Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Health in Hawaii is moving!

Aloha everyone!

I will no longer be posting here, and all new information will be found at
I hope you will all join me there :)

Stay happy and healthy,

Monday, April 19, 2010

Amino Acids Revealed

Amino acids help maintain our body’s optimal health and vitality

Amino acids are the “building blocks” of the body. When protein is broken down through digestion, the result is 22 known amino acids. Eight are essential, meaning they cannot be manufactured by the body. The rest are non-essential, (can be manufactured by the body with proper nutrition.)

To understand just how vital amino acids are for our health, we must understand the importance of proteins. Protein substances make up the muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails and hair, and are essential for the growth, repair and healing of bones, tissues and cells. Insufficient levels of the essential amino acids can dramatically interrupt the way our bodies work. For example, deficiencies of tyrosine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, and histidine can cause neurological problems and depression. Low levels of tryptophan also make us anxious and unable to sleep.

Amino acids are most abundant in protein foods, yet all foods contain some. Animal foods such as beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, eggs, milk, and cheese are known as complete proteins and usually contain all eight essential amino acids. Many vegetable proteins contain adequate levels of many of the essential acids, but may be low in one or two. Grains and their germ coverings, legumes, nuts and seeds, and some vegetables fit into this category.

The importance of balancing the diet in order to obtain sufficient levels of all the essential amino acids cannot be overstated. A diet containing a variety of wholesome foods is crucial. If the complete proteins (stated above) are eaten daily, there is no need to worry about supplementing the diet or creating optimal food combinations. However, most of us do not eat these foods daily and probably should not, as the over consumption of protein foods (especially meat and milk) can lead to disease.

Those of us who follow a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet need have less concern about combining foods than those of us who follow a vegan diet. For those eating vegetarian diets, it is fairly easy to obtain a good protein balance from vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes. Eating beans or seeds with some sort of grain is the simplest way to obtain an adequate balance of proteins. Often times, traditional food cultures have already solved the problem. (ie. South American black beans and rice; MiddleEastern, chickpeas and couscous). According to Gabriel Cousins, M.D. in her book Conscious Eating, “the Max Planck Institute has found that the complete vegetarian proteins, those with all eight essential amino acids, are superior to, or at least equal to, animal proteins. They showed that these complete proteins were found in various concentrations in almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, soybeans, buckwheat, peanuts, potatoes, all leafy greens, and most fruits.”

Paying attention to what we eat and how we combine our foods is the first step in preventing amino acid deficiency. If there is worry that the diet is not giving the body all it needs, there is always supplementation. Supplementing with amino acids have been known to help those suffering from degenerative diseases such as mental or nervous disorder, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy, anemia and herpes. Amino acid supplements are available singly and in combinations. It is always a good idea to consult with a physician to see which supplements, if any, are suitable for your particular needs.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Herbal Hair Care

While we typically turn to our herb gardens to embellish a salad or a savory sauce, these little delights can do wonders for the hair. Herbs contain chemical compounds that can help restore hair’s natural balance and shine. Try these recipes at home and see your locks glow!

Ginger Hair Oil

1 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot
¼ cup light sesame oil

This treatment stimulates hair growth while alleviating dandruff and boosting the scalp’s circulation. It will leave your hair smelling faintly of ginger, a very pleasing scent.

Place the grated ginger inside a piece of cheesecloth and gently squeeze ¼ teaspoon of the juice into the sesame oil. Mix the oil and juice together with a fork until blended thoroughly. Massage the oil into your scalp and leave on for ten minutes before shampooing.

Herbal Spritz

1. Rub sage leaves and rosemary leaves between your fingers to release their oils

2. Place herbs in a pot and add a pint of cold water. Cover.

3. Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer for 3 minutes.

4. Remove pan from heat and allow herbs to steep, still covered for three hours. Once cool, strain herbs and pour mixture into a spray bottle.

5. Spritz dry hair until it is saturated, then massage into scalp and comb through. Don’t rinse. Use two or three days in a row for optimal results. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Herbal Rinse for Dry Hair and Dandruff

8 ounces floral water or herbal infusion

2 tbsp.. apple cider vinegar

In this treatment, lavender floral water can be used or you can create your own herbal infusion. Simply take fresh or dried herbs and pour hot water over them, about two to three tablespoons per cup, to make a strong infusion. Obtain a good organic apple cider vinegar and pour into a wide mouthed glass jar. To one quart of vinegar, add one to two handfuls of herbs. Set in the sun for a few weeks, shaking daily. For dandruff, use lavender, rosemary, and basil. This is a great addition to olive oil for a flavorful salad dressing as well!

Herbal Rinse for Oily Hair

1 pint boiling water

1 teaspoon each burdock root, calendula flowers, chamomile flowers, lavender flowers, lemongrass and sage leaves

1 tablespoon vinegar

Pour boiling water over herbs and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain and add vinegar. Pour over scalp and hair as final rinse after shampooing. Leave on without rinsing out.

  • Sage is excellent for weak hair.
  • Rosemary enhances dark hair
  • Chamomile promotes healthy hair growth
  • Catnip promotes hair growth
  • Burdock root promotes hair growth and reduces hair from falling out.

For extra body, create a setting lotion by mixing 2 ounces lemon juice with 5 drops rosemary essential oil. Comb into hair and relax!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

PMS Less

It was New Year’s Eve. I had prepared a colorful vegan meal for my partner and I to enjoy before reigning in the New Year. The menu included a living corn chowder, sweet potato puree, and basmati rice drizzled with a Thai coconut sauce. We were planning on visiting with a few friends after dinner and then back home before the clock struck midnight to toast our first New Year’s Eve together. The special bottle of merlot we had been saving for this very night would top it all off. About half way through dinner I began to feel unnecessarily irritable, and before I knew it my mood was swinging down into the depths of a monthly premenstrual syndrome. I no longer suffered from cramping thanks to some positive dietary changes made years ago. However, I still felt annoyingly on edge for a short period of time every a month, and it was beginning to wear on my very last nerve. Needless to say, my New Year’s Eve was only so-so, and the following day I made my first resolution. I will find some simple, natural cures for the PMS blues.

Let us first take a look at what causes premenstrual syndrome symptoms such as irritability, bloating, cravings for sweets, increased appetite, fatigue, cramping, depression, and mood swings. Research has found that these symptoms are more prevalent in women with high levels of blood estrogen compared to progesterone. Dietary deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals can also aggravate PMS. Some years ago, I routinely suffered from severe cramps that would keep me in bed for hours at a time. Some months an entire day would go to waste. The positive changes I made were mostly dietary. I started eating less meat and completely eliminated dairy because large amounts of dairy may be associated with irritability, anxiety, and mood swings. My diet focused on organic vegetables-especially leafy greens which are a good source of trace minerals necessary for calcium absorption. I also did a lot of dancing which allowed me to sweat a lot and considerably relieve stress levels. Avoiding refined carbohydrates, including sugar, corn sweeteners, honey, maple syrup, white flour products, dried fruit, and fruit juice is a also a necessary step. As you can see, sugars in all forms are pretty much off limits. In addition, raw nuts, seeds and whole grains are great sources of nutrients needed during the dreaded PMS time.

It’s also a good idea to avoid caffeine. Coffee, tea, chocolate and sodas cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels. These fluctuations contribute to cravings and add additional stress to the body. Leave the alcohol to the boys as it dehydrates the body, leading to increased premenstrual symptoms. Drink lots of water and herbal teas. I find those in the mint family very uplifting. Chamomile and lavender teas help to calm the nerves, while a smooth sweet orange tea is a great mood booster.

Yoga is a great antidote to PMS because it calms the central nervous system, releases endorphins and encourages relaxation while lowering stress levels. Particular postures are known to be especially helpful during this time of the month. For irritability and anxiety, practice reclined bound angle pose, downward facing dog, and standing forward bend. For depression and fatigue, try half plow pose with legs on a chair. For cramps, try legs-up-the-wall pose with the sacrum on a bolster, wide-legged standing forward bend and bridge pose. If you are prone to headaches and bloating, incorporate reclining hand to big toe pose with legs out to side. Supplement your practice with deep breathing techniques and quiet meditation. Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodana) is a good one to focus on as it is straightforward and helps to balance mood swings and emotions. Once your cycle begins, avoid yoga inversion poses because the blood and energy is trying to flow downward and you don’t want to upset that flow.

As PMS is sometimes associated with a lacking in vital nutrients, it is always ideal to keep a high-quality multivitamin on hand. This alone has the power to improve symptoms. I like to take an extra supplement of Vitamin C during this time because it is a general energy booster and also helps to rid the body of excess estrogen. Make sure your multi-vitamin is sufficient in Vitamin E, which can help reduce nervous tension, depression, and headaches. The B vitamins are also necessary for proper nervous system function. Vitamins A, D, calcium, magnesium and zinc are also essential during the PMS phase of the month. I also make sure to supplement with flax seed oil which is a good source of essential fatty acids. It is anti-inflammatory in nature and can ease pain while boosting energy.

Herbs are always good for additional help. Shatawari is an ayurvedic herb that is most often prescribed for the PMS sufferers among us by ayurvedic doctors. It is referred to as the Indian female rejuvenative and is also helpful for low milk production, a lagging sex drive, menopause and infertility. Milk thistle is helpful because it protects the liver which in turn helps regulate hormonal balance. If bloating and sore breasts predominate, chamomile and dandelion are both effective diuretics. To stabilize depression and mood swings, chamomile, lavender, and peppermint are excellent. These herbs, along with red raspberry and kava kava, are good antispasmodics as well, making them excellent for cramps. Fennel, sarsaparilla, squaw vine, licorice and wild yam are all known to be hormonal balancers and can improve many PMS associated symptoms.

Good luck on your path to PMS success. The journey may be grueling some days but eventually the symptoms will improve. Be patient with yourself and try not to judge yourself or others. Accept the ups and downs and don’t try to fight it. Know that you are not alone. Most of us women are all sufferers and girlfriends are always good for emotional and moral support!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Strawberry Lime Slush

As Spring arrives and the days get warmer, I know more than one of you who will enjoy the occasional slushy or two from a fast food joint. While I have not taken the time to find out what some of these establishments put into their icy beverages, I have a hunch that they are laden with sugar and may contain artificial sweeteners and/or colors. Why not, save your dollars and enjoy this healthier version of a strawberry lime slush.
In a blender, place:
10 frozen strawberries
juice of 1 lime
1/2  cup rice milk
1/2 tsp. stevia

serves: 1

I let my strawbwerries soften a bit before blending. If you can't be bothered to wait, you may need to add a bit of water to help the blending along. I found this drink to be refreshing, light and sweet. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Five Yoga Poses for Digestive Health

Yoga has been used for thousands of years as a health enhancing practice. It is only now that science is proving the effectiveness of various yoga poses for different bodily conditions. One health issue that yoga is known to improve upon is the efficiency of the digestive tract. Twisting postures and forward bends are especially good for improving digestion because they relieve tension in the abdominal area and compress the lower abdomen to release gas. Twisting postures help to massage the inner organs while wringing out toxins and helping the organs to perform more efficiently. Try the following poses to improve sluggish digestion and other related maladies.

Revolved head to knee pose

Sit on the floor with your torso straight and your legs straddled wide. Bend your left knee and place the heel into your right groin. Lean to the right, and press the back of your right shoulder against the inside of your right knee. Lay your right forearm on the floor inside your right leg, palm facing up. Lengthen the right side of your torso along the inside of the right thigh. Turn your right palm toward the inside edge of the foot and take hold of it, thumb on the top of the foot, fingers on the sole. Press the left femur firmly to the floor and twist your torso toward the ceiling. Inhale your left arm straight up toward the ceiling and then behind your left ear, taking hold of the outside edge of the right foot. Turn your head to look at the ceiling. Breathe. Repeat on the other side.

Bharadvaja’s twist

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Shift over onto your right buttock, bend your knees, and swing your legs to the left. Lay your feet on the floor outside your left hip, with the left ankle resting in the right arch. Twist your torso to the right, keeping the left buttock on or close to the floor. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor to keep the lower back long. Tuck your left hand under your right knee and bring your right hand to the floor just beside your right buttock. Pull your left shoulder back slightly, pressing your shoulder blades firmly against your back even as you continue to twist the chest to the right. Breathe. Repeat on the opposite side.

Big toe pose

Stand upright with your feet parallel. While keeping the legs straight, bend forward from your hip joints. Slide the index and middle fingers of each hand between the big and second toes. Curl those fingers under and grip the big toes firmly. Lift your torso as if you were going to stand up again, straightening your elbows. Lengthen your front torso, and on the next exhale, lift your sitting bones. For the next few inhalations, lift your torso strongly as you continue to actively contract your front thighs; on each successive exhalation, strongly lift your sitting bones as you consciously relax your hamstrings. Finally exhale, bend your elbows out to the sides, pull up on your toes, lengthen the front and sides of your torso, and gently lower into the forward bend. Breathe into the pose.

Bridge pose

Begin by lying on our back. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible. Pressing your feet and arms actively into the floor, push your tailbone upward while lifting the buttocks off the floor. Clasp the hands below your pelvis and extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders. Lift your buttocks until the thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep your knees directly over the heels, but push them forward, away from the hips, and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees. Firm the outer arms, broaden the shoulder blades, and try to lift the space between them at the base of the neck up into the torso. Breathe deeply.

Hero’s pose

Kneel on the floor with your thighs perpendicular to the floor, and touch your inner knees together. Slide your feet apart, slightly wider than your hips, with the tops of the feet flat on the ground. Sit back halfway, with your torso leaning slightly forward. Wedge your thumbs into the backs of your knees and draw the skin and flesh of the calf muscles toward the heels. Then sit down between your feet. If your buttocks don't comfortably rest on the floor, raise them on a block or blanket. Allow a thumb's-width space between the inner heels and the outer hips. Turn your thighs inward and press the heads of the thigh bones into the floor with the bases of your palms. Breathe.

When you are finished practicing these poses, it is always a good idea to lie on your back in relaxation pose for five to ten minutes. Namaste!

Monday, April 12, 2010