I have a new addiction. This time it’s not chocolate or my favourite unhealthy dish. No, it is the rather sweet torture of holing myself up for about 40 minutes in an infra-red sauna at least thrice weekly. It is a deliciously hot feeling that I simply can’t get enough of since discovering it. I never in the past was one to subject myself to a hot sauna to luxuriate in the feeling of being cooked like a lame chicken, all for the benefit of wanting to attain some health benefit. I always felt too busy to add the leisure of sauna visits to my regular health regime, which I sometimes struggled to keep to from time to time. That was until recently. I recently switched my membership to a new yoga centre that had been right under my nose in my local neighbourhood for all these years but hadn’t realised existed.
Anyway, when I did discover it, its location was so convenient and they offered a much wider range of holistic and complementary therapies and services than my previous centre that for me it was a no brainer. I ended my membership with the previous centre and signed up with Triyoga. The centre happened to have an infra-red sauna facility and I had never understood the difference between a standard sauna and an infra-red one. I had certainly heard about infra-red but not in relation to saunas. To my pleasant surprise, as part of my induction, I was given a crash education on the multi-fold health benefits of using infra-red saunas regularly. As part of my membership, I have unlimited use of their infra-red sauna which I have been using regularly for about three months since signing up.
I certainly can attest to its benefits, particularly its anti-aging effects on the skin! You might ask, well, what’s the difference between a traditional sauna and an infra-red one. I am no expert but as you might have discovered by now, I am passionate about anything that offers holistic health benefits especially when you have anti-aging benefits thrown in! There’s no cure for vanity! So I went to task to do a little bit of research and to read up on the whole science behind it. Traditional and infra-red saunas share many common benefits but there are a few subtle differences. Without getting too much into the detail of it here are some of the main differences and benefits.
Traditional Saunas Vs Infra-red
A traditional sauna operates at a much higher heat range, usually between 80-90°C (185°F -195°F). The heat is more moist and heats the air around you. It also takes longer to reach optimum temperatures with a normal sauna. The heat from a conventional sauna penetrates the body far less deeper than an infra-red sauna so you sweat more water than you do toxins, or certainly a lesser percentage of toxins (about 3 to 4%) than you would do with an infra-red sauna:
Infra-red simply means deep heat and that is the main advantage that it has over the more traditional sauna. Infra-red heat operates at lower temperatures of around 48-85°C (120°F – 150°F), though I still find it punishingly hot. The heat is dry and directed more at heating the object or person in contact with the infra-red rays than the surrounding air. Infra-red heat penetrates the body much deeper than in a traditional sauna, right down to the subcutaneous level where much of the toxins and heavy chemicals and pollutants are stored. So, it is believed that with an infra- red sauna you sweat out about 20% of the chemicals and toxins stored in the body. For this reason the detoxification is experienced at a more cellular and deeper level, which offers superior benefits to that offered by a standard sauna. Besides its definite weight loss advantage, here is a list of other health benefits you can expect from using infra-red saunas on a regular basis. I tend to use it about three times a week but if I could spare more time, I would literally use it every day
Health Benefits of Infra-red Sauna:
A build-up of toxic substances can cause a host of illnesses and even diseases. Getting rid of body toxins through regular use of infra-red sauna may help relieve many types of symptoms and improve overall immunity
It stimulates the circulatory system. This helps to cleanse the circulatory system and better oxygenates the body’s cells.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Regular use of an infra-red sauna may help lower blood pressure. The deep sweat that gets generated in the sauna induces the heart to pump faster. This increases blood flow, lowers blood pressure and helps overall circulation.
When the body’s muscles are heated with infra-red rays, it generates increased blood flow similar to that experienced during exercise. Regular use of an infr-red sauna can significantly stimulate blood flow by up to twice the normal rate.
General Relaxation and Pain Relief
I certainly can attest to the fact that regular use of infra-red sauna has helped a great deal with alleviating my chronic back pain. Using an infra-red sauna is deeply relaxing. Many sufferers of insomnia experience great relief with regular use of an infra-red sauna. It aids the most restful sleep and also helps to alleviate general aches and pains. You won’t regret it.
Expect weight loss and a reduction in waist girth when you begin to regularly use an infra-red sauna. A session will burn you up to about 600 calories without doing vigorous exercise! As the body works to cool itself down, there is a substantial increase in heart rate, cardiac output and metabolic rate which in turn causes the body to burn additional calories.
Anti-aging & Skin purification
Expect younger and clearer looking skin, wrinkles reduced or even eliminated and softer looking complexion. With me, I have noticed that regular use gives my skin a translucent and clear kind of quality. Think of how much is saved when we don’t have to invest loads of money on expensive creams that make spurious claims about eliminating wrinkles when you could get the best treatment for your skin simply by exposing it to infra-red sauna sessions that detox and clear the skin of impurities at the deepest level.
Aids Faster Wound Healing
Use of infra-red sauna enhances the ability of the skin to heal from wounds or injuries by promoting faster cell regeneration and human tissue growth. Expect to experience faster healing of wounds and the prevention of infection.
Improves Overall Immunity
Because the infra-red heat penetrates at a more cellular level to rid the body of poisonous toxins and chemicals, overall immunity is improved as the body is placed in a better position to ward off infections and to maintain a healthy state.
So there, you have it. The many benefits of using an infra-red sauna listed for you. As a precaution, if you already have any health issues or if you wish to ascertain a bit more before embarking on any kind of new health or fitness regime, please seek professional advice from a qualified health practitioner first. One thing to ensure while using any sauna is to make sure you hydrate thoroughly before, during and after each session as you will sweat loads and you might feel a little dizzy if you fail to hydrate properly. If you are not used to the rather suffocating heat of a sauna, I would advise that you start off doing a 15 minutes session and then ramping up to a maximum of about 40 minutes or as your body can accommodate. Again, always make sure to drink plenty fluids (preferably water) before, during and after.
Do feel free to drop me a line to share your thoughts and whether you experience any of the benefits stated. To your health and youthful looks!
From my heart to yours, always,
How I grew to love exercise as a habit
Without proper motivation, efforts to get fit are sure to fail. Sometimes, we do not know how to get started and often our daily life routines feel so crammed with a host of important and mundane stuff we need to accomplish, that the very thought of introducing some sort of fitness regime into our already busy daily schedule fills us with dread.
Yet, with all we hear in the media and from health professionals about the health risks posed by lack of regular exercise, we feel guilty about our lack of regular exercise. We continue to procrastinate, promising ourselves to do something about it but never quite finding the time do so and never getting to the point where we can honestly say that we exercise regularly. We tend to engage in sporadic exercise from time to time as our waist lines continue to thicken (well mine at least), paunches grow bigger, arms lose muscle and get flabby, single chins double and double chins triple and so on. Eventually, we resign ourselves to a new possibly grotesque body shape that bears little resemblance to the once fine svelte, toned and fine muscled human beings we once were and we tell ourselves ‘it is what it is’! Now, I know this might be a bit of an exaggeration but you catch my well intended drift. Exercise is vital to our health, our hearts, our vanity and possibly even our longevity.
How it all began
Much as I give the impression that I am a health and exercise freak, I am not really. Those who know me well will tell you this. I never really liked or enjoyed exercise. I found it too much of an imposition upon myself to look good for too much hard work. All that grunting and straining of muscles in the gym does not seem to me to be a natural way to live. But, I had to overcome my God-given dislike for any kind of discomfort, by learning to reprogram my mind and my perceptions around exercise in order to ensure that this was one of the few routines that I could stick with. I have never been and never will be a creature of forced habit or routine so I had to get my head and my heart around this mental obstacle of regular exercise if I was to stick at it with any success.
It was crucial that I did this, simply because it has always been my nature to shun anything that I couldn’t embrace with conviction or belief. The same applied to exercise in the sense that even if in my head I knew exercise was beneficial to me, I still wouldn’t embrace it as a habit if I didn’t induce my heart to embrace it as well. In other words, I had to convince my heart to follow my head. Sounds like the theme of a difficult romance but you get the picture. Perhaps, you can identify with this dilemma of forcing yourself to do something you don’t feel naturally inclined to do; like exercise for instance. So, I’d like to share how I transitioned from being apathetic about exercise to being extremely avid and enthusiastic about it.
First, I established in my head that exercise was good for me so I listed all the benefits I knew that exercise would offer me, like:
- Weight loss/weight management
- Better muscle tone
- Healthier heart /body
- Better sense of self image
- Peace of mind (well, some peace of mind at least)
All of the above were important to me and I realised that if I could only just stick with some regular form of exercise, I could achieve the goals I had identified as being important to me. Unless I was prepared to go under a surgeon’s scalpel, there was no other way to achieve these goals and even that was debatable. Would I achieve better health by going through plastic surgery? Nah! A better body perhaps but the results wouldn’t last long if I didn’t maintain with some form of regular exercise. I had better chances of maintaining good health through regular exercise, full stop!
For a while, I tried different exercise activities to see whether I would find my preference. I joined a tennis club in my local area but found that my knees would constantly flare up (one of the after effects I suffered from being on certain medication when I suffered chronic ill-health years back). The same thing happened when I tried regular jogging. My knees would flare up and my joints would become painfully inflamed. I sought medical attention and engaged the services of a chiropractor and was eventually advised to avoid forms of exercise that put pressure on my knee joints.
So, jogging and tennis were definitely out for me. I had always been registered at my local gym but at the time I rarely patronised it because of my punishing work schedule and the fact that when I did have free time, I preferred catching up on other important things like reading, researching, hanging out with friends or simply catching up on much needed sleep. Boy! Do I love to sleep! Besides, I found going to the gym rather boring and routinous so even though I used the gym from time to time, it was always a forced activity for me and I therefore couldn’t make it a routine I could stick with. I also decided to try out the variety of aerobic classes offered at my gym, but after a while, I just couldn’t pretend to enjoy jumping around to all that pretentious choreography (in my opinion). Sometimes I’d enjoy it but not enough to commit it to it long term. So, what could I get myself to commit to as regular exercise?
In the course of all this, I had developed severe back pain for which I was seeing a therapist and a neuro-surgeon who had suggested that I would need back surgery to remove a small cyst in my spinal discs that had been identified from MRI scans. I was open to surgery as a last resort since I was being seen by excellent specialists and trusted their opinion. Of course I also sought second opinions and the view was maintained that I would be better off getting the surgery over and done with. While in the process of contemplating this, a very close friend of mine, Alice Mbadiwe (pronounced mbaa-dee-way) who herself is an excellent personal trainer and fitness specialist (incidentally Alice will be guest blogging on the site) recommended that I try a form of yoga called Bikram.
Bikram or Hot Yoga
Many of you might be familiar with Bikram yoga and its benefits. I was at the time a complete novice and had never ever contemplated embarking on yoga as a form of exercise. I had certain misgivings about what I thought I knew or didn’t know about yoga practise and I didn’t want to get involved with all the ‘woo-woo’ stuff (in my opinion) that tended to be associated with all these ancient mystical practices. Perhaps my wisdom, perhaps my ignorance! Anyway, that was how I felt about these things at the time but given the severity of my back problems and the imminent possibility of surgery, I felt I had to give this form of yoga a try, especially since I did trust and value my friend Alice’s opinion as a friend and fitness enthusiast in her own right. She then arranged for us to attend a class together. Well, I can tell you, the Bikram yoga experience was quite unlike anything I had ever experienced. It was tortuous practising myriad impossible looking poses in a room heated like we were in hell’s preparation room (God forbid). It literally felt like hell and I fell in love with it! No, not hell, but the torture of Bikram itself. It felt like a punishment for sins yet unconfessed and I sweated profusely as if my redemption depended on it and it did, well the redemption of my back at least! I fell in LUURRVVE with bikram yoga and I had no reservations about signing up shortly after my initial taster session for more torture classes.
I never would have guessed I had it in me! I had found something to love and it happened to be a form of torture. Me! Who prior to this time hadn’t been able to commit to regular exercise because I found it too much boring and too much of a painful exertion; was now willingly committing to regular sessions of pseudo-hell! Well, that was life for you. The unpredictable always happens!
My reasons for yoga were never for meditation. Some people do it more for that reason, in which case they normally take up other forms of yoga that concentrate more on the meditative aspects. I practised and continue to practise bikram or hot yoga (as some variations of it are called), purely for the overall health benefits it provides and for the wonders it did for my back! And no there is no chanting! At least not in the classes I have participated in. Yoga practise is of course rooted in some sort of ancient belief and has its own followership of those adherent to that form of belief etc. I have never cared to explore that side of things. I just attend a class and avail myself of the benefits that the postures and the breathing techniques taught, provide me. Since taking up yoga, I have managed to avoid back surgery though I did have a relapse in the period that I had to discontinue yoga classes when for work reasons I moved base from London.
I initially took regular yoga classes at a studio near my home that tended to be patronised by high-profile clientele; minus me of course! On many occasions, I would be in the same class as some of these celebrities all sweating it out. Didn’t know their names but I would recognise their faces. I do remember though that for about a year, I regularly took some of the same yoga classes as the famous british actress, Helena Bonham Carter who genuinely happens to be one of my favourite british actresses. But within the heated confines of the studio, everyone was equal and there was no time to revel in star-struck awe as we were all focused on just surviving the 90 minute torture experience. It got me thinking that in ‘hell’, all are equal.
The particular yoga studio was set up by Michelle Pernetti who in her own right had gained celebrity status as the yoga practitioner who first brought Bikram yoga to the UK and enabled it to gain its level of popularity and reach in the UK. By virtue of my regular attendance at the Primrose Hill studios, I was fortunate to often participate in some of the bikram yoga classes that Michelle Pernetti herself instructed. She was an excellent instructor. Michelle Pernetti has since gone on to introduce a variation of Bikram yoga and her brand is now renamed and practised as Fierce Grace yoga.
That was a couple of years ago. I moved studios when I returned back to working in London and found a more specialist yoga and multi-disciplinary therapy centre even closer to my home. This centre offers all forms and variations of yoga and their brand of hot yoga involves the use of far infra-red heating which has even more superior benefits to the ordinary form of heat used in regular hot yoga. I will discuss the benefits of infrared based heating within the context of exercise, and my ‘blissful’ experience of it in a subsequent blog piece to be written soon. So, watch this space.
To continue with my story on the search for an exercise regime I could love and adopt as part of a routine; I had discovered hot yoga and I loved it. I do yoga between two to four times weekly depending on how busy I get during the week. But the important thing is, I genuinely strive to make time to do something I love and because I love it and appreciate it, I make time even when I am incredibly busy. So, apart from when I am abroad or in a location where I am not able to take a hot yoga class, I never skip the opportunity of a yoga class. I find the classes therapeutic and extremely detoxifying. I am better toned and my spinal alignment continues to improve as I increase stamina, improve posture and build core strength and stability. I have no desire to become a yoga guru or to perfect the art of contortionism and jaw-dropping flexibility. I simply want to give my body a chance to be healthy and to sweat the guilt out of me. So yes, yes, yes, I love hot yoga.
Classes are a bit pricey if you take individual classes at a time but its more cost effective (though still pricey by comparison with regular gym membership) if you do register for monthly rolling classes. Prices will vary based on the centre and the geographical location. Each class lasts for a punishing hour, an hour and a quarter, or even an hour and half. Whatever the duration, rest assured it will be a duration of torture but you will be well rewarded for it. Also, be prepared to sweat river loads so it is essential to be well hydrated with water or healthy liquids before, during and after a class. It is also advised not to eat heavily three hours before a class and you will know why if you make the mistake of being heavy with food when doing this class! A couple of times I made the horrendous mistake of having a meal too close to a class and felt awfully nauseous and lacking the energy to sustain the postures in the heat. I almost passed out.
In addition to discovering a love for hot yoga, I had also discovered a love for walking which was more of a cathartic experience than a real desire for physical exercise. Brisk walking however did help with my weight loss goals and I loved it, so this also became part of my routine. Walking provided me mental and creative inspiration in a way nothing else did. I found it conducive for airing out my thoughts, unwinding and reflecting on things that I might not have had the opportunity to do in depth, had I not embarked on these walks. Walking for me became a form of spiritual and not just physical exercise.
Spiritual because I was able to meditate prayerfully and also because some of the sharpest solutions and answers to issues literally would flash through my mind while walking, and with a conviction that was so rock solid that every doubt was eliminated. I‘d return home totally certain and at peace about things in a way I hadn’t been prior to my walk. Often while in the middle of walking and thoroughly engrossed, I would experience a sudden bombardment of lines and lines of words and thoughts which I had to quickly write down. I would find somewhere to sit, like in a park or at a bus stop or I would even literally stand on the spot and write down stuff using my phone’s notepad in order not to lose what was coming through to my head. This happened almost every time I went on a walk and I think that further heightened my love for walking because it made difficult things so much easier for me.
Another activity, I rather unwittingly included as part of my weekly exercise repertoire was dancing! Yes, dancing. I have always loved dancing and I love dancing away to all my favourite catchy dance tunes, through the R & B dance and soul hits of the 80’s, 90’s and contemporary tunes. I realised that I didn’t have to wait for a night out or a celebration to indulge in a good spot of dancing in the confines of my home. Remember, earlier I had mentioned about the aerobic classes I had attended at my local gym which for some reason never inspired me enough to want continue? Well, I decided that dancing to my own choice tunes in my own style was more enjoyable and just as energetic.
Thanks to my childhood and still good friend, Joyce Halliday Aboderin who remains one of the most stylish dancers on the dance floor that I have ever come across, I developed my love for dancing from Joyce’s sense of style and rhythm way back then. With her innate sense of rhythm, Joyce he taught us (her group of friends) rhythm, style and moves and how these were combined on a dance floor. So thanks to Joyce and perhaps myself too, I can honestly say I am a good and stylish dancer, even if I must say so myself. I decided to turn my home for at least an hour a few times a week into my dance arena (rather small one) but do I have fun!
I can’t cook, and I am not domesticated in any way, but I can dance! I would put on my favourite tracks and I would dance myself into a sweat with a feeling of complete exhilaration. I’d very easily dance for at least an hour if pressed for time and if not for about an hour and half and on some weekends, almost two hours. I’d feel thoroughly energised as well as enjoying myself. I easily burn about 450 to 700 calories or more. So, without too much strain, over a period of time I’ve found that with walking, yoga and dancing I manage to get my quota of exercise on a near enough daily basis and I don’t even have to force myself.
I burn off reasonable amount of calories and together with other other calorie burning tips which I will share with you in later on, I am able to keep the weight off without the need to diet. I my regular exercise activities maintains an active metabolism and stops my metabolism from getting sluggish which tends to happen as we grow older and if we live a sedentary lifestyle.
The bottom line is: Aim to enjoy
So, the moral to this story is that anyone can grow to love exercise, if you have in the past struggled with developing an exercise routine you can stick with. My suggestion based on my experience is to try out a number of exercise activities that you can engage in within your local area or even at home. Exercise DVDs might do it for you or it might be dancing, if like me you happen to love dancing. You don’t need to worry about your coordination or rhythm. No one’s watching so just dance for long enough to work up a good sweat! Your body naturally moves to the music. As the law of Inertia states, once in motion, objects continue in motion until exterior forces are present. Start dancing and you will not be able to stop! Dancing is a wonderful way to work out, and it’s fun too which is the whole idea. So, get going. Invest in some trendy or casual sport wear and start dancing your way to a fitter body, a healthier heart and watch those pounds melt away. This will keep you motivated to stick with it and you’ll be amazed at how enjoyable you find these exercise sessions.
For others, it might be the gym or exercise classes like aerobics, swimming, martial arts, yoga or something you particularly are interested in that can get the heart rate up for at least half an hour daily or three to five times a week. Later on, I’ll tell you about a rather new and exciting way of intensive exercise done at high intensity for short bursts at brief intervals of about twenty minutes. This accelerates your metabolism far better than conventional exercise methods and is also anti-aging. Yes, some forms of exercise actually may keep you fit bodywise, but cause an increase in the production of free radicals in the body which accelerate the aging process. I will explain further in another blog article.
Spend time discovering which forms of exercise you enjoy. Try incorporating these within your weekly routine and start without putting pressure on yourself if at first you struggle. Just keep trying to form a routine around the exercises that you do enjoy. These will provide you the benefit of keeping fitter than if you did nothing. Changing and rotating your workouts to include new activities is a great way to not become bored with your exercise plan. If you don’t want to abandon your workout program, think of ways to stay motivated. You will not lose interest in your routine if you keep it interesting. Never allow yourself to stop because you grow bored. It’s just too hard to get started again.
Learn to reward yourself
Rewarding yourself is an excellent way to look forward to exercising. You are not required to wait until you have reached your final goal to celebrate your accomplishments. Choose rewards with responsibility. Make your rewards simple and affordable. Mine is my favourite chocolate pack Minstrels which is not responsible I know but what the heck. One simple bar of chocolate is a small price to pay for the torture I put myself through each week. When choosing a reward, you should ensure it is one that has ‘value’ to you and simple to get. In my case, chocolate does have value to me –the pleasure of me savouring its velvety smoothness with my tastebuds. Delicious!
Don’t just concentrate on the work in working out. There are many different ways to make your workout routine more fun. With the tips already outlined above, you should be able to make exercising a fun experience. Drop me a line to let me know how you get on or to share your tips to encourage others.
From my heart to yours, always
In the average Western diet, many consume foods which are too acidic to effectively promote and maintain a healthy body. Some examples of these acidic sources we consume are refined sugars, dairy products, and meat, such as beef and pork. There are also different side effects that result from a high-acid diet, such as a diminished immune system and lethargy.
A sugar high can feel good every once in a while when eating ice cream, but remember that unless you attempt to alkalize your body, such habits can take their toll on your body, your health and your energy levels. I must admit that despite being a self-appointed champion of healthy eating, I do have my weaknesses! Oh yes! For instance I have a sweet tooth and I must admit that I kind of indulge my sweet tooth far more regularly than I should. However, I always try to counter the effects of my indulgence by doing a few things to ‘penalize’ my weakness. Thankfully, I don’t have a sweet tooth for everything sweet like cakes, doughnuts, ice creams, biscuits etc.
What I do have an irresistible sweet tooth for, is a certain brand of chocolates called Minstrels (a UK brand), some squidgy spongy type gelatin-based sweets called Haribos and my local grocery shop’s own brand sweet and salted popcorn! However much I have tried to ‘cure’ my habit I have so far been unsuccessful and I regularly do indulge myself sometimes with carefree abandon, only to hate myself shortly after. I realise its simply a mind thing but I guess my mind is not quite ready to give up on its sweet fantasies just yet.
If you are reading this and you have a definite idea how to cure me of my sweet tooth even semi-permanently, please let me know. Drop me a line and I would be glad to share your suggestions after I’ve tried it and seen the results. Now, there’s a challenge!
Alkalizing the body is not difficult, but in order to understand the benefits of doing so, one must first understand the definition of alkaline foods, how they work with the body, and which foods in particular will counteract the effects of their acidic counterparts.
What Is Alkaline?
Alkaline is defined as that which has a pH greater than 7. Because the body functions best at a pH level of about 7.4, it is important to consume foods which will bring those levels up to an appropriate level. To explain a bit about pH levels, pH levels refer to the degree of acidity or alkalinity of food or liquid. pH is short for Potential Hydrogen. A pH number measures on a scale of 0 to14, how acidic or alkaline a liquid is. Any number above 7 is considered alkaline while any below 7 is acidic. Water has a pH level of 7 meaning it is neutral. This also means it has the same amount of acids and alkalis, which balance each other out. This is especially crucial when consuming foods which are acidic and which will bring the pH levels lower than they should be. Pure, distilled water sits at almost exactly 7 on the pH scale. Foods with a higher number are alkaline, while anything lower than 7 is considered acidic.
Benefits Of An Alkaline Diet
As a general rule, foods can be classified as either acid-forming or alkaline forming.
The human body‘s pH is 7.35, or slightly alkaline. The body is always seeking a state of homeostasis (balance) and it works hard to maintain the healthy neutral alkaline zone.
Now, keep in mind that foods in of themselves cannot change this zone in the body, but, the body does have to work extra hard to compensate for the intake of acid-forming foods that are ingested in excess.
This happens because when your diet is highly acidic the body has to leech calcium from the bones, as calcium is an alkalizing mineral. Over time this can lead to bone mineral loss, which, can result in Osteoporosis. This is just one of many effects that an overly acidic diet can have on the body but this is not to sound alarmist as it is never too late to redress eating patterns and habits that can be potentially harmful to health in the long run
Additionally, as a stressor, acidity can lead to inflammation along with increased cortisol levels, and this can impact overall health in the long term.
Conversely, those foods that are alkaline forming are typically plant based and highly nutrient dense, and also loaded with antioxidants.
Including a variety of alkaline-forming foods in your diet allows the slowing of leech of calcium from the bones, and this results in improved bone health.
These foods also support healthy cell regeneration and fights the effects of free-radicals on the body.
Since it is the pH level of blood which concerns us, putting additional acidic foods into our diets actually works against the human system. When more strain is put on the body to fight sickness and disease, it is no wonder a highly acidic diet might make one feel tired and lethargic.
Benefits Of Alkaline Forming Foods For Athletes And Exercise
There is more goods news and that is the major benefits that alkalizing foods have on athletes and for the human body during exercise in general.
A diet high in acid-forming foods results in reduction of muscle efficiency so more energy expenditure is needed for each and every muscle contraction. Now, during a race or intense activity, this means a lot of extra work for the body.
Since alkaline-forming foods greatly reduce inflammation, the muscles work at more functional levels and they also require less force to move.
This allows endurance athletes, such as, those who run marathons and participate in triathlons to push harder for longer. For those who do strength training, and bodybuilders, alkalizing foods will allow you to lift heavier weights with less negative stress on the body.
How To Eat An Alkaline Diet
Increasing the alkaline intake does not have to be extraordinarily difficult, and one must not cut acidic foods entirely from his or her diet.
It is recommended that your diet consist of around 80% alkaline food sources while acidic foods make up the remaining 20%.
This contrasts with the average diet in the West, which often flips that ratio around. There are some changes in the diet which can be made quickly and easily in order to alter your pH level.
Swap Coffee For Green Tea
For example, you might switch from coffee to green tea in order to bring your blood’s pH level higher. Green tea is alkaline while coffee is acidic, so the substitution might make a drastic change especially if you consume coffee quite often. Green tea contains many antioxidants as well. In case you asked, antioxidants help to counteract free radicals in our body systems.
Antioxidants Vs Free Radicals
Antioxidants can be found in vegetables and fresh fruits and are therefore the good guys while free radicals are the bad ones. There are a wide variety of antioxidants that provide great health benefits and I will devote some time to talking about these in the subsequent months ahead. But for now suffice it to know that antioxidants prevent and can even inhibit the proliferation of free radicals (the bad guys) in our bodies and helps to neutralize the effects of free radicals in our blood streams.
Without wanting to sound too scientific, free radicals are occur from normal and essential metabolic processes found within the human body or from external sources such as exposure to various environmental and chemical pollutants, stress, smoking and many other factors. The dangerous thing about these free radicals that occur is that if left unaddressed they can cause a wide range of illnesses and chronic diseases and this is where the power of antioxidants helps to eradicate the effects of free radicals in our system.
Vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables! Always eat your vegetables. The best choice in alkalizing varieties are broccoli, celery, chard greens, collard greens, cucumber, cauliflower, and mushrooms, just to name a few. These foods are alkaline and will not only help reduce stress on the body in fighting acid, but are also highly nutrient dense and plain good for you!
Some of the best fruits are also alkalizing ones, including, melons, lemons, oranges, peaches, pears, apples, bananas, berries, cantaloupe and grapes.
Remember, you do not have to eliminate dairy products, rice, and all protein from animal sources in order to maintain a healthy pH level. However, it might benefit you to substitute your refined sugars with healthy fruits and vegetables more often than not.
Doing that, along with drinking plenty of green tea, will increase pH levels and your chances of finding health-nirvana naturally and easily!
This merely skims the surface on the issue of alkalinity versus acidity and the importance of maintaining good body alkaline levels as opposed to acidic levels. Conventional medicine might disdain claims that disease cannot thrive in an alkaline body environment while it is the opposite with bodies that are highly acidic but it is a widely held belief in the holistic health arena. It is also believed that the aging process is accelerated by free radicals in the body, so there is an incentive to reduce free radical activity in our bodies through good diet, regular exercise and less stress to summarise simply.
I am on this journey with you as my habits are by no way perfect but I do maintain a lifestyle that is highly health conscious of these issues and I spend a lot of time doing research on the latest news and views on holistic and alternative health concerns.
I hope this helps a bit. Feel free to drop me a line to let me know how I can be of further assistance with regards to providing information on other relevant health topics.
Until next time, keep on being special!
From my heart to yours always,
What Is The Immune System
One of the greatest health benefits we can enjoy is learning to develop and to maintain a strong immune system. The immune system is a collection of special cells, organs, and substances that defend the body against infection and illness. It monitors the body at the cellular level and attempts to rid it of anything unfamiliar and intrusive to the body.
You may already know this but any substance that enters the body which the immune system does not recognize is known as an antigen. When an antigen enters our bodies, the immune response is triggered and the attack to get rid of it begins. Our immune system has the ability to destroy anything containing a particular antigen including, germs, viruses, and cancer cells.
It is safe to say that without our immunity we wouldn’t be around too long because it is a tireless warrior protecting our health. There are bacteria and viruses everywhere and our immune systems continuously fight all types of bacteria, viruses and various parasites in order to protect the body from potential harmful effects that their presence in our bodies can cause.
We also use our immunity to fight and kill cancerous cells that can pop up in our systems and while of course it is not always successful as people still get cancer because there are other factors beyond just immunity that can affect the bodies response to cancer, it is a fact that those with a poor immune system are at greater risk of succumbing to cancer than individuals who take care of their immune system but cancer is not the only health threat we face on a daily basis.
It is therefore of great importance to invest time taking care of our immune system health. Thankfully, some of the ways in which we can do this are also beneficial in other ways to our overall health.
What are some ways we can maximize the effectiveness of our immune system to stay as healthy as possible? Here are just a few tips that I know are certainly helpful in building up the immune system:
- Get immunized. Every year, you are given the opportunity to get an influenza shot. This “shot in the arm” will literally boost your immunity against the likely influenza viruses floating around through the winter months. Older people should get the Pneumovax vaccine, which prevents pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria.
- Eat balanced meals. Now, eating healthy meals as daily habit for me poses a real challenge and I am by no means the role model here so I do eat health consciously even if my meals are not as balanced as I would love them to be on a daily basis. I have discovered ways of making up any shortfalls in diet by adopting a more holistic approach to overall health and reinforcing good health and eating habits over negative ones. More balanced eating simply means getting enough nutrition through the meals, fruits vegetables and nuts and seeds that we consume.
There are nutrients in these foods that act as antioxidants, scavenging your body for oxygen free radicals that can damage cellular systems. The problem though is that much of the fruits and vegetables gracing our grocery shelves are increasingly nutrient-deficient as a result of the commercial farming methods used. The continuous impoverisation of our farming soils through the proliferate use of pesticides and other questionable farming methods that have now become common place and acceptable is a whole new topic for a separate blog which I will address hopefully soon.
Organic produce is best but can be quite expensive and most regular income homes might find it beyond their pockets to stick to organic produce. When I suffered from serious ill health issues many years ago, I engaged the services of a natural herbalist who put me on an uncompromising organic food regime and for four years, I only purchased the highest grade of organic fruits and vegetables delivered weekly to me by a local organic store. As you can imagine it was pretty expensive but my health was seriously at stake then and I was determined to regain full health. Later, I will share some tips on how you can maintain good immunity even if you cannot afford to go organic.
- Stay away from tobacco smoke. If you are a smoker please try and commit to quitting. There is help available I you search for support groups in your area and online forums. I know people who smoke that have lived long and even outlived people with healthier lifestyles but that is not the norm. Documented research shows that smoking is extremely toxic to health and significantly increases the risk of lung and other cancers. Smoking is also extremely aging on the skin.
Tobacco smoke unarguably ruins immunity even if you aren’t the actual smoker. Kids have an increased risk of getting middle ear and lung infections when repeatedly exposed to second-hand smoke. Adults are more prone to getting bronchitis and pneumonia when exposed to tobacco smoke. The toxic ingredients in smoke lessen your ability to fight off all kinds of infections.
- Cut down on alcohol. UK government’s unit guidelines state that there are no safe levels of alcohol consumption. Unit guidelines are the same for men and women and both are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week. I am not a regular drinker and I have no idea what 14 units of alcohol actually looks like. Please feel free to contribute to this article by dropping me a line if you know what constitutes 14 units of alcohol and I’ll provide the update in the subsequent blog.
The risk of developing a variety of serious conditions including cancer, increases with any amount of alcohol consumed on a regular basis. Excessive alcohol intake also leads to an increased risk of getting infections from a poor immune system. Pulmonary infections are particularly likely to happen in heavy drinkers. Alcohol intake on a regular basis is also aging to the skin and heavy drinkers tend to look older than their age. Because alcohol is dehydrating to the body it is always advisable to consume plenty water throughout the day to rehydrate the body and to detoxify the body from the harsh effects of alcohol.
- Take probiotics. The benefits of taking probiotics on a daily basis cannot be overstated. I came to discover how necessary probiotics are for optimum digestive health and general immunity several years ago and I take these religiously both from food sources and also supplementally. Probiotics are one of the best things to reach mainstream medicine and it’s a topic to devote to a separate article of its own as there is a lot to explain about its immense benefits which many people overlook due to the lack of awareness.
Probiotics consist of living spores of healthy bacteria or living organisms themselves. They colonize the gut and displace the “bad bacteria” that can make you sick. With probiotics, you can have a healthier gut immune system and can avoid gastrointestinal upset from bacteria or fungi in the gut. Probiotics are found in some yogurts as well as in capsule form. I will devote time in a later blog to explain its benefits and the best food sources and supplements for probiotic health.
- Eat garlic. Garlic is one of the oldest and most cultivated culinary spices in the world. It is a perennial plant with numerous health benefits as well as being an antimicrobial and antiviral agent. Garlic belongs in the same food category as onions, spring onions and shallots and has a strong pungent smell when used or ingested. It boosts the immune system in a general way but because it is inactivated by heat it is best taken on its own or by adding to foods just before serving the food. Garlic may also be taken in supplement form. Many will be familiar with the home remedy of garlic, ginger, lemon and honey brewed as a drink and taken warm to relieve, colds and flu. Garlic is an excellent source of Vitamin B6, Manganese, Selenium, Vitamin C and a host of other important minerals.
- Build Up on Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin required by the body for the absorption of calcium. It is widely believed from some research that Vitamin D inhibits or prevents the formation of cancer in the body. The body produces Vitamin D from the absorption of the suns UV rays however many people in sun-challenged climates tend to be deficient in Vitamin D particularly in the winter months and this can negatively impact on immunity. You can get Vitamin D with exposure to the sun or you can take a Vitamin D supplement as it is a bit of a challenge to get sufficient levels of Vitamin D solely from food sources. Some food sources for Vitamin D are: salmon, eggs, fortified milk, Shitake and Maitake mushrooms etc. It is worth having your Vitamin D levels checked periodically until you find a dosage of Vitamin D that brings your level into the normal range. In the summertime, just ten to fifteen minutes of sunlight per day can be a big benefit to your immune system.
- Take Vitamin C. Vitamin C is indispensable in building the body’s immune defense and for ensuring proper functioning of body. The vast benefits offered by Vitamin C are too numerous to mention here and I will devote further articles to explain more about this amazing nutrient. Vitamin C reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also helps in reducing cholesterol, it helps the body fight off infection, improves circulation and is a powerful anti-aging nutrient.
- Eat Shitake and Maitake Mushrooms. Studies have shown that really concentrated extracts of these types of medicinal mushrooms have enhanced the immune system of women who have breast cancer. While eating the mushroom alone hasn’t been studied, it may have a beneficial effect on the immune system of otherwise healthy people.
- Immune Supporting Herbs. There are tons of immune-supportive herbs out there too numerous to mention. Some well-known ones are Echinacea, Ashwagandha, Eleuthero (otherwise known as Siberian Ginseng), Astragalus, Curcumin, Ginger, Ginkgo Giloba, Gotu Kola, Cat’s Claw, Ganoderma (bitter mushrooms) etc. These have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to prevent infection and to maintain a strong immune system. They can be found at most reputable health food stores around you. There is a lot more valuable information to be shared on an even wider range of immune boosting herbs and I intend to do so in later blog articles. I am eager to share my own experience of using many of these herbs on a regular basis.
There are many more factors that determine levels of immunity which are beyond the scope of this article. The ones listed here are just a few tips. I think that it is in all our interests to continue to strive towards improving our immunity levels as it makes such a hugely positive difference to our state of health and well-being. If you have other tips on immunity from your own personal experience and knowledge that you would like to share, please feel free to drop me a line and I would be very happy to share this in further updates to this topic and perhaps you could even send me a full article on this or other relevant health topic and I’ll post it on this forum with your name and details! Wishing you great health and immunity!
From my heart to yours, always
We have all seen tv commercials advertising some great juicing apparatus and extolling the great benefits of juicing. If like me however you can’t be bothered with all the preparation hassles this tends to involve (although some juicers are very convenient to operate), you could use a blender or food processor instead to blend your preferred selection of fruits and vegetables with added water for a healthy smoothie concoction. The additional fiber (if you aren’t fiber intolerant) gained from the blending rather than juicing makes this a preferred option for me.
Smoothies and juicing can be an excellent method to get one’s daily recommended allowance of healthy nutrients, minerals and vitamins and also a great way to shed a few pounds and detox the body. Always consult a qualified health practitioner or doctor before embarking on any health regime as this is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any health condition or ailment. These are suggestions based purely on my personal experience of the health benefits achieved. In particular if you have blood sugar issues you may wish to first seek medical opinion on whether it is wise to embark on juicing because of the reputed concentrated high sugar levels; albeit natural sugar.
I find that I am quite experimental with my fruit and vegetable combinations depending on how I feel on the day. I tend to have purely fruit combinations in the morning for a delectable morning smoothie while settling for fruit and vegetable combinations for afternoons or evenings. Depending on the fruit and vegetable combinations, I sometimes add coconut milk, organic yoghurt, fresh juice, honey or simply filtered water to achieve the desired consistency. Every few months I’ll embark on a smoothie fast. I mentally prepare myself for this at least a week in advance and ensure I am well stocked up on a wide selection of fruits and vegetables to last me for the duration of the fast which will range from three days to seven days. A word of caution for delicate tummies, a dedicated fast may sometimes produce the undesired the effect of an upset tummy or excessive bloatedness.
To lose excess weight quickly but healthily, simply replace 1 to 2 meals daily with fresh green juice or preferred smoothie combinations. There are loads of recipes available online but you could make your personal recipes by mixing an eco-friendly leafy vegetable or two with one,two or even more fruits or more as you desire. I do have a wide selection of superfood powders that I often add to the blend for an extra turbo energy boost. Stuff like organic sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, cacao powder, baobab powder, acai powder, goji berries, lucuma powder and several more different ones. Your local health store will stock many of these varieties. Where possible, I tend to purchase organic brands or brands reputed for adopting superior harvesting and processing methods. I do a lot of research to try to understand the different methods and which ones offer the best bioavailability to the body. I will be touching on some of these in later blogs but for now instead of giving you prescriptive recipes, just try and experiment with as wide a variety of vegetables and fruits as possible and discover which recipes appeal to your palate. To give you some idea of the range of fruits and vegetables I tend to use:
• Bell Peppers
• Pitted Prunes
• Avocado pears
Where possible, I try as possible to make use of seasonal varieties that are available. If you stick to as wide and as colourful a range of fruits and vegetables as you possibly can you’ll definitely be getting a good range of vitamins and minerals in comparison with the average person on the street as well as reducing your calorie intake in a healthy way. However, just start small in whichever way you can and build up your range over time as you begin to enjoy the benefits and the habit of blending and/or juicing different combinations of fruits and vegetables
Once you form the habit of regularly juicing or blending fruits and vegetable for your smoothies, you’ll be fast on your way to becoming a juicing or smoothie-making expert, able to blend or juice up the most exotically healthy combinations. Your body will thank you for it when you begin to experience the many benefits such as improved skin tone and clarity, weight loss including reduced waist line, better hydration and improved bowel movements and so much more
So, now you know, I hope this motivates you to get out your blender or juicer or to invest in a good one. There are lots of reviews online to help you decide which one is best for you based on your budget. Start making it a regular habit to juice or to make your blended fruit and vegetable smoothies. Drop me a line to let me know how you get on or to share tips on your own experience.
Happy blending or juicing!
From my heart to yours, always