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Posts Tagged ‘wellbeing’

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

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…

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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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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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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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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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