There is a lot of talk about the new blood pressure numbers. The new health care guidelines released Monday mean that thirty million Americans are getting some bad health news: they have high blood pressure and need to do something about it.Read More
Why Genetic Testing And Ayurveda Are A Perfect Combination
If you want to be healthy and you are fed up with the way you feel, what do you do? Perhaps you google healthy diets, or healthy lifestyle and read the top posts. Perhaps you read a book with a title like ‘30 days to Vibrant Health’, or you hover over the magazines in the check-out line and see that some magazines tell you to focus on meats and veggies and avoid dairy yet others promise you a toned and buff body by eating a grapefruit before each meal.
It’s so confusing – where do you start?
When Barbara Bolton came to see me, she seemed to do everything right. She exercised several times a week, ate a clean diet, got enough sleep and took time out for herself. But, she still did not feel well. She was carrying around some extra pounds and was suffering terribly from sinus congestion and allergies.
I suggested that she choose a wellness plan that included a genetic test. I ordered her a DNA test, which tests the body's genetic response to key foods and exercise.
"I jumped at the chance," she says. "I thought I'd love to have that kind of knowledge."
After sending off a swab of her saliva, she received a report on her fitness and diet. She was impressed.
"I was like 'wow'. They told me I don't tolerate dairy and refined foods very well, and I respond better to high-intensity training than anything else."
Three months later after following her Transformational Wellness Plan she has dropped from a size 12 to a size 10 and lost 15 pounds. She attributes her leaner figure to understanding more about her metabolic type and her genetic code.
"Without a shadow of a doubt it came down to knowing who I was at the molecular level. That knowledge combined with the genetic testing resulted in a wellness plan that met my specific health needs" says Barbara, who lives in Chambersburg, Pa.
"It's made me follow the right exercise plan and make small but effective changes to my diet."
And, this is where personalized medicine comes in. It’s a rapidly advancing field of healthcare that is informed by each person's unique clinical, genetic, genomic, and environmental factors. Because these factors are different for every person, the nature of diseases—including their onset, their course, and how they might respond to drugs, foods, lifestyle, supplements or other interventions—is as individual as the people who have them.
Everything about who we are is the unique combination of what we are born with - our genetics - and how we live - our environment.
The biggest 'environment' factor that we can control in our day-to-day lives is our diet, and indeed Ayurveda spends a lot of time on nutrition. So by understanding more about the static part, the genetics, we can better tweak the bit in our control -our diet and lifestyle.
Take for example something many of us take for granted: lactose tolerance. Most babies can digest milk without getting an upset stomach thanks to an enzyme called lactase. However, up until several thousand years ago, that enzyme was turned off once a person grew into adulthood. Yet today, 35% of the global population - mostly people with European ancestry - can digest lactose into adulthood without any problems. Why is this?
Because a mutation that first arose in ancient European farmers meant that, for some, that genetic ‘off switch’ was lost and they carried on producing milk-digesting lactase into adulthood. This happened completely by chance, but of course those people that could digest milk were at an advantage, particularly during times of famine or drought when the additional nutrients milk provides could be the difference between life and death. So the trait spread. It is the small changes that mutations cause that make each of us unique.
If your DNA suggests that you are more likely to be deficient in B vitamins, then you can pay attention to that in your daily life. Also knowing what your DNA says about your body's food sensitivities, food breakdown, hunger, weight, and vitamin predispositions allows you to make smarter decisions about what you eat and what supplements you choose to buy, saving you time, energy, and money while getting the results you want faster.
However, the amount of information that personalized health tests can offer is limited at present because we still know very little about the effect of most SNPs [genetic variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms] and other types of genetic variation on a person's health.
While there are a few conditions, such as lactose intolerance, for which the genetic variations are very clear and well understood, the same cannot be said for most other conditions. That said, some studies do suggest that this kind of analysis might work. For example, the University of Trieste and the IRCCS Burlo Garofolo Institute for Maternal and Child Health in Italy found that those following diets based on genetic analysis lost 33% more weight than a controlled group.
The Holistic HIghway looks at how the entire body works together, and while we measure more than 60 nutrition-related genetic biomarkers, these recommendations are and should be based on your entire metabolic type, not just your DNA.
Let’s look at Tony: Even though Tony bicycles a few times a week, he says “I carry an extra couple of pounds and I was curious to learn more about myself.“
He discovered that he's caffeine sensitive, his diet needs to include more plant-based food, and his body is slow at processing fats. While we were still waiting for the genetic test results, Tony opted to start his personalized meal plan based upon his Ayurveda dosha of Kapha -Pitta.
"An interesting thing happened," he enthuses. "I lost four pounds in a few days. I learned portion size and how much more veggies I needed in a serving. I started waking with more energy, my gurgly tummy settled down” and he goes on to say that in two months he has lost about 11 pounds.
Okay, I hear you say….Hang on a minute aren’t you into Ayurveda – then why are you talking about genetics?
Ayurveda has always taken an individualized approach. It looks through the lens of doshas and metabolic types and recognizes that no two people are the same. Our current healthcare system has specialized and subspecialized to such an extent that we no longer see the whole person. And within that framework, it’s easy to see how we have standardized our nutritional needs and lifestyles and our medications to a “One Size Fits All” approach. This is wrong.
Nearly all nutrition research and diet information doesn’t look at what actually makes us who we are. We are all different, and inherently we know this to be true. We all know someone who can eat all the pasta they like without putting on weight (and that might be you), whilst some people only need to think about bread to put on weight (that’s me). Part of these differences will be due to small changes in our genes which enable us to tolerate carbohydrates better or worse – and knowing about these differences can be useful when it comes to choosing the best nutritional plan for you.
However, it's important to know that your genes do not determine your lot in life.
You can change your genes – through diet and lifestyle, and it is this exciting field, now called epigenetics that Ayurveda has always worked in.
It is clear that a one-size fits all approach to health and nutrition is failing us. No wonder we are confused and no wonder so many of us struggle. We are not one size fits all. Adding genetic testing is a really great way to further improve the quality of your Ayurveda health plan because it is tremendously exciting that we live in a time where we can combine the eastern time-tested wisdom of Ayurveda and the technology of western science.
If you would like to talk more about the benefits of a genetic test for your health goals, please schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss what would be best for you.
"The quieter you become, the more you can hear." - Ram Dass
You don’t need to be a monk to find solitude, nor do you need to be a hermit to enjoy it. Solitude is a lost art in these days of ultra-connectedness, and while I don’t really mind being constantly connected, I do think there’s a need to step back from it on a regular basis.
When I suggest to my clients that they take a day out and talk to no-one, meet no-one, connect with no-one. I am met with resistance. What is it about being alone that scares so many people? Why do we try and avoid it - we seem to fill our spare time with any electronic gadget as long as we are not alone!
It’s all too easy isn’t it to spend a few hours drifting from page to page on YouTube, playing games on your phone or watching endless amount of television. The truth is: technology disconnects you from yourself. Now don’t get me wrong, technology is not to blame, but rather our poor use of it. It captures our short attention spans and distracts us from ourselves.
When we are too busy in the world, filling our days and nights with people, things and places — we lose perspective. Without perspective, we can’t see what’s really going on.
Solitude is an absolute necessity. It is essential for our personal well-being and the health of our relationships. Solitude allows us time to rejuvenate and get in touch with ourselves.
However, solitude is often mistaken for loneliness, when we are lonely we feel that our aloneness isn’t by choice; we feel excluded, rejected, isolated, unwanted, or cut off from others. But, loneliness is not resolved by company; have you ever felt lonely even when you are surrounded by other people? Loneliness stems from feelings of emptiness, inadequacy and a lack of self-love. In loneliness, we feel disconnected, but it is not because we are disconnected from others, it is because we are disconnected from ourselves. And in Eastern philosophy, this is considered the cause of all suffering.
Solitude, on the other hand, is a when we are content and happy to be by our self, Loneliness feels depleting, but solitude restores and rejuvenates us.
Here are the benefits of solitude:
You Get to Know Yourself
Most of us are afraid to explore ourselves; we tend to cling to our social identities and our roles in daily life. When we are alone, we have the opportunity to let those roles go, but this can be frightening because, without an identity to hold on to, we are forced to explore who we are. Solitude is necessary to recalibrate our sense of self and gain a perspective on life. In solitude, we also discover our unique strengths. It takes time with our self to know what our strengths are and how we can contribute those strengths. Taking time for oneself is often misunderstood as being self-indulgent, but unless we get to know ourselves in a deeper way, we don’t know what we have inside to offer.
You Get to Accept Yourself
We feel lonely when we are not understood by others, but when we understand ourselves, we don’t expect or need everyone to understand us. We are firm in ourselves, realizing that we are enough. The need for approval from others falls away as we find more assurance in ourselves. Solitude is a way to commit to taking the time we need to be able to engage in our life from a deeper, more meaningful place.
You Get to Problem Solve
Solitude gives us permission to quiet our mind and create space for fresh insights. We need solitude to solve problems, find answers, and let new discoveries emerge. Even the boredom which often comes with solitude contributes to the creative process. If we do not have empty time, there is no space for inspiration to come through. As much as we try to avoid boredom, sitting with it has a purpose. From boredom comes insights into new ways to do things.
You Get to Practice Necessary Self-Care
Self-care is a requirement, just like food or water. We are told to drink before we are thirsty, because by the time our body communicates thirst, we are already dehydrated. When we crave alone time, we are already beyond our need for it.
Taking time to ourselves is most commonly seen as something we do when life becomes overwhelming, or we have burnt out, but it is important to take time for ourselves before we get to this point. When we spend time alone we can wind-down, rest, and restore; we bring our lives into balance before becoming entirely depleted from the stresses of daily life. When there is time without obligations, we can go inside, notice what is there, and discover what we need. Slowing down allows us to hear the needs of our soul.
Taking adequate solitude as a form of self-care also prevents resentment from building in our relationships. When we overextend ourselves, we feel like others are “taking” our time, but in reality, we are not giving it to ourselves. Taking time to nourish ourselves first allows us to build up a reserve to be able to better give to others and when we give to ourselves, the desire to reach out and give to others is more sincere.
You Get to Nurture Healthy Relationships
Our most significant relationship is our relationship with our self. If we are happy and at peace with our self, then we can cultivate healthy relationships with others. If we are not content with our self, we will never find satisfaction from those around us. When we are full in ourselves, we don’t seek company to fill the emptiness. Looking to others to meet our needs leads to co-dependency, but others are not responsible for our well-being. Solitude helps us learn to be more accountable for ourselves, to not be hurt when others don’t provide the attention that we desire.
How to Find Solitude
You start by disconnecting. Take every means of connecting with others, and sever them. Disconnect from email, from Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, from forums and social media, from instant messaging and Skype, from news websites and blogs. Turn off your mobile device and phones.
Turn off the computer … unless you’re going to use the computer to create, in which case, shut off the Internet, close your browser, and shut down every other program used to connect with others.
Take your lunch hour by yourself in a park or a cafe.
Wake up 30 minutes earlier than everyone else in your house or go to bed 30 minutes later to have space to yourself.
Arrive at appointments early, so you have time to sit and read.
Schedule a small block of time for yourself in your day.
Set a weekly date with yourself to do an activity you usually would not do alone – this could be a visit to a museum, a concert, or a walk in the park.
When at work or home close your door to distractions.
When in nature take a moment to pause and notice the beauty of it.
Warning: Don’t Blow Off the Family
It is very important to communicate your need for alone time in a way that shows you still value your relationships. Suddenly disappearing or blowing people off will harm your relationships. Avoid being vague when expressing your need for solitude “I need space” or “I need time to myself” usually comes across as a rejection. We can talk about a need for solitude without making it seem like we are pushing others away, alienating them, or avoiding deeper intimacy. Stating a need for self-care, quiet relaxation, or a specific activity that you like to do by yourself will be better received and prevent others from worrying about you or feeling rejected by you.
If you would like other ways to improve your health, feel free to sign up for a complimentary consultation where we can chat. Simply fill out the intake form here, and you will directed to a scheduler where you can schedule a complimentary phone consultation at your convenience.
I think of the constants in my life... The places, the things, the people... and there is only one constant in all of it. My sister.
We have not always been close, my sister and I, and that surprises most people who see us today. My sister and I start each day with our morning coffee and chat. Rarely do we miss our morning calls - no matter where we are in the world.
Husbands, girlfriends and family members have asked us what we talk about for easily an hour each day. More often, we do not know! It does all seem important though!
Sometimes it’s politics, local and global. Often it’s the kids, and our worries or better yet, our frustrations with them. We talk about our dogs, our work, our latest keep fit plan, - we just talk and connect. And on the odd day when we do not call each other in the morning - I feel a little deflated, just a little down. I look forward to starting my day with these conversations.
My sister is my constant!
She was my constant growing up too. Five years younger - I was the elder sister and did what I suppose most older sisters do. I bullied her, humiliated her, fought with her, laughed with and mostly loved her. Now my sister gave as good as she got but when push came to shove - she was there for me.
She was there for me when I did not want to return to boarding school and I asked her to push me down the stairs in the mistaken hope that a broken leg would stop my return to school. And while she refused to actually push me - she never let on that any injury was self-induced.
She was there for me too when I ran away from boarding school and hid in the broom closet for all of about 4 hours. It was my sister who brought me cookies, thinking I might be hungry. It was also my sister who sang gaily about how ‘I was gonna get it” from my parents for running away and hiding. She never let on about my hiding place though…
She whispered in the night with me, jumped on the bed with me, argued with me, wrestled with me and listened to ALL of my dreams.
We were separated for several years as our parents divorced and when she was sent away to school.
Early adulthood had us go on very different paths as she married young and I traveled. However, she still found time to teach me how to smoke (properly), how to flirt, and how to have fun in the moment.
She taught me strength as I watched her give birth to a spina bifida baby and she taught me about extremes as she struggled with anorexia.
Tragedy brought us together from across different continents when her husband hung himself and left her devastated with three small children. She taught me about despair as she struggled to cope and strength as she tried to move on with life.
She was there for me when my husband was abusive and I needed a safe place to rest and start again.
We felt the blow of grief together as we became motherless daughters when Mum died of pancreatic cancer. And, today together, it is only my sister and I that carry her laugh, her touch and her smile.
Through these moments of life’s joys and tragedies - my sister is my constant.
She taught me pride when after dropping out of school at the age of fourteen, she completed her hard earned degree at Elizabethtown College. And, she taught me about doing something for a higher purpose when she went on mission trips to underserved countries to help with natural disasters.
She has been my constant!
Why am I telling you so much about my sister? This past weekend, she confirmed her lab results with me - she has cancer...
We don’t know what will come next, what the treatment protocol will be, how long and how invasive.
I just know that at that 3 am awakening, when fears are given full reign to surface - I fear I may lose my sister. If that were to happen, my world would be devoid of color and I would only see in black and white.
So, with all my skills, my training and my love - I will learn now to be a constant for her too!
But, just how will I do that? I will use my training and knowledge of Ayurveda to help me be grounded enough to help her. I often counsel my clients who are caretakers that they also need to care-take themselves. It’s funny how when we care for others, free time for ourselves seems selfish. However, time to rejuvenate, to re-balance and to re-charge is essential if we are to be a good caretaker.
I have made simple changes. I have organized my routine to balance my Vata so that I do not get too stressed or imbalanced myself. Here are the simple changes I am making:
I get up with the sun each morning and spend 20 minutes in silence. I drink my lemon water and breathe deeply. At about this time, my dog who wakes with me starts telling me that he has needs to.
I walk daily with the dog, I am mindful of the Spring coming, the change of the seasons and as I live on a bay, relish watching the ospreys build their nests. I watch the tide come in and see the fog off the horizon. It is peaceful and calms and grounds me as I start my day.
I have a warming and nourishing breakfast of a grain like quinoa or oatmeal (see my hot quinoa with spiced soy milk recipe) to ground and calm the central nervous system.
I make sure that I take time out of my day to check in and see how I am doing
For my evening routine, I take my ojas building milk (vitality building) before bed and make sure I massage the soles of my feet with sesame oil so that I get a good night’s sleep.
In this way I can be the constant for my sister too!
If you are a caretaker and feel that you have neglected yourself - set up a complimentary consult with me and I can share ways that can help so that you can help your loved one without depleting yourself. Go to my online scheduler here.
In sadness today,
It's Spring! Plants and flowers will start to bloom and the dreaded allergy season starts! If you are worried because this time of year your allergies start - take a look at the tips for your body type.Read More
Did you know that Ayurveda is not only a system of medicine that is great for you, but your pets can benefit from Ayurveda too. Fido can benefit just as much from the nutrition, lifestyle and herbal support as you can. But, first- What’s Your Pet’s Metabolic Type?Read More
Good digestion, sparkling eyes, shining hair - yes, these are indicators of health and vitality. And yet, they are meaningless if your favorite expression is a scowl, or your dominant mood is one of crankiness.Health is more than just physical health. Is your mind healthy too? There are three reasons it may not be!Read More
If you’ve ever regained weight after a diet, you are in very good company. Most dieters regain the weight. You are not lazy, stupid, or greedy. You did not fail — on the contrary, your body worked hard to save you. Here's why diets don't work!Read More
We know intuitively that real food is better than take-out! Let me explain how by introducing you to Sheila. When I first saw Sheila, she looked 10 years older than her 40-something age. As a yoga instructor, with her own yoga studio, she taught four ninety minute classes per day, which meant very little time to eat properly. Sheila may have had the super-skinny body of a model, but her face told a different story – it was dry, heavily creased, and deeply wrinkled. She did not sleep well at night, always woke up tired, and worried constantly about money and her business. She spent most of her day irritable and cranky, despite the effects that the yoga was supposed to be having on her. Her skimpy eating habits consisted of grabbing protein shakes and bars and a quick sandwich in between classes. Her evening meal was a salad she picked up from the pizza place on the way home. She experienced gas and bloating every time she ate, had poor sleep and was tired most of the time. I told her the five reasons why cooking real food beats take-out!Read More