Canggu, Bali, August 2016

Buddhist Monastery, Banjar, Bali, August 2016

Yogi at Hindu Monastery, Kauai, Hawaii, March 2014

The One Practice That Taught Me To Shed Labels — And Embrace Freedom

Katina Mountanos - mbg

 

From the time we are young children, we place labels on ourselves to make sense of the world. We are either skinny or big-boned; cool or unpopular; a musician or an athlete.

And while these labels at times can be helpful to create some form of an identity, they are often extremely limiting. They place us into boxes—or out of them—and continue to follow us well into adulthood.

For a long time, I labeled myself as inflexible. I was a strong runner with an athletic build—not like the tall, lanky women we see gracing the covers of magazines. I completely took myself out of the "yoga" box because I assumed that in order to do it, you needed to have a certain body type.

It also didn’t help that by social media standards, yogis seemed like they could pop into an oddly formed shape anywhere—whether they were on a yoga mat or in an airport. It was intimidating to think that I could barely touch my toes while sitting down, let alone put my foot behind my head on the beach.

But I soon realized that the purpose of yoga was quite the opposite. Because yoga is really a practice of shedding labels, of removing the layers to get to your true self.

I realized that yoga as a practice only really begins on the mat.

As I began going to yoga class regularly, I realized that practice only really begins on the mat.

Asana, or the physical practice that we typically think of when we imagine yoga (beautiful studios and class memberships aside), is really just the first step on our yoga journey. It’s considered preparation for all the deeper aspects of our practice such as pranayama (breath work) or pratyahara (meditation).

Really, though, all of these parts of yoga are meant to prepare us for those tough moments in life—like when we get frustrated with our boss at work or our train is running late.

Because at the end of the day, the majority of us humans don’t have the flexibility—in terms of both our time availability and physical limits—to pop into a yoga pose in the middle of the day when things get rough. We need to be able to access that mindset wherever we are in the world—and it begins by being kind to yourself on the mat, whether you're flexible or not.

I was forced to confront my deeper feelings and emotional roadblocks.

After a couple of years of regular yoga practice, I decided to take the next big step and complete my 200-hour training. I realized that I was seeking to learn more about yoga than a 60-minute class in between work and dinner could give me.

Of course, I thought that at that point I had come to face all of my fears (don’t we all?). I thought that I had resolved my issue with inflexibility. I was growing more flexible by the day, and heck, it didn’t even matter to me anymore—or so I thought.

But oddly enough, before I even entered my teacher training, I spent hours practicing the perfect handstand. I wanted to walk into that room confident that I was a true yogi, that I was capable, that maybe I was even the best.

But yoga has this funny ability to shine a mirror on our deepest issues and make us confront them head-on. And my experience was about continuing to shed those self-induced labels.

During my training, I quickly learned that yoga practice is different for every body—and sometimes even varies by the day. That on some days, you may be strong enough to hold crow pose, and on others, child’s pose is the most you can do.

I had to learn to stop comparing myself to my neighbor and even to myself the day before.

I had to really sit with the labels that kept coming up and negative self-chatter that we all know so well: You’re not good enough, strong enough, flexible enough for this. Maybe you should just quit.

I had to stop defining myself by my outward "successes" and really get in touch with my true self, which if you've tried, is not an easy thing to do.

I released self-limiting beliefs and embraced kinder thoughts.

It is the first experience I’ve had that you can’t just "achieve" and complete. Almost everything in life that I’ve done had an end point. As a runner, you could only complete so many marathons. But with yoga, your teacher training is really just the start of an entirely new world and mindset.

For me, setting an intention to be kind to myself before each practice has helped me continue to shed those labels. Whenever I find myself looking over to my neighbor’s mat or beating myself up for falling out of a pose, I take a breath and come back to my intention. It’s a difficult, continuous practice that we all must work at—but one that overflows into the rest of our lives.

Over time, I’ve also come up with daily rituals that help me reset and continue to dig deeper toward the truest version of myself. While a daily yoga practice is on that list—it’s not the only thing. Taking time to meditate, journal, and even take a 10-minute solo walk (without music blasting into my ears) have all helped me quiet the noise and continue to shed those labels.

Of course, it’s a process. But with each step comes the beauty of finding your most raw, beautiful self—without labels.

 

 

Natural Ways To Manage Period Pain

 

Feeling queasy? Sick of cramps? Try these six tips for relieving pain associated with menstruation, naturally. 

Queasiness and stomach cramps often go hand in hand with menstruation, and while painkillers may temporarily provide relief there are natural ways you can ease discomfort. Susan Johns, clinical dietician and distributor of Lunette in New Zealand shares her top tips for managing period pain naturally.

Why whole grains?

Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that stimulate the brain in order to release serotonin, a hormone which makes you feel good. Ever notice that your body feels like it took a thrashing from the inside-out about a week before your period is due? Studies have shown that whole grains can reduce that tension and fight depression because they are loaded with vitamin E and magnesium.

Put it on your plate – almonds, spinach, quinoa, cashews

Your best spud

Vitamin A plays a huge role in saying goodbye to our PMS symptoms. An increase in Vitamin A will fight PMS symptoms, like acne and heavy bleeding, as well as problems that occur like fatigue when vitamin A levels plummet. One sweet potato provides 120% of our daily recommended intake of Vitamin A.

Put it on your plate – kumara, carrots, kale

The good kind of fat

Good fats make good hormones; bad fat makes bad hormones. Simple, right? Keep your saturated fat intake low and boost your intake of unsaturated fats, especially in the week leading up to your period. This’ll help keep your hormones happy.

Put it on your plate – avocado, coconut and olive oil, whole eggs, salmon

Cereal killer

B vitamin deficiency, particularly B6, is known to play a role in increasing PMS symptoms such as forgetfulness, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and moodiness. Add period pain to the mix and your day just got a whole lot worse.

Put it on your plate – fortified breakfast cereals, chickpeas, chicken, tuna, banana

Nuts about nuts

While your uterus is busy cramping your style, the muscle lining can get fatigued and develop a lactic acid build up, just like your legs after an intense session at the gym. Magnesium, found in high concentration in nuts, is key here to give relief to cramping pains.

Put it on your plate – nuts, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, spinach, fish

Zinc overdose

Upping your intake of zinc-rich foods a few days before you are due has been shown to have a positive effect on cramps, bloating and inflammation. Zinc needs vitamin B6 to be absorbed, so be sure to pair your zinc-filled foods with foods rich in B vitamin.

Put it on your plate – peas, asparagus, spinach, red meat, seafood.

 

"If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation." - Dali Lama 

EVENING DINACHARYA, PART 4: PRACTICES FOR BETTER SLEEP

By Shyam Kumar for Yogibeings

 

In Part 1, we looked at how a consistent sleep routine enhances the quality of rest and rejuvenation. In Part 2, we focused on synchronising our sleep routine with nature’s doshic rhythm and in Part 3, we looked at practices that help you relax in the evening. Now we look at some more evening routines for better sleep.

 

Avoid backlit screens

 

Turn of all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. Backlit screens interfere with your biological clock and fool your body into thinking its daytime, straining your eyes and stimulating your mind. Spend this time with yourself. Indulge in soothing meditation or self-reflection, listen to relaxing music, or read an uplifting book (although not in bed!).

 

Avoid reading in bed

 

Reading in the bed can confuse the body by signalling for sleep and alertness at the same time. Designate a place to sit down and read. Avoid reading excessively emotional or distressing content. If you struggle with sleeping, try giving up bedtime reading.

 

Keep a journal

 

Spend a few minutes writing about your day to clear your mind and remove any residual emotions associated with the day’s events.

 

A soothing glass of milk

 

If your system allows it, drink a glass of warm milk, with a pinch of cardamom and honey, to promote deep sleep.

 

Relax your body

 

Once in bed, consciously relax your entire body. Bring your awareness to each part of the body and will it to relax itself. Then focus on your breathing and gently drift into sleep.

 

Sleep according to your dosha

 

Vata types may suffer from irregular sleep routines and have to take extra effort to establish a daily sleep routine. Go to bed at the same time every day, even if you don’t feel sleepy. Sleep on your left side to encourage breathing through your right nostril, to promote heat.

 

Pitta types tend to easily get disturbed from their sleep. Keep your bedroom quiet and fragrant. Sleep on your right side to encourage breathing through your left nostril, for cooling.

 

Kapha types have a tendency to oversleep and this causes imbalance. Ensure you wake up before 6 am. Sleep on your left side to promote heating.

 

Incorporating all these practices into your daily life may sound daunting. Choose a few of these that appeal to you most and commit to doing them every day. As you become comfortable, you can gradually add more practices into your routine. Observe how your body feels and celebrate the small improvements—these are your body’s way of thanking you.  

 

Here at the YogAlign Yoga Studio in Mount Maunganui, I will be showing the Broken Brain 8-Part Docuseries, Heal Your Body, Heal Your Brain.

Host Dr Mark Hyman has brought together the world's top experts on brain health to bring you the most cutting edge information & research on brain health.

Broken Brain is an 8-Part Docuseries that addresses the root causes of our biggest brain challenges, how to really go about healing them, & how to optimise your brain function. We refer to our "Broken Brain" by many names - Alzheimer's, depression, anxiety, memory loss, brain fog, attention deficit disorder or ADD, autism & dementia - just to name a few.

If you (or your family & friends) are looking to achieve more mental clarity & become sharper, more focused & more joyful, you won't want to miss this documentary. Everyone Welcome!

You don't have to suffer with a Broken Brain anymore!

I will be playing the 8-Part docuseries hosted by Dr Mark Hyman, over 8 evenings.

Episode 1    The Broken Brain Epidemic / My Story - Thursday 12 April

Episode 2    Gut Brain Connection: Getting to The Root of a Broken Brain - Thursday 19 April

Episode 3    Losing Our Minds - Alzheimer's, Dementia & MS - Thursday 26 April

Episode 4    ADHD & Autism - Thursday 3 May

Episode 5    Depression & Anxiety - Thursday 10 May

Episode 6    Traumatic Brain Injury - Accidents, Sports & More - Thursday 17 May

Episode 7    7 Steps to An UltraMind (Part 1) - Thursday 24 May

Episode 8    7 Steps to An UltraMind (Part 2) - Thursday 31 May

Venue: YogAlign Studio, 125 Oceanbeach Road, Mount Maunganui

Time: 7pm start - bring a pillow or bolster for your comfort (we have some available :) and pen & paper

Cost: $5 per single session or $20 for the full 8-part docuseries

Dates: Thursday evenings starting Thursday 12 April to Thursday 31 May 2018

 

EVENING DINACHARYA, PART 3: RELAXING ROUTINES

By Shyam Kumar for Yogibeings

 

In Part 1, we looked at how Ayurveda considers sleep to be essential for good health and how establishing a consistent sleep routine goes a long way in enhancing the quality of rest and rejuvenation. Part 2 explained how the night is governed by different doshas at different times and how to synchronise your sleep routine with nature’s rhythm. Now, let’s look at establishing a soothing evening routine to help you wind down and prepare for a night of restful sleep.

 

Following a regular routine reassures your body that everything is well, providing a tremendous sense of comfort. Establishing a daily evening routine ensures that, with time, the body learns that these are signals that the day is ending and to prepare for a good night’s rest. It’s important to be consistent with the routine. Here are some things that you can incorporate into your evening routine:

 

Avoid that evening cup of coffee

 

Drinking coffee or any other stimulant prevents your brain from responding to fatigue, instead making you feel fresh and energetic. This causes problems in trying to sleep early. If you are suffering from sleep-related problems, cutting down on caffeine may go a long way in helping you sleep better.

 

Turn down the lights

 

Our biological clocks are highly sensitive to light. For most living beings, sunset is a signal that the day is winding down and it’s time to rest. In today’s modern life, there is so much artificial lighting that it severely interferes with the natural biological response to sleep. One of the best things you can do is to dim the lights at home as the sun goes down. This sends the signal to your body that the day is ending.

 

Reduce exertion

 

It’s best to reduce strenuous physical and mental activity at least two hours before bedtime.

 

Have an early dinner

 

Have an early dinner to ensure that the food is completely digested before you sleep. This prevents the accumulation of toxic waste (ama) in your body, which could make you feel dull and lethargic. It’s ideal to leave a gap of three hours between dinner and sleep time. To get used to eating early, you can begin by eating a lighter dinner than usual.

 

Wash your face

 

Wash your face with lukewarm water, preferably using an Ayurvedic cleanser. This cleanses the dirt accumulated through the day, removes oil from the pores and helps your skin breathe at night.

 

Massage your feet and scalp

 

Take a few drops of oil and do a slow, relaxing massage of your scalp. Wash and dry your feet and apply a few drops of oil slowly from heel to toe in slow, circular movements of your palm. This removes excess heat and relaxes the entire body.

 

In Part 4, we shall look at a few more things you can do before bedtime and how to incorporate these into our daily lives.

 

EVENING DINACHARYA, PART 2: THE DOSHIC NATURE OF SLEEP

By Shyam Kumar for Yogibeings

 

In Part 1, we looked the vital role of sleep in maintaining overall health, improving immunity and enhancing cognitive function. Establishing a consistent sleep and wake time goes a long way in enhancing the quality of rest and rejuvenation. Now, let’s see how different parts of the night are governed by different doshas, and how to synchronise our sleep routine with nature’s rhythm.

 

Ayurveda divides each day into two cycles:

 

1) The solar cycle which begins at 6 am and ends at 6 pm.

 

2) The lunar cycle which begins at 6 pm and ends at 6 am.  

 

The lunar cycle plays an important role in establishing sleep rhythm. This twelve-hour period is divided into three intervals of four hours each. The first interval from 6 pm to 10 pm is dominated by Kapha, the second interval from 10 pm to 2 am is dominated by Pitta, and the third interval from 2 am to 6 am is dominated by Vata. This fundamental understanding, along with knowledge of the current season and your doshic constitution helps establish a proper evening routine that is in harmony with the doshic influences.

 

Ayurveda recommends going to sleep before 10 pm. During this time our bodies are dominated by Kapha’s earthy, stable and grounding properties—ideal for a deep, soothing sleep. The period from 10 pm to 2 am is dominated by Pitta, whose qualities are intense, hot, sharp and acidic. This might make you feel energetic, impatient to be active, and prevent you from falling asleep. Staying awake at this time causes a phenomenon called second wind, where you stop feeling drowsy even when you are exhausted. Moreover, Pitta increases the digestive fire and leaves you craving that midnight snack!

 

The time dominated by Pitta is used by the body to repair its tissues, clean out toxins, enhance your immune system and perform daily maintenance tasks. This is also when the mind processes the undigested thoughts and emotions caused during the day and comes to terms with them.

 

Pitta gives way to Vata dominance at around 2 am and the atmosphere is dominated by qualities of lightness, mobility and coolness. The body begins the process of waking up around this time. Ayurveda advises getting up an hour and a half before sunrise when Vata dominates, so you can begin the day feeling light and refreshed.

 

Sleeping fewer hours in harmony with these cycles can leave you feeling more relaxed and energetic than sleeping longer hours going to bed late. However, falling asleep early is not easy for many of us. In Part 3, we look at establishing a simple evening routine that helps us to wind down and get ready for a night of soothing sleep.

 

EVENING DINACHARYA, PART 1: THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP

By Shyam Kumar for Yogibeings

 

Do you wake up in the middle of the night, fully awake and unable to go back to sleep? Do you start your mornings in a state of exhaustion? Do you find yourself unable to fall asleep at night even though you are tired? Most of these stem from our irregular work schedules which have made food and sleep patterns and our lifestyle in general increasingly erratic. These irregularities affect our metabolic rhythm and lead to tiredness, heartburn, loss of appetite and other health complications.

 

Ayurveda highly recommends establishing a daily rhythm, “Dinacharya", taking into account your constitution and the cycles of nature. Adhering to Dinacharya ensures tri-doshic balance and provides a deep sense of relaxation, enhancing overall wellness. In this series, we will be looking at establishing a daily evening rhythm that leads to restful sleep.

 

Sleep is of fundamental importance in Ayurveda. It allows the body and mind to relax deeply, detoxify and rejuvenate. This is the time the body needs for tissue repair, muscle growth, removal of metabolic wastes, and enhancing immune function.  Quality of sleep has a direct impact on our cognitive functions including level of attention and our ability to learn. Therefore it’s vital to get a good night of sleep.

 

Ayurveda gives no universal recommendation for the ideal duration of sleep. Based on your constitution, this may vary between 6-8 hours. Kapha predominant body types need little sleep and Vata types need the most. Too much sleep can imbalance doshas and causes dullness and lethargy. More than eight hours of sleep are recommended only for pregnant women, the aged and the sick.

 

Merely sleeping the right number of hours isn’t enough to ensure good sleep quality. It’s important to establish a consistent sleep routine with predictable sleep and wake times. This helps the body settle into a daily rhythm. Once you have understood the duration of sleep required for you, fix a wake up time, preferably early in the morning. Then work backwards to decide on your sleep time. Regularly adhering to these times creates a deep rhythm in the body and leads to a night of relaxing and refreshing sleep. 

 

In Part 2, we shall explore the doshic nature of each part of the night and how it affects our sleep rhythm. Adjusting our sleep routine according to these greatly enhances the quality of rest.

 

By Robyn Youkilis 28 February 2018

I created my Good Gut Rule of Five to show you exactly what to put on your plate at lunch and dinner. Eating in this way will ensure that you are getting a balance of both macro- and micronutrients, as well as my favorite gut-healing superfoods (which I talk about more in my book, Thin From Within). Aim to include one ingredient from each of the five categories that follow for a complete and balanced meal:

1. Greens:

Kale, collards, arugula, spinach, lettuce...I love ’em all. Aim to have at least two or three big handfuls of greens with most meals. Greens do it all when it comes to gut health and weight loss: They are packed with fiber, which helps fill you up and keep you regular. Plus, leafy green veggies are some of the most nutrient-dense foods, and when you are filling your cells with nutrients (I mean real nutrition, not just calories!), you have more energy and fewer cravings.

2. Healthy fat:

Avocado, olive and flax oils, almonds, butter from grass-fed cows (so the cows have healthy guts too!), and coconut oil all count here. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 to 2 ounces of nuts, or ¼ to ½ of an avocado at each meal for a good dose of flavor and satiation. Plus, fats are essential for proper absorption of most vitamins and minerals. I used to be terrified of fats, but now I include them at every meal and am lighter than I’ve ever been.

3. Protein:

Wild salmon, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, tempeh, sprouted lentils, and canned wild sardines are some examples of great go-to protein options. Protein keeps you full and stabilizes your blood sugar, so you won’t keep dipping into your raw chocolate stash or crash halfway through your afternoon meetings.

4. Fermented food:

Including fermented foods on your plate is the good-gut secret to weight loss through a healthy microbiome (you need all that great bacteria throughout the day to keep your digestion humming!). Examples include raw sauerkraut, fermented beets, fermented carrots or radishes, and kimchi. Try adding 1 to 3 tablespoons at each meal, and feel free to work your way up to ½ cup or more. If you’re not used to the flavor of fermented veggies, try mixing them with avocado to mellow the flavor.

5. Cooked vegetables:

Having a cooked veggie or two with my meal (in addition to greens) always makes the meal feel more grounding and filling. Roasted zucchini, broccoli, sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots are all examples of delicious cooked veggies, but this can really be any veggie. I try to roast a bunch of seasonal veggies at least once or twice per week so I always have some cooked veggies on hand and ready to go. If you’re on the run, many takeout spots and fancy restaurants have awesome veggie choices these days.

 

How Being In The Forest Actually Boosts Immunity, According To Science

Clemens Arvay, MSc

19 February 2018

New research, like the Journal of Adolescent Health study that found that teens who have more access to green space tend to be happier, continues to reinforce the idea that humans are intricately connected to the natural environment. Our entire body is constantly communicating and acting in tandem with our surroundings. But how can something as simple as spending time outside possibly make us healthier? Let's dive into the science.

The real reason being outside is so healing.

The Japanese tradition of Shinrin-yoku, "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing," is proof of concept. In this case, the term "bathing" does not mean swimming in some sort of wooded lake. Instead, it's about diving into a forest with all of our senses. In 1982, the National Forest Authorities of Japan suggested advertising Shinrin-yoku to the public and promoting its immune-boosting powers. And today, taking in the forest atmosphere is officially a recognized method of preventing disease and supplementing treatment in the country. The National Institute of Public Health of Japan promotes Shinrin-yoku, universities study it, and hospitals use it as an Rx.

 

When you breathe in the woods, you are inhaling a cocktail of bioactive substances released by plants. One of these groups of substances is called terpenes. They're usually emitted from leaves, pine needles, tree trunks, and the thick bark of some trees. We absorb these gaseous terpenes partially through our skin, but especially through the lungs. Terpenes also flow out of bushes, herbs, and shrubs among the understory, along with mushrooms, mosses, and ferns, too. Even thin layers of foliage on the forest floor emit them. So, safe to say, if you're outside and can see any sort of tree material, you're getting a dose of terpenes.

 

While forest medicine is under no circumstances a replacement for conventional medical check-ups, scientific studies have discovered the forest air is like an old friend to our bodies. Some of these terpenes have been found to have anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic, and neuroprotective activities, making forest air like a healing elixir we inhale. Even though terpenes come from trees, mushrooms, and herbs that are communicating with one another, our immune system can also decode them. Like other plants, we respond to terpenes by strengthening our body's defenses. Doctors of forest medicine know that anti-cancer terpenes have a direct impact on the immune system as well as an indirect impact on the endocrine system. For example, they help us deal with stress by lowering our cortisol levels.

 

Forest bathing has also been found to enhance something called natural killer cells, another defense against diseases like cancer. Those who spend merely one day in the forest will have more natural killer cells in their blood for seven days thereafter. Those who are in the woods for two or three days have elevated levels for another 30 days. It's incredible to think that we get these long-lasting health benefits simply by existing in the woods. We don't have to go on a trail run or rigorous hike (though those things are great too); just breathing and being in communion with trees is enough.

 

This knowledge totally changed the way I look at nature. Now, when I walk through the woods, I feel like I’m diving into an enormous living organism. I'm becoming a part of it, and we're breathing and communicating together.

Practical ways to make your next trip into the forest even more fulfilling:

1. The content of the anti-cancer terpenes in the forest air changes over the seasons. The highest concentration is in summer, and the lowest is in winter. They increase rapidly in April and May and reach their peak in June and August. Try to go out during these months if you can!

 

2. You can find the highest concentration of terpenes in the middle of the forest since tree population is the densest there. This dense canopy prevents gaseous terpenes from escaping too. Try to go farther into the woods instead of lingering on the edges when you can.

 

3. When the air is moist—after rain or during fog, for example—a particularly large amount of healthy terpenes will be swirling around the atmosphere. So if you've ever felt especially great during a walk in the woods after a rain shower, you're not alone!

 

 

 

 

 

The Freedom to live a Healthy Life requires commitment, planning, action & resilience.

Periodically re-evaluate your growth in the following areas to find your Optimal Wellness.

  1. Eat nutritious, seasonal wholefoods, mostly organic or spray free
  2. Allow yourself adequate rest & quality sleep 
  3. Cultivate a peaceful but alert mind, open to love, joy & growth
  4. Social connection with family, friends & colleagues 
  5. Regular exercise & a movement rich life including time out in nature
  6. Minimise exposure to environmental toxins

 

 

By Dr Libby Weaver

We’ve all heard the term ‘go with your gut’ when it comes to decision-making.  But is there really such a thing as gut feelings? And just how connected is our brain with our gut?


Well, scientific research has found that our brain, our gut, and the gut microbes inside it (the different strains of bacteria that make up our gut’s ecosystem) communicate with each other. Doesn’t it just blow your mind how amazing our bodies are?

This is part of an ever-growing body of research that confirms a powerful link between our gut and our brain—more than we’ve ever realised. In fact, the gut is often referred to as our “second brain”.  It has its very own nervous system (the enteric nervous system), and signals can be transmitted in both directions, meaning that our gut can send messages to our brain and our brain can send messages to our gut. This connection is termed the ‘gut-brain axis’ and it’s why when we feel anxious we can feel sick in the stomach or when we’re nervous we sometimes get butterflies. It’s also why those with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) may notice that their symptoms worsen when they’re stressed.

Yet, many of us have become disconnected from the way we eat and the impact that it has on our bodies. We don’t always consider that it was dinner the night before that left us with a food hangover and feeling lousy the next day. We can be left thinking it’s ‘normal’ to feel exhausted at 3pm, to snap before we’ve eaten our lunch or to constantly feel bloated by the end of the day.

Our relationship with food is complex and often has a strong emotional component. Take for example a stressful day – many people might find themselves drawn to chocolate, alcohol, or takeaways, not a health-promoting bowl of broccoli and other nutrient-dense foods! If we’re feeling tired and sluggish we tend to reach for caffeine and sugary foods, anything that will give us a quick surge of energy.

This is not to mention that our emotional state can also radically impact on how we digest our food. Eating while we’re upset can potentially lead to indigestion, as digestive processes are not prioritised when the body is churning out stress hormones.

One of the things we do know about the gut-brain connection is that around 80% of the serotonin in our body (the neurotransmitter in our brain that leads us to feel happy, calm and content) is made in the gut. Which means, if gut health is compromised, serotonin production may also potentially be altered.

The good news is, the power to change our gut health is entirely in our hands. Our gut microbiome (the ecosystem of bacteria in our gut) changes according to what we eat. What’s quite remarkable is that the bacteria in our gut can change within three or four days, so even a few of days of eating poor quality foods can completely change our gut flora picture and therefore our gut health. The same goes for nourishing foods. What we eat is that powerful!

It is however, important to remember that the foods that are nourishing for one person may not be nourishing for another. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met who have continued to eat foods they have been told are “healthy”, despite their body sending them clear messages (often in the form of gut symptoms!) that these foods aren’t right for them.

When we begin to pay more attention to how we feel after we eat, we can learn how to identify our body’s messages and improve our intuition around what’s right for us and what’s not. This includes what we eat and how to take better care of ourselves, but also extends beyond that to having the clarity of mind to make important decisions and the ability to get through our daily tasks without feeling overwhelmed.

So, begin to pay more attention to how you’re left feeling after each meal. It can help to jot down what you’re eating and any symptoms you experience for a couple of weeks to help you identify any common denominators that might better serve to be avoided for a trial period of time.

https://www.drlibby.com/gut-brain-connection/

 

By Dr Libby Weaver

The impact that gut health has on overall health never ceases to amaze me, and the bacteria living in the gut is an important part of this. We have anywhere from one to three kilograms of bacteria residing in our large intestine, and this is collectively known as the gut microbiome. It could almost be considered an organ given its vital role in so many aspects of human health. From digestion to immune function, to our mood and our body shape and size, a healthy gut bacteria profile is key.


It’s therefore not surprising that people want to enhance their gut health (who wouldn’t, considering how central it is to every aspect of our health!). And it’s not surprising that companies want to create food and supplement products to help us do this. Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics are three such products that are often confused despite playing different roles for gut health. So what are they and are they worth your while?

PROBIOTICS

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria. Or, more specifically, they are live microorganisms that benefit the host (you) when consumed in adequate amounts.

For probiotic supplements to have any potential benefits, they must be scientifically proven to survive digestion (meaning they need to survive exposure to stomach acid) and reach the large intestine alive. They also need to be in a sufficiently high dose to have an effect, plus the pH level of the local environment (inside the intestines) needs to be appropriate for the bacteria. Whether or not a probiotic supplement is scientifically proven to survive digestion is therefore an important consideration – in other words, the quality of the supplement matters.

But there isn’t just one universal probiotic. Different strains of bacteria have different actions and health benefits, and the actions of a particular strain cannot be extrapolated to other strains, even within the same species. So supplements can contain different probiotic strains as well as different doses of the strains, which influences their effect in the body. Adding to this complexity is the fact that we don’t all respond to probiotic supplementation in the same way – our individual response can depend on the species that are already residing in our gut, as well as our own health status.

Research has shown that within about two weeks of ceasing probiotic supplementation, the strains that were present in the supplement are no longer detectable in the waste leaving the body, indicating that they don’t colonise the gut and therefore may not have long-lasting effects.

We know that our gut microbiome is greatly impacted by our food choices, so rather than supplementing probiotics, I prefer to encourage people to focus on eating real whole foods (including some fermented foods) to support and maintain a healthy gut bacteria profile.

Probiotic supplements aren’t necessarily needed for good gut health, however there is some encouraging evidence that suggests they can be beneficial for certain gut conditions:

Antibiotic-associated diarrhoea

There is good evidence that certain strains of probiotics can help to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhoea; specifically Lactobacillus rhamnosis GG (LGG) and Saccharomyces boulardii (S. boulardii).

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

There is emerging evidence that probiotics may reduce IBS symptom severity. However, given that IBS can manifest as different symptoms depending on the person, probiotics are unlikely to be a magic fix and a probiotic supplement may or may not benefit you. What helps one person may not help another, and in fact, could actually worsen their symptoms. If you decide to trial a particular probiotic supplement, it should be taken for at least four weeks to assess how it affects you. Remember, your body is your best barometer.

However, if you have IBS and you are currently in the elimination or challenge phases of a low FODMAP diet, I do not recommend taking a probiotic supplement, as this could cloud your results and make it more difficult to identify which (if any) of the high FODMAP foods you react to.

Ulcerative Colitis

In patients with mild to moderately active ulcerative colitis, studies suggest that specific probiotics may help to induce and maintain remission. The specific probiotics that may assist include E. Coli Nissle 1917 and a mixture of eight strains, similar to those showing promise in IBS.

Generally, probiotics are safe for adults to take, however those with food allergies should always check that the probiotic is free from their specific allergen, and they shouldn’t be taken by immunocompromised or critically ill people unless medically supervised. 

PREBIOTICS

Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that act as food for probiotic bacteria. They pass through the gastrointestinal tract undigested, which stimulates the growth and/or activity of certain ‘good’ bacteria in the large intestine. While all prebiotics are considered fibre, not all fibre has prebiotic effects.

Prebiotics are naturally present in foods such as onion, garlic, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, chickpeas, lentils, peas, oats and cashews – yet another reason why a plant-rich way of eating is so important for our health and wellbeing. While some people choose to take a prebiotic supplement if they do not consume enough prebiotic-containing foods, there is no substitute for a ‘real food’ way of eating when it comes to our health and vitality.

SYNBIOTICS

Synbiotics is the term used to describe a food or supplement that contains both probiotics and prebiotics; a food example is unpasteurised sauerkraut.

In summary, if you already take a probiotic and feel you benefit from it, then by all means continue to do so. I simply wanted you to appreciate yet another health-enhancing offering of eating whole, real foods.

https://www.drlibby.com/low-probiotics-prebiotics-synbiotics/

 

Inspired by fresh new ideas for breakfast from Carla Oates's cookbook The Beauty Chef. 

Sticky black rice with mango, strawberries and coconut cream

This lovely dish is made with black rice, the only rice that contains anti-inflammatory anthocyanins, and mango, which is rich in digestive enzymes.

Serves 2

1/2 cup black glutinous rice, soaked in cold water overnight

11/2 cups water

2/3 cup coconut cream

large pinch of Himalayan salt

11/2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 ripe mango, cut into cubes

6 strawberries, sliced

Drain & rinse the rice.

Place the rice & water in a medium saucepan & bring to the boil. Decrease the heat to the lowest possible temperature. Gently simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and all of the water has been absorbed. Remove from the heat, cover & set aside for 10 minutes, to finish cooking.

Meanwhile, gently simmer the coconut cream & salt together for 2-3 minutes, until thickened slightly. Set aside.

Once the rice is cooked, add the maple syrup & stir to combine. Set aside to cool slightly.

Serve the sticky rice warm or at room temperature drizzled with the salted coconut cream & topped with fresh mango & strawberries.

 

I didn't have a few of the ingredients in house, so I swapped out a few goodies. I mixed in a heaped teaspoon of coconut oil into the warm rice then added kelp salt & maple syrup, & served with organic natural yoghurt, fresh cherries, peach & blueberries and still absolute deliciousness! Perfect start to a sunny day.

 

 

 

8 HEALTHY HABITS TO BOOST YOUR HAPPINESS

We often believe the arrival of certain things – more money, the perfect partner, a better job, bigger house or new car – will make us happier. But Harvard psychologist and author of the New York Times best-selling book, Stumbling On Happiness, Dan Gilbert says our brains constantly misjudge what really makes us happy.

In fact, studies have shown it’s the little things that make the biggest difference to how we feel and function. Being happy is actually a lot like exercise. It takes discipline and daily effort. But if you do the work, you reap the rewards.

We can strengthen our happiness muscles daily by adopting simple, healthy habits that make us feel better. Happiness is not an emotion that just magically happens. It’s state of mind you can create.

Here are some ways to start cultivating your own self-renewable supply.

1. BE BUSY, BUT NOT OVERWHELMED

Everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning. The Japanese call this “ikigai”. In Hindu, it’s called dharma. Knowing our purpose and feeling needed helps us connect with our communities. But sometimes we say yes to doing more than we can manage, with studies showing people who are time-pressured report feeling less happy. Prioritise things that matter most to you. And, wherever you can, practice saying no to the things you say yes to out of obligation.

2. MOVE AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN

It can sometimes feel like a challenge while you’re doing it. But a runner’s high is real. Exercise releases feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins that trigger positive feelings and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which calms our nervous system.

Countless studies have proven exercise makes us feel better, reduces tension, boosts our energy and improves our body image. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week or five, 30-minute sessions. Or just break it up into 10-minute bursts whenever you can fit it in. Every little bit counts.

3. SEE YOUR FRIENDS IN REAL LIFE

Humans are hardwired for social connection. While online likes and followers may flush the reward centre of our brain with the addictive neurochemical dopamine, connecting with our loved ones in real life produces the stress-reducing, bonding chemical oxytocin. Face-to-face conversation and physical contact are powerful mind-body medicines that lower blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels, boost immunity, relieve pain and anxiety and make us happier. Don’t mistake online connection for real connection. Screens and virtual relationships are no substitutes for seeing our favourite people in the flesh.

4. CHOOSE HAPPY FRIENDS

It’s been proven happiness is contagious. Spending time with happy people makes us feel happier and also makes us more likely to be happy in the future. You wouldn’t sit next to a smoker and deliberately breathe in their second-hand smoke. So don’t hang out with negative people and soak up their bad vibes either. Seek out friends who have a positive outlook and bask in the warmth of their sunny disposition.

5. BE KIND AND GENEROUS

Studies have shown when we give to others we produce oxytocin, also known as “a helper’s high”. People who volunteer are happier, healthier and less likely to suffer from depression. One study found spending money on others even makes us feel happier than spending it on ourselves.

The father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, says there are three types of lives: pleasant, engaged and meaningful. While a pleasant, pampered life may sound most appealing, engaging in service to others and doing meaningful work will deliver more lasting happiness.

6. THE LINK BETWEEN OUR FOOD AND MOOD

The good bacteria that live in our gut produce many of the neurotransmitters that affect our moods including 80 to 90 percent of our happy hormone, serotonin. To make key neurochemicals we need a diet rich in whole foods including complex carbohydrates (from whole grains and starchy vegetables), amino acids (mostly from lean protein), antioxidants and phytonutrients (from plant foods), vitamins, minerals such as folate (found in leafy greens and legumes) and essential fatty acids (from oily fish, nuts and extra virgin olive oil).

The Beauty Chef’s BODY Inner Beauty Powder is packed with four clean sources of bio-available plant proteins, superfruits, vegetables, alkalizing greens and probiotics, with the added benefits of pure matcha green tea. Joining 40 other superfoods found in the wellness supplement, Matcha is known to increase metabolism, enhance focus and concentration, detoxify the body and boost the immune system, enhance mood and energy, and improve general wellbeing.

7. SLEEP YOURSELF HAPPY

Feeling tired can make us irritable and impatient. Sleep deprivation also increases our stress levels, risk of depression and lowers our libido. Conversely getting seven to nine hours’ rest a night boosts our immunity, productivity, motivation and memory and helps stabilise our emotions.

One study found that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to experience repetitive negative thoughts. Another study found sleep-deprived people are worse at gauging subtle emotions such as happiness or sadness in others – making them less able to get along with them. The Beauty Chef’s SLEEP Inner Beauty Powder contains natural sedatives, lemon balm and passionflower to soothe the nervous system and promote quality sleep. It also contains bio-fermented turmeric, rich in anti-oxidants to help combat and repair free radical damage while we sleep.

8. PRACTICE GRATITUDE

Keeping a gratitude journal sounds time-consuming but is scientifically proven to improve your health. In fact, it’s been shown to lower pain levels, stress hormones and blood pressure, boost motivation and optimism and improve your sleep, moods and life satisfaction. Start by writing down three things you are grateful for each night. Show your gratitude to others by sending them a card or giving them a call to say thank you. Or simply spend time outdoors and take the time to appreciate the beauty of nature whenever you can.

 

Which habits will you start implementing into your daily routine?

https://thebeautychef.com

 

 

 

Essentials for a fabulous summer holiday - Manduka's eKO SuperLite Travel Yoga Mat, the great outdoors, hat, swimsuit, water bottle, sunblock & towel! 

Gift for your beautiful self, or family & friends.

Exceptional for traveling – folds to fit in any travel bag.

Surface texture offers superior grip, even with light perspiration.

Tightly woven scrim resists tearing or stretching.

Closed cell design will not absorb bacteria.

Made from non-Amazon harvested, natural tree rubber.

No PVC, toxic plasticizers or harmful dyes.

99% latex free, weight 1kg.

Two colours - Midnight Blue & Thunder Grey NZ$85

Go to Shop / Yoga Mats 

https://www.yogalign.co.nz/shop/yoga-mats

 

Article from mbg - Vincent Pedre M.D. - Gut Health Specialist & Best-Selling Author 

Many of my patients don’t have time to cook, resorting instead to unhealthy takeout, prepackaged foods, or skipping dinner altogether.

Ultimately, I encourage patients to forgo takeout and hot bars. Instead, I ask them to preplan a little and prep one of these three uncomplicated dinner recipes. My approach takes a simple but nutritionally comprehensive approach to dinner that takes the guesswork out of calorie-counting: Fill your plate with one-quarter protein and healthy fat, and for the other three-quarters, add a large salad or vegetable side dish.

I also try to incorporate fermented and cultured foods to support the growth and proliferation of healthy gut bacteria. These include:

  • Cultured foods, such as coconut yogurt or goat milk kefir
  • Fermented foods, such as Japanese fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, or kimchi
  • Cultured beverages containing favorable live bacteria, such as kombucha

Eating the right foods, including cultured or fermented foods, keeps your gut healthy and prevents dysbiosis, an imbalance between favorable and unfavorable gut microorganisms that leads to leaky gut, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and many other gut disturbances.

I’ve discovered a few other simple rules to follow to make every dinner gut-friendly and avoid overeating:

  • If you know dinner will be late and you’re getting hungry late afternoon at the office, have a healthy snack.
  • Take a moment to reflect on your day during dinner. As you strive to get a handle on your gut issues, I encourage you to keep a daily food and symptom diary. And in addition, keep a gratitude journal entry for each day.
  • Slow down and be mindful with your food. Some people confess to things like reading through social media, thumbing through their favorite magazine, or checking email while eating. These actions don’t let you be present in the relaxed state necessary for smooth and easy digestion.
  • If you suffer from gas, bloating, and other post-meal miseries, watch how much fluid you consume, drink less during meals to avoid diluting your digestive enzymes, and try a comprehensive digestive enzyme supplement about 15 minutes before meals. These three meals are designed to be easy on your digestive system, but symptoms can still occur if you don’t follow these rules.
  • Try to finish eating dinner no less than three hours before going to bed to reduce the chances of acid reflux from undigested food still sitting in your stomach pushing acid up into your esophagus.

 

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