Boost your Immunity the Natural Way

ImmunityEveryday, the immune system defends us against disease causing microorganisms, as well as protecting us from anomalies in the cellular system that may develop into cancerous growths. When the immune system works at its optimum level, the health is good. Sometimes the immune system fails, and one feels below par and constantly unwell. When immunity is compromised, it leaves the body defenceless and vulnerable to disease. The fact is that there are germs everywhere. It is very important to nurture and enhance one’s own internal resistance to disease, so that the microbes and viruses do not get a foothold.

A healthy immune system forms the basis of our well being, so it is important to make it more efficient by avoiding anything that might compromise or weaken it. This is fundamental to good health. First let us look at the factors that cause immunity to be compromised. It is mostly ascribed to the type of lifestyles we live. Diet, stress and medicines can cause an imbalance in our system by suppressing the immune response.

Diets that are high in fat, sugar, processed food and low in fresh food, fibre and essential nutrients lead to a weak immune system.  Like any fighting force, the immune system needs good, regular nourishment. This could be one of the reasons that people who live in poverty and are malnourished are more vulnerable to infectious diseases.

Stress is another cause of low immunity. Chronic stress causes the adrenal glands to secrete higher levels of corticosteroids, which depress immune function. Research suggests that psychological stress affects the immune system by disrupting communication between the nervous system, the endocrine (hormonal) system, and the immune system.

Environmental pollutants in the form of radiation from mobile phones, television, microwaves and computers; chemicals from exhaust fumes, pesticides, herbicides, smoke, air fresheners and detergents; and pollutants from house dust, dust mites and mould can also cause a weak immune system.

The medications that we take when we are sick also causes imbalances in our immune system. Over use of antibiotics can cause suppression of normal immune system responses.

How to Boost Immunity?

What we eat has the power, both to harm and heal. We are what we eat and hence the efficiency of the body’s operations depend on whether the food we take in is appropriate or not. We can start by making changes to the diet we eat.

Diet: Reduce the intake of simple sugars, alcohol, saturated and harmful fats, and cut out on smoking and drug use. Diet should be natural, unprocessed and whole. Increase the intake of whole grain, legumes, fresh fruits, vegetables and drink plenty of water. Eat all colours (red, orange and yellow, white, green, blue and purple) of vegetables and fruits. Each coloured fruit and vegetable has unique health benefits that are necessary for our health. Malnourished individuals are more susceptible to disease as opposed to those who observe a healthy nutritious diet. The Harvard Health site says that “there is some evidence that various micronutrient deficiencies — for example, deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E — alter immune responses in animals, as measured in the test tube.”

One must also get enough rest and relaxation, quality sleep, and moderate exercise. Lack of sleep seems to impair the healthy functioning of the immune system. Exercise contributes to general good health and enhances the functioning of the immune system. Research has shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to get colds than those who are not active. Exercise may sometimes contribute more directly by promoting good circulation, thus allowing the components of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.

Natural Remedies For Optmizing Immune Activity:

Herbs like Echinacea, astralagus, licorice, ginseng, ginger and garlic are very effective remedies to boost the immune system. Garlic, ginger and onion are all immune supportive as well as warming. When used together, they provide powerful immune support than when used on their own. Herbs that support, strengthen or enhance components of the immune system are called immune stimulants. Herbs that increase general immunity are the most valued herbs in traditional healing systems, because when general immune functions become stronger and more efficient, we are generally more resistant to diseases. Ayurveda suggests the following home remedies to boost immunity.

In ayurveda, the most important herbs to boost immunity are Amla, Ashwagandha, Turmeric, Guduchi, Neem and Holy basil. Amla is a great liver toxifier and an anti-oxidant. Ashwagandha has a tonifying effect on the whole hormone system and it reduces stress. It is said to stimulate host defence. Turmeric as we all know is a very effective natural remedy as it is anti-inflammatory. Excessive inflammation causes tissue damage and depletion of the immune system. Curcumin, the compound in turmeric is recognized for controlling inflammation without the risk of toxicity.

Guduchi is a versatile herb which supports immune and liver function. Research indicates that Guduchi produces its anti-inflammatory effect through blocking the effect of inflammatory signals, thus controlling non-specific allergic reactivity and reducing the burden on the immune system. Neem is an anti-microbial herb of the Ayurvedic tradition. Medicinal compounds found in neem oil and leaves stimulate various immune cells to act against pathogens. Studies on the properties of neem have shown that it is toxic against a variety of fungus, bacteria, and viruses.

Holy Basil, is another herb that is a great immune booster. It is rich in essential oils that have a beneficial effect on the nervous system, immune system and the antioxidant system. The herb is known to have anti-stress effect in animal studies. Holy basil helps to replenish anti-oxidant enzymes in the body, while also controlling inflammation.

There are other ways to boost your immune system.

  • Drink a glass of lemon juice every morning. This is a perfect way to boost digestion and immunity at the same time.
  • The immune system is strongest in an alkaline environment. Drinking plenty of water will boost the alkalinity and thus the immunity.
  • Eat one cup of yogurt every day. Yogurt contains probiotics – bacteria that stimulates immunity cells in the GI tract.
  • Eat both – cooked food and raw food. Overcooked food diminishes the amount of immune boosting nutrients.
  • Have more Omega 3s by eating oily fish at least once a week. Flaxseed oil also contain Omega 3s, which is a good choice for vegetarians.

As an article in ayurvedicscience.com says, “It is very clear that balanced immune system is required for optimal health. Immune system cannot be balanced with a pill, herb, vitamin, drug or vaccine. Immune system can only be balanced with good and balanced nutrition, exercise, yoga, meditation, herbal and mineral support, along with creating balance at mental, emotional and spiritual levels.”

How to prepare herbs

 

How to prepaqre herbsHerbalism is the oldest form of medicine known to us, and this knowledge has been accumulated over thousands of years. While modern medicine is all about finding and extracting the one active ingredient in a plant to make it a powerful medicine, herbalists insist that a plant is made up of a number of ingredients, which work together to make it a safer and more effective medicine. Most herbalists believe that modern medicine suppresses the body’s healing powers. The symptoms are healed but the underlying cause of illness is not addressed.

A growing number of doctors and patients are embracing a complementary approach to treating health problems. Minor ailments and non-threatening diseases can easily be treated at home with herbs. The chronic ones need to be treated systematically for months. With more and more people turning to natural remedies, it becomes imperative to know how to prepare the herbs and how to use them correctly to achieve maximum results.

How To Prepare Herbs?

Most medicinal herbs are available with herbalists. We may also grow these herbs – some of them are really easy to grow. One has to be careful however, that the plants have not been exposed to pollutants, pesticides and sprays. Herbs for medicinal purpose should be harvested just before flowering, and the ideal time to harvest is in the morning, says Prof D N Dhar in his book, ‘Natural Remedies’.

Herbs can be taken fresh or dry. Dry herbs are more potent than fresh ones, hence while using dried herbs, it is suggested that the ratio of herb to water should be 25g to 500ml. When fresh herbs are used, the ratio would be 50g to 500ml. There are basically three basic carriers used to extract the healing elements of herbs. These are water, alcohol and oil. The easiest to make at home is water based extractions.

Teas

Teas can be brewed from the fresh or dried flowers, leaves or roots of a herb. Add a tsp of dried herb or two tsp of fresh crushed herb to two cups of water. Bring this to a boil and then let it steep for 10 – 15 minutes. Herbal teas can be had hot or cold. Keeping the pot covered with a close-fitting lid, will help to retain the active ingredients, as otherwise they may be lost due to evaporation. Most of the active ingredients in the herbs are volatile.

Infusions

Place the freshly-crushed herbs, condiments or spices in a container, and pour hot water on them. Cover with a lid, let it cool to room temperature, then use it. Infusions can also be used as herbal teas and for inhalations. Infusions using hot water on the verge of boiling, preserves the beneficial oils that can be sometimes be lost through escaping steam.

Decoctions

Decoctions are usually prepared from the dried bark of trees, seeds and roots. These hard substances need prolonged boiling to release their active principles. Decoctions can also be made from fresh, soft plant parts like crushed flowers, soft leaves and stems. In this case, boil only for 3-4 mins. Take about half a cup of coarsely pounded bark/seeds/roots. To this add two cups of water and boil till only one-fourth remains. Strain through a soft, clean cloth or filter, and use.

Cold Extracts

In case of delicate plants and herbs such as rose, jasmine, marigold, hibiscus, and coriander whose oils evaporate very fast, the ingredients are soaked in cold water and left for 10-12 hours, or even overnight. Half a cup of herbs to a cup of water should be used.

It is best to use these remedies as soon as possible after brewing them, because they start to lose their potency within a few hours of exposure to air. Honey or sugar can be added to bitter tasting teas to make them more palatable. Some teas produce side effects like nausea, hence they are given with aromatics like cinnamon, cloves or cardamom. Temperatures at which you boil the herbs also play an important role in extracting the medicinal properties of the herb.

Herbs like bearberry, should not be boiled as it loses its efficacy. Hence the bearberry tea is prepared by soaking the leaves in water. Some teas like parsley may not be good for pregnant women as it may increase the risk of miscarriage. Elderly people with liver, kidney and cardiovascular problems should not liquorice for a long time. As a rule , raw, cold, greasy and hard to digest foods should be avoided while taking herbal teas. It is always advisable to follow the instructions carefully while having herbal teas.

Science of Breath – 1

Life is actually a series of breaths, that starts with birth and ends with death. To live is to breathe. The correct form of breathing not only leads to good physical health but it also increases one’s mental power, happiness, self control, clarity in thinking and even one’s spiritual growth. Hence it is very important to understand how breath works.

A person who is able to control his breath, will be able to control his body and mind. The yogis of ancient times were able through breathing practices, to store prana in their body and send it to any organ or part, thus strengthening and invigorating that part.

Oxygen, is needed by every cell in our body in order to live. The air that we breathe contains oxygen.  In the lungs, the oxygen moves into the bloodstream and this purified and oxygenated blood is carried to the heart and to different parts of the body through arteries and capillaries. At each cell in the body, the oxygen cells are exchanged for waste gas called carbon dioxide. The bloodstream then carries this waste gas back to the lungs where the waste gas is removed from the blood and then exhaled from the body.

It follows that unless fresh air in sufficient quantities reaches the lungs, the impure stream of venous blood cannot be purified. Thus, not only is the body robbed of its nourishment but the waste products which should have been destroyed are returned to the circulatory system thus poisoning it, instead of invigorating and strengthening it.

The normal human being invariably breathes in a shallow way, in which, only a portion of lung is used and a large portion of the lung capacity is lost, as a result of which, the blood does not get completely purified. Once we understand that ‘prana’ (life force energy) comes from the air we breathe, it makes sense to learn the correct way of breathing, so that we live a life full of vitality.

What is Prana?

‘Prana’ is absolute energy which exists everywhere. It is considered to be the essence of all forms of life – from the highest to the lowest. Fresh air is the greatest source of prana. The easiest way of getting prana is by inhaling it along with air. This is where breath and the way we breathe plays an important role in  nourishing both mind and body. With the correct form of breathing, we can control and regulate breathing. We will be able to extract a greater supply of prana, which is stored in the brain and nervous system, to be used when necessary.

What is the correct form of breathing?

The correct form of breathing according to Yogi Ramacharaka, is also called the complete breath. First of all, always breathe through the nose, and not through the mouth. The mouth is not equipped to cleanse the air and change the temperature of the air you are breathing in. The nostrils filter the air we breathe and also warm it, so that it can do no damage to the delicate respiratory organs.

The best method of breathing according to Yogi Ramacharaka is one where the entire respiratory apparatus, – every part of the lung, every cell, every respiratory muscle is brought into play. In the Yogi complete breathing method, “the respiratory muscles are fully called into play…… The muscles controlling the ribs are used in such a way that, it increases the space in which the lungs can expand.”

The maximum benefit is derived with minimum energy expended. In such a breathing, the chest cavity is expanded to its normal limits in all directions and every part works and performs the functions it is supposed to.

To Eat or Not to Eat – A Potato

 

health benefits of potatoesThe potato though much loved is also a much maligned vegetable, due to its high glycemic index and its tendency to make people obese. Here are some things you should know about a potato.

Potatoes originated in the Andean mountain region of South America. It was brought to Europe by Spanish explorers. At first it was not widely consumed, as it belonged to the night shade family, of which some species are poisonous. It is said that the potato promoted economic development by helping the industrial revolution in England. It was so easy to cultivate and provided ample calories, thus liberating workers from the land and provided labour for the new factories. Today it is one of the most popular vegetables throughout the world. In October 1995 the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space, to help feed astronauts on long space voyages.

The potato is a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese and dietary fibre. It contains a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity.

Health benefits of Potato

The potato is a very good source of B6. Vitamin B6 helps a lot of systems in our body like cardiovascular, digestive, immune, muscular and nervous system. It is very critical for new cell formation. It protects the heart and plays a very important role in brain cell and nervous system activity. The B6 vitamin is needed to make the hormone serotonin and norepinephrine, which affect mood. Thus eating potatoes may help with depression and stress.

The vitamin C in potatoes acts as an antioxidant.  Antioxidants protect us against damage caused by harmful molecules, as well as toxic chemicals and pollutants. Vitamin C protects us from immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and eye diseases.

Many of the beneficial phytochemicals in potatoes are contained in the potato skin, which is also the primary source of dietary fibre. Potato has both soluble and insoluble fibre. Potatoes are rich in fibre, but only when eaten with the skin.

Kukoamine, a compound found in potatoes, is said to have blood pressure lowering compounds. UK scientists have identified previously unknown compounds in the potato that are also found in a herbal used to lower blood pressure. Potatoes also contain potassium which acts as a vasodilator and reduces blood pressure. It is said to have more potassium than a banana.

Potatoes contain cartenoids, flavanoids and caffeic acid. A flavonoid-rich diet has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer, cardio-vascular disease and other chronic diseases. One of the key flavonoids in potatoes is quercetin, which has been linked to a lower risk of asthma, heart disease and lung cancer.

In spite of having all these health benefits, most of us do not absorb the nutrients because of the way it is cooked. Much of the nutrients in a potato is in the skin. Potassium, a mineral that helps lower blood pressure is found in the skin of the potato. It is also a good source of fibre.

Potatoes should be baked or steamed to retain most of its nutrients. Baking is the best. Boiling and cooking a peeled potato leads to loss of nutrients as most of the water soluble nutrients like B-complex vitamins, vitamin C and potassium leach out into the water that is used for boiling it. If you do want to boil it, it makes sense to use the water in a soup or as a stock for cooking. Also, do not leave the chopped peeled potatoes to soak for long.

According to forbes.com, “Storing potatoes in the fridge can increase the amount of acrylamide that forms when they’re cooked.” Keep potatoes outside the refrigerator in a dark, cool place, such as a closet or a pantry. The FDA suggests soaking potato slices in water for 15-30 minutes before cooking to reduce the amount of acrylamide that will form.”

Health risks of Potato

Potato is a nutrient-rich complex carbohydrate and plays an important role in a healthy diet. Starches usually take longer to digest, so in most complex carbohydrates they don’t cause a boost in blood sugar. But unfortunately, the starch in potatoes is easier to break down and digest than many other starches and hence, the carbohydrates in potatoes are digested very rapidly by the body thus causing rapid spikes in blood sugar. While healthy individuals can tolerate them in moderation, the rapid rise in blood sugar can lead to increased insulin production, which is why diabetics are discouraged from eating potatoes.

Because of this rise and fall in blood sugar, people may also tend to feel hungry soon, leading to over eating. Eating with the skin helps, as it is high in fibre. Soluble fibre becomes gel-like in the stomach, which fills you up and helps you feel full longer.

It has been recommended by some nutritionists to replace grains with potatoes and to not use potato as the only vegetable on your plate along with grains. Even when you cook potato in a healthy way, it can lead to health problems in persons with obesity or diabetes. Hence it makes sense to not make it unhealthy by frying it and adding butter or cheese to it.

Caution

If the potatoes are sprouting, you should cut out the eyes and the sprout before cooking the potato.

Potatoes turn green when they have too much exposure to light. Never eat potatoes that are spoiled or have turned green below the skin as they are poisonous.

Potatoes should also not be stored around onions because both vegetables emit natural gases that cause the other to decay.

Studies have shown that potatoes, which cooked above 120 degrees C or 248 degrees F, produce a chemical known as acrylamide. This compound, has been found to play a role in the development of several cancers, and and may also have negative effects on genes and reproductive health. Fried potato products, such as potato chips and French fries, are high in acrylamides.  “Decreasing cooking time, blanching potatoes before frying, and postdrying (drying in a hot air oven after frying) have been shown to decrease the acrylamide content of some foods” says the website, cancer.gov

Potato is a good source of potassium. However high levels of potassium in the body is not good for those with kidney problems, as the kidneys may not be able to filter excess potassium from the blood. This could be fatal.

Knowing both the benefits and risks, help us choose food wisely. Since the overall eating pattern is very important in achieving good health, we should eat a diet with a variety of foods, instead of  depending on individual foods to keep us healthy.

Home Remedies to Reduce Cholesterol

 

Natural Home Remedies to Treat High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a wax like substance. It is fat made by the liver. Some cholesterol is needed for good health (it is essential for formation of cell membranes, hormones and vitamin D). Too much cholesterol in the blood leads to problems. The extra cholesterol in the blood may be stored in the arteries and cause them to narrow. Large deposits block an artery. When an artery that supplies blood to the heart is blocked it causes a heart attack and when an artery that supplies blood to the brain is blocked it causes a stroke.

Cholesterol travels in blood through carrier proteins called the lippoproteins, that help it dissolve in blood and be transported to all parts of the body. Low-density lippoprotein or LDL deliver cholesterol to the body and hence is called the bad cholesterol and high-density lippoprotein HDL, removes cholesterol from the blood stream and hence is called the good cholesterol. Fortunately, the build up of cholesterol and triglycerides can be slowed, stopped and sometimes even reversed.

Natural Food to Treat Build up of Cholesterol

Increase your Omega-3sOmega3

Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are actually said to lower cholesterol. Salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are great sources of Omega-3s. Fish oil supplements also contain two types of omega-3s. Flaxseed is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating 2 tbsp of flaxseed daily can cut LDL cholesterol by as much as 18%.

Increase the fibreFibre helps reduce cholesterol

Oats are rich in soluble fibre. Fibre works in the intestines by binding of cholesterol so that it cannot be absorbed and helps the ingested food to move through the tract more quickly, so that there is simply less time for the cholesterol to be absorbed. Eating around one cup of oats daily could lower the LDL cholesterol quite substantially. The most valuable sources of fibre for reducing high levels of blood fat seems to be oats bran, beans, barley, apples, soya bean and alfalfa. Fruits and vegetables are rich in dietary fibre, which can help lower cholesterol.

Herbs and Spices

Several herbs and spices like fenugreek seeds and leaves, holy basil, ginger, turmeric and garlic help lower cholesterol. Nuts like almonds and walnuts, that are high in fibre should replace foods high in saturated fat. To control and maintain cholesterol levels, minimize consumption of animal products including dairy products as animal foods (other than fish) are high in saturated fatty acids and dietary cholesterol. Eat a lot of anti-oxidant foods such as strawberries, apples, nuts, carrots, broccoli and spinach.

Home Remedies to fight Cholesterol

Boil water with 2 tsp coriander seed. Strain and drink this water twice daily. It helps reduce cholesterol, flushes out toxins, and improves digestion.

Guggulu (Commiphora mukul) is effective in lowering cholesterol. Studies investigating the hypolipidemic benefits of gum guggul show that it can reduce cholesterol levels by 14-27% and lower triglycerides by 22-30%. It is also said to increase the good cholesterol (HDL). There is a difference in the outcomes of Indian and Western studies. While Indian studies have found strong evidence to support this fact, western studies have not found it to be so. This difference is being attributed to the difference in diet followed.

Green tea is said to have hypocholesterolemic properties. Researchers have found that consumption of green tea reduces both LDL and total cholesterol. Polyphenols in green tea are said to block the intestinal absorption of cholesterol and promote its excretion from the body. It also inhibits the abnormal formation of blood clots.

Garlic also lowers cholesterol in the blood by singling out the especially harmful LDL fraction. Crush a couple of garlic and let it stand for a few minutes, then have it early in the morning on an empty stomach. It helps to breaks up cholesterol in the blood vessels and helps prevent the hardening of arteries.

Arjuna is said to have the ability to contain the blood’s absorption of lipids and thus regulates cholesterol. It possesses hypolipidemic properties. Arjuna is rich in co-enzyme Q-10 (CoQ10) that helps lower LDL cholesterol and enhances HDL recovery. Take 1 to 2 capsules per day of Arjun (Terminalia arjuna) extract available in a capsule form.

Artichoke is an old traditional home remedy. It has been established that artichokes have cholesterol-lowering ability. A German study on a group of volunteers, in which they were given artichoke extract for 6 weeks showed that it lowered total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol by 18.5% and 22.9% respectively. The effect on HDL and triglycerides however were minimal.

Apart from having the right kind of food, some other measures one can take is to maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking, eat a low-fat, low-salt diet that includes many fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Exercise or walk everyday at least 30 minutes and avoid alcohol if you can.

Know more about natural ways to prevent and treat high cholesterol

Acidity Home Remedies

The stomach contains millions of glands that secrete gastric juices, mostly hydrochloric acid. The acid activates the secretion of the enzyme pepsin, which starts protein digestion. The stomach also secretes various other enzymes that are necessary for digestion and to help break down food. Sometimes there is excess production of acid in the stomach. These gastric juices move from the stomach into the esophagus. Lying down can result in acid regurgitation, (where the acid sensation is felt in the mouth). This condition is called acidity. Acidity can lead to dyspepsia, heartburn and even formation of ulcers.

Home Remedies for Acidity

Hyperacidity caused by wrong diet can easily be treated and prevented. Acidity is mostly caused by dietary and bad lifestyle choices. A proper diet and physical activity go a long way in controlling acidity. Diet for acidity

Keep a small lump of jaggery in your mouth and keep sucking it slowly. The sweet juice of jaggery will help reduce acidity. Jaggery breaks down and becomes alkaline in the digestive system.

Boil one cup of water and add a tsp of Aniseed to it. Cover and leave overnight. Strain the water in the morning, add 1 tsp of honey and take it 3 times a day. Saunf  or aniseed helps in digestion, thus preventing acidity.

Banana, Water Melon, grapefruit and cucumber are some of the fruits which prove helpful in acidity. It is always good to eat fruits every day as it helps to increase alkaline in the body, thus neutralizing the effects of acidity.

A tsp of lime juice mixed with water and a pinch of sodabicarb is an excellent home remedy for reducing acidity in the stomach.

Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is said to be a effective home remedy for acidity. Take a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and then follow it up with a glass of water.

Virgin coconut oil is very helpful in acidity. Coconut oil is an excellent antibiotic. Studies have also confirmed its high antimicrobial and anit-bacterial activity.

Almonds help to quickly control the heart burn. A few pieces of almonds taken daily helps relieve acidity.

Add a tsp of Caraway seeds (shah jeera) to one and a half liters of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Drink it while still warm, 2-3 times a day.

Powder equal quantities of clove and cardamom and use the powder as a mouth freshener after a meal. It helps to cure acidity and also bad breath.

Slice an inch of ginger and simmer in 2 cups of water, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain and drink it about 20 minutes before a meal.

Sipping on holy basil (tulsi) tea helps alleviate acidity. Mint leaf tea is also a good home remedy for acidity.

Probiotics like yogurt, buttermilk, and other fermented products can help prevent acid reflux problems.

Cynodon dactylon is another natural remedy to treat acidity. Make a juice of  the herb and mix about 3-4 tsps. of the juice in 1 cup of water. Drink this on an empty stomach in the morning.

Eat right – the traditional way

The purpose of food, it is said is not only to increase longevity and bodily strength, but also to purify the mind and consciousness. Food is supposed to nourish the organs, regulate various activities of the body and help the different organs in the body to grow. Eating the right kind of food promotes health and growth, while there are some food items and practices that should be avoided as they lead to health problems. Ayurveda tells us to combine food wisely, eat in a pleasant atmosphere and at fixed times to get maximum benefits from the food that we eat. The choices we make regarding food, either builds up immunity or destroys it.

Start the day with warm water

The water that is used by the body overnight for digestion, cleansing, and elimination, needs to be replenished. It is hence, necessary to drink water first thing in the morning, preferably warm. Warm water is said to stimulate digestion and wash out the toxins, thus preparing the body for the day ahead. Adding the juice of half a lemon to warm water, makes it even more healthy. This is because lemon leaves an alkaline residue, which is necessary for good health.

Do not Overeat

Ayurveda advises us to eat slightly less than what the appetite demands, because it is not only about the amount of food we ingest, but also how well we digest and absorb the nutrients from the food into our system. The stomach needs working space, and so, it should be filled only half and actually thats how much we need to feed our hunger. We should leave 1/4th space for liquids and 1/4th space for air to help in digestion. Overeating dulls the mind and tires the body.

Chew properly

It is said that half the digestion takes place in our mouth. By chewing properly, we can save our intestines a lot of work. The intestines have to work harder to digest half-chewed food. One should eat slowly and chew well. This helps in two ways. It gives the brain enough time to receive the signal from the stomach that it’s full. Therefore, the slower we chew, the lesser we eat. Also, when we chew thoroughly, our digestive system becomes aware of incoming food, and triggers the production of digestive acids which  helps the body absorb nutrients.Food that has not been chewed properly, promotes all sorts of problems like intestinal bacteria, flatulence, bloating, constipation, stomach ache, cramps and even diarrhea. That is why we are asked to chew our food at least 32 times before swallowing it.

Focus on the Food

Ayurveda asks us to eat with the belief that the food we eat is enhancing the energy, intelligence and health. It advises us to eat mindfully, that is , eating without distraction. How do we do this? We eat mindfully by not doing anything else while eating, like watching television or reading. By eating slowly and savouring the food, one enjoys it more. Above all, when we are aware of every morsel we eat, we know when we are getting full, and can avoid over eating. The environment should be peaceful during meals and we should refrain from emotions like anger, irritation, and negative thinking. The food should be cooked with love and care in order to transfer positive energy to food. Food is considered next to God because it gives us life, and it is said that, eating the food with our hands enables to transfer the warmth of our body to the food, and creates a closeness and a bond with our food.

Should you drink water with food?

Our stomach starts releasing digestive juices as soon as we start eating, or even before. When we drink water during meals, what we are essentially doing is diluting the digestive juices that are released to digest the food, thus hindering them from breaking down food. Sipping a little water during meals isn’t a cause for concern but drinking more than that may interfere with digestion. Drinking water before eating leads to loss of appetite and this may be helpful for people who want to lose weight. It is best to drink water about 30 mins before we start eating. We should avoid drinking water for about two hours after meals as this helps in the absorption of nutrients. Eating in a hurry causes us to gulp down our food, thus triggering our need to wash it down with water. If we chew our food well, we will not find the need for water to wash it down.

Eat at fixed times

In ayurveda, an important rule is to maintain atleast a gap of three hours between meals. The habit of snacking in between meals, hampers the digestive process and other complex functions of the body. The digestive power is said to be the strongest at mid day, and therefore we should take our main meal at this time. Ayurveda asks us to wait at least three hours after a light meal and five after a heavy meal before eating again.

Have fresh and natural food

Eat fresh food to remain healthy. One should try to eat seasonal vegetables and fruits, and whole grain and dried fruits. Food should be as fresh as possible. Natural foods like milk products, grains, fruits, and vegetables are believed to increase longevity, give strength, health and happiness. It also satisfies the body and mind. Ayurveda also tells us to eat different tastes – salty, sweet, bitter, and sour, in one meal. This is because these various tastes stimulate the digestive juices to a great extent. This may explain why a traditional Indian meal (which has a variety of different tastes and flavours), also includes a small sweet dish in the main meal and not as a separate dessert.

How to cook your vitamins

We all are aware that fruits and vegetables should be an important part of our diet. Most of us try to ingest as much as possible. Yet we don’t see positive results, we don’t seem to be really getting all the nutrients from the food. This may be because of many reasons – the food is not fresh, and hence has lost most of the nutrients; we lack knowledge about how a particular vegetable should be cooked, so that we can absorb most of the nutrients;  Should the vegetable be eaten raw or cooked? Most of the time, we lose a lot of vitamins during the process of preparing, storing and cooking food.

First of all it is necessary to know our vitamins. For instance, we all know that tomatoes, red capsicums, spinach are rich in vitamin C. So we cook them and eat them, thinking we have had a very nutritious diet. But the truth is that vitamin C is water soluble and when we cook it, it leaches out into the water, and if you don’t drink the water or use it in a soup, you didn’t really get vitamin C from the food you ate. So its best to eat them raw or steamed. But wait a minute, there is something called Lycopene in tomatoes, that is not available all that much in raw tomatoes. Lycopene increases as the tomatoes are cooked more and more. Also, when eaten with oil, it increases lycopene absorption by the body. Spinach has quite a good amount of calcium. But it also has oxalic acid which can interfere with the absorption of calcium by the body. Since spinach offers a lot nutritionally, you cannot stop eating spinach. The answer is to eat yogurt to get calcium and spinach to get all the other nutrients like vitamin C, Iron and vitamin A.

The secret here is to know your vitamins and minerals, and how to cook them. There are water soluble vitamins and fat soluble vitamins. We can avoid specific types of vitamin loss, by cooking them right. Vitamins A, E, D and K are fat soluble vitamins, therefore the food has to contain some fat, to be a good source of one of these vitamins, and to get the most from them. In general, fat soluble vitamins are fairly well retained while preparing food, largely because they don’t dissolve in water. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues. They are used by the body as required and eliminated more slowly than water-soluble vitamins. So an overdose of these vitamins could lead to toxic results.

Water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the body and as such have to be replenished every day. The water soluble vitamins are the B vitamins, vitamin C and folates. These vitamins are also easily excreted by the kidneys. Water soluble vitamins readily dissolve into the water used in cooking. This is one reason why you should cook with just enough water or use the liquid from cooking to make soups. Heat is another problem for many water soluble vitamins.

Following these tips will help cut down the nutrient losses from foods while preparing and storing food.

Use fresh fruits and vegetables, as soon as possible after purchase, as nutrients get destroyed with the passage of time. Avoid soaking vegetables in water for long periods of time. Keep the skin intact whenever possible, as in some vegetables and fruits the nutrients are often just below the skin. Do not wash the vegetable after cutting it and try to cut it into larger pieces as there is less loss of nutrition. Vitamin C also evaporates into air, hence keep juices covered tightly in the fridge. Riboflavin is destroyed by exposure to light, hence keep food with riboflavin, covered and in the fridge as soon as possible. Serve cooked vegetables immediately, as it starts losing nutrition after 24 hours in the fridge.

Where cooking vegetables is concerned, it is better to steam vegetables than to boil them. Don’t cook for long and avoid high temperatures. To avoid stickiness in food like pastas, adding some oil is a better alternative than to rinse them, as some vitamins will also be washed off. The key is to cook vegetables gently, without a great deal of water. This will help protect the water-soluble vitamins. Blanching the vegetables will also help preserve the color and nutrients in the food we eat.

Toothache home remedies

Tooth decay is usually the cause of tooth aches. A tooth ache is a sign of decay, abscess or inflammation inside the tooth or of the gum. The main cause of tooth decay is plaque. Plaque is a film of mucus and bacteria deposited on the teeth that encourages the development of dental caries. Dental caries is also known as tooth decay or a cavity. It is an infection which is bacterial in origin, that causes demineralization of the tooth surface.

What causes tooth decay?

Tooth decay is usually caused by a sticky film of food residue, saliva and bacteria that accumulate on teeth. The bacteria feeds on the sugars and starches from food we eat. These bacteria produce an acid that can destroy the enamel, which is the protective surface of the tooth.  When the decay advances. it leads to deep cavities that allow bacteria to enter the pulp deep within the tooth, and eventually leads to a painful dental abscess. It is called a tooth abscess, when pus has accumulated in a cavity on the interior of the tooth.

Home remedies to prevent and treat tooth aches

Tooth decay invariably requires  treatment by a dentist, but you can use a variety of natural home remedies to relieve pain while dental treatment takes effect, and even prevent it by performing these simple actions, which will keep the teeth healthy.

Prevention:

Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss it to remove food particles from between your teeth.
Minimize the consumption of refined carbohydrates. Such foods promote plaque formation and raise acid levels in the mouth.
Reduce excess acidity in your mouth after eating by brushing or rinsing your mouth well so as to remove food residue and counter acidity.
Drink tea, which is a good source of fluoride and tannins. Fluorides is a decay fighting mineral and the tannins help fight bacteria. Green tea can prevent tooth decay by inhibiting oral bacteria.
Minimize snacking, (including sugary drinks, candy and mints) as this leads to a constant supply of acid in the mouth.

It is not how often we brush our teeth, but how well we brush our teeth that matters. It is recommended that we hold the brush at a 45 degree angle against the gum line. Point the brush upwards while brushing the upper teeth and downward while brushing the lower teeth. Use short back and forth motion to clean the surface of teeth. Tilt the brush vertically and use the front part of the brush in short up down strokes to clean the inner surfaces of the front teeth. Finally, brush your tongue too, as it has disease containing plaque.

Another important thing to do everyday is to floss your teeth. The teeth are usually touching each other, so there is no other way to get into the space between teeth. Flossing too has to be done the right way. You don’t want to slash your gums. Floss not only removes the food particles from between teeth, but also the plaque that builds between teeth. It is good to be methodical when flossing and brushing, so that no surfaces of any teeth are missed.

Treatment

To reduce the pain of an abscess, apply a hot compress for five minutes, every half an hour and wash out with warm salt water afterwards. This may help release the pus.
Apply a few drops of clove oil on the gum above or beneath the aching tooth. Cloves contain eugenol, a local anaesthetic. If you do not have clove oil at home, powder the cloves finely and make a very thick decoction out of it. Soak a cotton wool in this decoction and place it on the hurting tooth.
Apply a cotton wool ball soaked in echinacea tincture to the affected tooth.
Apply a paste of powdered slippery elm bark mixed with a little water.
Herbal tea made from mango flowers acts as an astringent, soothes inflammation and relieves pain.

For gums

After cleaning teeth, gently massage gums with fingertip, then rinse mouth with cold black tea. The tannin in the tea acts as an astringent and reduces bleeding.
To counter infection, make mouth washes out of meadowsweet tea. You can make this tea by pouring boiling water over the dried herb and steeping for 10 mins. Strain, cool and use.
Take a tbsp of mustard oil, and add a tsp of common salt to it. Massage this mixture on your gums with your forefinger, in circular strokes for about half a minute. Gargle with warm water and repeat three times a day.

Diet for teeth

It is important to keep teeth strong in addition to keeping it clean. Calcium helps make the teeth strong. With an increase in calcium intake, magnesium and zinc intake also has to go up, as the requirement of magnesium and zinc increases with an increase of calcium in the diet. Vitamin C is very important for gum health. Vitamin C is said to supply the gum tissues with oxygen and strengthens the texture of tissues. It also cures infections quickly. Eating raw hard vegetables on a regular basis, helps to clean and exercise the gum and teeth, thus making them stronger.

Swar Yoga – Unification through breath

‘Swara’ in addition to being a ‘musical note’ in sanskrit, also means the continuous flow of air through one’s nostrils. Swar yoga allows us to be in tune with the lunar and planetary cycles, and change right or left hemisphere dominance through breath, whenever we want.  It helps us synchronise our inner rhythms with those of the cosmos.

It is a known fact that we don’t breathe through both nostrils at the same time, except for brief periods in the course of the day.  Breathing with the right, left or both the nostrils creates certain physical and emotional states. A task undertaken during the operation of one nostril is sometimes not suited for that state of body chemistry.

For example, when both nostrils work, we are in a good place to meditate and concentrate. When the right nostril is operating, we are in a rational and logical phase, because it communicates with the left side of the brain. It activates the thinking hemisphere of the brain. When we breathe with the left nostril, we are more tuned to the intuitive, emotional and visual side of our nature, i.e the feeling hemisphere of the brain.

One important aspect of swar yoga is that, it helps us to adapt our activites to the breath in dominance at that point of time, or change our breath to suit the activity we are doing. How do we do this?

In his book, ‘Dhanwantari’, Harish Johari says, breath can be changed from one nostril to the other by lying down on the side of the operating nostril with a pillow placed under the ribcage  The breath will change over in healthy people within 10 mins.

The cycle of breath is directly related to the moon. The right nostril operates at sunrise for three consecutive days, after full moon. After that, for the next three days, our left nostril operates at sunrise and this goes on till the new moon. After the new moon, the cycle changes and the left nostril operates for an hour at sunrise for three consecutive days followed by the right nostril for three days and so on.

When there is a disturbance in the natural cycle, the proper nostril does not open accordingly and body chemistry becomes disturbed. As a result, physical and psychological   disturbances occur. Knowledge of Swar yoga, helps us to quickly respond to the imbalance and avoid the consequences. We can change our breath by the method outlined above. Changing the breath at the first sign of any physical or mental disturbance, prevents worsening of symptoms and promotes well being.

It is said that indigestion can be cured by eating only when the right nostril is dominant. This is because when the right nostril operates, the body chemistry is acidic and heat is produced. This helps in digestion. When left nostril is working, the body chemistry is mostly alkaline. This nostril cools the system and hence, when our left nostril is operating, we should not eat, bathe or defecate. When we want to change an unwanted emotional state, we should breathe through the non active nostril.

There are sciences like chronobiology and chronopsychology, that are investigating the periodic phenomena in living organisms and their adaptation to solar and lunar related rhythms. Chronopsychology is the scientific study, of the way changes in our daily sleep-waking cycles, can adversely affect our ability to work well. Chronopsychologists found that during a 24 hour day, a person’s mental, physical and emotional aptitudes, that depend heavily on biological clocks, vary according to the time of the day. There is a ‘favourable’ time for most of these abilities.

Swar yoga says the same and even tells us what these best times are. Since these abilities depend on the hemispheres of your brain, and the predominance of the hemispheres depends on whether you are breathing with your right or left nostril, you can choose to breathe the right way, to get the best result. Organising your tasks according to your breath will make you more efficient.