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Dr K K Aggarwal

Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee

It would be wrong to say eat less fat. The actual message should be eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

While advocating low-fat diets, it is easier for patients to understand the advice if given in terms of foods, for instance, “Eat more fresh fruit”, rather than nutrients, or “Reduce your intake of fat to less than 30% of your total energy intake.”

The message to reduce fat has been translated by food manufacturers and consumers into potentially harmful food choices.

Instead of replacing high-fat foods with naturally low-fat foods with other benefits, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grain foods, consumers tend to increase their consumption of low-fat or “fat-free” varieties of naturally high-fat foods, such as fat-free snack or junk foods.

This results in an increase in the intake of refined carbohydrates which lowers HDL cholesterol concentrations with a possible increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

People in the East and the West are drawn towards yogic practices, as they believe that a solution to every problem lies therein. Much importance has therefore been associated with relaxation techniques that one thinks might help in easing the tension due to a stressful lifestyle.

Yoga Nidra is a technique that helps not only with physical or mental relaxation but also helps prepare the mind for spiritual discipline. It concerns primarily with pratyahara (withdrawing senses from sense-objects) and dharana (concentration).

It must be understood that ordinary sleep does not translate to complete relaxation, as tension and stress cannot be resolved completely in ordinary sleep. Yoga Nidra involves sleep where all the burdens are thrown away in order to achieve a more blissful state of awareness, and hence it is a relaxation much more intense than ordinary sleep.

Swami SatyanandaSaraswati (Preface to “Yoga Nidra”, 1982, Bihar School of Yoga, Monghyr, Bihar, India) said: ‘When awareness is separate and distinct from vrittis – mental modifications, when waking, dreaming and deep sleep pass like clouds, yet awareness of Atman remains, that is the experience of total relaxation. That is why, in Tantra, Yoga Nidra is said to be the doorway to samadhi!’

Yoga Nidra helps restore mental, emotional, and physical health through relaxation, and makes the mind more conducive to pratyahara, dharana, as well as meditation. It helps to harmonize two hemispheres of the brain and the two aspects of autonomous nervous system – sympathetic and parasympathetic. The impressions in the subconscious are brought to the surface, experienced and removed.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).

Normal Aging Changes

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  • Heart rate shows less variability.
  • There is altered circadian pattern (24-hour cycle of the body).
  • There is a delayed response of bone marrow to loss of blood or hypoxia (reduced oxygen).
  • The function of the white blood cells is impaired.
  • Advancing age is a procoagulant stage. This means that the blood gets clotted easily.
  • Reflux of the stomach acid in the food pipe is common.
  • Tendency to constipation is common.
  • Painkillers can quite easily cause ulcers in the stomach.
  • Renal functions decline with age.
  • Older kidney is more prone to be damaged with painkillers.
  • Calcification of heart valves may occur.
  • The maximum heart rate may not reach the level as that in the young age in response to exercise.
  • About one-third of the lung volume may be lost.
  • Aging slows the rate of fracture repair.
  • Skin may become atrophic and elasticity is reduced.
  • A person may not be able to read small print.
  • There may be impaired speech recognition in noisy environment.
  • There may be loss of taste and smell.
  • There may be high frequency hearing loss.
  • Immunity may be reduced.
  • With age, one is more prone to get urinary tract infection.
  • With age, ejaculation may get impaired.

Music as a Drug

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Our body is the largest pharmaceutical group in the world and has the capacity to heal each and every disease. The very fact that there is a receptor for every drug in the body means that the body has the capacity to produce that drug.

Music is a modality which can heal by initiating various chains of chemical reactions in the body.

  • Chanting vowels produces interleukin-2 in the body, which works like a painkiller.
  • Chanting nasal consonants produces tranquilizers in the body.
  • Sounds like LUM are associated with fear, VUM with attachments, RUM with doubt, YUM with love, HUM with truthfulness and AUM with non-judgment.
  • Various chemicals can be produced in the body by chanting of various vowels and consonants.
  • Nasal consonants produce vibrations of the autonomic plexus causing balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic states. More the nasal consonants in music, the more will be its relaxing healing power.
  • Listening to overtone chanting in music can also heal people in the vicinity of the music.
  • Recitation of music can also increase or decrease respiratory rate of the singer. Lyrics which reduce respiratory rate will lead to parasympathetic healing activity. The respiratory rate of a listener too can increase and decrease if he is absorbed in the song.
  • Listening to a song word by word and by understanding its meaning can also change the biochemistry of the listener. A song can create excitement or a feeling of depression.
  • A song can also work like intent by speaking in the form of prayers. Group prayers can have powerful affects and convert intent into reality through the concept of spontaneous fulfilment of desire.
  • Music is often linked with dance, both classical and western, which provides additional healing.
  • Gestures, mudras, bhavs and emotions associated with songs produce parasympathetic state in both the singer and the listener.

Harvard’s 7 tips for smarter snacking

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  1. Whole-grain snacks-Whole-grain low-salt snacks such as chips and high-fiber, whole-grain cereals, can give some energy.
  2. Breakfast foods – Some of the breakfast foods can be used as a snack later during the day. A slice of whole-grain toast a with low-sugar topping can be great.
  3. Hi-low combination – You may combine something with healthy fat, such as peanut butter, in a small amount, with something very light, like celery sticks, in a relatively larger amount.
  4. Go for nuts – Unsalted nuts and seeds are healthy snacks. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, etc., contain several nutrients and make you feel full. However, nuts have lots of calories, so keep the portion sizes small.
  5. Have a combo snack. Include more than one macronutrient, such as protein, fat, carbohydrate, in a snack. You can have some nuts and some grapes.
  6. Be mindful. Don’t have a snack while you are doing something else, like watching TV, or working. Stop whatever you are doing and eat your snack first.
  7. Carry it with you. Carry a small pack of healthy snacks in your pocket or purse so that you can have it when you crave a snack.

[Harvard Health]

Managing grief by free expressive writing

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The loss of a loved one is often painful. The resultant grief makes it hard to eat, sleep and leads to loss of interest in routine life, affecting behavior and judgment.

Some can feel agitated, some may feel like crying, some may want to withdraw from the world and others may struggle with feelings of sorrow, anger, guilt, despair, irritability, or anxiety.

It is well known that disclosing your emotions by way of writing can boost your immune function and your mood and well-being. On the contrary, holding in strong feelings can increase blood pressure and heart rate.

One can write on a piece of paper, in his personal book, on the open website or keep it in the mind. One doesn’t have to preserve the emotions and can throw away the writings.

In absence of deeply troubling situations, such as suicide or a violent death, which are best explored with the help of an experienced therapist, one can choose writing as a way to express the grief.

  • Start writing for 15 to 30 minutes a day for 3 to 4 days.
  • Continue up to a week if it is helping.
  • Continue writing for 15 to 30 minutes once a week for a month.
  • Writing has stronger effects when it extends for more number of days.
  • Remember, writing about grief and loss can trigger strong emotions (one may cry or feel deeply upset).
  • Several people find journal writing valuable and report feeling better afterward.
  • Don’t worry about grammar or sentence structure.
  • Truly let go. Write down how you feel and why you feel that way.

(Source: Harvard News Letter)

Poor hygiene habits may lead to typhoid

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Typhoid fever is caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi and is transmitted through the ingestion of food or drink contaminated by the feces or urine of infected people.

Insects feeding on feces might transfer the bacteria to humans owing to poor hygiene habits and public sanitation conditions. Though the cases occur all through the year, the number is higher during the summer and rainy seasons.

Symptoms often develop 1 to 3 weeks following exposure, and may be mild or severe, including high fever, malaise, headache, constipation or diarrhea and enlarged spleen and liver. A healthy carrier state may follow acute illness.

Typhoid fever can be treated with antibiotics. However, resistance to common antibiotics is widespread. Healthy carriers should be excluded from handling food.

Good sanitation and hygiene are critical measures to prevent typhoid.

  • Typhoid does not affect animals and therefore transmission occurs only from human to human.
  • Typhoid can only spread in conditions where human feces or urine can come into contact with food or drinking water.
  • Hygienic food preparation practices and hand washing are the cornerstones of typhoid prevention.
  • In most cases, typhoid fever is not fatal.
  • Prompt treatment with antibiotics limits the case fatality rate to about 1%.
  • If left untreated, typhoid fever may persist for three weeks to a month.
  • Resistance to common antibiotics is widespread.
  • Typhoid resistant to common antibiotics is known as multidrug-resistant typhoid (MDR typhoid).
  • Ciprofloxacin resistance is a common problem, especially in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
  • Azithromycin is a new drug for drug-resistant typhoid.
  • Typhoid vaccine taken every three years is the best preventive approach.

Collective Consciousness

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Consciousness refers to an energized field of information which has powers to do everything in the universe. Collective consciousness represents the internet of the collective souls of many people in a group.

Collective consciousness is the strongest super power ever available in the universe. As per the Vedic texts, whatever is the intent of collective consciousness will become a reality. Scientifically, collective consciousness is driven by the principle of critical mass. Vedic literature has shown it to be 1% of the population under study.

The origin of the critical mass comes from 100th monkey phenomenon. Long ago, in Japan, a monkey named Emo used to eat dirty apples picked up from the ground every day. One day, an apple accidentally fell down in the nearby river, the dirt got washed off and he ate the washed apple. It tasted delicious. He started washing the apples thereafter every day. His fellow monkeys started following what he did. The process went on and a day came when the 100th monkey washed the apple and ate it. A strange phenomenon occurred. All monkeys in and around that area started washing the apple before eating. The no. 100 was the critical mass.

Once this mass is crossed, the information will spread like a wild fire and the intent becomes a universal reality. Vedic literature suggests that if 1% of the people of an area meditate together, the crime rate of that area declines. It also discusses the role of critical mass in prayers in achieving miracles.

Thus, the principle of critical mass is often used in designing and organizing an event. In a movie hall of 1000 people, if 10 people clap sitting in different areas everybody will clap. The same holds true for hooting at a particular scene. Most politicians make use of this principle while organizing election rallies. For a gathering of 10000 they need 100 and for a gathering of 1000 people they only need 10 supporters who are supposed to sit in different areas and shout or clap on given directions. The Mexican way of hooting or clapping in cricket grounds also follows the same principle. For a ground like Eden Gardens with a capacity of 75,000 people, only 750 people are required to control the mood of the people. Most successful leaders used this technology to lead.

Paint your plate with the colors of rainbow: Include all 7 colors and 6 tastes

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US Dietary Guidelines recommend consumption of 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruits, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. The American Cancer Society recommends intake of 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables in a day.

All vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and beans contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients have potential anti-cancer and anti-heart disease effects, in addition to other health benefits.

Phytonutrients in different colors:

Red: Rich in lycopene, a potent scavenger of gene-damaging free radicals; seems to provide protection against prostate cancer as well as heart and lung disease [Strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cherries, apples, beets, watermelon, red grapes, red peppers, red onions]

Orange and yellow: Provide beta cryptothanxin; it lends support in intracellular communication and may have a role in preventing heart disease [Carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, oranges, bananas, pineapple, tangerines, mango, pumpkin, apricots, winter squash (butternut, acorn), peaches, cantaloupe, corn]

Green: Rich in cancer-blocking chemicals such as sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles, which inhibit the action of carcinogens [Spinach, avocados, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruit, collard greens, green tea, green herbs (mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil)]

Blue and purple: Possess antioxidants called anthocyanins that seem to delay cellular aging and help the heart by inhibiting the formation of blood clots [Blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, Concord grapes, raisins, eggplant, plums, figs, prunes, lavender, purple cabbage]

White and brown: The onion family contains allicin, which is known to possess anti-tumor properties. Other foods in this group contain antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol [Onions, cauliflower, garlic, leeks, parsnips, daikon radish, mushrooms]

Our ancient texts and traditions have always advocated the principles of “variety” and “moderation”, i.e., eat a variety of foods, and eat in moderation. A balanced diet includes all seven colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, white) and six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent) for a balanced diet.

They also recommend mindful eating or eating with awareness. Mindful eating means being aware of the hunger and satiety signals of the body. It also means using all the five senses while eating: colors (eye), smells (nose), flavors (taste), textures (touch) and sound while chewing (ear) of the food. Mindful eating also relieves stress and will help to check the rising numbers of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome, etc.

The Bhagwad Gita explains how to eat: “While eating, one should concentrate only on eating as the food is served to one’s consciousness” (9.27).

In Chapter 6 Shloka 17 of the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna

“Yukaharaviharasyayuktachestasyakarmasu. Yuktasvapnavabodhasya yoga bhavatiduhkhaha.” This means “the one, whose diet and movements are balanced, whose actions are proper, whose hours of sleeping and waking up are regular, and who follows the path of meditation, is the destroyer of pain or unhappiness.”

(Source: Harvard Health Blog, Katherine D McManus)

You are the Temple of God and the Spirit of the God Dwells in You

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This sutra from the Bible reflects the union between the spirit and the soul. The ‘Spirit’ represents the Parmatama or the Brahman and ‘You’ represents the individualized spirit or the Soul (Jivatama).

A temple is a place of worship and also the place where God resides. Every human being represents a temple (place of worship) where God exists (one’s soul) and this soul is nothing but the essence of God (the spirit).

One should treat every individual in the same manner as the same spirit dwells in every human being. The soul is also the reflection of individual’s past and present karmic expressions. Most people are in the habit of looking and searching for God in artificial temples, gurudwaras and churches, not realizing that the same God is present within us, provided we undertake the internal journey to look for Him.

He is present in between thoughts in the silent zone and can be approached by adopting any of the three pathways: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Gyana (Gnana) Yoga.

Doing selfless work with detachment to its results, working with the principles of duty, devotion and discipline and/or regularly doing Primordial Sound Meditation or other types of meditations can help one reach the stage of self-realization or meeting one’s true self. Once there, one can have all the happiness in life.

White rice most dangerous

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White rice is more dangerous in terms of glycemic index in comparison with white bread. It has glycemic index of 102.

People are often advised not to take cola drinks but they keep eating white bread. The glycemic index for white bread is 100% and that for cola drink is 90%. Traditional Indian drinks like Rooh Afza, Khas, etc., may also contain more than 10% sugar.

The recommended sugary drink does not contain more than 2-3% sugar, the same amount that is present in oral rehydration solution. People leave a cola drink and take mashed potato, which again has glycemic index more than that of a cola drink (102 versus 90).

Pizza has a glycemic index of 86, table sugar of 84, while that of jam is 95. French fries have a glycemic index of 95.

Most people add sugar in food and snacks as sugar is a preservative. Lesser the sugar, earlier the food will be spoiled.

To avoid refined carbohydrates in diet, if you are required to choose, the most dangerous is white rice, followed by white bread and then white sugar.

Positive Attitudes

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People who feel that they are at their wits end and can’t figure out how things don’t ever work out, can now relax and dwell on all those failures that they have seen in life and turn failure into success.

  • Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure. It means you are yet to succeed.
  • Failure doesn’t mean you have accomplished nothing. It means you have learned something.
  • Failure doesn’t mean you have been foolish. It means you had faith.
  • Failure doesn’t mean you’ve been discouraged. It means you were willing to try.
  • Failure doesn’t mean you don’t to do. It means you have to do it in a different way.
  • Failure doesn’t mean you are inferior. It means you are not perfect.
  • Failure doesn’t mean you have wasted your life. It means you have to start afresh.
  • Failure doesn’t mean you should give up. It means you should try harder.
  • Failure doesn’t mean you’ll never make it. It means it may take a little longer.
  • Failure doesn’t mean God has abandoned you. It means God has a better idea.

Preventing death due to hypothermia

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People can die of hypothermia. Imagine a situation when you come across two people lying in a JJ cluster area with no clothes early in the morning. One of them is shivering and the other one is not. The one who is shivering indicates that his body is trying to compensate with the low core body temperature. The other one, who is not shivering, may be dead, dying or normal.

Recall your naturopathy teaching “SarThanda, Pet Naram and PaonGaram”. If the soles of the feet and the feet are cold and the person is not shivering, this is a medical emergency. On the contrary, if the person is not shivering and the feet are warm, it is not medical emergency.

Therefore, hypothermia with no shivering and hyperthermia with no sweating are bad signs.

Negative Thoughts are Absence of Positive Thoughts

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Darkness cannot be removed physically; it can only be removed by switching on the light or going into sunlight or lighting fire. Similarly, negative thoughts are absence of positive thoughts.

In Bhagavad Gita, it has been said that in the period of Uttarayana with longer days, the first half at full moon, in the presence of light or agni, one acquires more positive thoughts as compared to in Dakshinayana before Amavasya or no moon or in absence of light.

Bhagavad Gita also says that whatever you think the whole life, is what you think at the time of death and if at the time of death you have positive thoughts, you are likely to get Moksha. That may be the reason why in Hindu mythology it is said that just before the death, we should light a diya or chant in front of agni (fire) so that the dying person’s thoughts become positive.

In computer language, it can be explained as follows: When you open a file repeatedly, it becomes a priority file and comes in search engine on priority as compared to other files.

Do not heat leafy vegetables twice

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Nitrates in foods like spinach, beet root and lettuce stimulate the production of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is known to relax the blood vessels. Ingested nitrate is reduced by oral, commensal, bacteria to nitrite, which is further reduced to nitric oxide.

Vegetables are a major source of dietary nitrate. Green leafy and root vegetables, such as spinach and carrots, provide more than 85% of dietary nitrate. Foods that contain nitrite are bacon, fermented sausage, hot dogs, bologna, salami, corned beef, ham and other products such as smoked or cured meat, fish and poultry. The conversion of dietary nitrate to nitrite is associated with antimicrobial benefits in the mouth and stomach. Some epidemiological studies have shown a reduced rate of gastric and intestinal cancer in those with a high vegetable-based nitrate intake.

Nitrate is totally harmless; however, it can be converted to nitrite and some portion of nitrite to nitrosamines, some of which are known to be carcinogenic. Heating tends to increase the conversion rate. The longer the heat treatment, the more nitrosamines will be formed. Hence, the recommendation not to heat leafy vegetables twice.

Adding lemon juice to vegetables will reduce the formation of nitrosamines. It contains vitamin C, which also reacts with nitrite, thereby preventing the nitrosamine formation.