Archive for July 2011

What if you don’t like yogurt?

Because of all the advertisements on tv—from wiggling hips to happy faces on bellies—most people know that one source of good bacteria is yogurt. Yogurt is made by adding bacterial cultures to milk to ferment it. This culturing process makes yogurt more easily digestible than milk alone because the live bacterial cultures create enzymes called lactase and beta-galactosidase to help with the breakdown of lactose, the milk sugar that causes many people digestive upset. Fermentation also partially digests the milk protein, casein, making it less likely to create an allergic response and making it easier to absorb.

So is yogurt the only food that is fermented and that provides probiotics?

Nope. In fact people have been fermenting foods and drinks for thousands of years, from milk to breads to seabirds! Perhaps you don’t want to wrap a seabird in seal pelt and bury it underground for months. But, maybe you’ll enjoy kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, miso, or tempeh. If you are brave to try something different you may also like to try natto, a fermented soy product that I think tastes as bad as it smells and looks. However, in addition to being a source of good bacteria, natto also contains an enzyme called nattokinase that helps with breaking up tiny blood clots that can form and contribute to heart disease. It is also a popular food for many Japanese.

If these foods aren’t a part of your regular diet, that’s not surprising. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is sadly lacking in fermented foods, other than alcohol, of course. Even those foods like sauerkraut and pickles are often no longer as healthy as they once were. They are now preserved in vinegar instead of the traditional bacteria-salt combo. Mass produced sauerkraut is also usually pasteurized which leaves it lacking in both tastes and nutrients.

But wait, why are probiotics important?

Aside from the commercials that show arrows pointing down over flat bellies, indicating that bowel regularity is improved and bloating is reduced, probiotics have many other benefits. These benefits include helping to protect against colon cancer, improving digestive disorders, treating skin issues like eczema and psorasis, and supporting the immune system.

Ask yourself how you can add fermented foods into your diet and enjoy the health perks!

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Multitasking–A Four Letter Word?

How do you feel when I say the word “multitasking”? Do you feel overwhelmed? Or do you proudly say that you’re a good multitasker? Does it stress you out? Or do you feel efficient?

As a health professional, I’m supposed to tell you that multitasking may be bad for your health. After all, your focus is usually poor when you try doing two or more things at once. Take, for example, the well known risks of driving and talking on a phone or text messaging.

In TCM, even eating and working at the same time is discouraged. We believe that the digestive system (pancreas and TCM Spleen) is an important processing centre—processing both foods and thoughts. If you are thinking intently about your next work project as you chew your food, your digestive energy is split.

I do believe that multitasking can be a four-letter word, but I seemingly can’t help being proud of my ability to multitask. The other day I was in a rush getting ready to go out. I was shaving my legs as I checked my emails on my iPad. I thought that was being pretty efficient, but I was still running late, so I grabbed my husband’s electric shaver—sshhh…don’t tell him ;)—and had both my and his razors going at the same time, one in each hand.

I have also been known to brush my teeth as I select my clothes, combine a dog walk with my banking, have three to six books going at any given time, and make my business calls as I walk to work.

Everyone multitasks on some level, even if it’s just walking and chewing gum. But when is too much too much? How do you get your multitasking under control?

Yes, a woman’s brain may be better set up for multitasking than a man’s brain. Though it is yet unclear, some studies have shown women to have a larger corpus callosum, the connection between the left and the right hemispheres of the brain. If this is true, then it could explain why women seem more comfortable with multitasking than men.

I believe that some multitasking is good for me. Multitasking sometimes saves me time when time it tight. It also exercises my brain. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should all the time. Sometimes multitasking just allows my distracted energy to take over and I become unfocused and inefficient. Sometimes multitasking stresses me out!

Yoga is my break from an overactive mind. Yes, it’s true that in doing yoga I have to remember to work on my breath at the same time as I work on getting through the various moves. However, I can’t also remember then to think about what I want to do at work or the chores that need to get done. Reading a good fiction novel has always been another way that I can escape my multitasking brain. Sometimes reading works too well. I remember being a kid reading a Nancy Drew book in the back of my parents’ station wagon. I was snapped out of my intense focus on Nancy’s sleuthing prowess by my sister and my cousins laughing at me. I then noticed the reason for their laughter. Sticky, cold ice cream was melting its way down my arm and was dripping off my elbow because I had forgotten that I was holding an ice cream cone!

How do you feel about multitasking? How do you recognize when your own multitasking has become unhealthy? What do you do to give yourself a multitasking break?

*Note that the image was found on this fun/funny site: Yogabeans
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