Brain Fog

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How are you all? Looking forward to the weekend, for some rest and relaxation? Me too!

And while we are resting and relaxing ourselves, let’s make sure we let our brain/mind also relax. How? Maybe, do some deep-breathing and eat well, if you have been not, due to a hectic week and all.

Today’s post is about a very common term we read or hear these days-Brain Fog. Brain fog has been brought to light due to it being a post-Covid after effect however, it is also used in terms of very low calorie diets or starvation as well as stress. Can’t seem to recall where you left your keys? Can’t seem to recall if you have already had your medications?

What Is Brain Fog?

Brain fog is not a medical condition per se. Neither is it a permanent condition. However, if it persists, it does affect our state of ‘’mental well-being”. It hinders that happy feeling of being bright and perky through the day, acing things like a champion.

It is more like a symptom and the signs of brain fog are:

  • Lack of focus/concentration
  • Lack of mental clarity and cloudy thoughts
  • Memory issues
  • Feeling light in head/brain, dizziness in some cases
  • Mental exhaustion/fatigue

Main Causes of Brain Fog

So, why does it happen? There could be many reasons, just like a fever. Fever too is just a symptom, not the main illness, right? Brain fog too, is a symptom that tells us that something somewhere in our body, is not right.

The main cause for a brain fog could be anything that exhausts our brain and interferes with its normal relaxation & recovery process. This would undoubtedly lead to a lot of chronic health issues, if persists.

Stress has been found linked strongly with inflammation in our body and is a root-cause for many chronic illnesses. It is thus surprising that most of us still don’t do anything about it actively. Everybody has some stress in their life but there are tools which could actively help, such as deep-breathing. Some dietary supplements could help too. If you have moderate to high levels of stress, I urge you to do something about it right away.

Anyways, the main causes for a brain fog could be any of these:

  • Lack of good sleep
  • Mental stress or depression
  • Extreme diets or fasting/starvation – lack of enough carbs in the diet is one such example
  • Indigestion
  • Food allergies
  • Migraines
  • Hormonal fluctuations – especially during pregnancy and menopause
  • A side-effect of certain medications
  • Chemotherapy
  • Irregular blood-sugar levels or diabetes
  • Chronic exhaustion/fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Dehydration
  • Alzheimer’s disease

So, What Now?

If it’s just a one-off day, its okay. We all get stressed, many of us face indigestion problems sometimes and our blood-sugar levels might be off-balance due to last night partying.

However, if brain-fog persists or happens frequently, it is time to see a doctor who might run a few tests and ask questions about our diet, lifestyle, current medication etc. before starting on a treatment plan. The treatment depends upon the cause of the brain-fog and would differ from one person to the other.

Many a times and especially when there is no underlying medical conditions, the problem is easily treated with:

  • dietary modifications and taking care of nutritional deficiencies
  • some lifestyle changes might be required as well to lower the stress levels
  • a regular exercise schedule would help a lot, too
  • a good sleeping pattern would do wonders
  • adopting a hobby would keep our brain happy and relaxed
  • reducing excessive alcohol consumption would be ideal
  • reducing energy drinks or caffeine is recommended too

Meanwhile, we can also observe the brain-fog pattern ourselves. Whenever you feel it, recall your last 24-hours, note what you did and what you ate (or didn’t eat). Spot a pattern. Identify the triggers and see how such triggers can be avoided.

Hope today’s post helped you in understanding brain fog better. Most of us have experienced it at some point in life. I too have experienced a mild brain fog a few times when I haven’t had something to eat in a long while, due to work or travelling.

The time seems to slow down and our thoughts become hazy. If it happens frequently, see your doctor immediately and get ready to make some much-needed changes. Don’t forget to join me on Instagram for a regular dose of Holistic Health & Motivation!

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Part 2: Eating Disorders

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How was the week that went by? All good, I hope.

Today’s post is a sequel to last Friday’s post on eating disorders. We talked about our relationship with food, about what are eating disorders, their types and causes as well as general signs to know if we ourselves or a family member have an eating disorder. If you somehow missed it, please read it here.

It is important to understand eating disorders. One or the other eating disorders, is more common today than we realize. More so, in youth. And many families tend to realize it when it becomes very obvious.

It is less common in older population. I hope that is because with age, comes the wisdom…or doctor’s prescription, to sort our food and lifestyle out!

Though one thing is for sure – as we age, we get older, no doubt there. But we don’t necessarily have to be suffering from stereotypical “aging issues” just because we are getting older. That’s not normal, contrary to popular belief!

Coming back to eating disorders, let’s look at the main ones, individually now.

  1. Anorexia or Anorexia Nervosa

This one is more common with teenagers and young women than men. Probably due to social pressure. In this type, affected people tend to perceive themselves as overweight when in reality they might actually be underweight!

Restricting certain foods, staying on very low-calories diet and always anxious about their weight, these people tend to show signs such as

  • Obsession with ‘’thinness’’ and refusal to maintain a normal weight suitable for their age and body type
  • Body-image issues and poor self-esteem
  • Severely restricting certain foods or food groups
  • Severe fear or anxiety about being overweight
  • Difficulty eating in public and at social events
  • Skipping meals
  • Extreme exercising
  • Insomnia, dizziness/fainting, losing hair, constipation, irritability, fatigue, blue finger-tips, dry pale skin, absence of menstruation in females and a thin line of fine hair on face/body are a few of the clear signs of anorexia

Needless to say, this whole situation indicates a bad, abusive relationship with food…and self. It can cause severe damage to the affected person’s body, in every sense. Severe cases can even turn into multi-organ failure and death.

2. Bulimia or Bulimia Nervosa

This second-most common eating disorder also affects youth, women more than men. In this condition, the affected person would binge-eat meaning eat large amount of foods. These foods could even be the foods that the person generally doesn’t like or eat. It feels as if all control is lost till the person feels extremely full, uncomfortable and ready to burst.

And then starts the guilt and/or purge part – induced vomiting, long periods of fasting, laxatives, diuretics, obsessive exercising and enema etc

Symptoms of bulimia are same as anorexia. The only difference being in the weight of the person as in bulimia, the person could exhibit a normal weight and outwardly appear healthy enough.

Due to all the purging, several issues like sore throat, dental enamel issues, tooth decay, bruised knuckles, bloodshot eyes, cracked/chapped lips acid reflux, dehydration etc crop up.

  • Binge Eating Disorder

A very common disorder and a more admitted kind! Again more common with youth but this one is more spread across the genders and age-groups. The affected person eats a lot of food, without any control whatsoever. A typical binge occurs once in a week or more.

The only difference this disorder has with bulimia is that the purging part doesn’t happen and the affected person falls mostly in obese or overweight category. This has its own repercussions of course such as – diabetes, heart issues, BP issues, strokes etc

  • Pica

Then we have Pica where affected people experience cravings for non-food items such as chalk, ice, hair, soil and what not. This condition can affect anyone but is most common with children and pregnant women. It has been found that people with mental disabilities also experience it more than others.

The symptoms are pretty obvious – the abnormal eating habits. However some times, affected people hide these to such an extent that it comes out when it reaches a severe stage.

The risks associated with pica are gut imbalances, poisoning, infections, stomach issues and malnutrition.

Many a times it could also indicate a deficiency in the body and in such cases, can be treated with diet modifications and supplements etc

Other than these few, there are more eating disorders such as rumination in which a person keeps on chewing food for a prolonged time and then eventually either swallows or spits it out…or night-eating syndrome and a few more including pregorexia etc.

In the end, all the eating disorders are more of a psychological concern than anything else. In any case, they take over a person’s life completely. With patience and proper care, along with professional help or therapy, one can easily overcome these. If left untreated, these can turn fatal.

The important thing is to take the first step – to acknowledge that the problem exists and that one needs help.

The best way to go about it is to cultivate healthy food habits & an active lifestyle along with a positive body-image in children, leading by example…right from the beginning. Children follow in our footsteps and they do what they see, mostly. Keeping the communication two-way with kids, is equally important. Worst case scenario, one should seek professional help.

Hope today’s post gave you more insights into more common eating disorders. In case you wish to join me on Instagram, for more regular updates on Health, Nutrition and Fitness, the link is:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace

Part 1: Can You Recognize Eating Disorders?

Hi friends, how are you doing? Hope all is going good.

Today’s post is about eating disorders. It is also about our relationship with food. It needs to be a positive one where we are not scared of eating per se. Where we are not just counting our calories and macros all the time but definitely, being more mindful.

We need to know what we want out of food and how our eating habits affect that ‘want’. We need to know what good food can do to us and what are the consequences of unhealthy choices. If we do not know, we can research. The simplest thing is to ask for help, from someone who does understand and who can teach us.

There is neither harm nor any shame in asking for help. It just means that we are wise enough to ask for help when we need it.

Lot of people feel that weight management and disease management are all about quitting some foods, especially the fun ones. It’s not true!

Yes, right nutrition would by default ask you to eat cleaner and in the right amounts. One might need to be more disciplined initially but once you come to a point where you have things under control and have space to play around your food, you are sorted for life! As soon as we undo the damage caused over the years (and be patient for it to happen), we can start fresh!

As a Health Coach and Nutritionist, I feel that it’s my job to teach my clients how to eat healthy for the rest of their lives, having fun and indulgences included in the process too. And that is how it stays sustainable, isn’t it?

Anyways, what I really wanted to talk today is about eating disorders. Eating disorders are not just about food, they are basically about our mind. Do read about these today and if one or the other applies to you or a family-member, medical intervention is required. And as I said before, there is no harm in seeking help when we need it, it’s just wisdom!

There are many kinds of eating disorders and let’s go through them one by one. It would take more than one post for me to cover them all and today is the part-1 of the series. If you have any experience with either of these, please share your experience with me.

What Are Eating Disorders?

It’s more of a psychological condition than anything else. It results in unhealthy eating patterns and unhealthy food relationships. It causes serious health issues and if left untreated, can be fatal.

It can affect anyone at any age however teenagers and young women (in 20s and 30s) are the most affected of these eating disorders. The causes could range from peer-pressure, social stereotypes, body-image issues to depression.

Most of these cases go unnoticed and can have serious malnutrition or health complications, later.

With right help and treatment, eating disorders and their serious complications can be reversed eventually.

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses. The most common 4 types of eating disorders are:

  1. Anorexia
  2. Bulimia
  3. Binge eating
  4. Pica

Other types include rumination disorder and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder etc.

Causes

There could be many causes to an eating disorder. It could be a personality trait or influenced by genetics. Many cultures have practices which promote certain stereotypes. Social pressure/media projection to be of a certain body-image, is another major reason. Serotonin and dopamine – chemicals secreted by our brains, play an important part in it too.

Having said that, there is a thin line between ‘’accepting and loving yourself’’ and being ‘’plain lazy’’. If you truly love yourself, you don’t need to be thin but you definitely need to be healthy…and strong. If you truly care for yourself and prioritize yourself…you need to eat healthy and exercise regularly too. If you truly want a chance with peace and acceptance, you need to deep-breathe and go inwards even if you find it boring.

Accepting yourself does not translate into giving up!

Symptoms & Signs Of Eating Disorders

So, how do we identify these eating disorders? Most of them have a few signs in common and they include unhealthy eating patterns or obsession with body-weight, body-image or certain food(s) such as:

  1. Skipping meals
  2. Adopting a very restrictive diet
  3. Shunning certain food groups completely (such as no fat or no carbs intake)
  4. Skipping social events/activities
  5. Excessive focus on healthy eating or excessive exercise
  6. Very low body-weight
  7. Insisting on eating alone or cooking alone even if the family is around
  8. Checking self in mirror frequently and finding faults
  9. Frequent washroom visits during or after eating
  10. Callused knuckles from frequent induced vomiting
  11. Dental enamel problems due to frequent induced vomiting
  12. Consistently worrying about body-weight or body-shape
  13. Eating large amounts of sweets or fatty foods
  14. Feeling guilty post eating
  15. Anxious about eating and body weight constantly
  16. Obsessing over model/clothes sizes etc

If you or someone in your family shows such signs, you know that something is wrong and medical intervention is needed before it brings serious health complications. With patience and proper treatment, these disorders can be reversed and one can adopt better and healthier eating patterns.

In the end, relationship with food and knowing our body types is important. The focus should be on optimal health rather than just body weight. Mental health or Emotional health is as important as physical health and they all, go hand in hand. One is not possible without the other.

Hope this post helped you today with some new insights. Stay tuned for the part 2 of this, next Friday where we discuss each in more detail. In case you wish to join me on Instagram for a regular dose on topics related to Health, Nutrition, Fitness & Motivation, the link is:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace

Artificial Sweeteners

Hi friends, how is it going for you?

Thank you for the overwhelming response to my last Friday’s post Part 2: Hacks For Quitting Sugar. I hope it helped you in one way or the other, in your journey to good health. Just remember, health is more, way more than just weight loss – though weight loss is an important part of it too, no doubt.

A few of you also raised a query on one of the hacks that I gave. This was about artificial sweeteners and I wrote to stay away from artificial sweeteners while trying to quit/reduce sugar intake.

The truth is that many of us do consider switching to artificial sweeteners when we try to cut/quit sugar. That makes it tolerable and we can still enjoy our favorite desserts etc.

If we take out artificial sweeteners also from the equation, it becomes even harder to quit sugar, isn’t it?

What Are Artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are basically either manufactured or derived from plants. Either way, they make the taste of anything that they are added to, sweet. In fact, most of them are way sweeter than the normal refined sugar. And that is why very little quantity of an artificial sweetener is needed to sweeten things up and hence, the resultant low calories (if not zero).

There are many artificial sweeteners available in the market today. Some are available easily to us, under various brand-names e.g. aspartame, sucralose, saccharine etc and many are used commercially e.g. sugar alcohols.

Artificial sweeteners are often found in many/most packaged products such as soft drinks, drink mixes, candy, chocolates, bakery goods, canned foods, jams, protein powders/bars, health drinks/bars, weight loss products, dairy products, low-sugar products, chewing gums etc

Of course, some industrial sweeteners (in packaged products) are better than others but that’s for some other day!

Artificial Sweeteners: Why?

The general consumption of artificial sweeteners is by people who are trying to lose weight and by people trying to manage diabetes. The benefits could be many:

  • Because they contain lesser calories and can disrupt our brain’s reward system for good (for more details on this, please refer to a previous post here), artificial sweeteners do work in weight loss to some extent
  • They also do not spike the blood-sugar levels in our body as much as sugar does. That sounds good especially for diabetics
  • Since artificial sweeteners don’t interact with the bacteria in our mouth like sugar does, they do not affect the dental health negatively

However, just replacing our normal food with the one containing artificial sweetener, might not be enough if we do not take care of a few other things. We would come to that shortly.

Artificial Sweeteners: Why Not?

On one hand, artificial sweeteners are authority-approved, considered safe for most people and easily available in market. They also help us in cutting sugar-calories out. Then why not use them?

  • The thing is that we are not told the entire story very often. And the entire story here might involve the decreased insulin sensitivity, increased risk of cancer as well as gut-imbalances, for many artificial sweeteners (though not all)
  • Also, just because it does not contain sugar and has zero/lower calories, it isn’t any healthier
  • There are many people who are allergic to some artificial sweeteners even if they don’t know it
  • Not to mention that with artificial sweeteners, we still are far away from making healthier choices. A fresh fruit in place of a diet soda or a no-sugar cake is a hard choice, isn’t it?
  • Artificial sweeteners have been found to increase our risk of metabolic syndrome by 36% and diabetes type 2 by  67%

Did You Know?

In 1970, an artificial sweetener called cyclamate which is 50 times sweeter than sugar, was banned in US after a study was published, linking it to bladder cancer in mice. Also, there is a growing concern over sucralose these days.

So, What’s The Verdict?

Before I give my opinion, let me ask you a question. Do you think replacing your regular soda with a diet version is a healthy choice? Just because it has no sugar, does it mean that we can guzzle down any amount of it and frequently?

If you know the answer then we can simply apply that to all artificial sweeteners. Just because they are low in sugar/calories, they don’t automatically become an obvious choice. There is more to health and nutrition than just calories and sugar!

So far, the cancer links have been ruled out but these researches are not done long-term and the effect of usage of such artificial sweeteners over a long period of time, is uncertain. However, there are other risk factors which makes the usage of artificial sweeteners over a long period of time, not a wise choice, in my opinion.

If I have to eat something, I will eat in moderation and consciously…even if it is refined sugar. For diabetics, it’s a little harder but then why make it worse by adding artificial sweeteners in the mix?

I think its best to reduce our intake of sugar mostly. If and when we want to indulge, we can go with jaggery, honey, maple syrup, stevia, monk fruit syrup, dates etc…even if many have similar caloric profile and affect the blood sugar levels just the same, they won’t harm our gut-friendly bacteria. Again, diabetics need to be more careful with consumption of these also. Do check with your nutritionist or doctor before you consume these alternatives.

Hope this post today, helped you in making another aware choice. Do read your labels carefully and know what you are consuming as well as how much. To join me on Instagram for more, here is the link:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace

Part 2: Hacks For Quitting Sugar

Hi friends, how are you all?

Before I begin, let me say a big ‘THANK YOU’ to all those of you who often share their life-stories and feedback with me, after reading my posts. It is always an honored feeling when I go through your messages and your appreciation. In fact, I derive a major chunk of my motivation from that!

Last Friday’s post was about sugar addiction and how we develop it. Our brain gets addicted to sugar easily and we even have withdrawal symptoms when we try to quit. Do read the post here, if you missed it somehow.

The first step is to accept that we have a sugar-addiction or that our sugar-consumption is much higher than it should be. Check. Now what? How do I change it?

First of all, know that it’s a great decision, one that would bring better health soon enough. Not only would you feel better but look better too. It won’t be easy but trust me, it would be all worth it!

High sugar consumption has been linked to various illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, inflammation, faster aging, heart diseases and many other chronic conditions.

As I said, quitting sugar is not easy. Quitting any addiction is not easy, is it? The more you want to quit, the more cravings you would have. After all, the brain is involved and it wants sugar, one way or the other!

Withdrawal Symptoms

It is a slow journey and the severity of symptoms depends upon how much sugar you were consuming before you decided to quit.

The symptoms could last for a couple of weeks and could be quite uncomfortable/unpleasant. Apart from high cravings, let’s see what we might be dealing with once we start reducing the sugar-consumption. It could be any or many of the below:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and depressive thoughts
  • Sleep troubles
  • Feeling tired and low energy
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Nausea

Ok, got it! I still want to quit because a few weeks’ unpleasantness is preferable to a lifetime of diabetes and other chronic disease. Can something help me to cope better while I give it my best shot?

What Can Help?

Cut all at once or cut out half first! For some, it is easier to just get up one fine morning and decide no sugar for them. For some, it is easier to cut slowly and gradually. Whatever works for you, works for you.

I, personally went slowly about it. I reduced my sugar consumption to half one day and after a while when I got comfortable with the ‘half’, I reduced it to further half. I had a sweet tooth but once I decided to cut down on sugar, I stuck to it.

I consider it a lifelong choice and if someday, I consume more sugar for whatever reason, I do not feel guilty about it. I just try to indulge in moderation and I get back to life the next day.

I think it is all about getting our priorities right and the motivation follows automatically.

Some Hacks That Would Help

Here are some tips for you, experience-based and research-based, should you decide to go slow:

  • Have a glass of water when you feel a craving. The hunger cues and thirst cues are same for our body
  • Analyze your cravings when they arise. Ask yourself if you really are hungry or just your brain playing tricks or because you feel tired/stressed at the moment
  • Have a healthy, balanced diet overall. Focus on whole foods and vegetables which can keep you full for long
  • Add fruits in your diet, as snacks
  • Best way to reduce drastically is to – start with sweetened beverages. Cut out cold-drinks/sodas, mocktails, energy drinks and fruit-juices from your diet and replace these with water, flavored-water and smoothies etc
  • Replace breakfast cereals with oats, eggs and use tons of veggies in whatever you cook
  • Read labels before you pick up a food from the shelf. Especially if they are fat-free versions
  • Try using cinnamon for a tinge of healthier sweetness to your dessert/drink
  • Maybe make a trail mix with nuts and seeds and add some munnakka/large raisin in it and have that mix (as a snack) whenever you get a craving…way healthier than anything sugary for sure!
  • How about tricking the brain a bit by giving it just a tiny bit of a healthier alternative e.g. a date for an ice-cream, a calcium chewie for a dessert (guilty of this one 😊) or even saunf/fennel!
  • And while trying to quit, stay away from artificial sweeteners as they can send wrong signals to your body and that could create more issues later
  • Engage in regular exercise in whichever form you like. Not only would it keep your cravings in control but keep you mentally relaxed

Last but not the least, make sure you avoid your sugar-triggers…think about the time and situations that make you crave sugar more, notice a pattern and work on the stress that talks you into finding solace in sugary company.

Also, follow a few health bloggers on social media. They keep sharing tips of healthy eating habits and hacks to it. They also provide the much-needed motivation.

In the end, do know that it is something you need to do in order to have a healthier version of yourself and keep many chronic diseases at bay. You always have a choice till it is taken away from you.

Hope this post today and the tips in it would help you in making some necessary lifestyle changes. Do join me on Instagram for more regular stuff like this – on health, fitness and nutrition.

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Part 1: Are You Addicted To Sugar?

Hi friends, how are you doing?

This pandemic, almost everyone is complaining of either putting on weight or of feeling down or of being anxious for lost opportunities. I don’t even want to think about people who are daily wage earners or people in occupations that are hit the hardest in this pandemic but still, it hasn’t been easy for anyone. Definitely not for the women of the house either, who deals with multiple chores including job and online schooling, all without much external help. I know I go crazy at times!

However, one thing is for sure. Everyone has realized the importance of being healthy. Call it immunity or call it weight management, the end goal is same – good health! As it should be. Weight -management is a part of the ‘being-healthy’ package as many illnesses or chronic diseases stem from being overweight/obese.

One thing that leads to not just weight-gain but many other diseases, is high-consumption of refined-sugar and products containing it. Ice-cream, cake, cookies, desserts, sweets, mocktails, few sauces all contribute to our daily sugar consumption. For some, sugar is a serious addiction and a big hurdle in their weight/disease management journey.

Have you ever thought about sugar being a serious addiction?

Yes, it’s true! Like other addictive drugs, sugar is addictive. But why? Seems pretty harmless despite all the otherwise claims…the to-die taste of desserts and cakes – what can be wrong with a little fun in life, eh?

What Is Sugar Addiction?

A true addiction happens when our brain chemistry changes to such an extent, due to some substance, that even when we know it’s bad for our health, we still consume it or repeat the experience.

Research has proved that too much sugar-consumption can lead to a true addiction.

Sugar addiction is basically the physiological or emotional dependence on sugar-laden food especially when we feel tired or feel low mentally.

Why Does It Happen?

This happens because our brain loves sugar. Sugar is the fuel for it and eating it releases dopamine and opioids chemicals in our brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and is what makes us feel rewarded when we indulge in our addiction. It makes us feel high and happy when we eat sugar. This dopamine is what compels us to repeat the experience again to again – to feel happy and high…and wanting more sugar! Opioids help with this process  and compulsive behavior.

And every time we gave way to our craving, our brain becomes even more hard-wired for it. We feel withdrawal symptoms when we try to quit sugar. Many of us can vouch for it, am sure!

Though in reality, sugar addiction is not as strong as let’s say, cocaine addiction (even if some researchers do say so) but it still is pretty harmful for us. What makes things worse for sugar is that it is widely accepted in our society as something to be indulged in and is even associated with all celebrations in a big way.

Are All Sugar Addictive?

All added sugars are addictive, for sure. Honey and fruit-juices come under the same category. In 2015, WHO recommended to consume no more than 5-6 spoons of sugar on a daily basis and this amounts to 5% of our total caloric intake.

5 spoons? That seems fine, we can do it, right? Not quite right actually as here is how we keep getting added-sugars, throughout the day:

  • From daily foods and snacks – granola bars, energy bars, protein bars, ice-creams, cereals etc
  • From bakery items – cookies, cakes, doughnuts, breads etc
  • From beverages – mocktails, liquor, soda, energy drinks, fruit-juices, coffee and tea – hot or cold
  • From ‘health’ foods – fat-free versions of many things, salad dressings etc

Do I Need To Quit Sugar Completely?

The good news is, no. We don’t need to completely quit and it is natural and alright for us to enjoy it unless we have a medical condition that strictly prohibits it.

One of my clients has rheumatoid arthritis and for him, it is absolutely essential that among other diet modifications, he quits added-sugar completely. Fruits, plenty for him!

How Are Fruits Allowed?

Most fruits are super sweet and that is how we love them, at least I do. For most of us, it is difficult to over-eat them and to get addicted to them.

Fruits are also packed with fibre so when we consume them whole, the sugar in them is regulated in such a way that it doesn’t cause high spikes in our blood. Fibre also does so many good things for us that this regulates the overall effect much better!

Another good news is that it is possible for us to re-wire ourselves, to effectively reduce the dependence on sugar. Physiological and mental, both. How? Stay tuned for the sequel post, next Friday.

Do join me on Instagram for regular updates on health, nutrition and fitness on the link below:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health and Peace

Part 2: How To Improve HRV

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How was the week that went by? All good at my end, thank you. Humans are quite resilient, aren’t they? They quickly adapt – physically and mentally.

Most of us can work all day under mild/moderate pressure and then we unwind at the end of the day. We relax, sleep and wake up the next day to start the whole process all over, again! Not all days are same but we quickly fall into a rhythm and do well. And make the most of it too!

Some people who work under high pressure and find themselves unable to detach easily when it’s time to relax, usually end up with chronic stress and anxiety issues. Sleep issues crop up and coupled with unhealthy lifestyle habits, the body becomes susceptible to frequent infections, chronic illnesses and exhaustion.

Among these, few lucky ones realize the gravity of the situation on time and are able to make necessary lifestyle changes, taking help of experts if needed and make a U-turn towards good health. The rest have to suffer the consequences of poor lifestyle habits as well as unhealthy choices and that is what keeps the medical industry in good business.

Now, the big question is

  • How do we know/measure if we are healthy – physically, mentally and emotionally?
  • If we are trying to make a progress, how would we know it’s working?
  • How do we know whether we are being mindful or not?
  • How do we know that we are chronically stressed and that we need to slow down?
  • How do we know that we are resilient and can adapt to our environment?
  • How do we know that we have a balance established in our body and that our nervous system is strong?

There are many ways to know. The body itself tells us so much only if we care to listen. Then there are many lab-tests that could be done. There are these home-devices and wearables that enable us to keep a track of what is important for us. The bio-marker called HRV could help immensely, too.

In my last post on HRV part1, we got to know of this great and easily trackable biomarker/biofeedback that tells us about the required balance in our body and if we could achieve that balance, we can make huge progress in terms of our overall health.

How Can HRV Come Handy?

HRV is a simple and non-invasive way of identifying any imbalances in our body. It can tell us how resilient we are. It is a good indicator of our lifestyle habits.

If you are always in flight-or-fight mode or are constantly stressed, the variation (HRV) would be low. If we are relaxed and balanced, the HRV would be high.

A low HRV is an indicator of high stress, anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of death. A high HRV indicates good cardiovascular fitness, good stress-handling capabilities of our body, a younger biological age and good general overall health.

How To Change HRV

HRV can change and since HRV regulates our BP, breathing, digestion and heart rate etc., all these things change with a change in HRV. Positively impacting all these physiological factors without medication in indeed good news!

HRV data can also tell us how strong our nervous system is and how our current mental health is. It can also tell us a lot about our emotional health. We can improve upon our HRV by:

  • being more mindful and practicing active relaxation
  • a few breathing techniques
  • eating better (a well-balanced, healthy diet)
  • sleeping better and on time
  • exercising more

How To Check HRV?

The most accurate way to analyze HRV is through a electrocardiogram (EKG) at the doctor’s place but today, some wearables and apps can read HRV with a fair amount of accuracy. A forehead or chest-strap heart monitor would be great for someone who wants to track HRV with more accuracy. I have downloaded a free version of an app which gives me a fair idea about my HRV. I am thinking of buying the paid, full-version now, for more features.

The ‘resonant frequency’ breathing that I have gotten certified in recently, happened because I was interested in HRV and this particular breathing technique so far, has made a positive impact for me and my clients so you can try it too.

Should We Bother about HRV?

Low HRV scores indicate heart-health issues and other concerns such as diabetes and hypothyroidism. Heart patients generally tend to have low HRV scores and doctors tend to keep an eye on it.

Exercise and sports have a positive impact on HRV. Cardiac patients should definitely check with their cardiologist to add breathing techniques to improve upon HRV.

Also, if you are:

  • trying to make healthy lifestyle changes including in diet and/or trying to be more mindful, it would be a good idea to measure your HRV
  • trying to overcome stress, it would be a good idea to measure HRV. It can not only show you your progress but can keep you motivated as well
  • trying to schedule your physical-training and recovery rhythm

Do understand that it is a tool for us to get an idea of what’s going on in our brain and nervous system and how it is all impacting us, in other ways. We need to learn to adapt better to the physiological, mental and emotional environment around us and HRV can help.

In the end, do know that there is no good or bad HRV scores. It depends on our personal circumstances and our current status. We need to compare our progress individually. But it sure would be reassuring and motivating to know that the breathwork or the mindfulness I am practicing, is having a great impact on me and my overall health (and my clients’).

Do follow me on Instagram for regular motivation, health, nutrition and fitness trivia and updates on the link below:

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Part 1: HRV-An Important Tool

Hi friends, how was the week that went by?

Chaotic for most of us, I am sure. Summer vacations have come to an end and getting back to online-schooling, is sure a grilling experience. During summer vacations, at least the school-homework was not a part of daily equation. Now on top of client-work, cooking, ordering, random daily chores…getting school-homework done and then clicking plus uploading it, is like…umm, what is the opposite for the expression ‘’icing/cherry on the cake’’?

Though having said all that, I can’t wait to start strength-training again…how I would find time for that is a mystery to me too but I have to do it, I just have to! I owe myself that much. Spending a whole day taking care of others, I owe a couple of hours to myself, don’t I? Don’t you?

In my last post on last Friday, I wrote a bit about breathwork and its effect on our heart rate, HRV, blood pressure and nervous system. Some of you asked about HRV or Heart Rate Variability and why should it even matter to us.

What is HRV

HRV or Heart Rate Variability is a relatively newer way to track our health so yes, many of us probably never heard of it before today. However, athletes and their coaches world over are very aware of this tool and track it to maximize their performances. And not just training but the recovery part too! I think recovery part is even harder than the training part for them.

And their success doesn’t come easy. They adopt a certain lifestyle that aids their success and when I say lifestyle I mean – diet, mindfulness, sleep, breathing, stress-management…everything together.

Most of us, even if we are non-athletes, don’t know how to optimize ourselves. We are not aware that we CAN manage our bodies and our mental health to a lot of extent, genetics or no genetics. And if we know, we lack consistency or motivation. Most of us don’t even realize our potential, to be honest. And this potential is not comparative to any one else or any benchmarks per say. This potential is about one person in totality.

However.

However, not overdoing or overreaching is equally important. It is equally important to learn to actively relax and let our body do the healing or recovery well. Diet plays a very important part here and so does sleep.

I think with the advent of fitness trackers and other wearables etc, it has become much easier for researchers to collect data and find new patterns/markers indicating human health. I personally believe that these new markers can be great tools as preventive health measures. HRV is one such biomarker.

Did You know?

That the professional shooters shoot between their heartbeats? Yes, they have great command over small muscles in their bodies and generally shoot in the gap between one heartbeat and other – even when their heart is racing with all the tension! Oh yes, shooters too train extremely hard, to maintain that level of control and mental strength.

Why Is HRV Important For Us, Non-athletes?

Because it indicates good overall health (physical, mental and emotional) and a good balance in our body. This also means good immunity.

HRV is simply the variance of time between each heartbeat i.e. the time interval between consecutive heartbeats. It is measured in milliseconds. Our heartbeats are never steady nor should they be. A steady heartbeat without time variance is NOT a good sign and is associated with stress and even, depression.

HRV is what regulates our heart rate, our blood pressure, our digestion and our breathing. HRV itself is regulated by our autonomous nervous system (ANS) and so, we can’t control it at will. But we can maintain a balance and improve upon it. And we are as healthy as this balance.

In short, our brain tells our body to either fight-flight or relax-digest through the ANS. Our body handles all the stimuli in our daily lives, takes care of all the excitement whether good or bad…and life goes on! However if the stress or poor lifestyle habits become consistent or chronic, it starts affecting the balance in our body and creates trouble with our ANS.

There is no good score or a bad score when it comes to HRV. There is only a progression.

The post is already long and there still is so much more left to write. So, I am splitting this topic in two parts. The next post would explain how we can track and improve upon our HRV.

Hopefully today’s post introduced you to a new tool/concept that can help with tracking things that we didn’t think could be tracked and can show us the progress we are making. A great motivational tool if nothing else I say and motivation if you ask me, it the hardest to find on a consistent basis, isn’t it?

Stay tuned for the next post, next Friday. Do follow me on Instagram for regular motivation, health, nutrition and fitness trivia/updates.

https://www.instagram.com/healthcoach_smita/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Almonds: To Peel Or Not To

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How was the week that went by? Have you received at least the first dose of vaccination? I have taken mine and feel quite grateful for it. Do take yours, whichever you get, as soon as you can.

Rest of the week was spent doing my certification in Breathwork from a renowned Institute of Breathwork and Yoga.  Why this shift from fitness or nutrition, to breathwork? And what is breathwork now?

It’s not a shift because it is not binary. It doesn’t have to. Strength-training still is my first love when it comes to fitness.

I believe in integrative approach to holistic health. A healthy body needs a healthy mind and vice versa. Do note I said vice versa. You can not have a sound mind in an unhealthy, sick body, can you?

I have seen how powerful breathwork is and how it is tremendously beneficial for physical health as well as mental. Would you believe me if I tell you that just with breathwork one can improve one’s heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), blood pressure and strengthen nervous system…and it is measurable. Not just can one can feel it but can measure one’s progress too…on own!

Anyways, let’s come back to today’s post which is about a simple everyday dilemma many of us face…to soak and peel it or not, almonds that is.

Why Does The Dilemma Even Exist?

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind about the fact that almonds are very nutritious. These tree nuts (actually seeds but never mind the Biology student in me!) are very rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, protein, vitamins and minerals. Almost everyone can have almonds in moderation, irrespective of their age and health condition, as long as they don’t choke on it.

A lot of people soak the almonds in water overnight, peel them and then eat while many others just pop in their mouth! Roasted and blanched almonds are easily available too.

Some people like to have the peel as it contains a good amount of fibre while some feel that it’s better to remove the peel. What is the difference? Is one way better than the other?

Do You Know?

We always consume sweet almonds. There is another variety that exists, called bitter almonds. That’s a different variety altogether and the trees are different too. This bitter variety is also called lethal-almonds variety as it is unsafe for humans to consume because of presence of a toxin called glycoside amygdalin which breaks down (upon consumption) into a poisonous substance – hydrogen cyandide! Yes, it can kill.

The good thing is that they are a separate variety altogether and are not sold in market openly. They are primarily used for medicinal purpose as well as in making almond extract and flavored-liqueurs.

Oh and just in case you panicked, bitter almonds and ‘kadwa badam/sugar badam’ are not the same thing!

What is Almond Peel All About?

  • The brown peel contains tannin which is an antinutrient and can prevent optimum absorption of many nutrients naturally present in almonds. The peel is hard to digest as well
  • Then there is Phytic acid that hamper absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc etc. Soaking such seeds (or beans/grains) can reduce the phytate content in them
  • Soaking also releases Lipase enzyme which aids the digestion of good fat present in almonds

Even Ayurveda recommends to soak and peel before consuming. However, there is another set of experts that feel that the peel is rich in fibre and it would act as a prebiotic, so better consume it too.

How To Soak

Soak in a clean cup, in clean water for 8-10 hours. Adding salt to this water is optional as it is said that it activates the nutrients in almonds even further but I do not add salt as I like the plain, natural taste better.

So, What’s the Final Verdict?

Since good -quality almonds are not really cheap and we consume them primarily for health benefits, it is best to consume them soaked overnight and peeled. This way we can ensure that we get maximum nutritional value out of them.

However, it is okay to sometimes just enjoy the raw/roasted versions, it makes for a good snack too.

Whatever you do, enjoy almonds in moderation. Too much of good fat also ends up as bad fat only 😊.

Hope this post today was able to solve the everyday dilemma for you. Do follow me on Instagram on the link below for more such daily trivia and stories on all things Health, Nutrition and Fitness…and more. I keep reading and researching and I share all that on Instagram quite regularly.

https://www.instagram.com/jillofmanytrades_sk/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace

Eat The Rainbow

Hi friends, happy Friday!

For me, last week didn’t go as I hoped. Lost a very dear friend to post-Covid complications and I feel very sobered up.

This goes on to prove how vulnerable we all are. People who already are battling with health complications are always more at risk…for everything. Most unfortunate is when people who are blessed with good health (for now) take it for granted and do nothing to keep it that way.

I sincerely hope that you are among the blessed ones and that you understand that like everything else in life, good health needs constant work. When we can spend so much on dresses, sarees, cosmetics, shoes and jewelry then why is it that we feel it unnecessary to spend on our own Health and Nutrition?

Anyways, today’s post is about colours. Colours in nutrition to be precise!

Most of us already know or at least have heard that a variety of colours in our diet does us a lot of good. Eat your rainbow, eat your colours….and all that jazz!

It is true yes but have you ever wondered why? Lot of times when we ask ‘why’ especially when it comes to nutrition, we are able to customize our diets as per our body and its needs.

What Are These Colours?

Fruits and vegetable get their colours from natural pigments called phytonutrients. Depending upon the colour, a particular fruit or vegetable could be higher on a certain pigment and provide us more of health-benefits associated with that colour.

In simple terms, these different colours give us different health-benefits so we should ideally, eat ALL our colours. This would provide our body with all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, immunity boosters etc that it needs.

Well, don’t forget that white is a colour too…so don’t skip out on onions and garlics either!

So, Which Colours?

It is all based on population-based studies as very few controlled studies are done but in general, fruits/vegetables are divided into 5 broad categories when it comes to their colours. These are:

  • Red – tomatoes, watermelons, beetroot, pink guava, grapefruit
  • Yellow-Orange – oranges, banana, carrots, yellow peppers, pineapple, pumpkin, corn, tangerines, lemons
  • Green – avocado, spinach, broccoli, methi (fenugreek leaves), all leafy green veggies, cucumber, kale, green cabbage, green herbs
  • Blue/Purple – brinjal/egg plant, blackberries, jamun, purple cabbage, plums, blueberries
  • White-Brown – garlic, onion, mushrooms, cauliflower, radish, potatoes, leeks

It gets a little complicated beyond this. Flavanoids, flavanols, flavonols, catechins etc are further categorizations but all we need to know today is that these are essential for us – for all repair, regeneration and detoxification processes in our body. Eating the whole spectrum of colours in fruits/vegetables would provide us with these. Simple, isn’t it?

Also, not going into details but all the colours have anti-inflammatory properties, are antioxidants, lower our risk of heart diseases, reduce risks for certain cancers, among many other benefits. Some even boost our exercise stamina!

How To Add

Super simple, hardly any cons attached to it! Just make sure you:

  • Add a minimum of 2-3 different coloured fruits/vegetables in diet everyday
  • Add at least one fruit/vegetable from each group every three-four days, if cannot daily
  • Add through smoothies, shakes, salads, soups, rolls, sandwiches, curd (raita), pasta etc
  • Add in poha, oats, chila, omelets, cooked-veggies/curries (e.g. add peas in aloo-tamatar sabji) etc
  • In case fresh produce is not available, frozen fruits/vegetables work just fine

I have not gone in details about each colour-group or each vegetable here. That’s a lot for one post! If you want me to write about a particular health-concern or a particular fruit/vegetable, do let me know on Instagram or message me, if you have my no.

And if you already know what bothers you health-wise and its cure, simply add more of it in your diet and see if it helps! Having said that, do consult your doctor/nutritionist before you make huge changes in your diet or add huge amounts of something…or restrict something completely.

We all have our own physiologies and our own taste-palettes and lot of times what suits one person, doesn’t suit another. Just because you love a nimbu-pani in evening doesn’t mean it suits me too. I often get a cold if I have nimbu-pani in evening. Similarly, if I have a tea/coffee later than 6 in evening, I can’t sleep until very late in night.

So, in the end…listen to your bodies, eat lot of fresh fruits/veggies everyday and if something doesn’t suit you, regulate/moderate it accordingly. Change timing or quantity or even try a different brand…and see if that works better!

In case you wish to follow me on Instagram for daily updates on all things Health , Nutrition and Fitness…and more – here is the link

https://www.instagram.com/jillofmanytrades_sk/

Till next Friday

Love, Health & Peace