Friday, May 20, 2011

Fun facts about your immune system!

Here are some fun facts about your immune system that you might not know. Immunity, like many aspects of health, is always clouded by old wives tales and myths.

On the most basic level, the immune system is a complex system of organs, tissues, cells, and cell products that neutralize potentially pathogenic organisms or substances. But enough of the textbook stuff, lets go on to the fun facts.

The simple things can make or break it - A study of 100 men conducted by researchers at the medical school of the State University of New York at Stony Brook finds that "positive events of the day seem to have a stronger helpful impact on immune function than upsetting events do a negative one." Furthermore, the study revealed "having a good time on Monday still had a positive effect on the immune system by Wednesday"; the negative immune effect from undesirable events, however, lasts only one day.

The immune system and sex - A study conducted by researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania suggest that having sex can shore up supplies of IGA a protein from the immune system that plays a critical role in keeping pathogens from entering the body and helps them mount an attack in the event that they enter.

Our love for all things antibacterial – If you thought slathering on tons of antibacterial soap will help protect you, think again. The frequent hand washing can break down the natural oils on the skin that serve as the first line (or layer) of defense for the immune system. In addition, overuse of these products opens the door for strains of common viruses and bacteria that have adapted and grown stronger against our antibacterial-agenda, that can prove detrimental to our health and immunity.

Chicken soup anyone? – This old wives tale may actually have some science to it. According to this study chicken soup can help mitigate the inflammatory response associated with colds and other upper-respiratory infections. Under further examination, the researchers determined that the vegetables and chicken included in the soup each individually had inhibitory activity, although they note that the potency of the effects determined very much on how the soup was made, with commercial soups differing the most in their inhibitory activity.

Take it easy – Finally, once again, stress plays havoc to your immune system in a number of ways. In the words of the Director of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, "the most important thing you can do for your immune system is to achieve lifestyle balance and adopt the fundamentals of healthy living. This will give your immune system what it needs to function at optimal capacity.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Exercises to treat lower back ache

Almost everyone suffers from lower back pain at some point or the other. It could be for a variety of reasons and is especially common among adults. It is often caused by overuse and muscle strain or injury.

Here are some simple tips that will help you overcome it better...

- Avoid positions or activities that increase or cause back pain, use an ice pack when needed and take a painkiller only if you really require it. Most lower back pain gets better when you remain active.

- When your pain is getting relatively lesser, you can opt for simple strengthening exercises for your stomach, back, and legs along with some stretching exercises. Exercise not only helps you recover quicker, it also prevents re-injury to your back.

- Remember that you should get active gradually once you're recovering from pain and slowly increase your activity level. Very little activity will lead to loss of flexibility, strength, endurance levels and eventually pain again.

- Avoid sleeping on your stomach because when your stomach sags downward, it arches your back, increases the lumbar curve and gives you pain. Sleeping on your back will be as uncomfortable. Experts, therefore, suggest sleeping on the side with your legs bent at the knees. This minimises spinal stress by straightening the lumber curve. Try and place a pillow under your knee - this pulls your hips upwards, flattening the lumbar curve and reducing the tension in the area.

- Pay attention to how you sit and stand - bad posture is often the main culprit. Don't slouch when you sit and don't hunch when you stand.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Misconceptions about salt

Experts tell Zeenia F Baria about the common misconceptions associated with salt

How much salt is too much? Are you among those who won't touch their meals without adding copious amounts of salt? Or do you belong to that category that vehemently refuses to add any salt at all to their diet? Too much salt intake and none at all are both equally harmful. According to Consultant Interventional Cardiologist Dr Vijay Surase, salt is considered by many as an essential part of the human diet. While awareness about the perils of excessive salt intake has increased — with supermarket shelves overflowing with food products, which contain less salt or no salt — the question remains, how important is salt restriction?

"Common salt is composed mainly of sodium and chlorine. Sodium chloride is critical for the maintenance of osmotic balance and other functions. It is true that salt can be dangerous for some people and it is also true that sodium chloride can be obtained from other foods. However, research indicates that approximately 80 per cent of the population will actually benefit from consumption of natural sea salt, which is less refined than common table salt and does not contain added aluminum compounds. Unless you're told specifically by a qualified specialist about limiting or stopping your salt intake, it should not be done so because it can cause terrible weakness, drowsiness, depression, convulsions, and even coma. Even hypertensive patients need not live with this fear about salt. Normal salt intake is fine but excess salt in your diet (consumption of French fries, pickles, papads, chaat masala etc should be avoided," says Dr Surase.

Interventional Cardiologist Dr Shantanu Deshpande says that salt is essential for maintaining homeostasis in our bodies. "The normal requirement is just 500 mg per day. Most Indian diets, however, exceed that limit. Normally excessive salt intake is excreted in the urine. But in almost 50 per cent of individuals, the kidneys are not able to handle this excess of sodium. Excess of salt in your blood stream retains more water resulting in a rise in blood volumes and blood pressure. It also results in hypertrophy of heart and blood vessel musculature resulting in permanent rise in blood pressure. These effects are more pronounced in the elderly and diabetics. Reducing salt intake in your diet reduces blood pressure. A low salt diet containing less than 5 gm of salt per day is recommended for high blood pressure patients who should avoid items like chutneys, cheese, processed food items and junk food.

Senior Interventional Cardiologist Dr Rajiv Bhagwat says that the importance of salt intake in regulation of blood pressure is well established. "Reduction of salt is one of the most important and effective life style modifications to reduce blood pressure. A 2 mm reduction in historic blood pressure reduces stroke mortality by 10 per cent and seven per cent reduction in mortality from coronary diseases. Besides reducing blood pressure, salt reduction also reduces Left Ventricular Sickness (Hyper Trophy), reduces protein loss in urine, reduces osteoporosis and bone mineral loss with age, protects against stomach cancer, asthma and possibly against cataracts as well. Increase your intake of potassium, which is found in plenty in fruits, legumes, nuts and vegetables. Their intake is an effective mean to reduce blood pressure."


NOTE: You can consult Dr. Vijay Surase via online/tele consultation at

Monday, May 9, 2011

15-minute workout can keep you fit

A 15-minute workout at the gym helps keep you young as well as fit, according to a study. Researchers found that brief vigorous exercise tends to slow the ageing process.

Just 15 minutes of energetic activity a day reduces stress and prevents the deterioration of vital cells which lead to us feeling and looking older, reports

Even if we are stressed, which tends to speed up the ageing process, we can hold time at bay by working up a sweat.

Psychologist Eli Puterman, who led the groundbreaking research, said the study is built on previous work that showed how changes in DNA result in ageing. "We have extended those findings to show that, in fact, there are things we can do about it," said Puterman. "If we maintain the levels of physical activity recommended by public health bodies we can prevent the damage that psychological stress may have on our body," he added.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Foods that make you feel full

More than how much you eat, what you eat determines the satisfaction level of a meal. Nutritionist Sneha Jain lists 10 foods that make you feel full, without making you fat.

1) Fatty Fish
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which, besides lowering cholesterol, also hasten the metabolism rate. Omega-3 fatty acids alter the level of leptin — a hormone that directly influences metabolism and determines whether you burn calories or store them as fat. Fish also provides ample protein and the best way to eat it is grilled, with steamed vegetables on the side.

2) Citrus Fruits
Fruits such as grapefruit, lemon, sweet lime, papaya, guava and tomatoes are rich in Vitamin C and fibre. Vitamin C helps the body process fat faster and also stimulates the amino acid known as carnitine — carnitine speeds up the body's fat-burning capacity. Citrus fruits also have high water content and provide around 50 to 75 kcal, leaving us satiated for a longer period of time.

3) Green Vegetables
Spinach, asparagus and broccoli have a high thermic effect on the body and a low calorie density. This means that it's almost impossible for them to be stored as fat because most of their calories are burned off in the digestion process. Apart from that, the fibre in these foods provides roughage and contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help you feel full.

4) Popcorn
Popcorn is rich in fibre and low on calories. Also, since eating it keeps our mouth busy for a longer time, the satiety levels are high. However stay away from the overly buttered, caramel and cheese cousins.

5) Oatmeal
Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate which takes longer to digest — hence it releases energy slowly, keeping you feeling full for longer. It also keeps blood sugar and insulin levels stable, which helps prevent fat storage. Oatmeal is the most satisfying breakfast cereal, providing more protein per serving than any other grain. Mix it with yoghurt or skimmed milk and it'll keep you full all morning.

6) Almond and Walnuts
Raw, unsalted nuts, especially almonds and walnuts, provide essential roughage, protein, fat, minerals and micronutrients. Munching on handfuls of these nuts keeps you full and energetic for longer without adding to your waistline.

7) Low-Fat Dairy Products
Skimmed milk, low fat cheese and yoghurt are a good source of calcium, which helps break down fat cells. Some studies indicate that not getting enough calcium may trigger the release of calcitrol, a hormone that causes fat storage.

8) Beans
Beans are high in fibre and a good source of protein. They also take longer to digest, making you feel full for a longer time. Also, protein has the highest satiety index (which determines how long will you feel full) than any other element.

9) Whole grains
Jowar, bajra and ragi contain complex carbohydrates, which release glucose slowly when broken down during digestion. The glucose helps in maintaining your blood sugars levels and combats sugar craving. They are also a rich source of fibre and Vitamin B complex that play an important role in metabolic control.

10) Apples
High water content and ample fibre is the reason why you feel full after eating an apple. An apple's skin contains pectin soluble fibre that is a natural appetite suppressant. Seems like an apple a day keeps the weight away.