed by some herbal products that we offer.  Once again, since turmeric offers a panacea of health benefits, we use it in quite a wide variety of our healthcare products.

Simple Turmeric Home Remedies:

  • For liver and skin issues:  Mix 1/2 tsp of turmeric and 2 Tbsp of Aloe juice in 1/2 cup of warm water, take twice daily.  For extra potent results, add 1/8 tsp of neem.  Alternatively, you can take a 1/2 tsp of Tikta Ghrita (aka “Bitter Ghee”) each morning on an empty stomach.
  • For allergies: Take 1/4 tsp of turmeric and 1/4 tsp of ginger, two times daily in 1 Tbsp of raw, local honey.  Mix this in 1/2 cup of warm water and take during times of allergies. 
  • For digestion:  Take 1/4 tsp of turmeric, 1/4 tsp of ginger and 1/8 tsp of black pepper, three times daily.  Mix this in 1/4 cup of warm water and take up to 30 minutes before a meal. 

Herbal Products with Turmeric:

  • Tikta Ghrita: For cleansing, detoxification, liver and skin issues
  • Agni Churna Spice Mix: For digestion enhancement
  • Ayurvedic Breakfast Spices: For digestion enhancement
  • Honey Infusions: For digestion enhancement
  • Respiratory Relief Syrup: For all respiratory disorders, coughs and cold
  • Allergy Relief Tincture: For allergies and asthma
  • Immaculate Immunity: An immune enhancing, herbal antibiotic  
  • Digestive Tonic Tincture:  For gas, bloating and indigestion

So my Turmeric Novice, here are more ways than you could ever imagine to get your daily dose of turmeric.  As I mentioned before, to really get the effects of this magical root, it will be recommended to consistently get at least 1/2 tsp in each day.  Luckily with so many options, this should not be hard to do.  You may have to try several recipes or remedies before you really find the ones that are best for you.  Of course, you can keep it interesting by utilizing multiple recipes, teas and remedies and switch it up as needed.  So play around, have fun and enjoy having a healthy addition to your kitchen and daily routine!


Ask Ayurveda

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