Saturday, November 5, 2016

Ayurveda

The Healing Art of Ayruveda

This blog contains my summary notes after reading Ayurveda: The Easy Ayurveda Cookbook - An Ayurvedic Cookbook to Balance Your Body and Eat Well Kindle Edition.  If you want more information consider picking up a physical copy or e-book from Amazon.  You can read e-books using the free kindle viewer online.

Over the past few years I've become more interested in ayurveda.  After meeting people from India at a local indian grocery store who gave me free literature on the subject, and speaking with them about ayurveda, I began reading more and more about it.  Over the past year I have bought a few essential oils to help me stay alert, and some oils to relax.  Since I began using the oils I have noticed they now have a profound effect on my mood and well being.

Ayurveda is the world's oldest continuously practiced system of medicinal healing.  Ayurveda began being used in India 5000 years ago.  The term ayurveda means life knowledge in Sanskrit.  It is a holistic approach to healing that centers on the belief that your health, longevity, and wellness depend on the balance of your mind, body, spirit, and environment.

The practice is centered around three personality concepts otherwise known as doshas:
  • Pitta
  • Vata
  • Kapha
When one starts to learn and practice ayurveda, they need to identify themselves with one of these three types of doshas.

Vata

Grounding - Routine - Warmth

Vata personalities are light and airy in mood.  They resonate with open spaces and clean air.  They tend to be tall and thin and their thoughts are fast and fluidic.  When vata is in balance they will feel a lot of energy rush into your body and your senses will be more active.  Their deductive aspects of the brain will sharpen and your digestion will improve.  When in balance the vata personality type's communication skills will improve, and you will inspire others to connect with them more often.

Vata personalities should exercise in an average way, and don't over exert yourself.  Yoga, tai chi, qigong, and swimming will agree well with vata people.  On the downside vata personalities can easily over do it and run out of energy quickly, and as a result are prone to become exhausted.  Too much sensory input can heavily affect them, and wear them out.  They also become bored easily, and can be fickle in relationships.

Vata personalities need to watch for these symptoms that indicate they are out of balance:
  • Feeling tired
  • Skin disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Muscle cramping
  • Unfocused mind
Vatas need to become settled down and focused when they become out of balance.  Some foods that help this are hot cereals, soups, roasted vegetables, grains, fruits, and nuts.  Avoid cold, dry, crispy, crunchy, pungent, bitter, or raw foods.  Avoid sodas as well.  Stick to warm temperatures when possible and enjoy warm foods.  Sleep regularly when possible, and go to bed early.  Focus on hobbies that keep you focused mentally.

Kapha

Stimulation - Self Expression - Dryness

Kapha personalities are in tune with earth and water elements.  Kapha grounds vata and pitta, and provides balance.  Kapha body types tend to be larger, and more overweight.  Their thoughts are not as quick as vata personalities, but they retain more that you have learned and also have more endurance overall.  When kapha is in balance and harmonious with pitta and vata aspects they can feel more love, joy, happiness, and forgiveness.  Kapha personality types will be more relaxed and easy to get along with.  Their compassion will also be heightened and you will feel calmness and relaxed.

Kapha tend to gravitate naturally into leadership roles in communities due to their ability to deal with stressful interaction better.  Unlike vatas, kaphas have much more endurance and are able to perform physical tasks better.  When out of balance though kaphas become exceedingly sluggish and lazy.  Overly sensitive reactions may also occur, and strong attachments to items or concepts may increase the reactions.

Kapha personalities will know they are out of balance when they:
  • Gain weight
  • Become slothful and lay around all day
  • Develop sinus problems or allergies
  • Do not want to socialize and instead want to close up and be alone
  • Eat too much food for emotional reasons
  • Become jealous, envious, or overly judgmental
  • Become materialistic
  • Can not accept change
  • Become addicted to a substance or way of acting
  • Sleep too much
Kaphas need to find inspiration and interesting things that motivate them when they become out of balance.  Learn new things constantly and develop new routines that are unique, learn new hobbies.  Foods to focus on should be dry, spicy, warming, and light.  You are looking for something to wake you up and give you energy to get motivated.  Spiced teas, fruits, smoothies with ginger, foods with garlic or pepper.  Rye breads, rice and wheat are good foods to try as well.  A little nuts would be ok, and vegetables of all types.  However avoid heavy foods that are cold, sweet, or runny.  Starchy and moist foods like potatoes, zucchini, squash, corn, and tomatoes should not be eaten.  Make your largest meal at lunchtime, and have a light dinner.  When choosing fruits choose light fruits like apples, pears, cranberries, and apricots instead of heavier fruits like bananas and melons or figs.

Eat more raw foods than cooked foods.  Pungent, bitter, and astringent foods should be preferred over sugar rich foods that are oily or buttery.  Avoid sweeteners and drink warm coffees, teas, and avoid cold foods and drinks.  Lemon and lime are also good options for garnish or flavoring in drinks.

Activities you should try should be mentally engaging and you should avoid relaxing or lounging around too much.  Do not take naps during the day and go to bed early.  Be aware of your personal boundaries, and do not let people cross the line and take advantage of your nice easy going nature.  Use aromatherapy scents such as eucalyptus to invigorate you throughout the day.  Walk, bike, stretch after meals to avoid becoming a couch potato.  Give your self dry massages (no oil) in the morning and night time to help with circulation and energy.  When exercising make sure it is very active such as running, kickboxing, cycling or aerobics.  Dress in bright clothing with interesting patterns.

Pitta

Calmness - Moderate - Cool

Fire and water are what pitta doshas resonate with.  Pitta supports kapha and vata personalities with motivation and energy.  Transformation and change are central.  Pitta personalities tend to be more malleable and fluidic, both in their bodies and minds.  Physically they tend to be more muscular and strong with medium build, warm or oily skin, and a lot of body heat radiating outward.  They are passionate, loud, and usually dominate conversations.

In the body, pitta have energy centers in the stomach, liver, spleen, small intestine, blood, eyes, sweat, and pancreas.  They tend to radiate heat in their personality and in the physical body.  Pittas dive right into situations and get involved.

Pittas experience balance when they feel mentally sharp, happy, strong, and knowledgeable.  Pittas like to socialize a lot, and enjoy being the center of attention.  People also enjoy this who are around them.  They also are competitive with others.  They set goals and achieve them.  This make pittas natural born leaders.

To balance their natural drives pitta doshas should remember to enjoy their physical workouts instead of trying to be better than someone else.  Mix yoga or qigong into the workouts as much as possible.  Swimming helps calm down the inner explosive drives.  

Pitta doshas are out of balance when:
  • They judge others or throw tantrums
  • Develop eczema, builds, acne
  • Loose hair
  • Drink alcohol too much
  • Have digestive issues like acid reflux
  • Become inpatient with people around them
  • Obsess about never making a mistake
  • Can't sleep
To find balance eat cooling juicy foods, instead of sweet, sour, or spicy foods.  Avoid salty and oily foods as well.  Don't drink coffee or soda.  Try to eat alkaline foods instead of acidic ones.  Good foods to try are: melons, berries, tropical fruits, beans, bell peppers, herb spiced dishes, salads, and chilled water.  

Spend more time outside.  Look for hikes nearby.  Try to eat on a regular schedule.  Meditate during the day when you can take small breaks.  Avoid alcohol and smoking.  Don't overwork your self if possible.  Stay away from fried foods and don't use electronics before going to bed.  Give yourself oil massages through out the day.  Try to relax as much as possible by going on strolls.  Stay away from warming spices, and foods like garlic and chilies.

Take the Quiz

In the book:  Ayurveda: The Easy Ayurveda Cookbook - An Ayurvedic Cookbook to Balance Your Body and Eat Well Kindle Edition there is a self quiz you can take to determine your dosha personality type.  After taking the quiz I got:

1.  c
2.  c
3.  c
4.  b
5.  b
6.  b
7.  b
8.  c
9.  b
10. b
11.  c
12.  c
13.  a
14.  b
15.  a
16.  c
17.  a
18.  c
19.  b
20.  c

Score:
3 "a" vata
8 "b" pitta
9 "c" kapha

It seems I am a mixed bag between pitta and kapha, but slightly more kapha in nature than pitta.  This is called a double nature.  In other words I am kapha-pitta dominate.  You can also have one dosha dominate in your mental nature, and another in your physical nature.  Pitta would typify my mental nature for sure, and kapha is my physical nature.  The book goes much deeper into double natures, but I am going to focus on my double nature only.  

This double dosha of kapha-pitta is complimented by dry and astringent foods.  Oily, sweet, and moist foods are not good choices.  Choose foods such as asparagus, brazil nuts, chicken, corn, flaxseed, green beans, hazelnuts, nutmeg, raspberry, pears, red lentils, cherries, eggplant, artichoke, kale, apples, avocados, pecans, sprouts, popcorn, and plums.

Seasons seem to not affect this double dosha type as much as others because it is a mix of cold and heat.

The Gunas

The mind is subdivided in ayurveda into three aspects called gunas.  
  • Tamasic
  • Rajasic
  • Sattvic
Tamasic aspects are usually laziness, ignorant, and deceptive.  Food can also be tamasic and be dry and tainted or putrid.  Processed and canned foods, or frozen or spoiled food are examples.  Alcohol, red meat, eggs, and fish all are in this category.  Tamasic food is the most base type of food.

Ragasic aspects resemble greed, materialism, lustful, and spontaneous actions.  Ragasic food types are hot, dry, sour, and bitter.  Examples of this are deep-fried vegetables, salty chips, and pungent dishes.  Rajasic foods are the basis of movement, motion, pain, and energy.

Sattvic aspect are kind, tolerant, patient, and sensitive.  Food examples are juicy, sweet, light, flavorful, and provide a lot of energy.  Fresh fruits, nuts. vegetables, herbs, beans, spices, and grains are all sattvic in nature.

If you want to elevate you mind, you should eat mainly sattvic type foods, supplemented with ragasic foods, and avoid tamasic foods at all cost.

The Six Tastes

There are six distinguished tastes of foods that impact you mind and body in unique energetic ways.  These are:
  • Astringent
  • Bitter
  • Pungent
  • Salty
  • Sour
  • Sweet
Each taste either aggravates a dosha or calms it.  Every meal should contain all the tastes listed above.  This makes sure you balance your dosha energy while also diversifying your intake of essential nutrients.  

To balance the tastes:
Vata = sweet, sour, salty
Pitta = sweet, bitter, astringent
Kapha = pungent, bitter, astringent
  • Astringent - Use to balance kapha and pitta energies because it reduces inflamation.  Too much can throw vata out of whack though.  Foods: Asparagus, lentils, cauliflower, grapes, green apples, and beans.
  • Bitter - Use to balance kapha and pitta energies because it detoxifies your organs, cells, and systems.  Too much can cause vata energies to loose balance.  Foods: Bitter foods, broccoli, beets, celery, sprouts, leafy greens like kale, and green and yellow vegetables.
  • Pungent - Use to balance kapha and stimulate sweat glands and clear sinuses.  Too much can imbalance pitta and vata energies.  Foods: Cayenne, cloves, black pepper, ginger, chilies, mustard, onions, and garlic.
  • Salty - Balances vata energy, and stimulates appetite and enhances flavors in dishes.  Too much and pitta and kapha will be in-balanced.  Foods: Soy sauce, fish, salt, and salted or cured meats.
  • Sour - Balances vata energy because it increases appetite and eases digestion.  Too much can cause an in-balance with pitta and kapha energies.  Foods: Pickled foods, vinegars, tomatoes, alcohol, salad dressings, citrus, and berries.
  • Sweet - Use to balance vata and pitta because it soothes, and provides a calming effect to the body and mind.  Too much can cause weight gain and make kapha energies become in-balanced.  Foods: Sweet foods, honey, rice, bread, grains, pasta, chicken, meat, dairy, sugfar, and molasses.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Steatohepatitis


Today I was diagnosed with a liver disease called steatohepatitis, which is also called fatty liver disease.  The diagnosis was confirmed after an ultrasound was performed and blood test ran this last week.  I got lucky that it was picked up this early because I was actually in the ER for food poisoning.  The doctors just happened to detect the liver malfunction after running routine blood tests.

The causes of this particular form of steatohepatitis is unknown, but it is associated with being overweight and having high cholesterol.  The remedy is to loose weight, get more active, and eat more vegetables.  It is also advisable to eat less carbs and protein, and to increase fiber consumption.
I am 41 years old, and not as young as I used to be, so I am going to take this seriously and start trying to turn this condition around by working out, and eating better, while I can.  If you let it get out of control you loose a lot of energy in the end, and can even die from it.  It's a downward spiral in the late phases, and working out would be twice as hard at that phase as it feels now.

My doctor recommended at least 30 minutes of high intensity exercise every day.  I barely exercise as it is, so this will be a big change in lifestyle.  Exercise bike will be my main source of aerobic exercise, and possibly low weight high rep weight lifting as well.  Jogging and similar exercise has always been a challenge for me due to ankle problems and flat feet.  I have a rowing machine as well, so I may use that to add variety.

My doctor also recommended I check out the Mediterranean Diet.  The Mediterranean Diet is recommended for people with this disease because it favors vegetables, low carb, and is easier on the liver.  I bought: Mediterranean Diet: The Ultimate Step By Step 30 Day Diet Plan to Lose 22 Pounds Fast & Achieve Optimum Health (Diabetes, Diabetes Diet, Weight Loss, Lose Weight, Heart Health Book 1) Kindle Edition today for $2.99.  So far it is informative and has given me a place to start.  Eventually I want to get a few cookbooks so I can find recipes that are easy and taste good.  Ideally, I want to make many portions and then freeze the meals for reheating later.

Tonight and tomorrow I plan on figuring out half a dozen recipes and a workout schedule to follow, then I plan on documenting my progress.   In a couple weeks I plan on going back into the hospital for more blood work to see if there is any improvement.

12/13/16 Update: I've lost 9 1/2 pounds of fat and gained a pound of muscle.  Doing better than I hoped, but have a long way to go.

5/25/17 Update: I've lost over 30 pounds of fat and retained my muscle mass.  Blood tests came back normal.  If I keep this up I can claim I've beat it.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Notable Nutrition Nuggets - Molecular Reactions of Emulsifiers and Cholesterol Reduction

I got to say, out of all the classes I have taken in college over the years, Nutrition has intrigued more than most.  Perhaps it is because nutrition is such an integral part of our lives, and something most of us know little about.  After years of trying this diet, or that diet, and reading book after book about various diets that only briefly touch on the science of nutrition, I feel like I only scratched the surface in understanding how our bodies process nutrients.  I am realizing that to maintain a healthy balance in your body, and to correct health problems based on diet, it helps tremendously to understand how complex the chemical interactions within your body really are, and how we can manipulate those interactions to a positive outcome.

In the textbook Understanding Nutrition by Whitney, in chapter 5 lipids (fats) are discussed, and particularly phospholipids.  Phospholipids are like typical triglycerides (fats), except a third of the molecule has been replaced with a phosphate molecule and a choline molecule.  We all know how oil and water don't mix right?  Well this is like saying, "We all know how lipids and water don't mix."  The word lipids is a scientific synonym for fat.  The lipids don't mix well with water by themselves, but when they are changed into a phospholipid via the replacement of part of the molecule with a phosphate and choline molecule they suddenly can mix well with water.  Substances that can bind with fat molecules and water molecules are called emulsifiers.  An example of a food that has a high level of phospholipids, or emulsifiers, is eggs.

Soon as I read this I realized this is why so many baking recipes use egg in them.  Eggs act as an emulsifier, and binds the lipid based ingredients to the hydrolyzed ingredients, helping create structures in food like bread.  The emulsifier binds the nutritional starch and gluten together creating pockets that trap released gases in the bread as it bakes and rises.  I remember trying to skimp out on eggs when baking a few times and the results were dramatic, and now I know why.

Another personal ah-ha moment happened in the same chapter when I read about how cholesterol, a sterol lipid, is processed in the digestive system and blood.  There is a lot of confusion about how to decrease cholesterol in the blood, with some people believing that if they simply eat less cholesterol in their diet it will significantly decrease the levels of cholesterol in their blood.

Most people consume around 200-300 mg of cholesterol daily in their diet, however the liver manufactures between 800 to 1500 mg of cholesterol regardless of what you eat.  So you can see how the ratio of 5:1 favors the liver production over the diet when it comes to what really causes cholesterol.  Before we get mad at our livers for betraying us we need to understand that the body needs cholesterol to repair and build cells, among other things, but too much cholesterol in the blood can lead to plaque buildup in our arteries, leading to dysfunction of the blood stream, and eventually death.

Ok, back to the 5:1 ratio of production of cholesterol.  20% of your cholesterol coming from your diet is still 20% though, and if you want to limit cholesterol in your diet there is a smart way to do it.  If you eat raw vegetables and fruits, the plant sterols within them enter the digestive system and block some of the cholesterol you consumed from entering your blood stream, thus lowering the levels of cholesterol in your blood.  Once again, you shouldn't expect more than a 10-15% decrease, but it's worth considering if you have high levels of cholesterol in your blood.

The reason the plant sterols interfere with cholesterol absorption is that the plant sterols are similar in structure to the cholesterol sterols, and when your digestive system attempts to break down the cholesterol and transfer it to the blood stream, the plant sterols cut in line and prevent some of the cholesterol sterols from being absorbed.

Another plan of attack to lower cholesterol is consuming foods with soluble fiber.  Soluble fiber is found in fruits, beans, and whole grains.  Soluble fiber chemically binds with bile that is released into your small intestine, and takes the bile all the way through the digestive system and out the body.  Why is this important?  Well, remember how earlier I said the liver produces five times more cholesterol than what people typically consume?  Cholesterol is used by the liver to create bile.  If you are eating food that absorbs bile and forces your liver to make more bile than it normally would, the liver will consume more of the cholesterol reserves it has access to in the blood stream, thus decreasing the levels of cholesterol circulating in your blood.

It seems our bodies were built to consume considerable amounts of fruits and vegetables, and not built that well to consume large amounts of foods that have a lot of cholesterol, such as meats, eggs, seafood, poultry, and dairy products.  Everything in moderation right?  Well, except for fiber and plants!  Actually, you CAN eat too much fiber and should be careful not to over do it.  Fiber can bind with dietary minerals you need as well, and can also stress your digestive system if you eat too much.  40 grams of fiber per day is a good goal to have.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Nutrition and Going Back To School

This summer I am going back to college and beginning the process of wrapping up my AA degree.  I became very disenchanted with the academic world ten years ago when a professor who held the keys to my BA transfer became somewhat of a tyrant.  His no tolerance policy for attendance lead to my failing the class when my marriage was falling apart during that semester, and I had to choose one over the other one night I was supposed to attend unfortunately.  There were other contributing factors such as professors teaching business classes that were sadistic when it came to how to manage employees, and meeting students that were overly practical about education as a means to more money and not self improvement.  Perhaps I overreacted by leaving college, or perhaps some should not go to college or teach.  Either way I have resumed my pursuit of mastery of academic trivial knowledge.

The class I am taking this summer is Nutrition.  My interests lie mainly in improving my nutritional knowledge, and gaining the intellectual tools to discern good from bad habits to improve my health.  I also need this class to obtain academic credit toward my AA degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences.  After reading just a few chapters of the textbook for the class I have realized nutrition controls so much of our lives.

The chemical equilibrium in our bodies is maintained automatically, however if we do not supply our body with the necessary ingredients to accomplish their automatic tasks, then the balance can be lost.  Noticing a loss of health balance is difficult sometimes, especially when our brain is affected and self awareness may not exist fully.  Now that I have been eating right, and exercising, the subtle positive improvements are becoming more obvious.

There are many diets out there to try, and with my own experience I can attest that some have worked for me more than others.  However, now that I am being more analytical and examining food on the molecular level and seeing the chemical reactions for what they really are, I understand that it all really comes down to calories and nutrients, and not on a particular diet necessarily.

First, I want to say if you are not being analytical, and delving that deeply into food ingredients, a diet such as low-carb might be your best bet.  Americans especially should consider a low carb diet due to the levels of obesity and diabetes which is directly related to overconsumption of calories due to too many fats and carbs in their diet. There are some serious dangers with going low-carb, and you should do some preliminary research on the diet before attempting it.  The main concerns are drinking a lot of water, and consuming enough protein.

Low carb diets switch your body over to use protein for energy, instead of carbs which it typically uses.  When you make that change your body also starts to cannibalize it's energy reserves.  If you don't consume enough protein in your diet, then your body will cannibalize your skeletal muscles for protein.  Body fat also is consumed and converted into energy.  If you don't drink enough water your kidneys will begin to shrink and may develop serious problems.  Another down side to going low carb is your body becomes more acidic due to the change in diet from ph balanced foods to highly acidic foods such as meats.  Cancer and other diseases thrive in an acidic environment, so try to keep acidic foods to a minimum if possible.

Alternatively, if you lead a really busy life, and don't have time to pre-plan your meals, then taking vitamin and mineral supplements and trying to limit calories may be the best plan for you.  I have been there, and know how daunting it can be to try to plan out every meal when you have more important critical things to do.

It may all come down to priorities in your mind.  When you are just a few pounds overweight, or have not had any diet related illnesses, then it is hard to justify nutrition as an important aspect of your life.  Personally, I have gained too many pounds over the years, which I have lost and gained back, and now have come to the point that it is my number one concern perhaps for the rest of my life.  The other reason I am focusing more on nutrition is I have recently had a significant mental change.  Eating right, and exercising, has woken up some part of my mind that has increased alertness, focus, and general well being.  Depression and anxiety have decreased significantly, as a result this has caused me to want to eat better and exercise more to materialize a positive feed back process within my body mind complex.

At this moment I am using the free nutritional tracking software on the USDA website SuperTracker.  My class textbook pointed it out to me.  This website allows you to easily track all the minerals, vitamins, and other nutritional aspects of the food you eat.  The main reason I prefer using this system at the moment was because I found out that taking too many supplements can lead to a condition called vitamin toxicity.  There are many side affects that manifest if you take vitamin supplements and also eat food with high levels of vitamins or minerals.  The opposite is also true, and if you do not track the vitamins and minerals you consume then you may be missing a few your body urgently needs.  This can lead to the breaking down of vital processes within your body, and you may not even know the cause.

For many years my idea of being healthy was to take a multi-vitamin every morning, along with some other supplements that were anti-oxidants, probiotic, etc, and try to eat a moderate amount of carbs and calories each day.  I did not get much exercise, and lead a sedentary lifestyle for the most part.  I was neglecting my organ health, mental health, and also rolling the dice with many life threatening diseases placing me in a statistical group for heart disease and cancer.  With most of my relatives suffering from those illnesses I also was genetically predisposed to have the same happen to me.  Taking this nutrition class has focused my attention on this more than ever, and has inspired me to make fundamental changes in my priorities.

Over the next few months I will endeavor to document my progress on weight loss, and general well being.  If you want to learn more about nutrition I recommend going to a community college near where you live and take a distance learning course in nutrition.  It is very enlightening.  If you just want a reference book to read, the textbook we are reading in our nutrition class is: https://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Nutrition-Eleanor-Noss-Whitney/dp/1305396456