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Vishuddha is the chakra located at your throat and neck, and incorporates your thyroid gland. It is one of the seven chakras in your bodies, which are believed to be vital energy centres. The Vishuddha chakra is supposed to be about choice, willpower and the right to speak and be heard.

Since it’s between the head and the heart it works to maintain integrity between what you think and what you feel. When you find it difficult to communicate or express your thoughts and feelings, when you do not believe you have the right to make choices for yourself that empower you or when you feel suppressed by swallowed emotions and feelings, is when the throat chakra is affected that often manifests as thyroid problems in the body.

It is no wonder then that women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems (as per American Thyroid Association, ATA). Of course, there are also huge hormonal events only specific to women like pregnancy and menopause, which exposes more women than men to it but for most of the time, women all over the world fail to listen to their inner voice, much less express it. Self-empowerment is the main lesson of this chakra symbol.

Now, self-empowerment comes from within. For first, it comes from taking ownership of the problem instead of blaming the ever-nurturing thyroid gland for weight gain, hair loss, forgetfulness, irritability etc. and second, from making efforts to deal with the hormonal imbalance by improvising your lifestyle before resorting to taking external thyroid hormones in the form of pills/ medicines.

The three main strategies for a healthy lifestyle that will support your thyroid gland (whether you have hypo or hyper thyroidism) and help you reach your optimum body weight (body composition) are-

1.NUTRITION – Nourish, nurture and support your thyroid gland with ‘real’ food and nutrients so that it can function efficiently. Real food is the food that is grown in a soil near you, not wrapped in fancy packaging and flown from a far away land. Processed, industrialized food is rich in sodium, salts and preservatives which creates havoc to the fine, delicate balance of sodium and potassium in your body cells. Hence, that packet of ‘high fibre’ biscuits, ‘multi-grain’ chips, ‘diet’ bhel, ‘anaaj wala’ breakfast cereal etc. that you open in the hope of losing weight, only puts additional stress to the already ‘overworking’ thyroid gland. That you feel only bloated and puffy (instead of feeling lighter) after consuming them only adds to the big, bad story of packaged, processed foods.

What to eat? Instead of hopping onto the latest diet trend wagon of either “low fat” or “low carb” or “high protein” diet, nourish your thyroid with wholesome food. One that is inclusive of all: fibre-rich carbs, indispensable amino acids (protein), essential fats along with vital vitamins and minerals.

The whole grains (jowar/ bajra/ nachni/ wheat/rice) that you eat in the form of rotis, bhaat, thepla, bhakri are not just fibre and carbs, it is also rich in iodine. Adequate iodine is essential for the synthesis of thyroid hormones, almost like basic building blocks. So the moment you give up on rice and roti to lose weight, your thyroid struggles all the more to function for you.

More and more research has found that deficiency of Vit D is significantly associated with thyroid gland malfunction. Now Vit D is a fat-soluble vitamin. So in order to make up for the low Vit D levels, to support your thyroid and to lose weight, you really cannot afford to be fussy about essential fats like ghee, coconut, white butter, filtered oils etc. Your ‘low fat’ ice-cream; ‘skimmed’, ‘double toned’ milk well, will actually do just the opposite for you!

Since iodine combines with tyrosine (protein) in the body to make thyroid hormones, adequate protein in the diet is important and is crucial to optimise metabolism of the body. Make friends with milk, curd, cheese, nuts, eggs, meat, fish, dal, legumes but remember eating them with your whole grains and essential fats. Wholesomeness is when you eat in combination v/s isolation. So say ‘NO’ to dinner of only ‘grilled fish’ and give a big high five to rice and fish curry. Hope you are getting the story!

2. EXERCISE – Thyroid hormones play an important role in bone mineral homeostasis and bone density. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are associated with reduced BMD (bone mineral density) leading to increased fracture risk, osteoporosis and joint pain.

Consistent strength training will help increase BMD & strengthen your musculoskeletal system. Non-weight bearing cardio exercises (like swimming, cycling) will help burn fat without overstressing your joints. The practise of yoga & asana helps in opening and balancing the vishuddha chakra.

Hence, it is ideal to take a broad base approach in exercises too and do a combination of strength, cardio and yoga (on separate days)

3. SLEEP- Hypothyroidism is most often associated with fatigue, also called ‘adrenal fatigue’. And things that trigger ‘adrenal fatigue’ are stress and poor sleep. Deep, restorative sleep is hence crucial and one should be working towards getting enough sleep during the night and a 20 minutes “catnap” post lunch.

So eat, move, sleep and most important, speak and express yourself- assertively and fearlessly. Let your thyroid blossom and feel beautiful!

Read related articles on nutrition

How to Control High Blood Pressure & Stay Healthy?

Cholesterol and Indian diet: Time to stop worrying

PCOD Problem: Lifestyle transformation for women with PCOD

Diabetes control: Eat, Move, Sleep!

Confused by the misinformation about potential health problems with traditional Indian foods? Get in touch with award-winning Mumbai dietitian and nutritionist, Munmun Ganeriwal, a strong advocate of the holistic, wellness benefits of fresh, local, and traditional Indian foods.

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Mindfulness in eating: experience the bliss of well-being

The last few years have seen the concept of mindfulness gain rapid traction, from corporate board rooms to sports teams. At its core, it is a very simple philosophy that should apply to every walk of life. Therefore, the need for mindful eating shouldn’t really be a surprise if you really think about it. We’re sure most of us have grown up listening to parents scolding us for watching TV, reading comics, or talking while eating. I am sure you remember being told, No distractions while eating!. Without ever realizing it, that was an implicit order to practice mindful eating, something which we seem to have given up on in current times.

Before we delve deeper into why mindfulness is as important while eating as it is for better productivity, let’s understand the essence of this ‘modern buzzword’. According to ancient Zen Philosophy, mindfulness is simply “presence” and it is probably the simplest form of meditation there is. It is about being immersed completely in the present moment and being fully aware of it.

Unfortunately, we now seem to be always racing against time, with our minds full rather than being mindful. As we multi-task our way through life, pre-occupied by numerous thoughts and worrying about either the past or the future, focusing on just one thing at a time seems like a terrible waste of time. How wrong could we be?

Mindful eating

That brings us to eating. When people speak of healthy eating, the focus is generally on what we eat – the constituents of a meal and their nutritional value. What tends to get ignored often is how we eat. Welcome to mindful eating and its role in delivering the full benefits of the food we eat. According to Psychology Today, “mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. We pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds (crunch!) of our food. We pay attention to the experience of the body. Where in the body do we feel hunger? Where do we feel satisfaction? What does half-full feel like, or three quarters full?”

Benefits of Mindful Eating

Several modern studies have brought to the fore the ‘mind & gut connection’ and the resultant benefits of simply focusing on eating. It is not difficult to understand why.

  • Prevents overeating/binge eating: If you eat mindfully, you are more likely to avoid overeating as you are fully aware of the quantity of food you are putting in your month. In turn, this means you are more likely to listen to the “full” signal coming back from your tummy! (Have you ever wondered why we tend to end up eating a lot more than we normally would at parties? It’s all thanks to the divided attention!). If you want to lose weight or are conscious of gaining weight, you know how important it is to not overeat.
  • Better digestion & absorption of nutrients: When we are fully focused on the food we eat,our salivary glands work better. This aids digestion enormously. Also, we tend to slow down the pace of eating – we eat more leisurely, chewing the food well and ensuring that the important first stage of the digestive process is completed properly in the mouth. By ‘breaking down’ the food in the mouth, we enable much better absorption of all nutrients.
  • Greater satisfaction and fulfillment: The undivided attention on the food helps us truly enjoy and appreciate its look, feel, fragrance and flavours. Isn’t such sensory fulfillment a great source of joy? Mindful eating invariably translates to joyfulness!

How to Practise Mindful Eating for Greater Fulfillment

The important word is conscious ‘practise’, as this is a process of creating and reinforcing a habit while (in many cases) altering an existing habit. Many of you would be familiar with the principle of auto-suggestion while practicing meditation or breathing exercises in Yoga. We should follow something similar to becoming mindful: tell yourself to experience every step of the journey of the food from the plate to the stomach. Don’t just take in the food, take in the entire eating process and enjoy it, slowly, leisurely.

You can become better at this by following some of the following steps:

  • Sit in a clutter-free dining area, whether it is at the dining table or on the floor. Avoid the bed or the couch while eating.
  • Try to close your eyes and visualize the food on your plate before you start eating. In our Indian culture, people close their eyes and say a silent prayer and express their gratitude. The attitude of gratitude is a key ingredient to our happiness; besides, this entire process of calming our mind and visualizing the food stimulates our brain to prepare for the digestion process!
  • Turn off the television, keep the reading material and mobile phones away. Whatsapp messages and Facebook can (and must) wait!
  • Pause for a few seconds after each morsel/bite of food. Take smaller portions, chew well and eat slowly.
  • For a sensuous, intimate and mindful connect with your food, eat with your hands, not the fork and spoon.

So, there you go. Mindful eating is not too difficult to practice, if you set your mind to it. Make a few simple changes to your eating routine and experience the true joy of eating. It’s an age-old wisdom that is rooted deep in Indian culture and philosophy, and let’s ensure we heed that wisdom to enjoy all its benefits!

Keep yourself happy by keeping yourself healthy. Let well-known Mumbai dietitian and fitness expert Munmun Ganeriwal design a nutrition, exercise and lifestyle transformation program that elevates your overall sense of well-being. Contact us now for an in-depth consultation.

References & other articles related to mindful eating

Mindful Eating: How to really enjoy your meal, Jan Chosen Bays, Psychology Today

A Mindfulness Approach To Eating, Dr. Susan Albers, Huffington Post

Mindful Eating, Harvard Health Letter

Image Credit – Google Images

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Diabetes control Eat, Move, Sleep!

India has the dubious distinction of being referred to as the diabetes capital of the world. With over 50 million of its relatively youthful population (and potentially growing) afflicted with diabetes, instead of reaping the benefits of its much touted demographic dividend, the country actually faces a daunting Diabetes disaster.

Despite growing efforts, the level of awareness about the health risks of this chronic disease is worryingly poor. What’s even worse, are the myths that prevail about the causes of diabetes and the host of do’s and don’ts that are spread around.

Let’s get this straight first: diabetes is NOT caused by eating sweets or consuming sugar. It is really a ‘lifestyle disease’ i.e. the consequence of following an unhealthy lifestyle. While genetics may be a contributory factor, it is now universally acknowledged that lifestyle is indeed the most common cause of Type-2 diabetes. The result: the body becomes insulin-resistant and incapable of taking the blood glucose and delivering it to the body cells for cellular nutrition.

The real problem, hence is NOT the high blood sugar, but malnourishment of the body cells.

#1 Fix the root cause: Change your lifestyle

“Quick fixes” never work as they are not sustainable. Adopting a holistic approach that will work for you over the long-term is crucial. The approach should be based on understanding and addressing the root cause, rather than just the symptoms and the effects of the problem.

And so, if diabetes is characterized by the body becoming insulin-resistant, we should be focused on enhancing insulin sensitivity and ensuring it starts functioning better so that there is uptake of glucose from the blood. This can be achieved by adopting appropriate lifestyle changes that focus on eating right, exercising consistently, and regulating bed timings.

Isn’t it reassuring to know that diabetes can be prevented or controlled by making simple changes to how we eat, exercise and sleep? 

#2 The diabetes diet: You don’t have to starve or compromise on taste

The diabetes diet You don't have to starve or compromise on taste In my practice, I have seen people switch to monk-like austerity and staying away from food that they like out of fear, after being diagnosed with diabetes. Such fear is unwarranted and in fact, tends to cause more problems. Instead, nutritional strategy for diabetes should be based on the following-

  • Eat frequently: Avoid fasting and feasting, often a common trait among diabetics. Eat every 2-3 hours. Eating small meals frequently ensures that blood sugar is steady, while keeping hunger at bay.
  • Carbs are needed:  A diabetic diet myth that has been around for long is to limit “carb” intake. It is important to realise that carbohydrates are essential for diabetics. (for that matter, it is perfectly fine for diabetics to drink sugarcane juice!) Just stay away from the processed/ refined variety that lend artificial sugars to your food. Continue to be friends with your traditional source of carbs such as rice, roti, thepla, poha, idli, while you dump the cereals, biscuits, chips and colas.
  • Do add fat to a meal:  Adding fat to a meal, lowers its Glycemic Index (GI). Fat slows stomach emptying, delaying the process of converting food to blood sugar. Hence, more the fat, the slower the sugars (‘carbohydrates’) are digested, and lower is the glycemic index. So include good fats in your meals like white butter/curd/ milk/ ghee/ homemade pickle/ coconut/ peanuts.
  • Get your quota of proteins: Protein helps increase insulin sensitivity. While protein-rich diets have become popular due to the quick weight loss bandwagon, one doesn’t have to really hunt for protein in food. Have wholesome meals like khichdi kadhi, rice dal, rice dahi, egg & roti so as to have an optimal or complete protein profile.

#3 Keep it movin’: The ‘magic’ of exercise

Keep it movin' The 'magic' of exercise
The American Diabetes Association advises to perform 150 mins/ week of exercise spread over at least 3 days/ week with no more than 2 consecutive days without exercise.

Amongst all the exercises, incorporating strength training into your workout regimen is crucial to increase insulin sensitivity. Structured and progressive strength training improves how the body uses insulin and allows glucose to get around the body better. Weight training at least twice a week is hence essential, irrespective of your age, gender and profession. A study published in the journal by American Diabetes Association found that twice-weekly weight training sessions helped control insulin swings (and body weight) among people with diabetes.

#4 “Dream” to be diabetes-free: The importance of good sleep


The link between sleep and diabetes

If you asked ‘what has sleep got to do with diabetes control’, you are not alone. The exact extent of the impact of lack of adequate sleep, both in terms of quantity and quality, is still being researched. However, there is sufficient scientific data to emphatically say that sleep matters!

The reason is not too hard to understand. Insufficient sleep or sleeping at irregular hours causes our ‘body clock’ to malfunction and consequently affect the natural, biological processes such as the secretion of insulin that are ‘programmed’ into the human system.

Therefore, ensure that you are getting good, restful sleep daily. Equally importantly, make sure that you go to bed and get up at the same time so that your body is fully in sync with the body clock.

Harmony is a beautiful state to live in!

Interested in adopting a lifestyle change to counter the diabetes threat? Get in touch with us for a diet and fitness consultation and let us work together to achieve your health and wellness goals.

Image courtesy : Google Images

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