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Posts Tagged ‘nutrition medicine’

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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

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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.

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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.

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Mindful of introducing new and life-nurturing elements into our diet is a positive way to wellbeing.

Natto is a Japanese delicacy. It is made by fermenting soy beans using beneficial bacteria, Bacillis Natto.  It has been in Japanese diet for over one  thousand years and now has become known to the western world due to its powerful health enhancing properties. The health benefits of natto seem to be very unique and unseen in our typical western food.

Natto contains an enzyme called “nattokinase”. It is produced when the bacteria Bacillis Natto act on soy bean protein. Nattokinase has the ability to dissolve clots that are inappropriately formed in our blood vessels. Clotting is a normal and protective process of the body. It stops bleeding when body tissues are injured and it gets dissolved quickly when its job is done. As we age, clots are formed more easily and the body’s ability to dissolve them is reduced. if a clot happens to be big enough to occlude a small blood vessel, stroke or heart attack would result. Nattokinase is found to be  as effective as the body’s natural clot-dissolving enzyme, plasmin, and it is therefore now extracted and added to some cardio-protective supplements.

Natto also contains high concentration of vitamin K. Vitamin K is an essential fat soluble vitamin that is normally produced by the friendly bacteria in the gut. Vitamin K has the ability to help bones to produce the “glue” (osteocalcin) that holds onto calcium and make it strong. It is more effective than calcium to restore bone density. People with a history of frequent antibiotic or contraceptive pill usage tend to have an imbalance in their gut flora and vitamin K production is often adversely affected. Dietary intake of vitamin K is minimal if you are on a typical western diet. Studies have indicated that eating 1 serve of natto (30-40g) per day four times a week reduces bone loss by 60-80%!

Regular consumption of natto seems to have a positive effect on high cholesterol, a group of Japanese researchers recently announced at the International Conference on Nutrigenomics & Gut Health in New Zealand (April 30-May 3, 2006).  They found that eating one serve of natto every morning without interruption for four weeks reduces cholesterol by 8%, and reduces triglycerides by 13%.

Having said that, eating natto is a challenge, but a very worthwhile challenge. Natto has a slimy and stringy texture with a pungent, bitter taste that most people may not be  familiar to.  The strings are where the nettokinase enzyme is. Some compare its flavor to  Roquefort cheese but I am not sure. The trick to make it palatable is to eat it with plenty of condiments. Once you get the balance right, you might find yourself looking forward to it! Natto can be bought easily now at Asian grocery stores, in the fridge section.

This is how you prepare a truly hearty and super powerful breakfast:

Put 2-3 tablespoons of steaming hot brown rice in a bowel. Add 1 serve of natto to the rice. Pour in 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and 2 teaspoons of mustard. Sprinkle 2-3 teaspoons of white sesame seeds and  2 sheets of roasted seaweed, torn. Stir everything well together and top it up with two fried eggs.

おいしい (Oishii)! (yum)

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Emotional wellbeing is about feeling grounded, present, and at peace. It is about responding to the environment (internal and external) with appropriate amount of emotional energy at the right time and for the right duration, and being able to recover and become whole again.

There are two most common situations that jeopardize our emotional wellness.

One is past emotional trauma that has not been resolved or properly processed. This leads to abnormal “short circuiting” and exaggeration (or suppression) in our emotional response to future stressors as part of our survival behavior. Emotional psychotherapy or breath work is one of the useful ways to undo the damage.

The second situation is less well-known and is becoming more and more important as our society gets increasingly stress driven. It is to do with biochemical imbalances  in the brain that are determined by our genetic makeups. It is often a huge relief for patients to realize that there is a biological reason for them to feel lousy. They just simply can not make neurotransmitters as well as other people under stressful situations.

Medical research has now discovered a few genetic polymorphisms (variation in the same gene) that affect neurotransmitter (brain chemicals that controls our moods, among other functions) synthesis. I am now going to introduce to you some of them.

1. Undermethylation

Methylation is a vitally important biochemical pathway that is operating in our cells. Its function is to add a methyl group (CH3-) to a substance to make it become active or complete. Our mood chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline, noradrenaline etc need to be “methylated” to become functional.  Some people have a slower than normal methylation cycle, meaning that they make neurotransmitters very slowly. We call this condition undermethylation. When in a stressful environment where the body copes by increasing serotonin level, people with undermethylation tends to struggle and feel overwhelmed. At times major depression may result. Tendency towards perfectionism, obsessiveness, allergy like hay fever or asthma, insomnia or depression are some typical symptoms in a undermethylating person. Diagnosis can be made by measuring specific biological markers. A combination of nutrients in the appropriate dosage are then formulated and prescribed to facilitate the methylation cycle. Depression and other mood disorders have been successfully treated by this approach.

2. Kryptopyrroluria

This condition is described as a situation where the body excretes abnormally high amount of  a substance in the urine called hydroxyhemopyrrolin-2-one (HPL), commonly known as kryptopyrrole. The biological origin of this HPL is unknown, and it may be a product associated with abnormal hemoglobin synthesis. This condition is genetically determined. High HPL level is strongly associated with zinc and Vitamin B6 deficiency, with these two nutrients being essential for neurotransmitter production. In addition to that, HPL is a highly neurotoxic. As a result, a person with this condition may exhibit some of the following symptoms:  anxiety disorder and panic attacks, explosive temper,mood swing, stress intolerance or avoidance, ADD tendency, poor memory, poor dream recall, poor tanning, hypersensitive skin (irritated by labels of clothes or woolen materials), stretch marks, sensitivity to light or sounds, etc.  Diagnosis can be made by measuring the HPL level in the urine and treatment is usually simple and effective by supplementing adequate doses of Zinc and Vitamin B6.

3. Copper excess (not to be confused with an other genetic condition called Wilson’s disease)

Copper is an essential nutrient for blood vessel formation and red blood cell synthesis. But too much copper (only 2 to 6 units higher than upper normal value commonly) disturbs hormone balance, increases oxidative stress, and is potentially associated with higher risk of developing breast cancer. Typically high copper patients have a tendency to be highly hormonal,  very symptomatic during their periods or menopause, prone to gynecological conditions like endometriosis or fibroid, highly anxious, sensitive to hormone replacement therapy, and tendency to develop post natal depression. Serum level can be measured to identify the condition. Treatment is centered in providing the necessary nutrients including zinc to restore the intrinsic copper balancing mechanism.

This approach to mood disorders, behavioral disorders and learning difficulties  is known in Australia as the “Pfeiffer treatment” or the “Advance Nutrient Therapy”. Medical practitioners are qualified to test and prescribe treatment after receiving special training by the US Walsh Research Institute outreach team. A list of qualified doctors if you are interested can be found at

http://www.biobalance.org.au/patients/find-practitioners

Good luck in searching the way to mental wellness.

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This topic is both highly emotional and political for many reasons.

A young woman recently reported to me proudly that she had commenced on an intense bike riding program and managed to lose 15 kg of weight. She was escalated. I checked her body composition and discovered 10 of the 15 kg of weight loss was her lean muscle bulk. To me the significant lean weight loss indicated a profound protein deficiency state that would adversely affect cellular functions. I told her my worries. She was not keen to listen. Three months later she returned with massive depression, and serotonin (a brain neurotransmitter that maintains mood) happens to be made from a protein unit called tryptophan…

Of course that is an extreme example.

For years, exercise has been hailed as the cure-all miracle. Have diabetes? Go and exercise. Have hypertension? Go and exercise. Have depression? Go and exercise. Feeling tired? Go and exercise. Have vague and complex symptoms that the doctor can not explain? Go and exercise…

And then we have exercise junkies. They crave for the magical “high”  from exercising intensely. Any negative suggestion about exercise would almost certainly bring on  defense so fierce that you regret immensely saying anything at the first place.

Do you get the picture?  We are a pro-exercise society. If you can’t exercise regularly, that is because you are lazy or your are some kind of a jerk.

Having said that, I’d better quickly make a point that I am not at all against exercise for I might risk being stoned. Exercise does have an enormous potential to improve health. However, I do want to get the message across that Exercise Is Not Suitable For Everyone And Not All Exercises Are The Same.

Before we go any further, perhaps we should look at some physiological facts about exercise.

FACT 1: Exercise increases one’s daily protein requirement. During exercise protein degradation dramatically increases to release energy stored in its chemical bonds as the muscles cells are in action. New protein needs to be synthesized to maintain muscle bulk and prevent muscle injuries. Studies show for a sedentary person the daily protein requirement to maintain normal body function is about 0.9 g per kg of body weight (providing the person does not have a protein deficiency to start off). For a person who exercise regularly, the requirement increases to 1.2 to 1.7g per kg of body weight. In an other word, a person exercises regularly has an almost 2 fold increase in need for protein than someone who is sitting in the office all day (and doing nothing, as intense mental activity also dramatically increases protein requirement, but that is entirely another topic).  The problem is many people have already an issue of  not having enough protein in their diet or an issue of digestive dysfunction to begin with and adding exercise to the equation easily tips the fine balance. Regular intense exercise under a protein deficient state results in loss of muscle bulks, loss of organ mass (remember they are made from protein too), loss of tissue repair and renewal, and loss of cellular function (many functional substances in the cells are made from protein, like the serotonin I mentioned before).

Fact 2. Exercise increases antioxidant demand drastically. Exercise requires a large amount of oxygen. Oxygen creates free radicals during oxidation. The more intense the exercise is and the longer the exercise lasts, the more free radicals are created. Free radicals damage cell membranes. Antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium, lipoec acid, to name a few, protect cell membranes by neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals generation that exceeds the existing antioxidant capacity results in oxidative damage in all the parts of our body. For example, oxidative damage in the capillaries results in “spider veins” or varicose veins; oxidative damage in collagen results in wrinkles; oxidative damage in the fatty tissues under the skin results in brown “aging spots” etc. And I am only telling you the effect of oxidative damage on the outside of your body so far. The list goes on as you could imagine.

Fact 3: Strenuous exercise creates a huge amount of stress in various joints and tendons mechanically. If prompt repair is absent, joint and tendon injuries are inevitable. This happens frequently in competitive sports.

Fact 4: Not all exercise are the same. There are three major types: aerobic, anaerobic and stretching.

1. Anaerobic exercise is one that lasts a short bout of time and utilizes glucose for energy fuel. Examples are splinting and weight lifting (not to be confused with weight resistance exercise). For general health maintenance, anaerobic exercise is not recommended due to the intense stress on the heart and other organs.

2. Aerobic exercise can be further divided in to high impact/high intensity and low impact/low intensity. High intensity aerobic exercise includes jogging, bike riding, tennis, soccer, swimming and working on aerobic gym equipments. They tend to create higher level of mechanical stress to body parts, larger amount of free radicals and more demand on protein intake. In my opinion, high intensity aerobic exercise is generally not the ideal type for the purpose of longevity and healing as they have a “withdrawal nature” (see post “Balance”). Low impact/low intensity aerobic exercise includes walking, gardening, walking upstairs, Tai Chi and others. These types of exercise generate low to moderate level of free radicals and minimal impact to joint and tendons while still able to create health benefits. It is worth mentioning that Tai Chi has been confirmed by research to be a superior form of exercise in terms of restoring balance in breathing, energy flow, muscle and tendon strength, coordination and circulation.

3. Regular stretching of muscles and tendons helps to increase anti-aging hormones production including the famous Human Growth Hormone. It also prevents subtle contraction and shortening of muscle fibers that comes with aging which causes stagnation of blood, nutrients and energy flow. This is an exercise that everyone should incorporate in their exercise regime.

Having said that, some people are so weak and deficient in various  nutrients it is best for them to restrain from exercising at all until resources are restored. A rule of thumb for these people to stop exercise is a prolong recovery time after exercise from fatigue and/or muscle pain.

Exercise is great when it is done in the right form, at the right time and by the right person.

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This guy is loyal, hard working and your bread winner. He works long hours, keeps you alive and energetic, and never expects much glory for himself. And yet you may have never shaken his hands and thanked him. You live with him for so long that you sometimes forget his existence.  Your expectation of him is high but you seem to have little time to find out his needs, what he likes or doesn’t like, not to mention about his feelings. This guy is your digestive tract. And yes Gut  has feelings too! (It is called  “gut feeling” for a reason– believe it or not the gut has more neurotransmitters than the brain!)

To my opinion, the digestive tract is the most important organs in terms of longevity and wellbeing. The body’s tremendous healing power is only activated upon  the feeding of right nutrients by the gut. The most difficult patients to treat are those with a severely compromised digestive tract that rejects any therapeutic nutrients introduced to it. Start getting to know your digestive tract and even better learn to love it. The reward is priceless.

There are three phases in digesting food. The first one is the cephalic (of the head) phase. You may not realize the importance of senses  in our digestive function. The plating and look of the food, the aroma of the food and the texture of the food stimulates the visual nerves of the eyes,  olfactory nerves of the nose and sensory nerves of the hands even before the food is put in the mouth. The information gathered by these senses gets sent to the brain which in turn sends signals down to the  mouth to start producing saliva containing digestive enzymes.   Once the food is in the mouth, it starts getting digested straight away. Thorough chewing leads to food mixing with digestive enzymes in the saliva and being broken down into small particles as much as possible both mechanically and chemically, ready for the second phase of digestive action in the stomach. In real life, taking time to appreciate food by smelling it, looking at it, touching it, and not to mention chewing it  is essential in initiating the digestive process. Ask when was the last time you paid full and undivided attention to a meal?

On the note of food related senses, now there is sound we are told. UK renowned chef Heston Blumenthal has a signature dish called “sound of the sea” recently featured in “Masterchef”. The dish is eaten while the sound of ocean and seagulls played in the background. The sound apparently brings the enjoyment of the seafood dish to an other level. That is the power of senses taking part in our digestion. Check out the web www.thefatduck.co.uk for a fun sensory trip if you are interested.

The second phase of digestion is the gastric phase. As the name implies, it is happening in the stomach. The oral and gustatory stimuli as well as the distension of the stomach wall by the food bulk trigger the release of gastric acid and juices to further break down food particles. This phase is particularly important for protein digestion. The nerve that controls the gastric acid production can only work well when a person is relaxed (parasympathetic). Have you noticed bloating and discomfort in the stomach area if you eat fast or eat under stress? That is because the stomach struggles with the job at hand. Many people have the habit of having a cold drink with their meal. Remember trillions of microcapillaries supply nutrients needed to the gastric cells to produce gastric enzymes. Both capillaries and enzymes are super sensitive to temperature changes. Blood vessels constrict (become smaller) when come in contact with coldness and lead to decrease supply of blood and nutrients to the stomach cells. On the other hand, enzymes work only in a certain temperature (that is why the body temperature is always kept at around 37 degree).  An icy cold drink immediately inactivates those enzymes. Besides, drinking copious amount of fluid dilutes the power of the digestive acid. So a cold drink with meal is the perfect recipe to disaster: UNDIGESTED FOOD, the culprit of many digestive problems.

The third phase is the intestinal phase. Food is further broken down to absorbable nutrients here with the aid of pancreatic enzymes and bile. There are special pipes connecting the pancreas and the gall bladder to the intestine so that upon the entry of food particles into the small intestine, enzymes can be transported to the gut from the pancreas and bile can be transported to the gut from the gall bladder. Many people have their gall bladder removed and are made to believe that this little organ is useless. This can not be further from the truth! Without the gall bladder, bile acid is constantly draining away into the small bowel and waste away even when one is not eating. When fatty food gets eaten, the gall bladder is not there to “squeeze” out a good dose of bile to make fatty food absorbable. So many essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins miss out their chances and get passed out in the stool. Remember people without a gall bladder need bile acid supplement to help digest fat!

It is here in the small intestine that nutrients are absorbed. The absorption relies on the integrity of the intestinal lining. The cells that line the intestine get renewed 3-4 days in the small bowel and about 10 days in the large bowel. These cells are fed vitamin D, vitamin C, omega fatty acids, zinc, glutamine and nutrients that are produced by the good bacteria living in the gut lumen. Any deficiency of these nutrients and disruption of the gut ecology(by the eg undigested food) lead to breaking down of this important lining and hence the absorption process.

By now you should know who has been supporting you all along: your digestive tract. I have come across recently a type of meditation where people practice smiling to their body parts and organs to consciously thank them every day. It sounds crazy at first, but deep down I resonate with the idea that making peace with the body and appreciate what we have ultimately activate the body’s powerful healing mechanism.

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