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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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It’s the month of January which means its that time of the year when we are either making resolutions or trying to maintain them. At the end of each year, we make different kinds of resolutions and you will agree that a chunk of these resolutions is about losing weight. And most of us will also agree that by end of January, or early February our resolutions begin to fail. Statistics also show that 95 percent of people who do manage to lose weight regain it –at times more than what they had lost, —just within a few months. So why is it that 95 percent of people fail diets.

Well, I choose to believe the other way round. Its 95 percent of diets that fail people. The problem is in those diets that we often look out for in search of weight loss. So here are my 4 things that you should NOT do to lose weight-

1. Do not follow diets- The problem with diets is that it asks you to eat only one thing or totally avoid some other thing. Once you get on a diet, you start looking at food in isolation vs eating wholesome. For eg: A Keto diet that asks you to eat protein and fats but no carbs i.e. no roti, thepla, rice, bhakri etc. In the science of biochemistry, it is often repeated that “Fats burn in the flame of carbohydrates” which means that fats are burnt or utilised for energy in the presence of carbohydrates. So for fat loss, carbs are extremely important.

Or then there is “Low fat diet” where you are allowed to eat everything but no oil, no ghee. Food is either steamed or sautéed or boiled. But more and more research today is asking us to eat fat to cut fat in the body. So we need to eat fat as well.

Hence, rather than hopping onto a diet, make a pledge today to follow a wholesome meal pattern that not only allows you to eat carbs, proteins, fats but also takes account of real life situations like festivals, travels, everyday stresses, work commitments and so on. Because only then your diet becomes sustainable and you lose weight so that it does not come back.

2. Do not practise inconsistency- While I talk about consistency and its importance with my clients, I always mention one of the quotes by Bruce Lee – “It is not about practising 10,000 kinds of kicks, but it is about that one kick practiced 10,000 times”

We often run from one diet to the other, one exercise to the other, we read about some new superfood, some new workout and we just jump on it, only till the time we discover something new again. Fitness rather is a compounding effect of eating and exercising right every single day. Its an ongoing process and you need to work on it consistently. So instead of trying to know and implement the latest fitness regime your favourite celebrity is following, spend time to find your true calling and stay consistent with your own routine. The best of superfoods and exercise in the world will give zero results if you stay inconsistent.

3. Do not stand on a weighing scale- Firstly, your body weight is not an indicator of your fitness. You may weigh more according to the standard height-weight chart but still be light on your feet, energetic and disease free. I am sure you know someone in your life who may not look skinny or thin, but is super fit, does his or her daily activities at home and workplace effortlessly, is full of enthusiasm and is cheerful, happy and certainly not living on medicines. On the other hand, you also must have come across one such person who is skinny but just had a heart attack. In short, your metabolic health, is NOT a function of your body weight. Just like school report card only reflects number and not overall learning of a student, a weighing scale also only reflects a number and not the overall wellbeing of a person. So instead of obsessing over a number on the scale, focus on getting stronger, fitter and healthier.

4. Do not overlook the importance of sleep- The modern curse of not getting sleep these days has a lot to do with the gadgets you use. That’s right, the light that the screens of your phones and TV in your bedroom emit delays the release of a hormone that induces sleep called melatonin, and increases alertness. Not getting enough sleep impairs metabolism and disrupts hormone levels so much that a study led by scientists at the University of Chicago termed sleep deprivation as “the royal route to obesity”. So switch off all the gadgets at least an hour before you go to sleep or still better, just keep it out of your bedroom.

Make this 2018 a special year where you not only lose weight but also keep it away forever; where you not just lose weight but also get healthier and fitter in the process. Until next time, eat right, exercise smart, move more and sleep well. Have a good day!

To check out more videos from us, click here

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High blood pressure or hypertension is one among the unholy trinity of lifestyle ailments (the others being diabetes and high cholesterol) that affects a growing section of our adult population. One of the problems with high blood pressure is that it can creep on you virtually undetected without any obvious symptoms.

As with diabetes, poor dietary habits, lack of exercise, irregular sleep and stress play a huge role in afflicting someone with high blood pressure. Therefore, it follows logically that addressing these key issues should provide practical, non-medical solutions to controlling blood pressure and staying healthy.

High blood pressure and the myth related to salt intake

Here’s a scenario you may be very familiar with. Mention the “BP problem” and you’ll quickly hear someone say, “namak kam karo” (cut the salt)! That is mainly because excess sodium in the diet is said to cause hypertension, something corroborated by The American Heart Association.

The real problem is when the need to reduce sodium consumption is selectively applied to items that are integral to Indian food culture such as papads and pickles, while there are no restrictions placed on processed food items such as “digestive oats” biscuits (sounds healthy, doesn’t it?) or packaged cereals. In contrast to the benefits of home-made food including papads and pickles – that are cooked with natural herbs and spices and loads of that priceless ingredient called love – the artificial preservatives in the processed food are more likely to cause long-term health issues.

The critical importance of salt as an essential component of good food has been long recognized universally. The salt temples of China are testimony to this fact, as is the infamous salt production ban imposed by the British in India during its colonization. So, the key point is that rather than eliminating salt from the diet to reduce high blood pressure, one should use salt judiciously. Here’s what I recommend in relation to your salt consumption:

¬ Use unrefined salt (Himalayan pink salt)/ black salt/ rock salt for the excellent balance of sodium and potassium that it provides. White, iodised salt gives only sodium, and no potassium. Moreover, black salt (“kaala namak”) – a good source of iodine, potassium and iron- is a natural digestive that also lends its own bit of flavor to the sherbet, fruits and salads, or the raitas that you choose to add it to!

¬ Avoid packaged, processed and industrialized foods, which reduce our body’s ability to absorb and assimilate nutrients. These foods affect the sodium to potassium ratio and the water balance, which in turn has a negative effective on blood pressure.

Pickles, papads and pressure

As briefly mentioned above, one of the first casualties of a problem with hypertension is pickles and papads, that tend to get eliminated from the dining table almost immediately. Not the most prudent choice!

There is a reason why the art of making delicious homemade pickles has been passed on from generation to generation; our ancestors probably recognized the benefits of pickles beyond being mere taste enhancers. Today, it is being increasingly acknowledged- even in the west- that traditional homemade pickles have just the right strain of probiotic bacteria that can play an important role in lowering of blood pressure.

Similarly, papad has its own benefits, a fact that certain communities in India -like the Sindhis, for example- seem to have fully absorbed based on their well-known affinity for this savory snack. Some of these benefits are fairly obvious if we just pay close attention to the ingredients of papad, namely various lentils/ daals (usually protein-rich) and a range of spices such as black pepper and cumin. The role of various spices in keeping us healthy merits a separate article by itself; for now, suffice to say that the spices just add a therapeutic quality to the papads. Let high blood pressure not be the reason for you to give up on home made papads.

Maintain healthy blood pressure with sound sleep

The importance of adequate duration and good quality sleep for our body and mind is only getting reinforced in study after study. Restorative sleep produces hormones important for maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

Chronic sleep deprivation leads to an increase in cortisol levels that will in turn lead to insulin resistance and lifestyle diseases/problems like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Therefore, to maintain a healthy blood pressure and avoid other lifestyle diseases, give your body sufficient rest and sleep (6-8 hours of good quality of sleep is recommended). Also note that regulating the time you go to sleep and wake up is as important as the quantity of sleep.

Controlling blood pressure with holistic exercise

Walking may be a great first step towards keeping blood pressure normal, but that is certainly not enough. A holistic exercise regimen that includes cardio, strength training and yoga will go a long way in preventing the need for blood pressure medicines.

Strength training/ resistance training is known to increase the plasma adiponectin secretion by fat cells. Adiponectin helps prevent metabolic disorders like hypertension and reduces blood pressure. In fact, greater the adiponectin concentration, lower is the mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Studies have also shown a correlation between yoga and a lower blood pressure. Doing yoga two to three times a week is associated with a drop in blood pressure readings. The amount of change may be small but certainly have very significant long term benefits.

Watch your lifestyle

To conclude, you can maintain good control of your blood pressure by making suitable lifestyle adjustments.

Cut out processed, packaged food that are loaded with preservatives; enjoy traditional, home-made delights; have a holistic exercise regimen and give yourself the gift of good sleep. Just follow these “simple” tips and you may never be alarmed by the readings from the blood pressure monitor!

To check out more videos from us, click here

References

1. Could Probiotics Help Tame High Blood Pressure, WebMD.com

2. Adiponectin and Hypertension, ResearchGates

3. Resistance Training Promotes Reduction in Blood Pressure and Increase Plasma Adiponectin of Hypertensive Elderly Patients, Journal of Hypertension

4. Yoga May Help Ease High Blood Pressure, WebMD.com

Confused by the misinformation about potential health problems with traditional Indian foods? Get in touch with well-known 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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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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