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Have you ever wondered  why the sun must go down at the end of the day ? Have you ever wondered why when a day is finished darkness must follow?

BECAUSE NATURE WANTS US TO GO TO SLEEP AT NIGHT!

One of the  reasons we are able to survive  is because we sleep every night. When we sleep, the body  enters the phase of repair, restoration, regeneration and rejuvenation. During sleep, cells repair and clear out metabolic waste products, tissues regenerate, endocrine organs realign and reconnect again, memory circuits consolidate, hormones re balance, ….

And the grand switch to sleep is the substance called melatonin. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin switches on the sleep cycle. As we enter dusk, natural light diminishes and the light sensitive receptors in the retina of the eyes send signals to the pineal gland to active the production of meletonin, which helps to initiate sleep. When morning comes, natural light enters the eyes and activates the retinal light receptors which send signals to the pineal gland to switch off melatonin production, so that we could exit the sleep cycle. This is one of the many aspects of the famous ” circadian rhythm”.

The invention of electricity and artificial lighting means our retina is exposed to light for a much longer period each day than nature intended. Hence the term “light pollution” is derived. To combat the rising rate of insomnia and sleep deprivation in our society, restriction to light exposure at night and setting good bed time hygiene practices  is paramount. This is especially important for young children in terms of their development as growth hormone is secreted during sleep.

Try some of the bed time hygiene practices listed below, and observe the positive changes in the body.

  1. Setting a routine bed time, preferably before 11pm (earlier the better, before 9pm for children)
  2. Dimming light or wearing sunglasses one hour before going to bed
  3. Restriction on using electronic devices before bed
  4. Natural light exposure in the morning

 

 

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Vegetable Feast

Vegetable Feast

Christmas greetings!

Much eating, drinking, and partying after,  I hope your digestion is still sound and well.

It feels right to do a vegetable dish today.

This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’ s cook book.  It requires a little bit of patience but it is well worth it, as it captures the beautiful flavors of fresh vegetable and would surely make you feel spoiled eating it.

Ingredients

1.  One large egg-plant (aubergine)

2.  Two zucchini (courgettes)

3.  One red capsicum (pepper)

4.  One bunch of asparagus

5.  A few  fresh basil leaves

6.  Two cloves of garlic, minced

7.  Olive oil  3 to 4 tablespoons

8 .  Red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons

9.   Salt and pepper

Method

1.  Slice eggplant and zucchini lengthways into long strips ( about 1/2 cm thick)

2.  Remove the wood end of asparagus and cut them in half

3.  Heat up a flat bottom pan (preferably a cast iron one) to high heat without any oil

4.  Put the whole capsicum into the pan and leave to slowly grill

5.  At the same time arrange some vegetable slices to cover the rest of the pan

6.  Dry grill the vegetable slowly adjusting the heat, turning them occasionally until charred and soft

7.  Remove the cooked vegetable to a plate and add another batch of  uncooked vegetable to the pan, while leaving the whole capsicum continue to cook

8. When all the vegetables are cooked , the capsicum should be thoroughly cooked by now with charred skin separating from the flesh

9.  Remove carefully the black skin on the capsicum as much as possible and open it up to scrape away the seeds. Tear the capsicum up into strips and add them to the other vegetables

10.  Dress the vegetables with olive oil, red wine vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss it gently together

11.  Fold in basil leaves and garlic

Serve with a piece of grilled fish, you might think you are in heaven…

My Kind Of Fried Rice

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I love fried rice. It is a dish that could change according to the appetite, the mood, the occasion, the season…and yet it is so easy to make!

But there is one dilemma.  The main component of traditional fried rice  is rice. The carbohydrate to protein ratio tends to be very high ( too much carbohydrate, too little protein).  For a lot of us in a sedentary working environment, or trying to lose some weight, excessive starch /rice provides unnecessary calories that could not be burnt off. Traditional fried rice also uses white jasmine type rice which has a very high glycemic index (too much sugar released into the blood stream too quickly causing insulin surge and potential diabetes).

So I made some modifications to this well-loved dish.

Remember when making fried rice,  all ingredients should have as little moisture as possible to avoid the dish turning out soggy. Long grain rice is usually better than the shorter grains as they have less moisture when cooked.

Ingredients ( for 1 person)

1.  Black rice, cooked, 100g to 150g (cooked weight): Sunrice black rice is available at Coles supermarket. Alternatively red rice or basmati rice can be used to lower the glycemic index. Rice is cooked and placed in an open container in the fridge the night before to  reduce moisture

2. Fresh whole prawns  0.5 kg ( frozen prawn meat is OK ) which makes about 250g prawn meat after shells and veins removed

3.  Garlic 1 clove, minced

4.  Organic butter

5.  Soy sauce

6. Fish sauce optional

7. Shallots, chopped

Method:

1. Pat dry prawns and season with sea salt

2. Heat a wok with some oil (coconut oil the best, when using olive oil make sure the wok is not too hot), add prawns to wok and stir till they turn pink and curled up. Sprinkle minced garlic and add a knob of butter to the prawns. Stir some more till you could smell the garlic then quickly transfer prawns to a bowl.

Note: prawns cook very quickly so take care  not to overcook them

3. Pour some more oil in the same wok (with the residual prawn flavor), add cooked rice (which has been in the fridge over night) and stir well till the rice is soft

4. Season the rice with some soy sauce to taste, and a few drops of fish sauce (optional)

5. Add the cooked prawns back to the wok and mix well with the rice. Sprinkle shallots in.

6. Serve with a plate of steamed vegetable to complete the meal

Common Sense

They say, common sense is not common anymore.

It seems the more knowledge we have,  the more confused we become.

This is particularly true when it comes to health.  As we are bombarded daily by new researched information, miracle drugs development, advancing medical technology, we lose the big picture, the basics, the common sense.

It is the routine obstetric advice that a pregnant woman should eat exactly the same way as when she is not pregnant, apart from taking some extra folate, calcium and iron. Common sense would ask why. As common sense knows when we have  increased demand, we have to increase supply. A fetus could not grow out of just combining folate, calcium and iron.  It turns out that pregnant women have many folds increase in need for protein, zinc, magnesium, iodine, essential fatty acids, to name a few. Pregnant women do not just need to eat, they need to have a special eating plan catered for the special need.

It was such a marketing success when Coke zero was invented. I had countless people coming up to me and said proudly:” At least now when I drink Coke, I drink Coke zero.” When something is advertised  to contain absolutely no sugar and yet tastes sweet, common sense would ask why.  Common sense would look for the substance that brings the taste and find out if that substance is better than sugar. It turns out that substance is aspartame. The adverse effect of aspartame on health is another topic for another day. All I would say simply is that if you have to drink Coke, drink the proper one.

And then we have the cholesterol super fear. Advice is often given to patient to bring the cholesterol down as low as possible. Common sense would ask why. Why on earth we have cholesterol in our body  in the first place?  I have never seen a patient with a zero cholesterol reading before. Because they would be dead. It turns out that all hormones are produced from cholesterol. ( see post”So you think you know cholesterol”)

And what about our appendix?  We are often told it is useless. So much so that some surgeons remove them “prophylactically”. Common sense would ask why. Why everyone is born without fail with an appendix? Are we satisfied  that it is merely a side product of evolution?  It turns out that the appendix contains lymphoid tissues in the highest density compared with other parts of the gut and it acts as the “point of entry or border control” for food allergens. Appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix) indicates  fighting with unwanted food particles is occurring.

……

Medical care is not rocket science. Common sense  is often priceless. Keep it if you can.

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Collective Adrenal Crisis

This, I believe would haunt us, our next generation, and the generations to come, if we are not determined to make a change.

Adrenal glands, are the two grape size organs situated on top of the kidneys. One of the  functions of the adrenals is to produce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to help the body deal with stress.

Stress hormones (cortisol in particular) production is most active during the day to help us to stay alert, to provide the necessary drive for our daily activities and provide energy to cope with occasional (hopefully) crises. The levels of stress hormones will go down to a background low during the night so we could have a good night sleep (who wants to have high levels of stress hormones running around in our blood stream while we sleep?). More precisely, cortisol production is at a peak in the morning and gradually declines during the course of the day. The level would drop to the  lowest from around 6pm and onwards, getting us ready to go to bed.  During sleep, the adrenal glands only produce minimal amount of hormones and are rejuvenated and restored, happy to restart the next day. And the body has a peculiar habit to repair the adrenal glands before 12 midnight . It is other organs’ turn to repair themselves after midnight– This is our natural body rhythm.

For thousands of years, our ancestors subconsciously followed the nature’s biological clock, going to bed after sunset, being limited in visibility.

Then we invented electricity. We realize we could do so much more at night. We stay up. We go to bed past midnight.

And come computers and internet. We are now able to connect with the world 24/7.  We sleep even less.  Or we stop sleeping completely (some of us).

This is what happen when we stay up past the resting time for the adrenals: they restart the engines and start producing higher level of cortisol to keep us awake. If we do that frequent enough, the adrenals miss out on repair and rejuvenation while chronically over work. The consequence is the gradual loss of  adrenal function and loss of the fine balance between the adrenals and many organs in the entire endocrine system including the thyroid, the brain, the ovaries, the testes, the liver, the pancreas, to name a few.

These are some  common symptoms of adrenal dysfunction:

1. Insomnia and restless sleep, due to an over production of cortisol at night

2. Excessive daytime fatigue, due to an  inability of the adrenals to produce adequate cortisol during the day

3. Post exertion “crashes” and slow recovery time, due to a reduced ability of the adrenals to cope with increased demand

4. Weight gain around the waist, due to a disrupted balance of related hormones

5. Hypoglycaemia with excessive hunger and food craving, due to a compromised function of the adrenals to regulate blood sugar level

6. Chronic fatigue, indicating the adrenal reserve has dropped to a critical level

7. Hormonal disturbances in females, manifested as abnormal periods, premature menopause, infertility and so on

People with adrenal issue struggle to achieve their potential in life. They have symptoms that are often unexplainable by conventional medical tests and therefore the condition is  not readily recognized by the medical profession. Treatment is available, recovery is possible but slow and challenging.

We used to see people with adrenal dysfunction in the middle age or older age group, due to accumulated life stresses over the years, especially major trauma like divorce, death in the family and so on.  However, we are observing an alarming trend of increase in younger patients (in their teens) with adrenal issues in recent years, confirmed by lab testing.  One could not help but wonder, among many things, if our electronic advances are contributing to the crisis.

Adrenal’s number one enemy is chronic stress and/or late nights.  We are increasingly doing both.  Our adrenal reserve is of course  varied from one person to another, but one thing is certain: as a society, we collectively push our adrenals much more than we would a few decades ago and at times we push it beyond its limits.

Chinese medicine believes the adrenal gland is the Fountain of  Youth. Modern medicine has confirmed that.  As besides stress hormones, adrenal glands also produce an anti-aging hormone  called DehydroEpiandrosterone (DHEA). If we are serious about staying youthful and healthy, do the right thing  by starting nurturing our adrenals today.

A young patient of mine had cried all the way through the whole full hour consultation, because I removed dairy products from her diet (due to allergy issues).

“Why are you upset?” I asked.

“Because I won’t be able to have ice cream. It is not fair that I can’t have ice cream!”

And then every five to ten minutes also she moaned about her great “loss” in tears: “Oh, I can’t have ice cream!”

Mum and I were slightly shocked by the incredible pain caused by removing this important item from her diet.

That afternoon, after much doctoring, it was my turn to be a mother. My son and I went to the supermarket to shop for his upcoming 18 birthday party. We had the following conversation a few days before.

Son: “I will shop for my party food with Dad.”

Me: “I can do that with you.”

Son (hesitated): “Er… I want Dad to come as well.”

Me : “Why?”

I know too well why. I am the food police at home. I censor processed and junk food ruthlessly. “Child abuse”, as my son would call it, jokingly (or not?). My behavior is absolutely unacceptable when it comes to choosing party food.  My husband, on the other hand, is usually much more sympathetic and flexible. He reminds me to put things into prospective.  It is his 18th birthday after all. We have to look after his emotional need as well as his physical health, you know…

After some serious self talk and psychological preparation, I went on our shopping trip.

We went from aisle to aisle.  The young man was having a ball picking up his dreamt “food”. I frantically struggled to keep my mouth shut as I saw items piling up in the trolley: E202, E331, acid 330, colourings, preservatives, flavour enhancers, glazing agents, sugar, modified corn starch, MSG, stabilizers, hydrogenated oil, anticaking agent and more….  Apparently we called these “food” nowadays.  And I was watching myself walking to the check out to pay for them.  The bill mounted to more than 100 dollars. What a sacrificial act of unkindness.  But I did not say a word (with big effort). I was proud of myself.

How have we come to this, I wonder.  It seems food is no longer food.   Fresh meat intake is fiercely reduced, because they might cause cancer, we are told. Salt intake is the less the better as it causes hypertension, we are told. Animal fats? well, avoid them like a plague, because they block up  arteries, we are told.  And at the same time as a society, we have gradually given up our natural instinct and surrendered our power to “faked foods”, consciously or subconsciously. To the extent that we almost could not survive without them. To the extent that our social existence is threatened if we walk away from them.

If only we could stop and think for a moment , and being connected to our body, we would remember that our body works best with what mother nature has to offer us as food.  Because after all, our body is a synergistic part of nature. It is profoundly simple.

Growing Tomatoes

I always dream of eating fruit and vegetable that are freshly picked. I wish I had a vegie patch.

But in reality, I am busy enough running around working and doing my daily chores, the last thing I want on my plate is tending a vegie patch!

One day my neighbor begged me to “adopt” her chili plant. I reluctantly agreed, thinking secretly that at least  I am symbolically growing something. The plant was handed to me sitting in a cracked bucket, which my neighbor reminded me of returning. I frantically went through the local nurseries and managed to buy a large clay pot before the chili plant died of dehydration with its poor roots exposed in the cracked bucket. With fresh new potting soil in the clay pot, the chili plant finally settled in. I took some time to figure out where to place the pot so I could attend to it regularly without too much of an effort (a vitally important decision, otherwise the plant would definitely be left to die without a question) . The final spot I decided was on the deck outside the kitchen, just next to the back door leading to the deck. This way I could walk to the back door, open it and pour water in without even stepping out to the deck.

Things went smoothly from then on. While cooking dinner, I would soak and wash my vegetables in tap water, then rinse them in filtered water. The used filtered water would get tipped into the clay pot for the chili plant. Everyone is happy.

And then one day I saw something.  Something sprouting next to the chili. It was a young tomato plant! A tomato seed must have got tipped in the soil together with the water. My first reaction was to “weed” it out. After all I had only JUST gotten used to the idea of growing a chili plant. And the pot is not a huge one anyway. As I was tossing between “weeding” it or “keeping” it, a few days have passed and the tomato plant was quietly getting bigger, as if to show the world its determination to stay. Looking at the strong and luscious green tomato leaves, I decided to take the risk to keep it!

One pot, two plants. To my surprise, they accommodated each other very well. The softer tomato branches tended to lean on the stoic chili plant for support and the chili plant seemed to take it well. And very soon, they both started to flower! Not long after, small chili and tiny tomatoes came into sight. Just try to imagine the excitement of someone who has never grown anything successfully… 

Fussing over the fruit every morning then became my new routine. Watching the tomato fruit grow bigger each day, believe me, was incredibly therapeutic. It brings out instantly the joy and child-like amazement which are so authentically human’s when we are connected to mother earth, which, unfortunately have long-lost among the modern day hustle bustle.

One day I noticed the biggest tomato fruit was turning red. The biophotons(see previous post “May The Life Force Be With You”) it absorbed from the sun finally reached a threshold which had kicked the ripening  process into place!  My mouth started to drool.  I envisaged the first bite of the crunchy, juicy tomato flesh, I visualised the busting of biophotons  into my mouth and the lighting up of my organs…. I must choose a special day to harvest my first fruit and take time to enjoy it, I decided. Saturday morning would be the perfect time, I decided.

Came Saturday morning. Well groomed and dressed, I solemnly walked to the tomato plant. I froze. In fact nearly fainted. A crime had been committed the night before. The only thing that was left of my first fruit was a piece of tomato skin hanging to the tomato plant. The thief had the evil skill of shelling the tomato flesh from the skin and leaving  scattered tomato skin  in the crime scene under the tomato plant. Ahhhhhhh! My first fruit! My sweat! My biophotons! I could think of a thousand ways to kill the devil(what ever that was)!

A war had been declared. This is now a national security issue!  I drew up a plan: a special trip to Bunnings hardware store. I came back armed with a piece of  “antibird netting” and netting hooks. The net went over the plant and was secured by the hooks buried in the soil. Finished, I looked at my piece of art work and smiled at the prospect of the devil returning tonight feeling completely mad and disappointed!

Two days later, I finally harvested my second tree ripened tomato and officially put it in my mouth. It is a common practice nowadays that fruits and vegetables get picked before they are ready or ripened so that they could last longer for storage and transportation. And then the ripening process is chemically induced when they are ready for sale. The human body has long been deprived of the intense solar energy transfer from eating tree ripened fruits and vegetables, except for that rare moment of eating a ripe tomato from one’s own tomato tree.