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The Straight Poop on Regularity

October 5th, 2014

6717762According to the popular children’s book Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi, “all living things eat, so everyone poops.” But, sometimes the process isn’t as easy as we’d like. What then?

Almost everyone gets constipated at some time during his or her life. Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent. Impeded elimination is usually caused by a bowel disorder rather than a structural problem. Common causes of constipation include:

• Inadequate water intake
• A diet too low in fiber
• Lack of exercise
• Excessive dairy product consumption
• Side effect of medication
• Stress, such as a disruption in the regular diet or routine

Cut the cheese, please!

Depending on the severity of the issue, there are several ways to address the condition of not being able to move solid waste out of the body. The best solution is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. This includes choosing a variety of fresh, high fiber foods, prepared with minimal fat, salt and sugar, as well as sufficient daily quantities of pure water. Avoid foods that contribute to bowel sluggishness, such as cheese, bananas and red meat. Also important is exercise, like a yoga class or trip to the gym, and rigorous daily activities such as gardening or walking briskly. There are even yoga positions such as uttanasana (standing forward bend) and pavanamuktasana (wind removing pose), that can be beneficial.

Herbs, supplements and other natural aids
Effective constipation remedies include changes in dietary habits, laxatives and bowel stimulants, enemas, suppositories, biofeedback training and, in extreme cases, surgery. The best course of action is always to start with the most gentle and least invasive method of treatment. Sometimes, the simple, old-fashioned ways are all you need to get the job done.

Food as medicine
Relief from sluggish elimination could be as easy as adjusting your diet.

Apples are rich in digestive fiber and they contain pectin, which stimulates the bowels.

Beets not only help keep you regular, they’re great for the liver.

Cabbage has been known as a natural laxative for years. It will alleviate digestive track toxins as well. Sauerkraut—fermented cabbage—is good for your digestion because of its healthy probiotics.

Lemon juice is recommended by many Ayurvedic practitioners as a quick and simple remedy for constipation. A warm glass of water with one teaspoon of lemon juice and a pinch of salt, first thing in the morning, acts as a cleansing agent for the intestines.

Prunes, sometimes called dried plums, are famous for their laxative properties.

Water About 80% of the human body consists of water, and we need a constant supply. Among other things, water helps to soften the stool. If you’re constipated, one of the first things you should do is increase your intake of pure, fresh water to at least eight glasses per day.

Supplements
Cascara sagrada has a long history of traditional use by Native Americans. Today, it is one of the most common herbal laxatives but should not be used for longer than seven days in a row.

Castor oil is well known as a home remedy for constipation. Some side effects have been reported, so use caution and be sure to purchase a high-quality oil if you do decide to use it.

Epsom salt The main ingredient in epsom salt is the laxative, magnesium sulfate. Look for epsom salt powder, which can be mixed with water and easily dissolved.

Senna is an herbal stimulant that encourages the bowel muscles to move. It’s appropriate for cases of prolonged constipation, when gentler methods don’t seem to work. Please be sure to follow package directions.

Triphala is an herbal formulation that is widely used in Ayurveda. It helps with bowel clening and digestion, and is not habit forming. Try one teaspoon with warm water or simply look for the herb in tablet form.

There are other, more aggressive ways to address the issue of constipation, including at-home irrigation procedures such as enemas and colema boards or colonics performed by a trained hydrotherapist.

Constipation is usually easier to prevent than to treat. Once you find relief from constipation, maintain regularity with adequate exercise, fluid intake and a high fiber diet. Because constipation is a symptom, not a disease, effective management may require first determining the cause.

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Brush up on dental care: Put your money where your mouth is!

September 25th, 2014

4611520You brush twice a day, avoid sweets, and you may even floss. But now you’re wondering about your healthcare provider, and whether you should choose a traditional dentist or a holistic one.

Holistic dentistry is part of the alternative health movement. Also called unconventional, biologicor biocompatible dentistry, the practice considers the patient’s dental health in the context of their entire physical, emotional or spiritual well-being. Holistic dentists approach care in ways that depart from conventional treatment. They may reject some traditional procedures—especially root canals and the use of amalgam fillings—which they perceive as being potentially harmful.

Traditional dentists often maintain that holistic and biological dentists use approaches that are not only unsound but involve procedures and body areas that are outside of the legitimate scope of dentistry.

Let’s take a look at some of the philosophical differences between traditional and holistic dentists.

Mercury Fillings
Traditional dentistry advocates mercury amalgam fillings based on their longevity, and the fact that insurance will typically cover them. They might point to American Dental Association and Food and Drug Administration statements that the mercury in dental fillings is safe and proven to back up their positions.

Holistic dentists regard mercury as a toxin and believe that even small amounts are too great a risk to the body and overall health. Long-term or heavy exposure to mercury vapor can result in brain damage and ultimately death. They point out that while amalgam fillings last longer than composites, they put exert extreme pressure on the tooth, often causing it to weaken.

Root Canals
Most traditional dentists will recommend a root canal as a means to save a tooth that has suffered severe decay and has already died or will soon die completely. They make a case that the procedure has been done for centuries and is a safe and effective means to keep a natural tooth.

Holistic dentists typically do not recommend root canals. They point to research that says root canal therapy cannot be effective unless the canal is 100% sterilized and free of bacteria, and that studies have shown that it is impossible to completely sterilize the canal. They argue that the chemicals used for sterilization—such as formaldehyde—are toxic and that the bacteria left in the canal can lead to adverse health affects later.

Fluoride
Traditional dentists are advocates of using fluoride in both a topical and ingested form. They argue in favor of fluoridating water supplies and recommend fluoride drops for infants and children. They point to research showing a decrease in cavity rates in areas where the water is fluoridated.

Holistic dentists typically argue against any form of ingestedfluoride, providing research that shows ingested fluoride is linked to cancer and various bone problems while other research has shown no benefit to the teeth. They also argue that fluoridating public water supplies is forced medication of the general public. Some holistic dentists are for topicalfluoride and some are against it.

Not always black and white

Individual dental professionals may fall into one classification or the other—traditional or holistic, and yet be in the other camp on different issues.

The real difference between holistic and traditional dentistry is essentially philosophical: traditional dentistry is the practice of treating symptoms in the teeth and gums and attempting to prevent such problems from reoccurring. Holistic dentistry is the practice of treating the underlying issues that cause symptoms in the mouth, attempting to eliminate those problems while ensuring the work done in the mouth does not have an adverse affect on overall health.

Which one for you?

So how do you find a dentist that’s right for you; a professional whose philosophies align with your own? Start by asking questions such as “How often do you think I need to get x-rays” and “How would you determine which type of filling is right for me?” The answers you receive will hold clues to the practitioner’s mind-set. If you’re looking for a holistic dentist, listen for answers that show the role your oral health plays in your overall well-being. If you want a traditional dentist, seek answers that address attention to physical symptom management.

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The ultimate trilogy: mind, body, spirit

August 24th, 2014

Yoga
“My job is a pain in the neck.”

“Your news broke my heart.”

“I’m worried sick over it.”

People often use idioms to make their language more interesting or dramatic. But our language and choice of expressions often give clues to a deeper meaning.

Have you ever received bad news, and suddenly felt as though you were going to throw up? Or injured yourself and spiraled into a massive depression? Ever been weighed down by responsibilities and unexplainably gained 10 pounds?

True wellbeing encompasses all our parts, not just the physical body. When our emotions are in turmoil or the mind is bombarded with obsessive thoughts, our health is compromised. The human body gives cues and feedback all the time. Sometimes we sense the signals immediately—upset stomach, aching back, pounding headache—but we are so often distracted that we miss the warning signalsWhen this happens we remain unaware that something is amiss, sometimes becoming seriously ill. It is possible to develop such conditions as heart disease, high blood pressure or cancer, from not listening to your body.

This is not to say that all illness is “caused” by our thoughts. The relationship between the mind and body is complex, and sometimes things happen at a physical level for which there isn’t a plausible explanation. We may have an inherent tendency for health or imbalance; in some cases, genetics is the major factor underlying an illness. At the same time, we all have an amazing potential to heal and transform ourselves through our thoughts, perceptions, and choices. The body is a magnificent network of intelligence, capable of far more than what science can explain.

Maintaining balance between the mind, body and spirit is necessary to live a happy and fulfilled life. The three so are interconnected that when one aspect is off, so are the others.

Mind

Emotional health and wellbeing is a crucial part of the wellness equation. Stress can distort decision-making, disrupt emotional thought processing and compromise the health of the human spirit. Depression, anxiety and emotional disorders can prohibit people from living happy lives.

Body

One of the easiest ways to maintain physical health is through proper nutrition and regular exercise. Those who make caring for their bodies a priority tend to have more physical and mental energy, sleep better and are often able to enjoy excellent mobility well into old age. Exercise can significantly aid in emotional wellbeing, while depression is often relieved by an exercise routine. There are many different forms of exercise—from walking to Tai Chi—and any form of consistent physical exertion can be beneficial.

Spirit

The spirit or soul has a great effect on happiness and how people tend to view the world around them. Some people achieve a balanced condition through religious practices or services. A sense of spiritual connection contributes to a positive outlook and can give comfort and strength in times of adversity. Spiritual happiness can also come from secular sources, like meditation or a connection to nature. Spirituality brings humans closer to their true selves.

Rebalancing activities

Here are three places to start as you seek to align and balance your mind, body and spirit.

Practice gratitude. Every day, maybe even starting today, commit to writing down 3-5 things you’re grateful for. Eventually, you can make your list any length you want, but to start, set a small goal and stick to it. Write your list in full sentences such as “I am grateful for …” or “I am grateful that …” This way, it’s a complete thought, and you’re not just listing things or people, but actively associating them with giving thanks.

Release it. Many of us harbor emotional toxicity in the form of a destructive habit, a frightening worry or unresolved anger. This contributes to emotional waste that needs to be eliminated. Ask yourself, “What am I holding onto from the past that no longer serves me?” Explore ways to release these unproductive feelings, such as seeking counseling or having a ceremony to say goodbye to the negativity.

Exercise. Find a way to move your body that you enjoy and then commit to it. A complete fitness program includes movement to provide flexibility, cardiovascular conditioning and strength training. If you’re just starting out or re-introducing exercise to your life, refrain from judging what you’re capable of doing or deeming it “not enough.” Just get up and go!

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