November 25, 2013

How to Avoid Frequent Upper Respiratory Illnesses


Throughout this season, cold dry weather causes excessive dryness of the throat and nasal cavity, and the dry air from your heater saps the humidity within your home. While the popular belief is that lowered temperatures cause frequent upper respiratory illnesses like the common cold and flu, the lowered humidity plays a big part. 

The throat and nasal cavity are lined by mucus membrane, that releases mucous, which keeps them moist. The mucous also contains some antiseptic enzymes and antibodies which either kill micro-organisms upon contact or activate the immune system to act against them, respectively. 

Dry air causes the throat and nasal cavity to dry out, and most of us make matters worse by drinking less water, resulting in dehydration and therefore less production of mucus. All of these literally open the doors to viruses and micro-organisms into your body, and that is the foremost reason for the increase in upper respiratory illnesses in winter.


Keep yourself and your family healthy this season by following these rules:


  1.  Stay hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day. Remind yourself to take a sip here and there. 
  2.  Maintain the level of humidity in your home at 25-40% by running a humidifier. 
  3.  To keep your nasal cavity moist, use a saline nasal spray when you are outdoors. 
  4.  Avoid turning the thermostat up in your home (you also save a lot of energy!). 
  5.  We all know this rule, but it can never be repeated enough - always eat a healthy and wholesome diet, stay away from junk food, get enough exercise, and use homeopathy!


Stay warm, and stay healthy!



November 11, 2013

Monday Health Tip - Garlic & Flax seed Chutney powder

It's time again to talk about staying healthy with nutritious food! As the season changes to cold and we acclimatize our bodies, it is important to include in our diet foods that help us to stay healthy. Garlic has historically been used in medicine as an antimicrobial for preventing infections, treating digestive disorders, and lowering blood pressure. The fact that it is found around the world shows its popularity. Garlic is such a powerful herb that everyone should use it all through the year. In this post, I'm sharing a very nutritious recipe that uses garlic and flax seeds - garlic and flax seed chutney powder.

Chutney powders are a convenient side dish used in South India as an accompaniment for breakfast dishes like dosa and idli. Most chutney powders contain split white urad dal (black gram or matpe bean), coconut, dry tamarind, and dry red chillies, in varying proportions. These ingredients form the base of the chutney powder and the main ingredient may be any kind of dal or seed. Every household has its own traditional recipe for chutney powder. Some recipes use garlic, some don't. Some use additional ingredients like peanuts or curry leaves. 

Chutney powders are a simple way to include extra protein or essential nutrients in the diet. Flax seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, especially in plant-based diets. I have already written about the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in this post. Now let's look at the recipe!

Ingredients:


Flax seeds, whole - 1/2 cup
Dry coconut, grated - 1/2 cup
Sesame seeds - 1/4 cup
Dry red chillies - 3-4
Garlic, crushed - 15-20 cloves
Dry tamarind - 2 teaspoon
Oil - 1 teaspoon
Salt - to taste

Method:


Heat a pan and roast the flax seeds lightly, stir frequently and take care that they do not burn. Remove the flax seeds into a dish and then do the same with the sesame seeds, dry red chillies, and dry coconut. Let the coconut turn light brown. After the first 4 ingredients are done, take 1 tsp of oil in the same pan and fry the garlic until it turns light brown. The other ingredients should have cooled enough by now. Take everything in a coffee grinder or a small Indian grinder with salt and pulse a few times to get a coarse mixture. This should not be ground to a fine powder. Once cool, store it in a glass jar in the fridge for up to a month. Chutney powder is typically served with Indian breakfast dishes or with rice. You could also sprinkle this on yogurt or use as a garnish over other side dishes. Mix it with a little yogurt to make a spicy dip. There are lots of ways to enjoy this chutney powder!


Tips:


1. Chutney powders are typically coarse and have some texture. However, they can be ground fine if you prefer. 

2. Adding peanuts will give this powder a different taste. If you like peanuts and would like to experiment with them in this recipe, dry roast the peanuts and grind along with the other ingredients. Do not grind them too fine as
peanuts release oil and can make the dish pasty.


November 4, 2013

Homeopathy for Flu - An update

It's that time of the year again... the weather is getting colder and we're preparing ourselves for the winter.

Here's an old post that I wrote about how to tackle the flu with homeopathic remedies. Homeopathy for flu

Homeopathic remedies work very well for flu, but the list of remedies in the linked article is just an illustration of how homeopathy can be used when you have the flu. It is always a good idea to consult a homeopathic practitioner for advice on what remedy would suit you the best and how to take it.

Stay warm! And stay healthy, with homeopathy!


October 10, 2013

Homeopathy for the Mind

October 10 is World Mental Health Day
Mental health is an important part of all round well being. In today's fast-paced lifestyle, in spite of all the advances in technology and modern-day conveniences, anxiety disorders, stress-related illnesses, panic attacks, PTSD, and depression are commonly seen in populations around the world.  

Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. (Source - WHO). It is not merely the absence of mental disorder(s). Many factors contribute to mental health, including, but not limited to socio-economic, biological, work- or family-related stress, and unhealthy lifestyle.

Homeopathy has always given importance to mental health and homeopathic case taking requires inquiry into symptoms of the mind in all cases of chronic illness, and sometimes in acute illnesses too. The reason for this inquiry is the principles of homeopathy that say that the body, mind, and vital energy are all connected and affect one another. It is only recently that modern medicine has accepted the body-mind connection and opened up new departments for 'psychosomatic medicine' and 'integrated medicine'.

Let's look at some homeopathic remedies that are commonly used in maintaining mental health.

A woman came to me with great anxiety and palpitations of the heart. She had an intense liking for sugar and all things sweet. She was an impulsive person by nature. She was relieved of her anxiety after taking Argentum nitricum.  

Arsenicum album is recommended for persons who are extremely anxious about their health, and about maintaining order in their surroundings (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The saying 'A place for every thing and everything in its place' might have been written for an Arsenicum person. 

Someone who needs Gelsimium experiences muscular weakness along with anxiety. The person is sensitive to sunlight and often has headaches

Children who are emotionally affected by life's transitions by becoming clingy and insecure may need Pulsatilla. They feel better by being comforted.

Someone who needs Aurum metallicum is depressed to the extent of having suicidal thoughts; while someone who has many fears, including fear of death, may need Aconite

Hyoscyamus and Stramonium are indicated in different forms of mania, as is Belladonna.

Natrum muriaticum and Ignatia may be indicated for women with hormonal disturbances and emotional issues. A woman who had become depressed and indifferent towards life felt better after taking Sepia.

A person who has had failures at work and losses in business may need Bryonia or Lycopodium. There was the case of a man who worked hard and partied harder, pushing himself and his body to do more and more until he became irritable and angry with everything in life. His need for alcohol and caffeine reduced and he felt less stressed after taking Nux vomica

A student who was very shy, nervous, and couldn't concentrate on his studies just before his exams was helped by Silicea. He became more confident and did not dread his work any more.

These are just a handful remedies that I have named to illustrate how homeopathic remedies are used for symptoms of the mind. Virtually any remedy from the homeopathic materia medica (the manual of homeopathic remedies) can be used, as long as it best suits the person who it is given to. I cannot name the whole list of remedies here since the materia medica contains more than 3000 remedies!

It is important to remember that homeopathic remedies are given based on the individuality of each person and not on the name of a disease. Each person is unique and even though two people may appear to be affected by the same kind of illness, their symptoms will always differ. 

For example, depression may present as excessive eating, increased sleep, and intolerance to cold in one person; whereas it may present as decreased appetite and sleep, and intolerance to heat/sunlight in another person. While modern medicine gives pertinence to the name of the disease (the diagnosis), homeopathy only considers the person presenting with signs and symptoms. Therefore, even though two people have the same disease diagnosis, their homeopathic remedies may be different based on their own unique symptoms. 

Research has concluded that homeopathy can immensely help people who are troubled with anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of mental illnesses. As is obvious, it is imperative that the practitioner recognize signs of psychosis or suicidal tendencies and integrate other methods of treatment along with homeopathy. 

For the management of daily stress and the mental symptoms that arise due to tough life situations, homeopathic remedies can greatly help!


 

September 16, 2013

Good Posture for Weight Loss

If you are trying to lose weight, watch your posture! Good posture is extremely important for good health. The correct posture not only maintains digestive health, but also helps to build the core abdominal muscles, as well as the back and shoulders.

To know whether you have the correct posture, stand in front of a mirror. Stand up straight, chin up, chest out, stomach in, and shoulders held back. If you draw an imaginary line connecting your ears, shoulders, and hips, they should all fall in the same straight line. Your spine will form a natural S-shape. If you are not used to it, you might feel a little awkward or stiff in the beginning. But keep practicing the correct posture and you will definitely feel good. Practice the same posture when sitting down. Sit with a straight spine, stomach tucked in, and chest out.

Many people go for a walk for exercise, but they ignore their posture when walking. Just walking around will give your heart some exercise, but walking with the correct posture will give all the large muscles in your body a good workout. 

Standing straight will strengthen your lower back. Your body weight will be more evenly distributed and this posture will lift some weight off the lower back. Bad posture is a very common cause of lumbo-sacral (lower back) pain as well as cervical (neck) pain.

Tucking in your abdominal muscles with strengthen them, making them tighter. The more muscles you are able to build in your belly region, the more fat you will eliminate. Just maintaining good posture will help you get started.

Holding your shoulders back will strengthen the muscles of your upper back and neck, which bear the brunt of most of the work you do everyday with your arms. 

To practice:

1. Stand straight against a wall with the back of your head, your shoulders, and your bottom just touching the wall. 
2. Practice walking with a book on your head. This not only helps to improve your balance, but also your posture because you need to stand up straight. Any amount of slouching will make the book fall off. 
3. When you are sitting, imagine a string is attached to your head and pulls you up whenever you slouch.

Did you know that with good posture, comes balance? That is because your body weight is evenly distributed, as I explained earlier. If you play sports that involve balance, like skating, posture is extremely important.

More Tips:

- If you experience back pain or body aches when you practice sitting or standing straight, it might be just your body getting used to the new posture, or because you tighten your muscles too much. Try to relax when doing it and concentrate on keeping your spine straight. Your muscles will follow on their own.
-  Practice yoga. The cat and cow poses are used alternately to strengthen abdominal and back muscles. Padmasana or the lotus pose is very useful in maintaining posture.
- If you have had bad posture for a long time, it will take a while for your body to get used to a new alignment. Have patience and keep practicing. 

Keep your chin up, and take the first step towards a healthier weight!




August 26, 2013

Monday Health Tip - Fermented Salsa

If you like salsa, you must make this recipe of fermented salsa! Anyone who likes real salsa knows the difference between the store-bought and the fresh versions. The store-bought salsa is nearly devoid of all nutrients because it is pasteurized. It contains too much sodium and other preservatives that increase the shelf life of the product. Fresh salsa is a great way to include an extra serving of vegetables in the diet without consuming artificial and chemical preservatives. It provides minerals, an extra dose of vitamin C and fiber. 

Benefits of lacto-fermented foods:
  • Provide beneficial microorganisms that are important for gut health and immunity. We know that probiotics are so important in our diet for gut health and good absorption. 
  • Lacto-fermented salsa is a fun way to include more probiotics in your diet, and also kid-friendly. 
  • The amount of beneficial microorganisms in lacto-fermented foods like homemade yogurt and condiments is far more than those in store-bought products. 
  • Lacto-fermentation is also a great way to preserve vegetables as condiments and increase their health value. 
  • It's also unbelievably easy and cost-effective!

The recipe is basic and uses tomatoes, onions, garlic, hot chilli peppers, cilantro, salt, and whey or yogurt.
  
The recipe:

4 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine (you can use more or less as you like)
1/2 onion, chopped (I used white because I didn't want the salsa colored red. Use whichever type of onion you prefer.)
5-6 sprigs of cilantro, chopped with stems
2 Thai chillies, chopped, with seeds
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp homemade yogurt
Non-chlorinated water to fill the container (about 1 cup)

Take all the ingredients except water in a wide-mouthed clean glass jar that has an air-tight lid. Mix well to blend the flavors. If the liquid from the vegetables is not enough to cover the vegetables, add the water slowly so that it covers the salsa, leaving at least 2 inches space from the top of the jar. Check for saltiness with a clean spoon. The salt should be just right, according to your taste, but it should not be overly salty. Adjust the salt if required, then cover with the air-tight lid and let the jar sit in a cool dark place for 2 days. You can leave it on your counter or put it in a cabinet. Just don't forget it if you put it in a cabinet! 

After a day, check to see the fermentation. You may be able to see little bubbles forming at the bottom of the jar and rising to the top. If you don't, then leave the jar for another day. If the temperature is warm enough, the level of fermentation might cause the jar to leak. At this point, or when you see little bubbles inside the jar, you can move the jar to the back of the fridge to control the speed of fermentation. It usually takes 2 days at 70F for the fermentation to start after which you can keep the jar in the fridge. In general, fermented foods last for months as long as they are stored well in the fridge.

You might be wondering how the salsa tastes after being fermented this way. It develops a sourness from the lactic acid that is released from the beneficial bacteria that are present in the yogurt culture. The longer you keep the salsa, the sourer it gets. The level of sourness also depends on how much culture you use and the temperature it is stored at, but the taste is not much different from fresh salsa that uses lemon or lime juice for sourness.

Some tips:
  • Watch for mold. This is the only thing you need to be careful of when making any fermented foods. If the beneficial bacteria is not active, it is easier for other organisms like mold to grow. I would not consume salsa that has grown mold. To prevent mold growth, make sure you use a good active culture. Use clean vegetables and utensils and cover the vegetables in the jar with water. 
  • Use non-chlorinated water. Chlorinated water does not allow beneficial bacteria to grow. 
  • If you find your jar leaking, remove the lid and let some of the gases escape. Cover again, shutting the lid tight. 
  • You can use more or less of any vegetable you like. Bell peppers, cilantro, extra garlic or chillies, cauliflower - you can use whatever you have on hand. 
  • Instead of yogurt, you can use the whey that floats on top of most homemade or organic yogurts.

It is so easy to add this salsa to any of your food, whether breakfast or a healthy snack. Tasty, easy, economical, and beneficial - it's an excellent way to consume probiotics.
 



August 14, 2013

Homeopathy in Dentistry

Not many people realize that homeopathy can help with dental problems. Homeopathy is a gentle and effective way to relieve many common dental problems and the symptoms associated with them. It is important to see your dentist too, and an integrated style of treatment can help you get the maximum benefit as well as reduce the cost of treatment. A trained homeopath can help you with everyday dental problems.

 
Some conditions where homeopathy can help are:
  • baby teething pain
  • slow dentition in babies
  • tooth pain due to various causes
  • bleeding gums
  • strengthening the teeth
  • fear/nervousness about visiting the dentist
  • pain relief and to aid in healing after surgery
  • chronic jaw pain or headaches
  • chronic mouth sores
Homeopathic remedies that may be used in dental problems are
Belladonna, Coffea, Calendula, Phosphorus, Chamomilla, Mercurius etc. Your homeopath will customize the best remedy suited to you. 

So don't hesitate to contact your homeopath for your dental problems!



July 31, 2013

When is a Good Time to Seek Homeopathic Care?

Many people, especially when considering homeopathy for the first time, see a homeopath in the later stages of illness. At that stage, they have gone through a lot of discomfort and they may be impatient for some relief. The first question most people with late stages of disease ask is when they will see some improvement. In this post, I will try to answer that question and explain when you need to seek the care of a homeopath, and why that time is important.

If you have read the first few posts on this blog, you will have understood how homeopathy works on the whole person and how a homeopathic remedy is individualized for each person. If not, here is the link to the post that explains what homeopathy is.

In the late stages of illness, the disease has progressed to such an extent that it overcomes the individuality of the ill person. The vital energy has become too weak to confront the disease and this results in the severe long-lasting illness. Many people with advanced illness also undergo many kinds of treatment before seeking homeopathic care, the most common of which is allopathic, which further drives the illness inwards. At this stage, homeopathic management can rejuvenate the body's own vital energy to fight the illness. Since homeopathic remedies act best when they are individualized or customized to the person needing them, in the later stages of disease, it takes a little longer for the remedies to act because the individuality is low.

Homeopathic management in the later stages of disease involves two steps - first, to rejuvenate the body's vital energy, and second, to help the vital energy fight the illness. Going over these two steps takes more time and that is why results may be slow.

In the earlier stages of illness, the vital energy is still active but needs some help in overcoming the force of the disease, which is exactly what homeopathic management can provide. So in the earlier stages of illness, there is only one step towards health. Because the vital energy is active, individualized homeopathic remedies act faster and we see quicker results.

It is important to know this difference to understand homeopathic management and know when is the best time to seek homeopathic care. Once that is understood, then it is easy to see that the best time to see a homeopath is in the earlier stages of disease.

Now, this doesn't mean that homeopathy has nothing to offer in the case of chronic illnesses. In fact, homeopathy has the most to offer when compared to other methods of management of chronic illnesses. However, when you seek homeopathic care in early stages of illness, not only is it easier for the homeopath to provide the right care, but also it is easier on your own body to recover from illness. Furthermore, taking homeopathic remedies for acute illnesses helps to strengthen the vital energy and increase immunity, so that you are less prone to long-lasting illnesses. Isn't that a great bonus?

If you are considering seeing a homeopath for yourself or for someone in your family, do it now!

You might also like to read this post busting some popular myths about homeopathy.


July 8, 2013

Monday Health Tip - Scientific Reasons Why Deep Breathing is Good for You

Sometimes we face circumstances that force us to just take a deep breath and relax. Just breathing deeply for a few minutes helps us to slow down and think better. The practice of Yoga has created a more increased awareness of the therapeutic value of controlled breathing techniques. Pranayama maybe an age-old Indian practice but it is immensely useful in managing stress and related disorders.

I read an article today related to deep breathing that I'd like to share with you all. It is especially interesting because the author lists out scientific explanations for why deep breathing is good for you, to the extent of altering your genetic expression. If you have read my post on how you can change your genes, then you know what genetic expression means. If you haven't read it yet, then click on the link and do read it!

Here's an excerpt from the article written by David DiSalvo:

5. Changing Gene Expression.

Another unexpected research finding is that controlled breathing can alter the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion. The study uncovering this finding was co-authored by none other than Herbert Benson himself, some 40 years after he brought controlled breathing into the spotlight with his book.

And this isn’t the first study linking controlled breathing to changes in genetic expression. Benson was also involved in a 2008 study indicating that long-term practice of the relaxation response results in changes to the expression of genes associated with how the body reacts to stress.

You can read the full article here on the Psychology Today website.


July 1, 2013

Monday Health Tip - 5 Health Foods to Avoid

I'm back with Monday Health Tip after a break! 

Every few years, a new health fad catches on and the market trend shifts towards 'healthy' food. Manufacturers make products that cater to this health-conscious population, but are these products really as healthy as advertised?



Here's my list of 5 'health' foods that must be avoided.

1. Sports drinks & Energy drinks: Have you ever wondered how these drinks give you 'energy'? They do it by unleashing millions of molecules of sugar and caffeine that are directly absorbed into your bloodstream and taken to your cells which go on overdrive to process the sudden burst of 'fuel'. The aftermath of this excessive strain is fatigue, weakness, and an exhaustion that is not easy to resolve. Stay away from energy drinks and have a cup of coffee or tea if you really need a quick pick-me-up.

2. Artificial sweeteners: What was once touted to be the best alternative to sugar and advertised to diabetics and dessert-lovers around the world, is one of the most misunderstood products on the grocery shelves. Also called non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS), aspartame (brand name Equal and NutraSweet) and sucralose (Splenda) are 220 times and 600 times sweeter than sugar respectively, so you only need to use a little bit to make your food taste sweet. However, regular use of NNS also tricks the brain into processing tastes differently, as a result of which fruits and vegetables, which contain natural sugars, may taste bland or even bitter - making you crave more non-nutritious sweet food over the naturally nutritious fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the long-term effects of using artificial sweeteners have not been studied. I think it's better to stick to small amounts of sugar or jaggery if you need some sweet in your diet.

3. Boxed juice: It is extremely convenient these days to pick up cartons of juice at a grocery store and pour yourself a glass. It's neat, easy, and healthy, right? It may be neat and easy, but it's not healthy. Packaged juices are pasteurized for a longer shelf life, which means they are treated at extremely high temperatures to discourage growth of bacteria. This also kills any mold that may have entered the process in the form of one bad fruit. It's great that all the bad microorganisms are eliminated, but the good stuff is destroyed too. Many vitamins are destroyed by heat, and what is left is only sugar. So if you think drinking packaged juice for breakfast will give you a nutritious start to the day, think again - it's no better than eating dessert that's fortified with calcium and vitamin D. If you want juice, always have it fresh.

4. Margarine and other butter substitutes: Most butter substitutes are made with some kind of vegetable oil that contain unhealthy amounts of trans-fats. Even products that are advertised as zero trans-fat are not really healthy because they contain a laundry list of other ingredients to make them last longer and taste better (preservatives and artificial flavors). Butter has only one or two ingredients - milk cream and salt. Your body knows how to process these natural ingredients better than artificial additives which create extra work for the liver and kidneys. Use butter, and skip the substitutes.

5. Breakfast bars: Publicized as a convenient way to eat healthy on-the-go, granola and other bars are quite popular as nutritious snacks - but the truth is far from nutritious. Sugar makes up 1/4th of each serving of energy bars. Eat 2 bars a day and you're getting nearly 20g of sugar right there. Just like any other processed and packaged 'food', breakfast bars also contain many artificial colors and flavors as well as preservatives. It's best to stay away from them and pack a fruit if you need something to-go.

June 21, 2013

A Monument to Homeopathy in Washington DC

Let's delve into a little history today! 

June 21 marks the day when a bronze statue of Hahnemann was erected in Scott Circle in Washington DC, at the intersection of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Avenues.

Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) was a German physician. He is regarded as the the Father of Homeopathy, who discovered the therapeutic properties of natural substances in minute doses and formulated the principles of homeopathic practice. His book called The Organon of Medicine describes homeopathic philosophy and its guiding principles. The book is considered as one of the most important works of Hahnemann and was published in 6 editions, with the last edition being published after his death.

The American Institute of Homeopathy (the oldest national professional medical association in the US to date) asked Congress permission to erect a memorial to Hahnemann and it was authorized in January 1900. The memorial was unveiled on June 21, 1900. It depicts Samuel Hahnemann seated on a pedestal in deep thought. The panels on the wall behind the statue portray Hahnemann as a student, a chemist, a teacher, and a physician. This monument is visible from the White House.

The next time you are touring Washington DC, be sure to visit the Hahnemann Memorial!


References:

1. National Library of Medicine 
2. American Institute of Homeopathy


Image credit: AgnosticPreachersKid/ Wikimedia


June 17, 2013

Homeopathy for mosquito bites

Ledum palustre or Marsh tea
If you're going to spend any time at all being outdoors this summer, you will need to watch out for mosquitoes and other blood-sucking insects. Two remedies that are extremely useful when dealing with insects are Staphysagria and Ledum.

To prevent being bitten, take 2 pills/pellets of Staphysagria 30C half an hour before you head outdoors. Take this dose only once every week. If you're still bitten, then your homeopath may be able to suggest a constitutional remedy for you.

Don't forget to take other precautions like wearing full-sleeved clothing. 

Some other natural things you can do to avoid being bitten:


  • Plant oils like lemon eucalyptus, geranium, lemon balm, or citronella can keep mosquitoes away. Mix one or more with a carrier oil like coconut oil and apply to exposed skin.
  • Use a DEET-free insect repellant. DEET-free repellants are less toxic than those that contain DEET. This is especially important for children who tend to keep their hands in their mouth. There is also the danger of DEET being absorbed through the skin into the blood stream and long-term use may cause adverse effects. Many DEET-free repellants are commercially available.
  • Grow marigold, lemon balm, geranium or other insect repelling plants in your garden.

After being bitten, 2 pills/pellets of Ledum 30C should reduce the irritation from the bites a little; however, if a rash or fever develops within 72 hours, it is advisable to see a doctor.

Toothpaste works very well to reduce the intense itching from mosquito bites. Apply any old-fashioned all white toothpaste on the bites and let it dry. This is safe to use on little kids too; it'll help them forget about the itch long enough for the bites to heal without being scratched.

It's important not to scratch the bites because scratching can introduce infection through the broken skin, and scratching does not help the bites to heal any way.

Also read this post about the use of homeopathy in insect bites



Image courtesy: Sten/Wikimedia



June 3, 2013

Top 10 Benefits of Eating Avocados

It is the season of one of my favorite fruits - the avocado! I was introduced to this 'strange' and 'exotic' fruit when I was in college. Every Wednesday evening, my friends and I used to go to the local juice shop for a cool treat of fresh fruit juice. The owner of the shop asked me if I'd like to try the new 'Butter Fruit' that he brought from Bangalore and offered me the Butter Fruit milkshake. As I slowly sank into its satin smooth texture, I felt incredibly good - and so began my love for avocado, even though I just knew it as Butter Fruit then. After that experience, I have sought out avocados everywhere I have gone, tried new recipes, and used them in all kinds of dishes - appetizer to main course to dessert - and they have never disappointed me. 

Avocados are avoided by some people for being high in fat and calories, and some others for being bland and tasteless. However, it is these very qualities of the avocado that I love, here's why.

1. A whole avocado has about 320 calories, but they come from mono-unsaturated fats which lower cholesterol

2. One avocado contains more than 1/3 of your daily vitamin C requirement, and more than 1/2 of your vitamin K requirement. Vitamin C is required to maintain a healthy immunity, an vitamin K facilitates clotting of blood.

3. Avocados are a major source of potassium - one avocado has about 950 grams (Recommended Daily Intake is 4700 grams). Potassium is important in preventing high blood pressure.

4. One avocado contains 7 grams of fiber. Fiber keeps you full for a longer time and is important for digestive health. See the link to learn more about the benefits of fiber.

5. Avocados provide 1/4 of your recommended intake for folate, which is important for heart health and if you are pregnant, for your developing baby.

6. They are a great source of vitamin E, which is an antioxidant and prevents cellular damage due to aging. Think of all the vitamin E creams, beauty products, and supplements on the market. Eating avocado is a better way to get your vitamin E!

7. Avocados contain carotenoids like lutein, which is important for maintaining eye health, preventing cataracts and macular degeneration.

8. The fats in the avocado also help to attract fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) from other foods. So use your avocado in salads or in dishes with other nutrient-rich foods!

9. Avocados protect your health against diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even some types of cancer.

10. I've left the best for last - did you know avocados help in weight loss? The monounsaturated fats in avocados speed up the rate of metabolism and are more easily assimilated by your body than saturated fats. This means that your body prefers to burn the fat in avocados and convert it to energy rather than keep it in storage. Also, avocados boost satiety and have a very low glycemic index - that is helpful in the management of diabetes and obesity.

That's just a small list of benefits of avocados. The big bonus is that they are extremely versatile and because of their neutral taste, they can be used in many ways to create tasty dishes. The easiest way to eat them is to slice them up and sprinkle salt and lemon juice. When I want a more sophisticated dish, here's what I like to make with avocados:
  • Baked avocado fries
  • Guacamole with garlic
  • Avocado-chickpea salad
  • Avocado parathas
  • Avocado mayo
  • Avocado chocolate pudding
  • Avocado milkshake or smoothie

If you're interested in some trivia, this document talks about how the avocado was first introduced in India and cultivated - a very interesting read to say the least!


How do you like to eat avocados?



Image courtesy: Jonesemyr/Flickr CC



May 31, 2013

Homeopathy for Sunstroke


As temperatures rise around the world in the Northern Hemisphere, everyone is bracing for a blazing hot summer. Many of us like to be outdoors enjoying the long daylight hours; however, extended exposure to the heat of the sun results in loss of fluids. This causes fatigue and raises the body temperature. These are often the first signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion or sunstroke. 

Young children and elderly people face the maximum risk, but heat exhaustion or sunstroke can affect persons of any age. Even animals are frequently affected by sunstroke so it is equally important to take care of their needs as well.

 
    

Symptoms of sunstroke:
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps due to loss of electrolytes
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Raised body temperature with no sweat
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Fainting

Management: 

Anyone who is affected by sunstroke or heat exhaustion should be taken to the nearest hospital for administration of intravenous electrolytes if required. If immediate removal to a hospital is not possible, first aid measures should be followed until medical help is available.
  • Move the affected person into a shady area
  • Remove any tight clothing
  • Apply ice packs or wet towels
  • Drinking cool fluids helps to lower the body temperature
  • Drink preferably fluids that contain both sugar and salt (coconut water, homemade ORS solution, buttermilk, lemonade)

Complications of sunstroke

In extreme conditions, sunstroke can cause convulsions, hallucinations, brain damage, and death. Since babies, young children, and the elderly are more prone to be affected by heat exhaustion, it is important to take steps to prevent the onset of severe signs and symptoms.


Prevention: 

  • Maintain electrolyte levels by drinking fluids that contain both sugar and salt.
  • Avoid extended exposure to the sun.
  • If you are outdoors on hikes or treks, be well-prepared with lots of water and electrolyte drinks.
  • Drink fluids throughout the day even though you are not thirsty. By the time you feel the sensation of thirst, your body is already on the way to dehydration, so it is important to keep drinking fluids all through the day.
  • Wear loose breathable clothing.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol to prevent dehydration.

Homeopathic Remedies for sunstroke:

Remedies like Glonoine, Natrum carb, Gelsemium, Veratrum album, Camphora are important when considering the homeopathic management of sunstroke. Other remedies like Belladonna, Aconite, Lachesis, Carbo veg, Bryonia, etc, may also be indicated according to the symptoms present. The correct remedy and dosage must be determined by a homeopath. It is not recommended to try self-medication without consulting a homeopath. 

Having said that, be assured that homeopathy is the most gentle and also a rapid way to manage emergency conditions or in situations where immediate medical aid is not available. If you are going to go on picnics, hikes, or treks, it might be a good idea to consult your homeopath for a kit of remedies to carry with you in case you need to use them - not only for sunstroke, but also for injuries and insect or animal bites.

Enjoy the outdoors, and have a great summer!

May 22, 2013

Homeopathic Remedies for Common Cold

Aconite
Common cold affects both adults and children and though it is prevalent all through the year, it is more likely to occur as the seasons change from cold to warm or warm to cold. Common cold is medically diagnosed as upper respiratory tract infection, and symptoms last for seven to ten days. If symptoms last longer than that, it is usually an indication of secondary illness and it is no longer just a cold.

According to homeopathic principles, the real cause of disease is a disturbance in the vital force of the organism (or a disposition to disease) which creates a susceptibility to the virus, resulting in symptoms of disease. This is the reason why not everyone gets a cold at the same time, and also why some people recover faster from illnesses than others. The factors that alter susceptibility could be nutritional, environmental, emotional, genetic etc. 



Some factors that increase susceptibility to cold:

  • Cold weather - reduces the body's ability to resist pathogens
  • Air planes, enclosed areas like childcare centers
  • Smoking
  • Pollution
  • Long-term use of orthodox medical drugs 
  • Corticosteroids
  • Stress
  • Pre-existing illness

Symptoms of common cold:

  • Watery eyes
  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Chills and sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Body ache


Homeopathic remedies for common cold:

 

1. Aconite: This remedy is useful when a cold starts suddenly and progresses rapidly, accompanied by fever and chills. Symptoms begin after being out in cold dry air or after a shock. Symptoms are very distressing and the patient is anxious about his health and recovery. 

2. Arsenicum album: Arsenicum is the remedy for colds that start in the middle of the night with chilliness and restlessness. The person who needs Arsenicum feels chilly and likes to cover up for warmth.

3. Belladonna: The person who needs Belladonna has a red face, the cheeks or the head feel hot and the hands and feet are cold. The cold symptoms may be accompanied by a throbbing headache.

4. Bryonia: This is the remedy for colds that are accompanied by a dull headache and constipation.

5. Nux vomica: Anyone who needs Nux vomica feels extremely chilly, with a stuffy nose. Symptoms are worse especially in the evenings and may be associated with nausea or other digestive complaints.

6. Merc sol: This remedy is useful for those lingering colds that don't seem to go away, along with constant runny noses. Symptoms may be associated with a sore throat.


These are just some of the remedies that may be indicated for symptoms of common cold. There are many other remedies like Ferrum phos, Hepar sulph, Kali mur, Kali bich, Gelsimium, Dulcamara, Phosphorus, Pulsatilla, Zincum met etc. which may be indicated based on your symptoms. Your homeopath will be able to suggest the best remedy for you after evaluating your condition.



Image courtesy: jenny downing/Flickr CC

May 8, 2013

Homeopathy for Kidney Stones

In the previous post I wrote about dietary recommendations for people with kidney stones.

This post is about the causes of kidney stones, their signs and symptoms, and the homeopathic remedies that are recommended for kidney stones.

What is commonly known as kidney stones is also called nephrolithiasis in medical terminology. It is condition of formation of stones due to mineral deposits in the kidneys or urinary tract. Stones can form anywhere in the urinary tract but are commonly found in the kidneys. 

Conditions that change the concentration of urine can lead to formation of stones when the mineral balance in the urine is altered.

Causes and risk factors:

 

  • Reduced water intake - When you don't drink enough water, the concentration of minerals and salts in urine increases. These minerals and salts may clump together forming small sand-like stones. If water intake is not increased, minerals further deposit on these small stones, creating bigger and bigger stones in the process.

  • Recurrent urinary infections - Chronic urinary infections with some bacteria can cause kidney stones. Bacteria like pseudomonas, streptococcus, klebshiella, and proteus produce an enzyme called urease which breaks down urea, which then combines with minerals in the urine to form stones. 
 

    Other risk factors are:

    • Age: Stones are most commonly seen between ages of 20 and 50.
    • Gender: More common in men
    • Heredity: Kidney stones may run in families
    • Occupation: Jobs that involve working in hot climates or that may cause dehydration may increase the chances of stone formation.
    • Medical conditions: Conditions like gout, hyperparathyroidism (increased parathyroid hormone), some conventional medical drugs, some types of kidney disease are all risk factors for kidney stones.
      
    Types of stones:


    1. Calcium stones: These are the most common type of stones, also called calcium oxalate stones. Oxalate is found in many foods (list of foods containing oxalate). Calcium stones can also occur as calcium phosphate stones.

    2. Struvite stones: These stones are formed due to chronic urinary infections. Many times, this type of stone becomes very large and is called a 'staghorn' stone due to its shape. This type of stone can form silently with little or no symptoms.

    3.  Uric acid stones: People who have gout are more at risk for this type of stone because of high levels of uric acid in the blood,as well as people on a high protein diet. Reduced water intake and increased urine concentration also factor for formation of uric acid stones.

    4. Cystine stones: This type of stone is common in persons who have a hereditary kidney disease called cystinuria where the kidneys excrete too much cystine (an amino acid). Cystine stones are more commonly seen in children.


    Signs and symptoms:

    • Colicky pain from loin to groin (side of waist or back, moving to hip and groin)
    • Severe pain that comes and goes
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Blood in urine and/or pus in urine
    • Painful urination
    • Increased desire to urinate
    • Fever in case of infection

    Belladonna
    Homeopathic management of kidney stones: 

    Homeopathy follows the principles of individualization and every person is recommended a remedy according to the symptoms that they present with.



    Some commonly used homeopathic remedies in the case of kidney stones:

    Belladonna, Berberis vulgaris, Benzoic acid, Calcaria carb, Cantharis, Causticum, Chininum sulph, Dioscorea, Hydrangea, Lycopodium, Millefolium, Natrum phos, Ocimum canum, Pareira brava, Sarsaparilla, Terebinthina, Urtica urens etc.



    Kidney image courtesy: Hey Paul Studios/Flickr CC

    Belladonna image courtesy: wlcutler/Flickr CC

     

    April 29, 2013

    Special Diet for Kidney Stones

    Kidney stones form because of mineral deposition in the walls of the urinary tract. They are caused by the high mineral content of the urine. Most stones are so small that they may pass out on their own; however, some stones may collect deposits and become large enough to cause pain and/or obstruction of the urinary tract. 

    Calcium oxalate stones are the most common type of kidney stones and for people who have this type of stone, reducing the consumption of calcium and oxalate in the diet may help a great deal. In a low oxalate diet, the intake of oxalate should be limited to 40-50 mg per day.1

    General dietary rules for prevention of kidney stones:

    • Intake of calcium and protein is restricted for persons who are prone to kidney stones. Foods like spinach, kale, ragi, and eggs are high in calcium and must be avoided.
    • Limit consumption of oxalate-rich foods for oxalate stones and purine-rich foods for uric acid stones.
    • Consume lots of fluids to reduce the concentration of urine and prevent formation of stones. The best fluids to consume are water, barley malt, coconut water, lime/lemon juice, and some fruit juices. Remember to reduce the salt in your beverages or avoid it completely.
    • Avoid consumption of vegetables with seeds like tomatoes, brinjal/eggplant, okra/ladiesfinger, capsicum etc.2

    This list of
    foods can help you plan your diet if you or someone in your family has kidney stones or is prone to getting them.

    Avoid these calcium-rich foods:
    • Ragi
    • Chana dal
    • Matki beans
    • Rajma or kidney beans
    • Spinach, kale, and other green leafy vegetables
    • Coconut
    • Sesame seeds
    • All nuts and dry fruits like almond, figs, cashewnut, raisins
    • Mustard in all forms
    • All dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt etc

    Avoid these high oxalate foods:
    • Chocolate and cocoa in any form
    • Instant coffee
    • Black tea
    • Soy products
    • Nuts
    • Whole wheat bread
    • Beetroot
    • Carrot
    • Potato
    • Sweet potato 


    Include these foods in moderation: Limit the consumption of these foods to 2-3 servings per day, these foods have 2-10 mg of oxalate per serving.
    • Brewed coffee
    • Berries
    • Grapes
    • Oranges
    • Apples
    • Peaches
    • Pears
    • Prunes
    • Pineapples
    • Brown rice
    • Oats
    • Broccoli
    • Brussel sprouts
    • Corn
    • Onions
    • Tomatoes

    Include these low-oxalate foods in your diet freely:
    • Buttermilk
    • Green tea
    • Avocados
    • Bananas
    • Cherries
    • Mangoes
    • Papaya
    • Barley
    • White rice
    • Cabbage
    • Cauliflower
    • Cucumber
    • Mushrooms
    • Peas
    • Radish
    • Lemons 
     If you have had kidney stones before, you can prevent recurrence by following these basic rules for diet. 


    References:

    1. Low oxalate diet - University of Pittsburgh

    2. Diet for kidney stones



    Image courtesy thynkyr/Flickr CC


    April 26, 2013

    A Tip to Relieve Seasonal Allergies

    If you or anyone you know suffers from allergies at this time of the year, here's a little tip!

    Increase the intake of vitamin C in your diet, or if you are not already taking a vitamin C supplement, start taking one now! Vitamin C has anti-histamine properties, and will help to relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies and hay fever. It is recommended that adults take at least 500-1000 mg vitamin C and up to 1500-2000 mg a day. You will start seeing the difference right away. Reduce the dosage after you experience relief from sneezing and itchy eyes and nose, you can increase it again if the severity of symptoms increases.

    However, here's a word of warning for those who are prone to kidney stones. Vitamin C increases the tendency to form stones, so control the dosage depending on your health status.

    Also do read my post on how homeopathy can help relieve hay fever and pollen allergies! What's even better is that homeopathy is safe for everyone!

    Stay healthy!

     


    April 22, 2013

    Monday Health Tip - How to Choose a Good Yogurt or Make Your Own!

    The benefits of yogurt are well-known and it is used by people of all cultures to maintain digestive health. Yogurt is traditionally prepared at home in Indian households. However, due to fast-paced life, many people are finding it convenient to buy yogurt from their local supermarkets. Supermarket yogurts are even available in a myriad of flavors so that one doesn't get bored of the same plain taste (though how anyone can get bored of good ol' yogurt is beyond me! Can you tell how much I love yogurt?). In today's health tip, let's learn how to choose a good yogurt at the supermarket, and better still, how to make yogurt at home!

    How to Choose a Healthy Yogurt

    • As with anything else, read the label! The label will tell you what the yogurt really contains. Good yogurt should contain only milk or cream and bacterial cultures and nothing else.
    • Many times yogurts contain fillers like corn starch, gelatin, pectin, or inulin. These fillers are nothing but thickening agents, but that means you are not getting what you are paying for - real yogurt! 
    • Also, if you are consuming yogurt as part of a special diet, then bear in mind that these fillers add extra carbohydrates to your diet, apart from those already provided by the dairy constituents of the yogurt.
    • Additionally, flavored yogurts usually contain added flavors and colors, preservatives, as well as sugar, or some sort of sweetener. 
    • Real yogurt is not meant to be sweet, but slightly tangy or creamy. If you like sweet yogurt, buy (or make) plain yogurt and add the sugar (or fruit) at home, at least you can control the amount of added sugar and eliminate other unnecessary ingredients.
    Even some kinds of Greek yogurt contain the fillers mentioned above, and that, in my opinion, is not real Greek yogurt. So what's the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt? Greek yogurt has about 9% more fat than regular yogurt, but it also has up to 3 times more protein and about half the carbohydrates of regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is made by straining the whey from the yogurt, resulting in a thick creamy product. It is high in fat because it uses 3 times more milk to produce the same amount of Greek yogurt as regular yogurt. If 1 cup milk makes 1 cup regular yogurt, it takes 4 cups milk to make the same amount of Greek yogurt.

    How to Make Yogurt at Home

    There are lots of websites on the internet that give instructions on making yogurt at home. I'll just describe how I do it at home, and I use home-made yogurt 99% of the time. I have always used yogurt itself as a starter. You can also buy starters online and I've heard that dry active cultures make the best yogurt, but I haven't tried any myself. Dannon All Natural plain yogurt makes  for a good starter, as well as the Desi yogurt I get from the Indian grocery store. (It seems they're both from the same source, I'm not surprised since I find their taste very similar.) The main reason I prefer these brands is because they don't contain gelatin (I'm a vegetarian).

    The method: Heat milk in a stainless steel vessel on low until it is slightly warm. Remove from heat and if it is too warm, let it cool until it is lukewarm (or just warm enough for you to dip your fingers in comfortably). When you feel it is the right temperature, add 1 tablespoon starter to the milk and stir once. Cover the container and keep in a warm place. In summers, I just let this sit on the stove top or the kitchen counter at room temperature. In winter, I warm the oven at 200F for 10 minutes, turn it off, and then keep the milk in it overnight. Sometimes, I also leave the cultured milk in the microwave with the light on. If you have an oven that has a light switch, you could keep the cultured milk in the oven with the light turned on.

    Let the cultured milk set for 8-12 hours. Once the yogurt is set, it will separate from the whey and you will see the whey on top. 

    To make Greek yogurt, you need to strain this whey by taking the yogurt in a cheesecloth and suspending it from a height so that every drop of liquid drops away. Whey is extremely rich in nutrients, so don't throw it away! Use it to cook rice, or make smoothies. When all the whey is removed, then remove the yogurt from the cheesecloth, beat well, and store in a container inside the fridge.

    Do's and don'ts

    1. Do cover the vessel! This saves the warmth from escaping and also prevents other bacteria from entering your milk culture.

    2. Do test the temperature of the milk before adding the culture. If it is too hot, the culture will die. If it is too cold, the culture won't multiply.

    3. Don't stir or move the container while it is setting. Yogurt does not set if it is disturbed, so just let it be!

    4. Do not add salt to the milk until yogurt has set. Salt prevents fermentation so the yogurt won't set. You can add sugar if you like but again, it's best to let the yogurt set and then add whatever you like.

    5. Do use a metal or glass or terracotta container to set yogurt. Yogurt does not set well in plastic containers.

    6. Do store yogurt in the fridge after it has set, or it will turn sour. You can make buttermilk from sour yogurt.


    Tips: 

    1. If the cultured milk has been sitting for more than 8 hours and has not set, then add some warm milk to the mixture (not too hot, not too cold but warmer than lukewarm). The quantity of warm milk will depend on the quantity of cultured milk that you have. As a general rule, add about 1/2 cup warm milk for every 4 cups of cultured milk. Do not stir. Just add the milk and let it set on its own. You could also keep the container in some warm water so that it absorbs the heat, but adding warm milk has worked for me every time. Do not heat the container or the milk will curdle and you'll get cheese, not yogurt!

    2. You can use your own yogurt as a starter every time you make yogurt. This starter can be used forever, but I like to use a new starter every few months for freshness.

    3. Use your fingers to gauge the temperature of the milk and mix in the culture. It will help you determine the correct temperature of the milk. I have experienced a difference in the way yogurt sets when I use a spoon versus using my hands. If it's too hot for your fingers, it's too hot for the culture.

    4. If your yogurt has turned bitter, it can still be consumed if you can tolerate the bitter taste or mask it in smoothies, but it is not good to use as a starter. Make yogurt again with a fresh starter.

    5. Whole milk makes the best yogurt. If you prefer to use skim milk and would like thick yogurt, then reduce it to half by boiling it, cool it to lukewarm and add the culture; or make the yogurt with skim milk and then strain the whey for thicker yogurt. 

    6. Some people use yogurt makers to make consistently good yogurt at home. Yogurt-making involves a lot of variables like temperature of the milk, activity of the starter, weather, etc. so if you don't like to think about all the things that can go wrong with making yogurt, buy a yogurt maker!