Author: Yvonne Black

A Brief Introduction to Kundalini Yoga

This past winter, I really leaned into the season’s coziness: long nights next to our wood stove, hot cocoa before bed, and tons of reading. I took winter walks some afternoons, but I really let myself rest. Now that the weather is changing, I am ready to move my body again and try out something new to me: Kundalini yoga.

Basic Origin and Overview of Kundalini Yoga 

Ancient Vedic texts, called the Upanishads, first referenced Kundalini around 1000 B.C. Kundalini yoga is often called the Yoga of Awareness. It works as a philosophy for spirituality and energy. 

“Kundal” means “circular” in Sanskrit, and “Kundalini” itself refers to the coiled energy at the base of the spine, almost like a snake in its latency and potency. Kundalini yoga acts as a catalyst for that energy, activating it and spreading it throughout the body and mind. There is less focus on the range of physical movement in Kundalini yoga than in other types of yoga. 

Kundalini focuses on specificity and repetition: breathing, singing, and chanting with movement.These practices balance chakras. Our bodies have seven chakras: crown chakra, third eye chakra, throat chakra, heart chakra, naval chakra (also known as solar plexus), sacral chakra, and root chakra. 

Kundalini yoga can often inspire a spiritual enlightenment or awakening. At its core, yoga is a connection to Brahman, the spirit within us, and also between the spirit and the body. This ancient practice did not emphasize fitness or exercise, as many Western practitioners have chosen to do. 

Kundalini Yoga: A Beginner’s Reflection

The global Covid-19 pandemic and consequent state of lockdown has pushed many of us to new heights of anxiety, isolation, and depression. As the weather warms, it feels okay to cautiously hope again. I am taking advantage of this hopeful feeling by introducing a new practice into my life. Kundalini yoga helps me feel centered and energized. So far, I have only begun practicing breathing. Breath of Fire has been equal parts challenging and exhilarating. I cannot wait to try more. 

A note: The yoga industry is overrun with able-bodied white women who have co-opted, simplified, and appropriated these practices for profit. Please be aware of this inequity as you start your own exploration of yoga, and let it help you allocate your attention and payment to non-White teachers who are true to the principles of yoga.

An Ayurvedic Approach to Health

Looking to welcome a new dietary rhythm this spring? Consider the Ayurvedic diet, a collection of principles that is not so much a diet as it is a pattern. Ayurvedic living focuses on balancing the different energies within the body, while recognizing that each body is unique. Not all diets showcase such responsiveness to the subjectivity of the human experience. Most, in fact, treat every body as though it should meet the same universal standards. 

The Five Elements and Three Doshas

The holistic medicine of Ayurveda teaches that there are five elements that make up the universe: vayu (air), jala (water), Aakash (space), teja (fire), and prithvi (earth). Each body is made up of three doshas, or types of energy that move through the body.  The pitta dosha regulates thirst, hunger, and body temperature. The vata dosha controls electrolyte balance and movement. The kapha dosha oversees joint function.

You will need to figure out the dominant dosha in your body and then structure your diet to balance your doshas. Identifying your dominant dosha requires a combination of physical and mental assessment, including how your body responds to stress and some of your basic personality characteristics. 

Focusing on Food

The diet promotes the consumption of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, and moves emphasis away from processed foods. It is possible that the Ayurvedic dietary guidelines could cause weight loss, though most people who practice Ayurvedic principles do so for the mental balance it can help them achieve.

Above all, Ayurveda encourages mindfulness, with special attention paid to mindful eating. You will be encouraged to avoid distraction while eating in order to really identify and take notice of your food’s smell, taste, and texture.

Helpful Decision-Making Tips

For those who have a difficult relationship with food, be wary. The Ayurvedic diet can feel restrictive and potentially worsen an already tenuous relationship with food. These principles are also highly subjective; the way they cater to each body individually is both a benefit and a disadvantage. It can be stressful to identify a dominant dosha, and misidentification can make the experience unpleasant. 

Make sure to do plenty of research before making a decision about whether or not to try an Ayurvedic diet. If committing to a full Ayurvedic diet feels like too much, perhaps integrating some of these principles into your life is just enough. The practice of mindful eating is sometimes enough for those looking for a deeper relationship with their consumption. Best of luck!

My Mom’s Journey with Natural Iron Supplementation

My mom has struggled with an iron deficiency for most of her life. It started when she was a teenager. She’d recount the dozens of times her anemia caused her to faint – at school, during a piano recital, at a soccer game. I think she was the only 18 year old with a medical alert system. But her experiences helped me develop a holistic dietary practice, one that involves naturally supplementing essential nutrients. I thought she’d developed a similar approach, but, as it turns out, she hadn’t. She’d relied on standard, over-the-counter ferrous sulfate – the most common iron supplement for people to take.

My mom takes her supplements with a religious devotion. Every other day, right when she wakes up, she pops a 65mg iron pill into her mouth and drinks a full cup of water. It seemed like that was doing the trick – she hadn’t fainted in years, and her energy levels were stable. But, over the course of a few weeks, I saw the color drain from her face and her lips turn blue. She continued with the iron supplements, but the nutrient deficiency was clearly back. We scheduled an appointment with a doctor to see what was happening, but that was a month away. Then, she had an accident. Thank God for that medical alert system.

I wasn’t there when it happened, but here’s how she tells it. She was feeling a little woozy but needed to make herself some lunch. She stood up from the chair in her living room, and everything went white. This is normal for people with iron deficiency anemia, and it usually passes after a couple of seconds. But, for the first time in years, everything suddenly went black. When she opened her eyes, she was on the floor with a throbbing pain in her wrist. Then, she heard a voice. Disoriented and in pain, it took her a few moments to discern where it was coming from. Then she realized: her medical alert system fall detection had kicked in, and it automatically called for help.

Now, the speaker across the room was talking to her, asking her what had happened. She told the operator that she had fallen and possibly hurt her wrist. It didn’t feel like enough of an emergency to call for an ambulance, so together, they decided that calling me was the best option. I remember getting the call from the alert service and freaking out, but the operator assured me that my mom was in good condition. After hanging up, I gunned it to her house. She was in good spirits when I arrived, having stayed on the line with the medical alert operator while I was driving. We decided to go to the urgent care center nearby; a couple of hours later, we emerged with a wrist splint.

The medical alert system was so important in that moment, but I wish it hadn’t been. I wish my mom’s iron supplements had done what they were supposed to do. At the doctor’s appointment, we didn’t get much help. My mom’s iron levels were just slightly below average, and the doctor suggested upping her iron dose to 85mg per day. But we wanted to try something else. That’s how we discovered blood builders.

A blood builder is a supplement made with whole foods, not synthetic vitamins and minerals. It’s now the only iron supplement my mom feels safe taking. Her body absorbs it like it would a food, which means she doesn’t have iron supplement side effects. These natural supplements also include a variety of other vitamins and minerals that aid in iron absorption, like Vitamin C and B-12. Since she’s started on blood builders, she has a bit more pep in her step. She’ll always keep the medical alert system with her, but she feels a lot better now that she switched supplements. I might just start taking them myself.

Warm Water and Other Immune-Boosting Myths Amid the Pandemic

As scientists continue researching treatments and cures for the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2, people stuck at home are concocting ways to boost personal immunity. While there are certain things known to boost immunity, like exercise and vitamin D, the suggestions seeping out of self-quarantine and socially distanced households are truly creative. These natural “remedies” have some natural health doctors on edge as homeopathy and natural medicine continue to be pulled into the coronavirus-caused spotlight.  

To help our other natural medicine friends, we wanted to do a bit of myth-busting around some of these COVID-19 claims. Below, you’ll find the top myths about immune busting we’ve seen in the past few weeks. 

Drinking Warm Water 

There are emails and Facebook posts claiming the benefits of drinking warm water to ward off the virus. These viral posts encourage readers to drink warm water, or gargle with water, every 15 minutes. According to the posts, the idea is to “wash” the virus from your throat and into your stomach, where stomach acid will kill the disease. While it is always good to stay hydrated, this is not how viruses move through the body. Drinking water of any temperature will not protect you from the virus. 

Immediate Immune Boosts 

Dietitians around the world are receiving questions regarding the ability for garlic, ginseng, and mushrooms to improve immune systems. While eating healthily is the best way to maintain physical health, nobody should expect to achieve immunity overnight. Beginning to eat these immune-boosting foods is a good start to a healthier lifestyle, but pantry staples will not prevent people from contracting the virus.  

COVID-Killer Supplements 

Any nutritional supplement advertising the ability to kill or treat the novel coronavirus is a scam. While eating a balanced diet can boost a person’s immune system, that ability will not come in the form of a pill. No government has yet approved products to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19. In fact, advertising these properties and selling products like this is illegal in most parts of the world.  

While researchers continue searching for valid COVID-19 treatments, the best thing we can do is to stay as healthy as possible. For most people, this means eating a diet with sufficient protein, vitamin C, vitamin A, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, iron, healthy fats, and fiber. If you see something on the shelf that seems too good to be true, it likely is. Get outside (while maintaining social distance), get some vitamin D, and continue practicing essential hygiene standards set by the World Health Organization.  

What’s the Deal with Hydroxychloroquine?

Scientists are rushing to find treatment options to stop the spread of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus. Recently, Donald Trump, the President of the United States, spoke of the potential for a commonly used anti-malarial drug to work effectively against COVID-19. The drug, hydroxychloroquine, is also known to treat certain auto-immune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, especially when other medications have not worked. Additionally, the drug is used to treat post-Lyme arthritis, and it may have both anti-spirochaete and anti-inflammatory properties, which is why our readers may be familiar with it.  

But what is hydroxychloroquine? Does it have the potential political officials are claiming it does? The drug is on the World Health Organizations List of Essential Medicines, which includes the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system, but why did one man die after self-medicating? This quick guide will walk you through what you need to know about the drug.  

What is hydroxychloroquine? 

Put simply, hydroxychloroquine is a medication used for the prevention and treatment of certain types of malaria, as well as some auto-immune diseases. It is taken by mouth, and common side effects include vomiting, headache, changes in vision, and muscle weakness. Only available with a prescription, the drug has been widely available for years. 

Why It’s in the Headlines 

In mid-February 2020, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were recommended by a South Korean task force in the experimental treatment of COVID-19. In early March, the AIFA Scientific Technical Commission of the Italian Medicines Agency spoke favorably of the medication option. We should note that, as a potential treatment, hydroxychloroquine has only been used experimentally and has not been tested on a large scale.  

In mid-March, President Donald Trump spoke highly of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for the novel coronavirus, which is spreading rapidly through the world, causing thousands of deaths. However, these statements were likely made prematurely, as there has not been enough time to conduct thorough tests on the drug’s side effects in coronavirus treatment. Still, people around America are beginning to stock up and hoard hydroxychloroquine, causing a shortage for people who rely on the drug for everyday bodily functions. 

Why it Matters 

In all likelihood, hydroxychloroquine will not be the coronavirus treatment hundreds of millions of people are going to need. Even if it does positively impact coronavirus prognoses, preliminary results are not yet promising enough to say. When the hype dies down, those of you who use this drug regularly should be able to obtain it again. It’s only a matter of time.  

Is Conventional Dietary Advice Wrong?

In the past few decades, we have been told by the nutritional establishment to eat more carbohydrates and less fats. The FDA has the designed the “food pyramid” that recommends a diet that is low in meat, fish and poultry, and high in breads and cereals. 

Following the government’s advice, fat consumption has gone down by 17.5%! Are we any healthier? The surprising answer is NO! 

More people are overweight than ever before. A third of Americans are now obese, which is up from one quarter just ten years ago. Young adults are on average 10 pounds heavier. More people are dying from heart disease than ever before. Heart disease is the biggest killer in America, killing on average 1 person every 64 seconds. Cancer is on the rise with more people getting cancer than ever before. Breast cancer is up over 60%, colon cancer is up 60% and prostate cancer is up over 100%. Lung cancer is up an amazing 262%! Unfortunately, the chances of surviving these diseases in no better than they were over a decade ago. 

Even stranger is new health problems that seemed to have begun to appear out of nowhere. Some of these include food sensitivities, chronic fatigue, candida, and much more. Because these diseases are related to what people eat, where they live and what they do they are referred to as ” lifestyle diseases.”  What is interesting is that prior to the 20th century people in America rarely got these diseases. In other cultures, these diseases don’t exist at all. The truth is that these conditions can be traced directly to our lifestyle and modern diet. 

The Cause of Modern Illnesses 

In cultures where obesity, cancer and heart disease are virtually nonexistent, the factor that they all have in common is their eating habits. A diet of fowl, fish and large amounts of meat and virtually no refined carbohydrates seem to be the common link. In those cultures where the diet has changed in the past few decades these diseases are increasing dramatically. Previously, the Yemenite Jews and the people of Iceland, ate very little starches or sugars and had no cases of arteriosclerosis or diabetes. Today their rate of these illnesses is the same as those of the US. 

The truth is that our bodies were not meant to eat cereals, breads, and refined carbohydrates. We should be eating fruits, nuts, berries and vegetables as well as poultry meats and fish. These are the foods that have been eaten for thousands of years. It is no wonder our systems go haywire when we ingest these foods. 

Why Eating Carbohydrates Can Make You Fat 

To your body the chemical makeup of pastas, breads, and starches is not different (chemically) than pure sugar. Unlike fruits and vegetables, which our bodies metabolize slowly, refined carbohydrate such as pastas give a rush of sugar into the bloodstream. When this happens, your pancreas produces more of the hormone insulin. This is used to convert the excess sugar into glycogen and from that into fat for storage. 

But eating refined carbohydrates is not the only problem. When insulin stores sugar as fat, it stores it in the form of triglycerides–which just happen to be one of the biggest causes of heart disease. So now the real problem starts. As you eat more carbohydrates, your pancreas makes more insulin and a vicious cycle begins again. This roller-coaster causes serious problems with your bodies energy systems.  If you are suffering from chronic fatigue or sometimes you experience “brain fog”, there is a good chance it is caused by too much sugars and starches in your diet. If this condition is left unchecked, it can lead to a serious condition termed “insulin resistance.” With insulin resistance, your body stops responding normally to insulin amounts. Your pancreas beings producing more insulin until it becomes exhausted until it can no longer function properly, the extreme results being diabetes. 

Sugar and Your Immune System 

From here the news gets worse! It has been known for a long time that sugar weakens the immune system. It also increases free radicals, and creates an ideal environment for pathogens, including yeast infections (Candida), E. coli… and the list goes on. Otto Warburg, a Nobel-prize-winning scientist has shown that cancer cells feed on sugar. He also showed that sugar also weakens the capillary wall.  When your capillary walls are weak the body must create new ones. This cycle provides a vehicle for cancers to start and spread to various parts of your system. What does all this mean?  It means that to achieve the healthy bodies we are seeking one of the best things we can do is to cut down on starches and sugars in our diet. But is reducing the amount of intake of these things in your diet enough? 

What Your Body Really Needs 

Another essential part of a healthy nutritional program is to add vitamins minerals and other food supplements to your diet. Many people assume they can get all the nutrition from eating proper foods. Some so-called experts have suggested that supplements are not necessary if you follow proper eating habits. Perhaps this was sound advice at one time, but our food supplies have changed drastically in the past few decades. Much of our food is now grown in nutrient depleted soil because of over-farming and the use of artificial fertilizers. Previously farmers used biologically active composting techniques to provide the essential nutrients that plants need for proper growth. The result has been to weaken the plants immune system and decrease the nutritional value of the plant. This has also created a situation which makes the plants more susceptible to disease and pests resulting in the increased use of pesticides. 

Pesticides have been implicated in cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases. Another important factor is how the produce is harvested. In times past much of the food was home grown and harvested when it was ripe. Now most commercial produce is harvested while it is green and treated with sulfites to help it ripen by the time it reaches the supermarket shelves.  This severely effects the nutritional content of the fruits and vegetables. 

How Processed Foods Rob Your Body 

Besides eating food that provides your system with empty calories, refined foods can deplete your system of vital nutrients! It works like this: There are certain amounts of vitamins and minerals your body needs to metabolize the food you eat. If the food you are ingesting is lacking those essential vitamins and minerals, your body must find another source for them. Where does it find this source? From its own internal stores! It is interesting that all-natural foods have the essential nutrients required for its digestion and absorption. But through the modern growing and refining processes many of our foods are now lacking these vital nutrients. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that over 90% of Americans have a chromium deficiency. This is the mineral your body relies on most to metabolize carbohydrates. The food and drug administration have not made a distinction between eating whole grains and refined flours. (Which nutritionally, are a disaster) The result is that most people are eating more processed carbohydrates like, white bread, crackers, and pasta that is severely affecting their health.  So, what is the answer to this serious problem? 

The answer is to get proper nutrition. Let’s face it, you can’t really expect the government to look out for you, so you will have to look out for yourself. What is the best way to accomplish this if you can’t get it from the foods you eat?  The best way is through nutritional supplements. What supplements you need depends on what your body needs most. For this reason, we have provided a basic chart that describes what each vitamin and mineral does for your body. What symptoms you might experience if you are lacking in any area, and what that supplement needs to be combined with to make it most effective for optimum absorption into your system. 

Supplement Guide

Acidophiles Aids in digestion and regularity. Key to intestinal health. 
Alfalfa Rich in vitamin K and calcium. It contains high potencies of almost all other vitamins and minerals. It has aided in providing resistance to disease. 
Bone Meal with D A good source of calcium and Vitamin D. It also contains phosphorus, and trace mineral such as copper and manganese. 
Brewer’s Yeast An excellent source of B vitamins and minerals. It contains large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. I can be used to prevent constipation, and taken daily with wheat germ, it may aid in preventing heart problems. It also increases energy. 
Desiccated Liver Rich in vitamins A, C, D. Also rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus, and copper. It has been used for stamina by athletes. 
Kelp One of the best natural sources of iodine, also rich in B-Complex vitamins, vitamins D,E,K, calcium, and magnesium. 
Lecithin High in phosphorus. Along with iron, iodine, and calcium, it aids in the digestion and absorption of fats. It may aid in breaking up cholesterol, and therefore, helps in preventing atherosclerosis. It is important in maintaining a healthy nervous system and aids in cleaning the liver and purifying the kidneys. It has also been found to guard against virus infections and prevent the formation of gallstones. 
Oat Bran Helps to balance and reduce cholesterol levels. 
Protein Needed for peak efficiency of the body. Is necessary for growth and development. Deficiency symptoms can include fatigue, and loss of appetite. Can be found in meat, fish eggs, milk, and soybeans. 
Wheat Germ Oil High in unsaturated fatty acids and rich in vitamin E. It has been found to be invaluable in building energy and overcoming fatigue. 

What You Should Know About Chondroitin Complex with Glucosamine

Chondroitin Sulfates are long chains of repeating sugars. They attract fluid into the proteoglycan molecules, which acts as a spongy shock absorber for the joints. They also bring nutrients into the cartilage for nourishment and lubrication. Taken with Glucosamine, Glucosamine helps to form the proteoglycans that sit within the spaces in the netting of the cartilage holding natural fluids in place within the joint. Therefore, Chondroitin and Glucosamine work so well together. One attracts the natural fluids needed and the other holds them in place. 

Used together with Glucosamine, it provides a new alternative therapy for osteoarthritis. This product is cheaper than traditional prescription therapy and is available over the counter. 

Osteoarthritis accounts for about half of all arthritis cases, with the main symptoms including joint pain concentrated in the knees and hips. If left untreated, many osteoarthritis patients eventually face total joint replacement or disability. 

Chondroitin is especially beneficial in the prevention and recovery of joint related injuries and in eliminating the pain of arthritis. An additional benefit of Chondroitin is that it can also protect existing cartilage from a premature breakdown. It does this by inhibiting certain enzymes that destroy cartilage and enzymes that prevent the transport of necessary nutrients. Since these are substances we already consume and produce in much smaller quantities in our bodies naturally, they have no known significant side effects. 

Learn the Basics of a Successful Low Cholesterol Diet

If you’ve just found out that you have high cholesterol and need to go on a low cholesterol diet, then here is an outline on what you should and should not eat in order to help you lower your cholesterol levels. 
Alternatively, you might have just decided that you should eat more healthily in order to prevent yourself from getting high cholesterol. Either way, this is a recommended healthy diet strategy to follow. 
Understanding What a Low Cholesterol Diet is 
Basically, in order to lower your cholesterol, you will have to follow a diet that is 
• low in saturated fat and 
• low in cholesterol 
This is absolutely essential in helping you to lower your cholesterol. You must understand that although cholesterol lowering medications can be prescribed by your doctor, you will still need to follow a controlled diet specifically to help reduce your high blood cholesterol levels. 
Cholesterol is found in eggs, dairy products, fish, meat and poultry. Be aware that many foods contain both high in saturated fat and cholesterol, such as diary products (especially egg yolks) and red meats. Therefore, it is important to limit the amount of such high-fat foods. It is also recommended to opt for the ‘low fat’ versions of any type of food, especially dairy products (low fat yogurts, cheeses, etc.) 
Basic Foods of a Low Cholesterol Diet 
Foods to eat: 
• lean meats 
• skinless poultry 
• fish 
• low fat dairy products 
• complex carbohydrates: pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, cereals, fruits, vegetables 
• low calorie fizzy drinks (limit to one a day) 
• drink plenty of water 
How to cook: 
• grill or roast meats 
• steam or boil vegetables 
• steam fish 
• microwave 
• use low fat oils 
Foods to avoid: 
• crisps, biscuits, chocolate, sweets 
• don’t add whole milk, butter, rich sauces or cream to pasta dishes or any other meal 
• try avoiding white bread 
• alcohol 
• fizzy drinks 
Tip: If you love pasta dishes with sauces, try low fat versions such as adding a tin of tomatoes with a dash of garlic and Worcester sauce as a tomato-based sauce, low-fat cream for a cream-based sauce or a cheese sauce packet-mix made with skimmed milk for a cheese-based sauce. Get used to experimenting with herbs and spices to add different and exotic flavors to your meals. 

Can Flaxseed Cure Heart Diseases?

One of the EFAs in flaxseed oil–alpha-linolenic acid–is known as an omega-3 fatty acid. Like the omega-3s found in fish, it appears to reduce the risk of heart disease and numerous other ailments. 

Flaxseed oil is an excellent source of omega-3s: Just 1 teaspoon contains about 2.5 grams, equivalent to more than twice the amount most Americans get through their diets. Flaxseeds also contain omega-6 fatty acids in the form of linoleic acid; omega-6s are the same healthy fats found in vegetable oils. 

According to the American Heart Association, about 62 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease, which can include high blood pressure, coronary heart disease (heart attack and chest pain), stroke, birth defects of the heart and blood vessels, and congestive heart failure, and close to a million die from such conditions every year. 

Heart disease is by far the #1 killer in the U. S., although 1/3 of those deaths could be prevented if people exercised more and followed better diets, the American Heart Association said in an annual report. 

Cardiovascular disease kills more Americans than the next 7 causes of death combined – including cancer – the AHA report states. Overall, slightly more females than males have cardiovascular disease. Heart disease accounted for 40% of all deaths in the U. S. in 1999. 

Perhaps the greatest evil connected with the problem of heart disease is that certain powerful drug interests deliberately suppress the truth – these are the groups which stand to benefit the most from your illness from heart disease. There is nothing as profitable to a drug company as a patient who is forced to take some drug for the rest of his life – heart medications fit in that category. 

The truth is that although the odds of surviving bypass surgery have improved since the operation was introduced, bypass surgery kills anywhere from 2% to 4% of the patients on the operating table, and more within a few months. The truth is that even respectable medical journals are now carrying articles that say that life expectancy does not increase after bypass surgery.