Chew your food well. My mom used to tell us this when we were kids. Ideally chew every bite 30-40 times. Digestion enzymes are released into your mouth when you’re chewing via the saliva. The breakdown of glucose actually starts in your mouth this way. The only way to initiate this chemical reaction is by chewing. Additionally, food should be masticated really well to increase its surface area which makes it easier on your cells to absorb the nutrients. Because eating without good nutrient absorption is pointless.
Free yourself from distractions. When you eat while reading a book, newspaper, your phone, or watching TV, you’re diverting your attention away from digesting your food. Mindless eating can lead to overeating because your attention is taken away from knowing how much you’re eating. Overeating is very taxing on the digestive system, causing it to slow down. A strained digestive system leads to flatulence, discomfort, constipation and the longer you keep this up, the weaker your digestive system gets. You also want to avoid getting stimulation that can stress you out, which leads to the next point.
Eat sitting. When you’re washing dishes, standing over the sink, walking around the house and fidgeting with things while eating, you’re causing undue stress onto your body. When your body is being stressed, digestion stops. Even if you’re eating, digestion will stop if you’re under stress. So please eat while seated, preferably at a table, in a serene environment. Knowing yourself is key here – if you’re an extrovert, you may be comfortable eating while chatting with folks, but if you’re an introvert, you may prefer to eat quietly. If you’re under a lot of stress, I highly recommend that you stick to soup, something really easy and gentle on your gut.
Ginger. It’s your gut’s best friend. Ginger has been used for thousands of years to cure indigestion, boost immunity and stimulate a heating sensation. In Ayurveda, digestion is powered by your digestive fire known as agni. Ginger is excellent at stimulating the agni, strengthening the digestion, which in turn strengthens you overall. If you experience diarrhea, indigestion, slow digestion, stomach pain or discomfort, grate some fresh ginger into a mug and add warm water with some lemon or apple cider vinegar for a simple yet very effective tonic. Have this drink with your meals. My ashram in India served this ginger drink at dinner time and it was heavenly, plus I never had digestion issues and it was my first time in India!
Meditation, the best medication. What does this have to do with eating? Everything. Practicing meditation is one of the most effective stress busters. Giving yourself time to unplug from the noise of the world is essential to stay balanced. I’m not saying it’s going to make you a perfect person, but I will say that meditation can be the way to more contentment in your life. It’s effective at reducing anxiety, confusion and fears, and can help you navigate the way through life’s challenges, because let’s be honest: you can’t see the stars without the darkness. When your headspace is still, the brain can then do what it’s best at: conducting our body systems. If you’re a beginner, just give yourself 5 minutes to turn off all your devices, find a nice, quiet spot and sit comfortably. Close your eyes and just watch your breathing, releasing all control. The more you practice, the easier it will get.
I don’t understood why my favorite herb of all time – Ashwagandha – hasn’t risen to mainstream popularity yet already. Over the years, it has become my top stress remedy for situations that I don’t have a lot of control over, like travel, work, bad traffic, moving to a new home, attending stressful events, dealing with a hangover or extreme tiredness. In my experience, Ashwagandha is an unbeatable anti-anxiety remedy that helps me reduce stress over a prolonged period of time and peps me up when I need it, that also helps me fall asleep at night.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), aka winter cherry, is an Indian herb that grows in the most intolerable and harshest conditions. Since the winter cherry can bare arid climate and poor soil, those resilient properties are what enables human consumers to feel like they can power through any rough circumstances. It effectively helps combat stress and is often compared to ginseng, a powerful root tonic that has been used in Asia since ancient times as an energy and libido booster. Except Ashwagandha is not a tonic; it is a powerful adaptogen that supports your nervous system and can improve circulation and overall cognitive functions (now you see why I love to take this stuff before I go to work on a day that I know is going to be intense).
I have found that by taking one capsule in the morning, I am able to face 8 hours of stress-less bliss. I used to do a lot of event-planning for big events where I orchestrated a lot of moving parts while trying to impress prospective clients; needless to say, those days were stressful. There would be little time to eat lunch and if it weren’t for Ashwagandha, I would have succumbed to relying on caffeine and booze on a relatively empty stomach which is the worst thing you can do to your body; it was far from sustainable and the fastest way to burn out by day’s end.
Ashwagandha changed my life. By keeping the stress at bay, I am able to stay more organized and productive. It helps me stay on top of my game and now I even find time in the day to eat lunch like a person should. Fortunately I don’t have much trouble sleeping through the night, but I’ve had friends who were saved by Ashwagandha when they were going through a bad break-up or other stressful events that disturbed their sleep. I am more of a daytime user and I love it. It has no side effects and no risks attached to it, unlike anti-anxiety prescription meds which are commonly abused by Americans nationwide. I have had friends use Xanax recreationally, taking it without a second thought of how much they are taxing their livers. I myself am guilty of that. When I was in college, I went through a phase of mixing Xanax with alcohol which was really crazy and irresponsible. There are times when I blacked out and I am so blessed that I was never faced with any danger. Perhaps the only danger was myself.
Just remember that the most effective ways to treat stress and anxiety are regular exercise to get your blood flowing, work up a little sweat and eating nutrition-rich meals every day. Don’t underestimate the power of music. Put on your favorite tunes and watch the stress melt off your shoulders.
And if you want to give Ashwagandha a try, do your research on the seller and the herb before purchasing; go with reputable companies who have high integrity and use organic ingredients.
A Pukka Life – Finding your path to perfect health – Sebastian Pole
Is going to the cheap Asian massage parlors really better for you than going to an experienced and caring massage therapist and paying a little more?
When I returned from my first backpacking trip to SE Asia in the summer of 2009, I decided to enroll in massage school to delve into massage and bodywork. I had gotten a Balinese massage in Bali, a Thai massage in Thailand, and a “5 Elements” Full Spa treatment at the Shangri La Hotel in Tokyo and marveled at how different the styles were. All so different, yet all so effective. I came out of each session feeling calm and relaxed, and I came out convinced that the world was right again.
With the ongoing boom of the health trend, the massage industry is thriving – in 2015 the industry was estimated to make over $12 billion in the US. The majority of clients are women which is awesome. One of the feminine principles is receptivity, so it’s no wonder why massage is sought out more by us! I cherish massage because it alleviates stress and brings me out of my mind and into my body. It’s also great to have done after a long period of hard work! When this happens I always learn a little bit more about myself, like how I might be holding more tension in my left shoulder than my right, or how my kidneys might be feeling more tender than they should be. I become kinder to the outer world and kinder to myself. Everything falls perfectly into the right places. As you can see, my motives for getting a massage is for relaxation and reducing stress, a huge factor for the aging process. Your motives for getting a massage may be totally different than mine. In fact, it has been reported that the most common motive is for medical reasons.
Naturally, my goal here is to promote the AWESOMENESS of massage. I think that the majority of us who live chaotic, busy, fast-paced lives would benefit tremendously from getting regular quality massages and not the kind you get at the cheap, usually Asian, massage parlors where you can get a 1-hour massage for $30.
I have patronized places like that and even though I like to save money, I always feel like I just wasted money and time on something that was impersonal, non-deliberate and ultimately unhelpful. I am mindful of the dangers of generalizing, but I have had enough disappointing experiences at places like this to know to avoid them. For good.
Compared to the services offered by massage therapists who were educated and have at least 500 hours of training under their belts, I find that the cheap Asian places give sessions that are harsh, unrefined and not personalized enough. (And FYI, I am 75% Asian.) Their massages feel like it doesn’t matter to them whether it’s me, Bob or Joe on the table or in the chair – they will carry out the same method, same speed, same strokes, and they proceed without much thought into what their client is feeling.
I am sensitive to the fact that some people prefer this type of treatment, where it is just enough to get their circulation going and they come out feeling like their muscles got worked on. However, when you have experienced good massage performed by a therapist who has had at least 500 hours of training in anatomy and physiology, multiple massage styles, bodywork theories and Eastern and Western medicinal concepts, I can guarantee that you will get an hour of treatment that is personalized for you and what you need in that very moment.
Through touch, the therapist can understand the status of your body. Through sight, they can see how you are reacting to their touch. Through educated perception, they can formulate a procedure of massage that your body will benefit from. That’s because the therapist works on not only your muscles, but also on your respiratory, lymphatic, nervous, digestive, endocrine, immune and integumentary systems, and dare I say, your soul.
You see, your body isn’t just your muscles and flesh. Your body contains organs and nerves that are constantly working to maintain homeostasis to keep you healthy and happy.
Next time you book a massage, please consider researching local, independent massage therapists who are absolutely dedicated to their work and charge at least $1/minute for their more-than-worthwhile service.
I just moved to San Diego from the Bay Area and rediscovered the marvels of coconut oil after a stint of not having any. I usually always have it in my kitchen, so it felt weird to not have any for awhile. Anyway, I’m glad it’s back in my life. It took me a couple weeks to get settled and arrange the new place just the way I like it. I get mine from Vitacost. They offer their own brand of products, and their 54oz tub of extra virgin coconut oil ($21.99, half the price of other leading brands) is great quality. I’ve found it to be on par with Nutiva, which is a leading brand of coconut oil and other healthy foods. So if you haven’t tried Vitacost yet, you have to check it out! Here are some of the best ways I make use of this beautiful oil:
1. Cooking – The #1 use for coconut oil is high-heat cooking which pretty much means most of my meals: anytime I fry, bake, stir-fry or grill, I will use coconut oil because of its high smoking point. Extra virgin coconut oil will retain its goodness until about 350° F so you can feel safe about flash-frying your veggies and tofu without compensating for lost nutrients. Coconut oil is especially great-tasting for frying fish!
2. Hair mask – If you have dry and frizzy hair, you will love using this mask. I have been told by my hairdresser that I might be genetically predisposed to having very dry hair – since I regularly dye it, I need to be extra aware of treating my hair to keep it moisturized. (I plan on switching to henna this year). You can save money by treating your hair regularly (I do this once every 1-2 weeks) with coconut oil rather than buying the products that your hairstylist will push onto you at the salon. Hair products are full of chemicals that are harmful to your body and the planet, so please try to avoid those. Also, these product prices are usually jacked up at your hair salon anyway, so rest assured that you are saving the planet and yourself by sticking to coconut oil. By applying up to a quarter cup of coconut oil in your hair, concentrating on the ends, and leaving it in for an hour (or all day if you can) until you shower, your hair will come out soft, moistened, touchable and relaxed. This is also a great scalp treatment if you have a dry scalp or if you have dandruff to eliminate the itch and flakiness.
*Bonus points: add a couple drops of rosemary essential oil into the mix. Rosemary boosts circulation in your scalp which helps hair grow.
3. Deodorant – By merely dipping my fingers and scooping a little out, I apply the coconut oil straight onto my armpits and its anti-bacterial properties keeps me from stinking all day. Even the scent of coconut diffuses, so you are left smelling like…yourself. Be careful not to put too much on – I only take just enough so I can easily rub it in to prevent it from getting onto my clothes. I have never experienced staining. I have noticed that it keeps my B.O. at bay and although it does not act as an antiperspirant by any means, it keeps me from smelling even on super hot days when I will sweat all day, and I sweat profusely. I started using this method when I was living in Hawaii where it is about 85°F daily, so that’s how effective it is for me.
4. Face and body moisturizer – I love the smell of coconut oil, so applying it onto my skin is an intoxicating experience in and of itself. Being super high in vitamin E and as a non-irritant, I have even applied it to seek relief when I had a poison ivy rash on my arm two summers ago. The rash pretty much covered my entire forearm and the level of itchiness almost drove me to insanity. I used coconut oil and aloe along with my prescribed medication to speed up the healing process and sure enough, it left no scar, phew!
5. Energy boost – Next time you feel like your energy can use a boost, try eating a spoonful of coconut oil. This will be easiest when the oil is solid. Coconut oil solidifies at about 70°F. If you are okay with the mouthfeel of pure fat, then you can eradicate your sweets craving with this hack. Fat is more energizing and slower to burn than sugar, plus coconut oil has a naturally sweet taste so you will not miss the candy once you try this. If it is caffeine you crave, then try stirring coconut oil into your coffee or espresso. Adding a good fat to your coffee can prevent the afternoon crash because it will linger in your system longer. This is a must-try if you love coffee like me!
6. This last one is a bonus. Try using coconut oil as a personal lubricant, and not just for sex. Ladies, if you use a menstrual cup or any other rendition of it, try keeping a small container of coconut oil in the bathroom to use to make cup insertion a breeze. It makes it so much easier and SAFER. Coconut oil is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antimicrobial and rich in antioxidants.