The world of nutrition can be just as overwhelming as choosing your pizza toppings.
Keto? Paleo? Carnivore? Mediterranean? Vegan? Vegetarian? Lacto Vegetarian? Ovo Vegetarian? Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian? Pollotarian? Pescatarian? Flexitarian?
I am seriously not making this stuff up. There really are such things, but is there truly only one path that leads to success? Trying to pick just one is like trying to pick your favorite child. The fitness and nutrition industry continues to be a multibillion-dollar revenue stream that promises to FINALLY get you the results when other “diets” have failed to do so.
If we really believe that to be true, how come the US still has the highest obesity rate compared to all other nations? That is because we have created a societal culture of believing there is only ONE right way that is superior to the other. Because we are so desperate for results, we have failed to realize that every time we “diet” hop, we are disrupting the homeostasis of the human metabolism.
There are no bad foods. Let me repeat. THERE ARE NO BAD FOODS! THERE ARE ONLY BAD CHOICES.
THE POISON IS IN THE DOSE!
As part of a Sports Medicine Internship program I am currently in, I have the privilege of learning and being mentored by some of the industry’s best nutrition scientists. The science is clear and the equation is on point: 1 + 1 does equal 2. This means your weight loss journey comes down to one simple formula:
CALORIES IN CALORIES OUT.
It is simple math. If you are taking in more calories than you are putting out, you will gain weight.
It really is just that simple.
We underestimate how much we eat and overestimate how much we workout. This may sound harsh. I prefer to call it tough love. Don’t let the promises of a marketing agenda discourage you from following where science has always had it right.
If you want what you set out to seek, then you must put in the work. Diets are excuses that only take you further away from your goal. Be honest with your intentions. And get real with your expectations. Better yet, don’t have any. There is two parts to the equation. Both are equally important. There is only so much you can succeed with nutrition alone. – and you can never outrun a bad diet.
Blaming aging metabolism is a distraction. You must become comfortable with the discomfort of the process. Face the reality of how much you are really consuming versus how much you perceive to be consuming.
No foods are off limits. There is no need for extreme elimination, unless there are medical conditions that require it.
Our bodies didn’t get here overnight. So, how is it fair to demand change in two months? It is not. That is why we are in this tsunami of failure.
YOU can stop this vicious cycle!!
It is not going to be easy, and the reason it won’t be easy is because you are going to have to do something that you may not have done before. Let go of the idea that the answer is in some best selling book. It is not! It has always been within you.
Would you rather have short term results or long-term success?
This sounds great in theory, but what about in real life? I hear you. I could workout 24 hours a day, no problem, but if you asked me to give up my favorite desserts, you would see a very hangry person.
It has taken me 21+ years to get out of my comfort zone and open up to trying a new way of eating. I was always one of those, ‘I am going to eat whatever I want because I work out hard’ people. While part of that is true, there are so many better ways to do it. You really can have your cake and eat it too. You have to just be willing to try a different approach than what you are used to.
Here are just a few of the things I do for myself that help me stay the course:
- Hydrate. I strive to maintain a minimum of 90oz/water day. Some days are better than others. But on those off days, I do not sulk into self-judgement. I look at it for what it is and remind myself I get tomorrow to try again. And more times than not, tomorrow will be better.
- Measure your food. Uggh! Not going to lie! This is painful. Early on in my journey, I learned about portion control through measuring and weighing food. I was able to visualize what a “serving” looked like. For one month, I weighed everything I ate. I was shocked to see that 1 tablespoon of peanut butter is actually not ½ the jar. It was not easy to do this, but this was the turning point that has kept me consistent for the last 21 years. Unless you are an elite athlete or competitor, you don’t have to do this every single day. But try it for a month. I guarantee anyone that tries it will be reaching out to me after a month telling me how much this experience has changed them. It does take work, but it will be worth it.
- Strength train. In my opinion, this is actually the most important aspect to getting real. There is no other form of exercise that physiologically has as much of an effect on our health like resistance training. Designing a strength training program that incorporates progressive overload and movement pattern exercises will result in weight loss for any person at any level. Cardio is fine if you need a day to zone out, but don’t expect it to get you to the same place that only strength training can. I totally get it. I am a runner and dancer and I love to swim and spin. Until 2002, Cardio is all I used to do. But once I began to understand the power of lifting and its physiological benefits, my physique took a dramatic turn. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I took my lifting to a different level. I lift heavier than I ever thought I could and let me tell you, my blood work results have never looked better. It is not about the number on the scale that matters, it is about getting real on how insignificant that number actually is IF you are putting in the work needed to do this right. Don’t allow yourself to blame external factors. Get real with your intensity. Lift heavy!
- Just Eat Real Food. Just EAT people!!! Don’t be so concerned about searching for the best diet. The best one is the one that is sustainable. If keto works for you, great. Stick with it. If you enjoy eggs, great, stick to a Ovo Vegetarian diet. It doesn’t matter. Because at the end of the day, it is CALORIES IN CALORIES OUT. Period. Don’t underestimate your intake. Don’t overestimate your activity.
- Sleep. The body needs time in stillness to restore. You may think you can get by with six hours of sleep, but you can’t. None of us can. There is a threshold of time the body needs to adequately replenish. It is like trying to put gas in your car. If you drive off before it has had a chance to fill up, it can only take you a short distance. But you would get significantly more mileage with a full tank. The body is no different. Don’t rush the restoration process. The body will not take any more time than it needs. Just like the gas pump, it will let you know when it is full and ready to go. Turn off the devices. Quieten the breathing. Settle your thoughts, and make sleep a priority. I promise – you will see a difference.
I used to complicate my life by spending so much energy looking externally to the experts who I thought knew so much more than I did. I trusted their opinion because after all, if it was open to the public, there must be some truth to it, right?
After years of disappointments, I came to realize that only I had the answers. It was I who I was seeking. It was me that was holding open the pages that held the secret code of life. I didn’t have to reconfigure the formula, I just had to understand the simplicity of it. One Plus One DOES Equal Two.
I keep my realness simple:
- Daily workouts
- Daily meditation (only few minutes a day)
- Adequate hydration
- Quality sleep
- Eating the way my body guides me, not the other way around
- Letting go of expectations
- Trusting the process
Please remember that it is YOU who is the real thing. You don’t need outside influences convincing you that you need their opinions to succeed. Do your own research. Be your own experiment and find what works for you! Makes choices in your life that is a representation of your authenticity and keep it simple. You may not get there in the time you want. But you will get there!!
You just keep doing you!!
According to the CDC, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds while one dies every 36 seconds. Coronary artery disease, caused by arterial inflammation and plaque deposits, is the number one cause of heart disease in the United States.
It is so important to take heart health seriously. The greatest risks for coronary artery disease are obesity, significant tobacco and alcohol use, sedentary lifestyle, consuming a diet of processed foods and living in a chronic state of stress. These are the stereotypical images we see in doctor’s offices, magazine covers, pharmaceutical advertisements and even people in our own lives. We are all at risk and we must work to minimize those chances.
While we can’t prevent everything, we can at least try!
The disease process begins with microscopic cellular damage. We may often have no symptoms or mild symptoms, which we will likely dismiss as a nuance. However, as the damage becomes more intensified, the symptoms become more pronounced until we can no longer ignore it. Given the great mechanism of the human body’s ability to heal and regenerate, many diseases can be brought under control and even reversed. But why wait and get to the point of damage control?
February is all about the heart! The heart of Valentine and the heart of YOU!
Making good lifestyle choices has been engrained into our psyche. It is not enough to know that it is important. We must know WHY it is important. Understanding what is happening on a molecular level will make being disciplined in our day to day living a bit easier.
Let’s talk about some of the ways we can minimize our risks of heart disease.
- Physical activity. According to numerous NIH studies, exercising consistently lowered LDL (bad cholesterol) and increased HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Another study showed regular exercise at a moderate intensity decreased platelet aggregation thereby decreasing the risk of clotting. An active lifestyle also aids in vascular remodeling and angiogenesis. This phenomenon allows for greater blood perfusion to all tissues and organs while decreasing the chances of ischemia. Some of the more commonly known benefits to exercising are lower BP, lower glucose levels, better weight control and overall reduction in cortisol. Undeniably, numerous studies and data points show a direct link between sedentary living and increased risks of heart disease. So, lace up and start moving.
- Diet. We all know processed foods are not good for us. But what exactly is happening at a cellular level with consumption of high fat foods? There is still much debate on the “perfect” heart healthy diet, and that is in part because of the varying ways crops are grown and harvested in different parts of the world. Let me explain. Our food system was once dominated by local markets with little modification to the crops. However, our modern food chains, depending on the part of the world, have fallen into the hands of government regulations as a part of a global business endeavor. This transition has led to changes in processing, packaging, and distribution of our food source. Hence the term GMO has become a household name. That is not to say that everything we put into our mouths is bad. We just need to become educated on how our food crops are grown. According to an NIH article, “a large Danish prospective cohort study of the impact of replacing saturated fats with high-GI carbohydrates found that when high-GI carbohydrates replace saturated fat, myocardial infarction (MI) risk increases 33%.” Refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, excessive sugar intake, low protein and fiber diet have been shown to increase blood sugars that can lead to diabetes. Excessive glucose in the blood stream increases the likelihood of platelet aggregation and thrombosis. While we do not need to deprive ourselves of our favorites, we must understand that daily indulgences can increase the risks. So rather than worrying about which diet is the right one, focus more on taking out the processed foods. Remember, shop local and know your crops.
- Minimize supplements. The jury is out on this one. I believe ‘less is always more’. Many ads convince us by taking multitude of ‘natural’ supplements we can ‘prevent’ diseases from occurring. Since most supplements have not been FDA approved, we do not really know how ‘pure’ the ingredients are. And what’s not to say that some of the fillers used to bind the supplements, couldn’t in some way increase our risk to the heart. I see so many patients come in with bottles and bottles and bottles of supplements in hopes of maintaining optimal health. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if that were the case? But the secret to longevity is not by putting more things into our body, it is taking things OUT. Our bodies are equipped with everything it needs to heal and reset and knows exactly what to do. Why jam the process by adding ‘extras’? Vitamin D, Magnesium, Omegas, Aspirin all have their place and do provide some protection. My concern with supplements is while it may claim to help now, what happens in five or ten or fifteen years? What if it is later proven that they do more harm than good? We do not know that. It is a calculated risk. But if we give our bodies a chance to restore and protect with its own natural mechanisms, it won’t let us down. We just need to do our part by making the right lifestyle choices. Exercise, eat clean, sleep, sleep, sleep, hydrate and decrease stress levels.
- Calm the mind. This one will take lots of practice and conscious effort. Stress causes our bodies to mount a defense against the oncoming attack. This defense triggers inflammatory chemicals to be released into the system. While these components play a vital role in protecting the immune system, it comes at a price. The cost, cellular inflammation, and DNA mutation. Translation? The start of a disease process before even a single symptom is felt! We all know what those stressors look like – not getting enough sleep, becoming physically over exerted, staying in constant states of worrying, holding onto to things that are not for us to carry. But all is not lost. Take a step back and ask yourself, ‘how did I get here’? Here – to this place of scurry, hurry and worry. Was it worth it? IS it worth it? Did it get me to where I thought I wanted to go? Or have I dug myself in deeper? My guess is the latter. It is awesome when we become aware of what we have been carrying and even more powerful when we choose to set down that burden. The inflammatory effects of stress are real people! Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it won’t jump out of the closet one day. But we can lower this fury. How? By literally taking a deep breath. Begin to spend time in activities that will help lower the anger of the adrenal glands. It only takes five-seven minutes a day to do this. Try this:—As soon as you wake up, instead of checking your social media posts, sit up in bed for few minutes with your eyes closed and envision your cells happy and joyous. Create how you want your day to look.
—Another way is when you are brushing your teeth or in the shower, choose a mantra and repeat it until you finish that activity. Some of the mantras I have created for myself, “My body is the vehicle that helps me live my dream. And I need to honor that purpose.”
“My health is important because it is through my body that I can serve others in ways they deserve.”
“When I invest in my health, I invest in living my life’s purpose.”
“Healthy living doesn’t have to be hard if I choose to live in simplicity.”
You get the point. These are just some I play around with. Some days, affirmations occur on the spot. Just go with it. We must not underestimate the power of the spoken word and its effects on the cells which will rise up and match those healing intentions.
—Meditation, Tai-Chi, Yoga, Pranayama, Essential Oils are some simple resources that can be utilized. However you choose to focus on you, just choose wisely and lovingly.
Writing this blog was a bit of a challenge because I wanted to include just enough data to convince you and me why we should be doing a better job of taking care of our health without sounding like a medical journal regurgitating volumes of stats and case studies.
With every article I write, I always learn something new. But this month was different. This month, I was inspired.
Reading the extensive NIH studies and the concluding data, I was utterly astonished as to just HOW much our simple choices can make a profound difference, good and bad. I have become inspired to be a bit more conscious of my choices and not take for granted every heartbeat.
While we can’t prevent everything, we can at least try.
Happy Heart Month to you all!
It has been some time since I have talked about Adrenal Fatigue. As with anything in medicine, there is debate as to whether this is a real condition or a made up label for where there is no answer.
Before we can answer that question, it is important to understand the purpose of the adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands, also known as suprarenal glands, are small, triangular-shaped glands that rest on top of the kidneys. Their primary role is produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, and regulate an appropriate response to stress.
The specific hormones released by the adrenal glands include:
- Cortisol – Cortisol helps control the body’s use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It suppresses inflammation, regulates blood pressure, increases blood sugar and helps control our sleep patterns. Cortisol is released during times of stress to help in the flight or fight mode.
- Aldosterone – Aldosterone regulates blood pressure by directly by affecting the sodium and potassium pump. Aldosterone sends signals to the kidneys that direct sodium into the bloodstream and release potassium out into the urine.
- DHEA and Androgenic Steroids – These are precursor hormones that are converted in the ovaries into female hormones (estrogens) and in the testes into male hormones (androgens).
- Epinephrine (Adrenaline) and Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline) – These hormones increase the heart rate and force of contractility of the heart muscles. This leads to an increase in blood flow to the muscles and brain. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are often activated in stressful situations when our body needs additional resources and energy to endure ongoing stressors.
So what does all of this mean?
Let’s simplify our understanding. Adrenal glands are needed to live. Period. It is our fuel tank. When we are born, the tank is full. Then, life happens that requires us to tap into those reserves. And when the demands out weigh the supply, a deficit occurs.
As we have understood from above, the hormones released from the adrenal glands are needed for overall survival. What happens when we run on empty? Fatigue sets in. Hormones are in chaos. The entire ecosystem of the human structure and function is in peril.
How do you know if you have this? Well, this is where we need to take a step back and really understand what our body is going through.
With the current lifestyle the world lives, I am sure we all have some degree of adrenal fatigue. Google the symptoms and I am sure most of us check off 90% of the list.
However, the difference between adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s Disease) is that the latter is a TRUE diagnosable medical condition.
Those that suffer from Addison’s disease are unable to produce the hormones in adequate supply to maintain bodily function. The diagnosis is confirmed with laboratory testing. Every symptom must be watched and treated quickly and aggressively. Time is of the essence with Addison’s.
Conversely, adrenal fatigue doesn’t always have abnormal test results. This doesn’t mean that patients don’t have some diminish of hormone production. It just means that it is not as profound as in Addison’s.
I am sure you’re thinking that is great but how do I treat this so I can move on with my life?
When I first started learning and understanding about adrenal fatigue in 2007, I was sure the answer was replenishing with unproven garland of supplements. What I soon discovered was the supplements caused more issues than the fatigue itself. It didn’t make sense to treat one thing only for it to lead into another issue. Over the years, I have continuously asked myself how can we treat something we are not sure is a real entity? Whether the label is real or not, the symptoms are!
Ok. So we know it is real, but now what?
How about looking back through previous years and recognizing the habits that could have led to this?
- How much processed foods did you consume?
- How strict were you about your sleeping habits?
- How active were you, really?
- How much did you handle and resolve stress rather than sweeping them under the rug?
- How many times did you make a choice you knew wasn’t right?
- How many days did you neglect your “me time” thinking it was selfish?
- How many times did you put yourself at the end of the priority list?
There is no judgement here. We have all been there. Hind sight is 20/20. But it is never too late to refuel, replenish and revive!
Try and begin with these five basic steps.
1. Move at least 20 minutes a day.
2. Stop all screens 1 hour before bedtime.
3. Take a 5 second pause before acting on any choices you make.
4. Move yourself up on the priority list.
5. If it isn’t going to matter in one year, let it go.
This will take time. Keep expectations out of the equation. Work for a lifestyle change. Not for an immediate gain. It all starts with simplicity. Simply staying present. Simply starting. Simply observing. Simply being!
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on natural ways to relieve stress, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Since getting over the counter medicine has never been easier, over the counter medicine safety should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. From the GI relief of the PPI’s to the cold remedies of antihistamines, the choices are endless. But these self-prescribed options need to be used with caution and care. Many symptoms we often experience can be a sign of something more serious. A little Tylenol for headaches or Zantac for heartburn or Zyrtec for alleriges may seem innocent enough. However, being vigilant with your body’s responses to these medications can prevent catastrophic outcomes.
If your symptoms are new or different from previous times, or you have never used an OTC medicine before, it is worth putting in a call to your doctor for advice. Many of these medications have interactions with prescription medications. So only use them if no other options exist.
First and foremost, find out what is the actual CAUSE of your symptoms. Don’t merely medicate them. Identify the trigger and begin to remedy that cause. Medications temporarily bandage the immediate issues, not always fix the root problem.
I have known many patients to use OTC meds on a daily basis “just because” or “that’s how they have always done it.” Just because you don’t need a doctor’s authorization to purchase these drugs, doesn’t mean they don’t come without the same risk as prescription meds.
Here are some staggering OTC Statistics:
- Approximately 5 BILLION OTC drugs are purchased annually.
- This number accounts for 60% of all health-related drug purchases.
- Teenagers are 18 times more likely to fatally overdose on OTC medications than illicit street drugs.
- 40% of US teens think OTC medicines are safer than illegal drugs.
- Almost one-third of American teenagers think that it is perfectly safe to occasionally abuse OTC drugs.
According to Consumer Med Safety, here are the top 5 most commonly abused OTC medications:
This is an active ingredient in more than 100 OTC cough and cold medicines. Side effects include impaired judgment, vomiting, loss of muscle movement, seizures, blurred vision, drowsiness, shallow breathing, and a fast heart rate. Dextromethorphan is also addictive and can cause withdrawal symptoms, including depression and difficulty processing thoughts, when the drug is stopped.
OTC caffeine pills such as NoDoz or pain relievers with caffeine have been abused for the buzz or jolt of energy they seem to provide. If these pills are taken with high caffeine energy drinks, the effects are felt even quicker. Large doses of caffeine can cause serious dehydration, gastric reflux disease, panic attacks, and heart irregularities that have occasionally been linked to accidental deaths, particularly in those with an underlying heart condition.
- Diet Pills:
Although the FDA has banned several of the most dangerous stimulants commonly found in OTC diet pills—phenylpropanolamine, ephedrine, and ephedra—other ingredients in these OTC products can also be dangerous. Bitter orange is a common ingredient that acts much like ephedrine in the body. It can cause nervousness and tremor, rapid and irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, and death. The FDA ban on ephedra pertained only to diet pills considered dietary supplements, not herbal remedies such as teas and Chinese preparations.
- Laxatives/Herbal Supplements:
Laxatives and herbal diuretics (including uva ursi, goldenseal, dandelion root, rose hips) can cause serious dehydration and life-threatening loss of important minerals and salts that regulate the amount of water in the body, acidity of the blood, and muscle function.
This nasal decongestant and stimulant is found in many cold medicines. Its similarity to amphetamines has made it sought after to make the illegal drug methamphetamine. This medicine has also been taken as a stimulant to cause an excitable, hyperactive feeling. Abuse may be less common with pseudoephedrine than with other OTC medicines due to a federal law requiring it to be kept behind the pharmacy counter, limiting the purchase quantity, and requiring photo identification prior to purchase. However, people have taken pseudoephedrine to lose weight, and athletes have misused the medicine to increase their state of awareness and to get them “pumped up” before a competition. Dangerous side effects include heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats, and heart attacks. When combined with other drugs, such as narcotics, pseudoephedrine may trigger episodes of paranoid psychosis.
No doubt that having medications available to us at the 11th hour has certainly made life easier. But as prescription drugs continue to become readily available on shelves throughout the world, we must err on the side to be even more diligent and mindful of its risks. Due to the ease of accessibility of these meds, we must remain guarded to prevent overuse and abuse.
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on natural ways to relieve stress, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
It’s that time of year again; that whirlwind holiday season of parties, baking, and gift-giving. While this season is supposed to be about love and family, it is also the cause of stress for many people. More than 80% of people find the holidays to be a very stressful time, but what what are some ways to manage holiday stress without resorting to medication?
What is the Cause of Holiday Stress?
Doing too much can be part of the problem. The problem with holidays is that it can be too much of a good thing. Too much stress can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health. Too many fun activities can leave us feeling crazed rather than content.
An overload of parties and gift-giving can lead you to eat, drink, and be merry just a little too much. It’s tempting to overspend on gifts, eat rich desserts, or drink too much alcohol. If you do, you are left to deal with the consequences. In these tough financial times, finding less expensive gifts can be a stress trigger all on its own. Holiday debt is a stressor that can linger long after the season is over.
Too much togetherness can also be a stressor. Sure, you love to see your family and catch up, but too much of being together can make it hard for family members to keep a healthy balance between togetherness and alone time. This can bring more dread than cheer. On the other hand, maybe you don’t get to see enough of your family. Loneliness can be just as stress full, if not more.
So how can you get through this time of year and still keep the holiday cheer?
Yoga for Reducing Holiday Stress
Try a standing side stretch to open yourself up to calm feelings. Holding an open posture for two minutes can lower stress hormones and increases testosterone that can induce confidence.
You can breathe your way to calm control. Deep diaphragmatic breathing turns on your parasympathetic nervous system and blocks your body’s production of stress hormones and stimulate the feel-good hormones.
Raise your feet above your heart. It only takes 30-60 seconds to take the pressure off of your tired legs. It also improves circulation and helps to decrease swelling.
Yoga has been proven to raise endorphins, lower cortisol and balance thyroid. So why not try taking your stressors to the mat?
Stress Relieving Foods
Peppermint is a stress reliever because it contains manganese, iron, magnesium, calcium, folate, potassium, and copper. It also has omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C and Vitamin A. You can make a soothing peppermint tea, add peppermint leaves to your salad, or put some in your hot cocoa.
Broccoli is full of stress-relieving B vitamins. It also contains folic acid that helps to relieve stress, anxiety, panic, and depression. Broccoli, asparagus, kale, and other dark green vegetables have vitamins the help replenish your body during stressful times. Those with thyroid issues should be mindful of consuming smaller amounts so as to not trigger a thyroid relapse.
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein and omega-3’s. Omega-3’s help to protect against high blood pressure and improve mood. They also contain glutamate, which is used by your body to make gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA). GABA is an anti-stress brain chemical that helps reduce anxiety.
Almonds are great relievers of stress. They are packed full of vitamin B2, vitamin E, and zinc. Vitamin B helps in the production of serotonin, which helps regulate mood and relieve stress. Zinc has been shown to fight negative effects of tress. Vitamin E in an antioxidant that gets rid of free radicals related to stress.
Don’t let the stress of this holiday season effect your health and well-being.
For more information on natural ways to relieve stress, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment.
Two years ago if you would have told me yoga was one of the best kept secrets around, I would have laughed at that notion. Fast forward two years later, and I am here to tell you yoga is in fact ONE of the greatest hidden treasures of our time. Not only has it taken my fitness to an all-time high, it has taken my mental calm to an existence of peace.
During my research while writing this article, I came across an eye opening and awe inspiring story of Dr. Dilip Sarkar, a healthy 51 year old Vascular Surgeon from Virgina. In 2001, Dr. Sarkar found himself undergoing emergency cardiac bypass surgery. After recovering from this near-fatal event, Dr. Sarkar turned to Ayurvedic medicine and yoga therapy as a way to improve his health. Retired from his private medical practice, Dr. Sarkar is now a yoga teacher and clinical researcher focusing on yoga’s many life-saving benefits.
“What I’ve found through studying yoga therapy is that people who have a daily practice have effortlessly and automatically changed their lifestyle. They eat better, sleep better, their lifestyle is more regulated,” says Dr. Sarkar, who also serves as chairman of the School of Integrative Medicine at Taksha University in Hampton, Virginia.
I know it is very overwhelming to know where to even begin understanding all the various yoga forms. Figuring out which form of yoga you jive with comes from experiencing the various types. But the health benefits and mental reprieve of any of the asanas is unmistakable. This article will help answer some of those questions and explain the incredible health benefits of establishing a regular yoga practice.
Benefits of Yoga:
Improves cardiovascular health. “Hypertension is due to a constriction of blood vessels, and heart disease is due to blockage in the coronary arteries. When relaxation sets in, yoga therapy relaxes blood vessels and reduces blood pressure while increasing the blood flow to the heart muscle.” A study published in the journal Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome showed researchers followed 182 middle-aged Chinese adults who suffered from metabolic syndrome who practiced yoga for a year. The conclusion was lower blood pressure and increased weight loss.
Improves muscular pain. Postures are the backbone of yoga. “Herniated discs and spinal stenosis don’t cause pain. They cause an irritation of a nerve which cause a contraction of the muscle. The muscle tightness or spasm then causes the pain. In yoga therapy, when you hold a pose, your muscles contract and then slowly relax as you breath in and out. When relaxation sets in, back pain starts to go away,” says Dr. Sarkar.
Improves cognitive function. “Focused breath equals maximizing oxygenation and movement increases blood flow to brain and body,” says registered nurse Graham McDougall Jr., Ph.D., the lead researcher of the report published in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing. Participants of the study saw significant gains memory performance and fewer depressive symptoms.
Regulates blood sugar. “The practice of yoga increases your digestive fire called agni,” Sarkar says. “So the yogic way of looking at diabetes is that the body cannot digest sugar, which is why blood-sugar levels are high. If you can improve your digestion, you can improve your blood sugar, which is great for both diabetes prevention and control,” he says. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research showed 30 males with Type 2 diabetes who practiced yoga for six months saw a significant decrease in their blood glucose levels.
Controls stress and anxiety. There is nothing like visiting a yoga studio filled with low dim lighting, fragrant aroma of lavender and mood music to calm even the most stressed out nerves. A report presented at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) Conference 2015 linked yoga to lowering levels of cortisol, especially in women at risk for mental health problems. In the study of 52 women, ages 25 to 45, who had mildly elevated anxiety, moderate depression or high stress, those who performed Bikram twice a week felt better, looked better and had better control over their anxiety.
Decreases depression. In the Indian Journal of Palliative Care, breast cancer patients who practiced 60 minutes of yoga daily over a 24-week period, which included surgery and radiotherapy or chemotherapy reported a significant improvement in depressive symptoms compared to the non-yoga group.
Decreases risk of cancer. “If cancer runs in your family, you may want to pick up a regular yoga practice, which has shown to prevent the genetic mutation from expressing,” states Dr. Sarkar. A study published last January in Journal of Clinical Oncology found that performing yoga twice a week for as little as three months could lower inflammation, boost energy, and lift the mood of female cancer patients.
Improves self-esteem. In a study from Brazil published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, university students reported improvement in self-control, self-perception, well-being, body awareness, balance, mind-body and reflexivity. “The word yoga itself means union. It unites your mind, body and spirit. During yoga practice, we inhale positive emotions and exhale negative emotions,” explains Sarkar.
Promotes a healthy and long life. A study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine analyzed the effects that 90 days of yoga had on an obese 31-year-old man. The results showed dramatic reduction in oxidative stress hormones and inflammation, which goes a long way in preventing life -long diseases.
Helps control hormones. Who wouldn’t feel relaxed in Savasana? Conscious breathing helps regulate cortisol balance which helps maintain estrogen-progesterone-thyroid homeostasis.
The benefits continue to span miles long. I will be the first to admit that it took me a couple of months complaining and whining through class to realize what I had been missing all of these years.
Go outside of your comfort zone! Experience the wonder of conscious breathing. Experience the steadiness of mind-body alignment. Above all, experience the truly miraculous gifts yoga can bring into your life!
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieving and maintaining OPTIMAL health, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Why not consider giving the gift of health this year? We all know that the spirit of the holiday is anchoring into gratitude but nevertheless, the gifts that need to be purchased can sometimes weigh down our spirits. While keeping true to the idea of getting healthy, I thought it would be fun to combine the spirit of the holidays with the inspiration of mind, body, and the soul connection.
Even if your family or friends don’t have health gadgets at the top of their wish list, it may serve them well for you to open the possibilities of healthy living.
Here is a list of possible fun gift ideas that could ignite their interest in achieving the perfect mind, body, and soul connection:
- Personal Training Sessions. Don’t be afraid to approach personal trainers to see if they would be willing to offer packages of 3 or 5 sessions. All it takes is one wow workout and they are hooked.
- Heart Rate Monitor. Even though this maybe on the higher price range, the investment is well worth it. Some great reputable brands include Polar (my personal favorite), Garmin, Timex, FitBit. Many more are available and really comes down to ease of use and personal preference. Don’t underestimate the power of what a heart rate can indicate. It is so much more than how many calories are burned.
- Group Yoga Sessions. Approach your local yoga studios to see if they would be willing to do a semi-private class with your closest kith and kin. Perfect gift that comes with the perfect opportunity for bonding time. To add a little flavor to this, consider a monogramed yoga mat.
- Cooking Lessons. Whether it be at your local grocery store or with independent chefs, learning to cook healthy can be exactly the experience needed to get a taste of how easy and how wonderful healthy living can be. A great local place that offers healthy eating/cooking classes is Kitchen Conservatory.
- Healing Energy Sessions. This absolutely has to be my favorite gift to give and receive this season. There are some incredible healers, with Catherine Millman being one of my favorite. Energy Healers can be masters in the art of emotional and physical therapies for the mind, body, and Soul. It is truly amazing how the body recovers/heals when it is understood, nurtured, and loved. A truly unique and personal gift with an all-encompassing bow around the package!
- Meditation Workshops. Let’s face it, sitting for any length of time with your eyes closed with nothing to do is hard for anyone, but the power of silence is astonishing for the health when done collectively as a group. The healing energy not only has been shown to stabilize physical ailments, but it also contributes to recovery. There are many meditation centers locally to considering asking.
- Home Made Recipe Book. Compile all of your favorite recipes, tips and techniques into a “What’s What of Healthy Living.” Adding that extra personal touch adds a little extra bit of holiday cheer.
- Fitness Flash Cards. Genius idea for any family or friend who feel they don’t have time to work out. Now they have no excuses! These flash cards are available online. Each card has a description of an exercise, how many reps etc. They can pull random cards from the deck or create a designated workout. How easy and useful of a gift is that!
These are only a sprinkle of the possibilities that can be considered to draw others into healthy living. With the endless confusion of deciding which gift is appropriate, I invite each of you to change the thought process and gift others with the inspiration and choices you have made to live a healthier more fulfilling life.
As 2016 comes to a close, my well wishes that 2017 may open with the highest and purest intentions of health and healing.
Happy Holidays to you and your families!
A common question I get in my practice is “How much sleep should I be getting?” This is a very important question. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control called insufficient sleep a public epidemic. It is estimated that nearly half of all American adults get less than the minimum recommendation of seven hours of sleep per night. With that many people operating on inadequate sleep, fatigue is so common that it’s easy to overlook the serious nature of the issue. However, with insufficient sleep being cited for auto and industrial accidents and increasing a person’s risk of chronic disease, the case for getting enough sleep should be heard.
Sleep and Reaction Time
Sleep studies have consistently shown that “function” (identified by reaction time measured in a variety of tests) is almost 100 percent impacted by sleep. In fact, a NASA-funded study at the University of Pennsylvania showed that people who self-identify as being able to fully function on less sleep actually experienced more substantial delays in reaction time than people who self-identified as needing (and finding a way to get) eight to 10 hours of sleep per night.
While these reduced reaction time results on controlled tests are alarming, the reality is even worse. Lack of sleep by key personnel has been cited in nuclear power plant disasters, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the Challenger space shuttle explosion. Maybe your job doesn’t require intense focus, but a lack of sleep can impact the results of everyday activities just as drastically. Law enforcement agencies across the U.S. consider driving a car under the effect of extreme fatigue identical to driving while drunk.
Sleep Habits and Risks for Disease
Lack of sleep’s effect on overall health is also of great concern. Inadequate sleep is known to increase the risk for the following:
- Heart disease
- Heart attacks
- High blood pressure
- Colon cancer
There also seems to be a link between lack of sleep and a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Reduced testosterone levels have been measured in men who reported getting six hours of sleep per night or less.
Not getting enough sleep also negatively affects the immune system. That’s why a person might find oneself coming down with a cold or flu after an extended period of reduced sleep. Studies have shown that T-cell count (which is often used to measure immune system function) is relative to a person’s average amount of sleep. Likewise, there’s a reason your doctor recommends rest when you’re ill: fever response is better while we sleep.
Sleep deprivation can also lead to muscle loss and fat gain. With too little sleep, the body is also more likely to produce the stress-response hormone, cortisol. After sleep deprivation, subjects in several studies had higher levels of cortisol later in the day, a time when it should be tapering off to prepare the body for rest. Heightened cortisol prompts the body to store more fat and be more inclined to use other soft tissue, such as muscle, as energy which means that sleep-deprived dieters lose more muscle and gain more fat than do those who are well rested. One study found that after two weeks of minor calorie restriction (10 percent less than their daily energy expenditure), subjects who were getting 5.5 hours in bed a night lost just 0.6 kilogram of fat but 2.4 kilograms of other tissue, such as muscle. Subjects who got 8.5 hours slumber each night lost 1.4 kilograms of fat and 1.5 kilograms of other tissue. “Some of these metabolic effects occur pretty quickly,” Dr. Mehra – Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Oversleeping: Too Much of a Good Thing?
Just as not getting enough sleep is unhealthy, getting too much sleep isn’t a good thing either. There may be times (such as with illness or during periods of excess stress) when your body may feel an increased need for sleep, and this is normal. However, oversleeping on a regular basis should be watched carefully. Researchers acknowledge a strong association between frequent oversleeping and depression and/or other underlying health concerns like heart disease.
Children up to age 12 should aim for about 10 hours of sleep per night, teens should get 9-10 hours per night and adults should get 7-8 hours per night. Naps can occasionally supplement shortened overnight sleep, but sleep cycles depend on a specific chunk of time, so it’s still important to focus on getting a good night’s sleep.
Discuss Your Concerns with a Trusted Physician
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each patient with comprehensive, individualized treatment options and health programs. Our office is committed to helping find the best solutions for you and your particular needs.
Like many other conditions, sleep disorders affect each person differently and require a very personalized approach to care. For more information on healthy sleep habits, please contact us today or schedule an appointment with Dr. Raman.
Depression has been labeled “a hush hush” diagnosis. The stigma of being called “depressed” has somehow placed a Scarlet Letter on those affected. Everyone reading this understands at some point what it feels like to be down. Let me tell you, we have ALL been there, continue to be there, or will be there. There is nothing wrong in admitting that we can’t do it all. It doesn’t make us weak. It makes us that much stronger for having the courage to say what everyone else may be thinking. I have talked about the effects of hormonal imbalances in my previous blogs. This month, I would like to focus on breaking through the silent conversations of depression.
While depression is known to have genetic links, it does not mean we are destined to that fate. With the convoluted ways of our world and the minute to minute emotional roller coaster we face from our home life, work place or just by turning on the news, there is no doubt we have all been plagued on some spectrum of depressive symptoms.
So why am I writing on this topic? I am writing because it is time to start having REAL conversations on what is happening within our psyche.
While depression has earned its own DSM code, all depression is not treated equally. Each degree of symptoms is just as important as the other. It must be acknowledged and accepted so that healing may begin.
How does depression affect the physical body beyond the obvious?
“The most frequently occurring endocrine abnormality in depressed subjects is hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Depression also affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-GH (HPGH) and -thyroid (HPT) axes. Alterations in the reproductive system may also play a role in the pathology of depression. In addition, there is increasing evidence that leptin and neurosteroids, such as DHEA, are implicated in mood disorders.” J Endocrinol Invest. 2005 Jan;28(1):89-99.
So what does this mean? Exactly what we think it means. When neurotransmitters are imbalanced or depleted, it drives cortisol into over production to compensate for the deficit. This puts an extra burden on the organ systems leading to the development of diseases we are too often familiar with.
What are causes of depressive symptoms?
- Hormonal imbalances
- Decreased levels of neurotransmitters
- Endocrine disorders (Hypothyroidism,Hyperthyroidism, Diabetes etc)
- Autoimmune disease (Thyroid, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus etc)
- Food or environmental allergies
- Environmental stressors or trauma
- Medication side effects
By no means is this a complete list, but it is evident most anything can cause symptoms.
How many of these sound familiar?
- Physical pain
- Hair loss
- Decreased concentration
- Fleeting thoughts
- Weight changes
- GI disturbances
- Sleep disturbances (too little or too much)
- Increase in alcohol consumption
- Spending increased time on social media or online (who would have thought?)
- Not keeping up with grooming or hygiene
Don’t give up!! There are many ways to treat these symptoms and come out on top!
How can I get well?
- Therapists/Healers. They are your BEST and #1 resource. There is nothing like being able to sit in a room for an hour talking about yourself with someone listening to your every word. They are trained to listen and they are trained to help. No, they can’t change the situation, but they do know how to give objective insight and perspective. We all at some point should experience the awesomeness of seeing a therapist.
- Breathe. If we block oxygen from entering our cells, then nothing can heal, including our emotions. Pick your favorite breathing technique and start inhaling power and exhaling doubt.
- Stay present. Easier said than done, I know! Learn to control your mind from re- visiting the past or jumping to the future. Both are out of your control, so begin accepting the gift of the present.
- Mindful eating. YES, everything comes back to the GI tract! When we eat clean, the body stays clean. Don’t hoard toxins that only spin you further out of control. Hydrate – 90 oz water/day. Even if you have to force yourself to get the water down, it is worth it.
- Exercise. Moving the body has been proven to release endorphins that stimulate release of neurotransmitters. Higher levels of hormones means happy you. Move, move, move.
- Buddy up. Nothing like being in the company of friends whose energy can give you a boost. Relish and cherish the bonds of friendships. BFF’s are the best antidepressant in the world.
- Explore your creativity. Color, paint, write, choreograph a dance, compose music, cook, sew….whatever brings out the Martha Stewart in you, do it. Stimulating our creative forces causes increase blood flow to different parts of the brain thereby increasing levels of the neurotransmitters.
- Get a pet. Now, I know this maybe a little bit of work so don’t panic on me. Just think of the love, energy, unconditional compassion they bring into the home. That is enough to take away anybody’s down days. Just consider it.
- Herbal supplements. I have included this on the list, but I am not a strong advocate of herbs. There is some evidence that certain natural supplements help lift minor depressive symptoms, but it has not been evaluated in long term studies. Be cautious! It is only a temporary solution.
- Antidepressants. Let me clear up one thing. Antidepressants are very effective in treatment of depressive symptoms and I am in favor of using them, BUT only in conjunction with other treatment modalities. Think of antidepressants as a crutch to help you walk on this rocky road. It doesn’t mean you are unable to handle the situation without the use of meds. It only means they help protect your physical body from the effects of depression. It doesn’t have to be a permanent treatment, but only to be used only until the storm passes. Whatever your reason may be for resisting them, don’t. They truly can help ease the passage into brighter days.
There are many more advanced treatments, remedies and therapy techniques on the treatment of depression and its associated symptoms.
The courage must lie within you to find the voice of your feelings. Sweeping things under the rug doesn’t make them go away. It only makes the magnitude of the situation seem worse.
We are all human beings. And part of being human is the glory of having feelings. Some feelings make us feel good and others don’t. It is about identifying those that don’t and making things alright. Because at the end of the day, it will be alright!
“People cry not because they are weak. It’s because they have been strong for so long.” — Johnny Depp
You are not alone!!
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance. For more information on healthy eating habits and achieveing and maintaining OPTIMAL health, CONTACT our office today to schedule your appointment. You can also learn more by following Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Eating out is fun, and with a little planing, you can still be eating healthy while eating out. And why wouldn’t you? Gathering around for a meal has long brought families together for hours of conversation over endless bowls of our favorite dishes. Once in a while it is nice to shut down the kitchen and give Mom and Dad a break from chopping, stirring and cleaning.
Trying out great new restaurants or visiting your old favorites is no doubt exciting, relaxing and rejuvenating. However, what we don’t often realize is how excited our palates become when these tasty treats in their most perfect presentation are brought out in front of us. Before we know it, we have devoured the last bite consuming more calories than imagined.
Enjoying good food is a must. Enjoying new food is a necessity.
So if you are one that loves restaurant hopping, keep at it!! Life is too short not to enjoy the simple pleasures! To avoid spiraling down an unhealthy lifestyle, plan ahead!
The following may seem like simple suggestions, but I assure you simplicity will bring about longevity!
- Decide the restaurant early. Knowing what type of food will be ordered will help you be aware of the amount of carb, protein, and fat in that item. If you anticipate a great Italian Bistro where carbs are in very selection, plan to decrease carb intake couple days prior to the outing. Most restaurants offer apps that allow you to search the menu as well as nutritional values. Making good choices comes from being educated.
- Hydrate.This should be your staple even when you don’t plan to go out. 90 oz of water /day helps keep cellular function performing at optimal levels. Avoid any water substitutes and go for the plain H2O.
- Eat a small protein snack one-two hours before anticipated meal time. Protein intake helps keep the balance of insulin and glucose. This results in longer satiety and decreased cravings. Good examples are almonds, string cheese, fruit, slice of meat, peanut butter, hummus etc.
- Check out the menu beforehand. If you know you will not be leaving that table until you have had that favorite 1000 calorie dessert, then scale back on appetizers and entrée. Yes you can have your cake and eat it too, but only in moderation. You don’t want to wake up the next morning with a sugar laden hangover.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the server. Ask the server how the food is being prepared. Ask them if they use butter, cream or any other high fat substitutes to give it that rich mouthwatering flavor. Ask to speak to the chef if you are not satisfied with the answer. Even if they think you are one of “those” customers, it doesn’t matter because ultimately, you are only accountable to yourself. So take ownership and be ok asking!
- Avoid “low carb” options and high carb temptations. Anything that claims “free or low carb,” STAY AWAY! To take something out and still have it taste so good, means something else has to be put in. That something else is likely to be highly processed ingredients that do you no good. Better to go for the real stuff in smaller quantities. Also skip the bread basket. It’s not worth it!
- Double the veggies. Just because it doesn’t say it on the menu, doesn’t mean you can’t ask. Ask for double quantity of veggies-steamed or broiled, NOT FRIED. Even if it costs a few pennies more, it is well worth it.
- Watch out for the salad temptation. Of course the vegetables in the salad are healthy, but the croutons, cheese, dressing, not so much. Salad toppings may seem insignificant, but what we may not realize is that these innocent munchies turn out to be the biggest culprits of our weight gain. Have you seen how many grams of fat are in ONE tablespoon of dressing? A LOT! You know they don’t stop at one tablespoon. So is it really worth ruining all of your hard work with something that is not even the main meal? Ask for dressing on the side.
- Skip the alcohol. Alcohol consumption causes an increase appetite and not to mention increase in empty calories. If you absolutely must have a drink with your meal, choose red or white wine limited to 1x glass. For every one sip of wine, take 3-5 large gulps of water. Chances are you won’t even be able to finish that one glass. Avoid the fruity cocktails. Choose your calories wisely.
- Dress up nicely. Who would have thought right? Research has shown when you take the time and effort to dress nicely and are happy with what you see in the mirror, you will be less likely to make poor dietary choices. If dressing up is a time consuming process for you, you may not be keen to put in the effort just for going out. And in the long run, less eating out means less consumption of unwanted calories.
- Walk off the guilt. If your willpower happened to get the best of you, don’t sweat it. We are all human. We all have cravings. It’s ok! If you still can’t shake the guilt, take a brisk walk outside and breathe knowing you can start over with the next meal. We ALL go through these times when we know better, but we choose otherwise. Following the 80-20 rule can help with any feelings of guilt. Focus on mindful eating 80% of the time and look forward to the other 20% when you know you’ve earned it!
Indulgences are part of life’s greatest joys. Don’t deprive yourself of a little happiness. Eating out is more than just about watching calories. It is the opportunity to kindle relationships and foster new ones.
Food is nourishment. It is our greatest ally, not our worst enemy. Savor each bite because you know you have earned it. And when you have taken that last bite, set yourself back on that right path until you can look forward to it again!