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Monday, March 07, 2011

Mastering Mastication

I can't believe I've not done a proper blog post about chewing.  It's long overdue, so here it is.  

First of all, some reasons why chewing properly is a good idea:

  • The action of chewing mixes the food with important enzymes in the saliva and is the first step of chemical digestion.  This step is shortened or missed out when you don’t chew properly.
  • Sensors in your mouth tell the brain that food is on the way, the brain then sends messages to the stomach to produce enzymes and acid.  Chewing food switches the stomach on so that it’s ready to receive food.
  • Making the food into smaller pieces by chewing makes it much easier to digest than sending large pieces of food to your stomach.  The teeth are an important part of the digestive system.  The stomach is a muscular bag which can’t break food down into small pieces like the teeth can; chewing makes the work of the stomach much easier.
  • It can help with many digestive problems, especially bloating and indigestion.
  • Chewing helps you taste your food properly, so that you can have a more enjoyable experience.  
  • Research has shown that chewing your food allows you to feel full more quickly than usual, therefore helping to curb overeating.  I wrote about one such study here.
  • And best of all, it’s completely free and you can start right now.

But it’s probably not really news to you, as most of us know that we should chew our food properly.  It’s just that it can be difficult to remember, and from what I see in my clinic, it does seem to be a really hard habit to change.  I think our modern diets are partly to blame actually; it now seems that most meals can be eaten with just a fork, and food comes in portion sized packets, ready to eat and go.  Think of, for example, a bowl of pasta with pesto - very soft and easy to eat, and could almost be eaten without chewing at all!  In times gone by, our food would have been a lot tougher and chewing would have been needed much more than it is now.

To get used to chewing properly, I think it helps to be aware of what your digestive system is doing for you, and the task that your stomach has to achieve.  Because we can’t see our digestive system, it can be easy to overlook the task it performs for us.  It’s quite amazing really – it can turn a roast dinner into energy that allows us to run around in our daily lives, all without any input from us.  I think that’s quite a feat.  

And I speak from experience because I used to eat my meals very quickly, and was almost proud of the speed with which I could finish.  But I am now used to chewing and taking time over eating.  It certainly didn’t come quickly though; I've been practising this for a number of years.  And now, the idea of bolting food and finishing before everyone else seems like such a waste of food!  I’d much rather take the time to eat thoroughly so that I can properly enjoy what I’m eating, and there’s the added benefit of knowing that I’m doing my digestive system a favour too.

So if your stomach could speak, I reckon it would say ‘Please chew your food so that I don’t have to work so hard.  I’ve got a lot to do to keep you going, and it would be really nice if you could do your bit for me.  Thanks.’

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

What is kinesiology again?

Although it’s becoming more and more popular, there are still a lot of people who have never heard of kinesiology, so I thought I’d write a post to shed some light on it.  First of all, most people get stumped on the pronounciation; it’s ‘kin-easy-ology’.

Modern kinesiology is a complementary therapy which was developed by a chiropractor, and it’s basis is a mixture of chiropractic and acupuncture.  There are many different types of kinesiology practised today, and although the procedures and techniques may differ slightly, all kinesiologies encompass some kind of muscle testing and the procedures are acting (in part) on the acupuncture meridians (or energy channels) in the body.  Unlike acupuncture, needles are never used.

The therapy works by identifying what causes a weakened muscle in the body (usually a muscle in the arm), and then correcting this weakness.  The weakness might be due to a stressful thought, an emotional feeling, a pain in the body, an irritating substance, or any other ‘stressor’.  One the stressor has been identified, it will be corrected using a bioenergy technique to rebalance the energy around that stress.  The techniques used in a session might involve the use of magnets, flower essences, essential oils, foods and biochemical substances.

No two kinesiology sessions are ever the same; even when two people appear to have the same concerns, the kinesiology procedures will be different and unique to them.  It’s important to note that the kinesiology practitioner doesn’t decide what needs to be done in a session because all the procedures are chosen by muscle testing the client, so effectively their body chooses what it needs.

The whole session is carried out with the client lying fully clothed on a couch.  It’s totally painless, and occasionally clients feel particular sensations whilst the corrections are carried out.  My clients sometimes report feeling tingling, warmth or cold, or seeing colours when their eyes are closed, although this doesn't happen all the time.  Most people leave the session feeling relaxed and calm.

Kinesiology has developed a reputation for ‘finding out what’s wrong’.  This is actually incorrect, and a kinesiology practitioner will never diagnose what a particular problem is caused by.  Rather, by using kinesiology the practitioner can help to identify what you need to help you restore your body’s natural balance, so that you can have a vibrant sense of well-being.

More information about kinesiology in general can be found on the Kinesiology Federation website.  The branch of kinesiology that I practise is called Health Kinesiology, and there is a wealth of information on the Health Kinesiology UK website.

Please call me if you would like to find out if kinesiology is appropriate for your situation.  I am always happy to chat.

Natural approaches for healthy skin

I often get clients who are troubled by skin problems.  Things like rashes, eczema, psoriasis and acne.  Although not life threatening, skin problems can be quite distressing to the sufferer – your skin is the only organ your body has that is on display to the world.

There are myriad causes of skin complaints, but in my opinion, the issue usually starts from inside the body.  The skin is responsible for eliminating various toxins from the body, and therefore much of what is going on inside the body can be reflected in the appearance of the skin.

Many natural treatments for skin problems often target the digestive system first.  For example, psoriasis can often be helped by improving the levels of good bacteria in the digestive system.  Similarly, other skin problems can be due to food allergies which are acting in the gut; the lining of the digestive system is a bit like your ‘internal skin’ so keeping it healthy and happy can have a knock on effect on your external skin.  

A general state of inflammation in the body is also a factor in many skin conditions, and inflammation can be eased with a variety of anti-inflammatory nutrients including aloe vera and omega-3 fatty acids.  In fact it has been found that aloe vera applied topically is more effective than steroid cream in helping psoriasis*. My favourite Aloe Vera gel is this one made by Jason available here.  The aloe vera juice I recommend most frequently is made by Nutrigold.  Aloe vera juice has more of a 'whole body' anti-inflammatory effect, whereas the gel applied topically acts locally on the skin.

Essential fats, including omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts, are also helpful where the skin is dry or itchy.  A good all round supplement containing omega 3, 6 & 9 fatty acids is OmegaSmart from Nutrigold

Another nutrient that features prominently in any skin improvement programme is Zinc.  Zinc helps regulate the production of hormones in the body, which is especially useful in cases of acne which have a hormonal element.  It also is closely involved in protein and collagen synthesis, both of which are important for healthy skin formation.  Zinc is abundant in many foods such as meat and poultry, sea foods, oats, beans, nuts and pumpkin seeds, but many factors can hinder zinc absorption so taking a supplement is a good way to ensure you’re getting enough of this useful mineral.  Fortunately, zinc supplementation is fairly inexpensive and can often show improvements fairly quickly. 

If you do have sensitive skin, this can be exacerbated by the chemicals found in skincare products.  We are not always aware of how many chemicals we expose ourselves to, and pasting them onto an already sensitive skin is not a good idea.  In fact, I think even if you don’t suffer from skin problems it’s still better to use chemical free skincare products to limit your overall exposure to artificial chemicals.

One of my favourite brands is Pai Skincare.  All Pai products are suitable sensitive skin types and are made organically with totally natural ingredients.  Their products contain natural skin soothers such as Chamomile, Rose and Rosehip which calm, hydrate and regenerate troubled skin without causing irritation.  My favourite product is their Avocado and Jojoba cream.  They also offer free samples on their website (plus p&p). 

Another excellent brand is Green People.  They have a huge range of organic products, including babycare products and a men’s range.  Their products were developed because the founder of the company had a child with skin that was reacting to chemicals in widely available toiletries.  So again, Green People products are safe for all types of sensitive skin.

If you do have trouble with your skin, before trying natural approaches, do get it checked out by your doctor.  Your GP should always be the first port of call when you have a concern about your health.

*Choonhakarn C et al, A prospective randomized clinical trial comparing topical aloe vera with 0.1% triamcinolone acetonide in chronic plaque psoriasis. ICD 2009
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