Saturday, February 17, 2018

Dealing with Chronic Pain

Guest post by Sara Russell, Ph.D., NTP

I have a hereditary connective tissue disorder which causes chronic pain across the body. Musculoskeletal pain due to tight muscles and unstable joints, joints which partially dislocate during sleep when my body is relaxed, and which partially dislocate at times during the day when I do things as simple as taking a step, putting on my backpack, carrying food to the table, typing at the computer, sneezing, turning my neck ever so slightly. Head pain due to excessive vasodilation. Gastrointestinal pain at times just from eating. Excruciating foot pain when I walk. (Do you remember fairy tale of the Little Mermaid, who feels pain with every step she takes once she is transformed into a human?)

I am used to a baseline level of pain that is probably much higher than what the average person. At the same time, I know what it means to feel pushed over the edge with pain, once you cross the threshold of your ultimate pain tolerance. It is definitely not fun.

Before I go on, I want to say that I’m sharing my experience in the hopes that it will help others with chronic pain, and help those without chronic pain understand and support us more. I also understand that what helps me may not be the same as what helps you, so please don’t feel in any way judged if you're doing something different!

I don’t take pain medication on a regular basis. I would hate to become addicted to pain medication. I do keep some prescription anti-inflammatory medication on hand to use in those situations when the pain is beyond unbearable.

But for the most part, I have come to appreciate the importance of addressing my pain through rest, an adaptation of daily activities, regular physical therapy, careful exercise, and mindfulness. I have come to accept and understand that while I have come a long way in reducing some sources of pain by adapting my nutrition and lifestyle, there is some pain that I can’t erase.

Indeed, in today’s world, we are conditioned to fear pain, to hate pain and to seek to erase and eradicate it at all costs. In addition to the known risks of addiction, I would hesitate to medicate my pain with narcotic medications because they may increase my risk of injury making me less alert and less aware of my body. Additionally, narcotic pain medication can impair digestive motility, which in my case is already slow due to poor connective tissue function.

    Related Post:  Silver Lining On The Dark Clouds     

I live in a world where others around me can’t see or imagine my pain, and where my pain sometimes stops me from functioning properly. I am also good at masking my pain in order to function as well as possible.

It’s not my fault that my body struggles with a disorder that causes injury and pain. But it is my responsibility to do what I can to live as well as possible with the body I have.

This means working constantly on four main areas:

Doing what I can to improve the areas that are improvable.

For me, a nutrient-dense diet that focuses on properly prepared real food is really important. I have difficulty assimilating nutrients, so quality and digestibility is definitely more important than quantity!

I also am careful to stay well-hydrated and maintain good electrolyte balance.

I have regular physical therapy sessions with a good physical therapist and do my physical therapy exercises daily. The regularity is so incredibly important!

Staying physically active while avoiding/limiting situations that put me at unnecessary risk of injury

This is a difficult balance to strike because over-limiting activities from fear of getting hurt comes with its own set of problems! The challenge is staying active while staying reasonably safe at the same time. For me, this means choosing daily physical activities that I enjoy, adjusting the duration, frequency, and intensity of the activity depending on what I have going on.

The more I like and look forward to a specific type of physical activity, the more motivated I am to stay active in spite of fatigue and accidental injuries. For example, I love walking in the woods and observing nature’s beauty far more than I do going to the gym. The more conditioned I am, the better my overall quality of life. So exercise is definitely a priority for me!

I avoid contact sports and high-impact sports, after experiencing injuries in martial arts classes and the high hurdles. But I do enjoy doing gentle yoga and riding my bike on non-strenuous trails.

Using medications sparingly for beyond-unbearable situations

This point is fairly self-explanatory, keeping in mind that what constitutes unbearable levels of pain is pretty subjective. I don’t take pain medication to turn off the pain, but do take it on those occasions when I experience pain so severe that I can’t think or move.

Accepting the rest and really appreciating everything in my life that is positive!

Does it annoy you when you’re having a bad day or struggling through a complex problem, and a loved one tells you that it could be worse or that everything happens for a reason? Me too! But as silly as it may sound when I make it a point of noticing what I am able to do, or days when my pain level is low and I don’t wake up feeling disjointed, that gives me something to celebrate. And I leverage every little celebration in my quest to have the best day I can, one day at a time!
About the Author

Sara is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who frequently blogs about nutrition and health in addition to running a nutritional therapy practice where she specializes in supporting clients with complex health cases. You can learn more about Sara’s work and read her blog at

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A Valentine’s Day – Sublime or Vile?

Roses are red…but they also come in different colors, be it pink, white, yellow, peach, and blue varieties.
Violets are blue…but they are closer to purple too, isn’t it?
Sugar is sweet…yeah, but it will make you diabetic.

Okay, so a day devoted to love sure does take a lot of heat.  There are number of haters worldwide especially in India when it comes to St. Valentine’s Week/Day.  They have a very unpleasant image about Valentine’s Week/Day; pampering the loved one with flowers, cards, gifts, fancy dinner date etc.  But no, it doesn’t always have to involve all of such things to celebrate Valentine’s Week/Day and that’s what I feel; it’s just about expressing love towards each other.

Now, many will tend to question my aforementioned statement that why only one specific day to express love?  Why can’t people express love throughout the year?  So on this I would like to say why we Indians need only one particular day to celebrate the brother-sister bond called “Raksha Bandhan,” there are other days such as friendship day, women’s day, mother’s day, father’s day, and people celebrate it with a whole lot of zeal without any controversy; except few because they always have something to complain about.

Of course, we don’t need any particular day to celebrate any bond on the earth.  But if there are days, then there is nothing wrong in celebrating them, there is nothing wrong in letting your dear ones know that they are loved, appreciated and what they mean to you.  In fact it’s just another way to have fun, just another way to take out time and do some extra special things that we usually don’t do and even can’t do on regular basis because of the fact that we all are busy, with a lot of stress, worries, preoccupations, and developments taking up our headspace.  There is so much of pressure and monotony in everyone's life that once in a while we all want to escape from it, isn’t it?.  And what’s the better way to do so other than celebrating festivals?

Some Indians would still say western people don’t celebrate our festivals then why should we? So let me tell you guys, there are people in western countries who celebrate our festivals too, for eg Diwali.  And recently the state of Virginia has declared Pongal day (an Indian festival, also known as Makar Sankranti) as a state holiday there on 14th January.

And then there comes the cultural part.  People say that Valentine’s Week/Day is a part of western culture and not ours.  I agree people can have their own opinions about everything, but why they tend to be partial? Indians wear jeans, t-shirts, tops, shorts etc, which are all part of western culture and not ours then why you have adopted it?  People really have inconsistent hypocrisy.  In fact, in some states of India, the note of caution is being raised; right-wing groups vowed to stop people from celebrating Valentine's Week/Day, saying it is against our culture.  The group, in some cities, has warned that if boys and girls caught courting in public, they risk being forced to marry.  Those groups are nothing, but a bunch of hypocrites doing nothing good for the society.  I don't really know what this so-called moral police are up to.  Nobody is sort of getting amoral in these places.  We all have a right to enjoy our lives.  We all have a right to live our lives in our own way. It is a free country.

Just because the concept of the festival called “Valentine’s Week/Day” doesn’t have its foundation stone in India, does not imply that it has to be absolutely inappropriate and incorrect in moral.  You should learn to respect every culture and religion; you should understand and take up goodness from every sphere of life.  If you can’t praise and respect anyone’s culture, don’t say anything wrong about it at least.  No one has the right to say anything wrong about anyone’s culture.  Every culture is beautiful in its own way.  Isn’t it?

In spite of all the aforementioned things, there are people who love to celebrate the day devoted to love and yeah I am one of them.  I feel it’s a nice concept of having some quality time together.  Everyone is not open to express themselves easily and this day gives them the perfect excuse to show that they care.  Of course, your relationship should not need to hinge on this day, but it should be a day that your relationship can cherish and continue to move forward as it does the other 364 days of the year.

So yeah for me it’s a “sublime.”  Whether you’re single or in a relationship, Valentine’s Week/Day has different ways of pulling at your heartstrings.  Wishing you all a very Happy Valentine’s Week/Day.  Shower your love to your special one, your family, and your near and dear ones

What do you think about Valentine’s day? Is it Sublime or Vile? Let me know your inputs in the comment section below.

Stay Blessed, Be Happy..!! :-)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Enhancing The Nutritional Value Of Foods

Sometimes we don't see the forest for the trees.  And the nutrition field is no exception to this.  When it comes to healthy eating, you know how important it is to eat well-balanced meals and foods high in nutrients values.  With increasing world population and limited food resources, it’s really important for you to get maximum nutritional value out of every bit of food you buy.  And you can achieve this by improving the nutritive quality of foods by preventing or reducing the loss of nutrients in food preparations and by avoiding wastage of food.  By enhancing the nutritional values in food, you can meet the nutritional requirements of the body and can prevent deficiency diseases in the body.

So, how can you do that?  There are a few ways to get the maximum nutritional values from your foods and that are germination, fermentation, food synergy, and food fortification.  You might be already familiar with these terms, let’s talk about how you can enhance the nutrients present in a food by each of these methods.


Germination, also known as sprouting, is an effective traditional, non-thermal process that enhances the nutritional values of cereals and legumes/pulses by increasing nutrient digestibility, minimizing the activities or levels of antinutritional substances, reducing the gluten contents, improving the contents of free amino acids and available carbohydrate, and boosting the functional properties.

The foods that can be germinated are all seeds which can be eaten raw, steamed or cooked completely.  Many kinds of seeds such as grains, beans, and grasses are used for sprouting.  As you know, the process of sprouting involves soaking the grain or pulse in water and then wrapping them in a damp paper towel or cloth.  In two or three days the grains germinate and the sprout grows.  The time and water which each pulse or grain needs for soaking and sprouting is different.  Normally 8-12 hours are needed for soaking and one to two days for sprouting.

A number of health and nutritional benefits can be obtained from this process which includes high levels of dietary fibers, proteins, B complex vitamins, and vitamin c.  Dry grains and pulses usually do not contain vitamin C, but when they are allowed to germinate, vitamin c is formed in the grain and in the growing sprout.  Sprouts are more nutritious than its older counterparts of itself i.e. the seeds.  Due to the significant outcome of germination, sprouted pulses and grains are extensively accepted as functional foods.  This is one of the best ways to extract the maximum nutrients from a food item at no additional cost.  Sprouts are really a living food and are the genuine stars of the vegetable world.


Natural fermentation in food takes place when environmental situations permit interaction between microorganisms and the food substance.  The process of fermentation stimulates the multiplication of specific microorganisms, which are beneficial to our body, and their metabolic activity in food.  Fermentation breaks down the indigestible compounds into smaller parts, making the structures more pervious to the cooking water as well as to our digestive juices.

Fermented foods are often more nutrient-rich than the unfermented versions of themselves because the microorganisms not only break-down more complex compounds, but they also synthesize various complex vitamins such as vitamin c, vitamin b12, and riboflavin.  Along with that, fermented foods also help in keeping our guts optimally healthy as it contains beneficial probiotics.  Fermented foods, especially dairy foods, contain specific strains of bacteria that stimulate the health of your digestive tract.

A wide range of fermented food products is made use of by people of different countries all around the world.  Some of them are yogurt, curds, butter, buttermilk, pickles, cheese, cream cheese, coffee beans, idli, and dhokla, all these are made with the help of lactic acid bacteria; dosa (an Indian food) which is made by bacteria alone or in combination with yeasts; vinegar which is made by bacteria producing acetic acid; cocoa which is made by yeast along with acetic acid producing bacteria.

As we need a healthy balance of microorganisms in our bodies, fermented foods are just excellent.  So, include a variety of your favorite fermented foods in your diet to get the maximum nutrients from a food and to keep your guts healthy.

Food Synergy:

Sometimes we get so focused on the health benefits of a specific phytochemical or vitamin that we often miss that “different elements in a single food can work together to benefit our health, and so can elements in different foods that are eaten together.”  The pairing of foods from different food groups is the easiest way of getting all nutrients.  Food synergy is the concept that involves combining of foods together to increase their health effects and these healthy foods pairings help our body maximize its nutrient intake.

For good health, it's really very important to eat a variety of foods.  So if you want to make your meal healthier, try eating whole grains, legumes, nuts, vegetables, and fruit; these are the great examples of foods in the natural form that are rich in a combination of important minerals, vitamins, proteins, fiber, antioxidants, and more.  Some of the Indian traditional dishes like khichadi, rice-dal, dal-roti/chapati, puran-poli, appe, idli-sambhar, upma-sambhar, tamarind rice, are a few examples of such nutritionally beneficial foods combinations.  The combination of a variety of foods ensures a better availability of nutrients and it is another best way to enhance maximum nutrients from a food.

Food Fortification:

Food fortification, also known as food enrichment, is a method to add nutrients to a particular food item at higher levels than what the original food provides.  Nutrients selected to be fortified are those that are probably to run into short supply because of either dietary habits or prejudices, or due to the lack of ability of the people to buy foods that contain them, or because the foods that are assumed to contain them do not do so in a certain area.  Other criteria for selection are to be able to mix a nutrient with a food item without affecting its acceptability, and the all in all cost of such fortification.  Food items chosen for fortification are those that are consumed by the widest cross-section of the community.  Common examples of fortification include adding iron and/or zinc to wheat flour, iodine in common salt, vitamins A and D in hydrogenated fats, vitamin C to fruit drinks and so on.

The nutritional qualities of food are almost always altered by the type of processing it undergoes and you can indeed expect to see dramatic changes in your overall health by introducing these processes of food enhancing into your daily meal plan.  So, if you’ve already been doing these things, it’s great.  If not, then include these methods to enhance the nutritive values of your meal and make your meal even healthier.

Stay Blessed, Be Happy...!! :-)

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