Thursday, June 23, 2011

Music that heals!

Indian classical music is perceived as spiritual. It doesn't matter what instruments you play or if you are just singing, you are connecting with a higher power and this in turn can have positive effects on your mind and body.

Studies have already proved that playing an instrument stabilises your blood pressure, slows down your heart beat and helps concentration. Music therapist Harendra Khurana uses this to heal his patients.

The well-known specialist tells us that you don't need an expert for all your problems - different instruments touch various chakras of your body which make you stronger both mentally and physically.

Guitar: brings joy
The sound of strings is very close to the human voice, which is why your body reacts to it so well. I had a patient who was paralytic and I recommended that he listen to music that he grew up on - tracks from Woodstock, The Beatles, etc. He showed remarkable improvement. That is the effect a guitar can have. It provides instantaneous joy, and the happiness you get from playing a guitar translates into your life as well.

Sitar: inspires creativity
The sitar, on the other hand, inspires creativity. The sound it makes is very peculiar and it travels from your head to the toe. It touches your Swadishtan chakra which is related to creativity in your body. People who play the sitar are always looking to extend their boundaries and think out of the box. I have also found that it helps in relieving a bad stomach.

Santoor: higher intuition
The santoor might also belong to the classical realm, but the sound it makes interacts with the body very differently. The santoor enhances the intuitive aspect of a person. The high notes of the santoor have an effect on the Ajna chakra in the head. It also helps in relieving nausea, vomiting and chronic pain.
Drums: mental anchor
All percussive instruments have an earthy sound, it roots you. Percussions in Indian traditions have a direct effect on the Mooladhar chakra which deals with grounding a person. If you are rooted through rhythm, your mind patterns get regulated. There is a reason why wars around the world carried drums with them. These instruments can give confidence to a dull mind, they are the best cure for mental slowness and lack of concentration. Also, remembering drum patterns while learning the instrument increases your memory.

Flute: a mood uplifter
Studies have shown that wind instruments help with lung power because you are regulating your breathing. So the fact that it helps you with diseases like asthma and bronchitis is a given. In our traditions however, the bansuri has an effect directly with the Vishuddhi chakra which is placed near the throat.
This, in turn, helps people who play this instrument communicate better. The connection between the mind and your voice is enhanced, which keeps your mind clear so that you can be a better orator. It also works well on your bones and can heal diseases like spondylitis. When you are down in the dumps or going through depression, play the flute because its sound reminds you of nature and works best to make you happy again.

Now this does not apply to most jazz instruments because they have a booming sound. Try out the more traditional ones first.

Piano: soothing effects
Pianos, keyboards and most other key instruments are all about soothing your body. Most classical music, especially Western symphonies, depends a lot on keyboards.

Just like a cold 'hello' on the phone puts you off a person, many key instruments have a synthetic sound. Try and stay away from them.

Try and pick an instrument with an acoustic sound. The only problem is that they are very expensive. But if you can afford it, the piano is a great instrument for people with sleeping disorders.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Health benefits of music!

Listening to music is beneficial to your health, here's the A-Z of how...

A – Alleviate pain
Music is used in hospitals to alleviate pain in conjunction with anaesthesia or pain relief medication.

B – Brain booster
Studies show that music can help the brain develop better in children, as well as help reduce memory loss in older adults.

C – Concentration
Music helps concentrate on certain chores. Upbeat songs help energise your mind and stimulate your brain cells to focus on the chore.

D – Digestion
It is said that listening to some soothing music, particularly classical music, helps our bodies digest food better. This is because music induces the body to reduce the levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, in our bloodstream. This helps the body relax and absorb the nutrients better.

E – Eases muscle tension
Lessens muscle tension for the purpose of relaxation, including the autonomic nervous system.

F – Fitness
Many health and fitness instructors regard the addition of music to exercise important and helps boost the person’s energy levels especially during cardio activities, this helping them on their path to fitness.

G – Good coordination
Musical instruments need you to synchronise the movement of your fingers, arms, hands, and facial muscles. This leads to having a good mind and body coordination.

H – Healing properties
Due to its healing properties, music therapy is being used vastly in many medical centres

I – Induce sleep
Calm or sedate music is often used to induce sleep

J – Jazz
A research on individuals suffering from headaches and migraines, in which they were treated with jazz music, showed that apart from preventing migraines, jazz music also lessens the period of a migraine attack.

K – Knowledge enhancer
Music is said to enhance higher brain functioning such as reading, literacy skills, spatial-temporal reasoning, mathematics, emotional intelligence and memory. Music helps improve concentration and attention, thus allowing you to grasp more knowledge.

L – Lowers blood pressure
Soothing music is said to combat stress and hence lower ones blood pressure

M – Mood elevation
Helps elevate patients mood and counteracts depression.

N – Necessary lullabies
A study has indicated that premature babies, whose much-needed energy is often drained by stress, seem to thrive when relaxing music in the form of lullabies is played.

O – Osteo-rheumatoid arthritis reliever
Music helps manage and reduce the effects of chronic osteo and rheumatoid arthritis as it not only distracts but also releases endorphins, which counteract pain.

P – Parkinsons aid
Incorporating music therapy that includes music-inspired free movement and vocal exercises during physical therapy sessions helps stimulate multiple sensory pathways and improves both the mobility and emotional well-being of Parkinson’s patients.

Q – Quietens the nerves
Music helps calm and soothe the nerves, which in return help alleviate the mood.

R – Relaxation
Music calms the mind, thus making you more relaxed

S – Stimulating brainwaves
Research has shown that music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves. Faster beats leading to sharper concentration and alert thinking, and slower beats promoting a calm, meditative state of mind.

T – Therapeutic
Music is said to be therapeutic. Music Therapy is practiced world over to help patients rehabilitate and de-stress

U – Urine passing
Listening to soft soothing music helps you to urinate better and without forced exertion.

V - Violin health
Playing a musical instrument like a violin leads to a better posture, healthier hear rate, stronger muscles and weight loss.

W – Well being
Music provides a sense of well being as it helps alleviating ones moods. It helps keeping depression and stress at bay.

X – Xpression
Music is a great form of expression that allows each one's individuality to be explored, as they express themselves through music.

Y – Yodelling to good health
It is said that the throaty singing style, used for years as means of communication, now comes with added health benefits. A good yodel aids in releasing stress and calming the nerves.

Z – Zest of life
Music can be called the zest of life, as it helps counter emotional upheavels and livens up your mood. Also it releases endorphins and hormones that boost your energy levels, ensuring a fulfilling day ahead.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health

Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet can be good for your heart. Nuts, which contain unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients, are a great snack food, too. They're easy to store and easy to take with you to work or school.

The type of nut you eat isn't that important, although some nuts have more heart-healthy nutrients and fats than do others. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts — you name it — almost every type of nut has a lot of nutrition packed into a tiny package. If you have heart disease, eating nuts instead of a less healthy snack can help you more easily follow a heart-healthy diet.

Can eating nuts help your heart?
People who eat nuts as part of a heart-healthy diet can lower the LDL, low-density lipoprotein or "bad," cholesterol level in their blood. High LDL is one of the primary causes of heart disease.Eating nuts reduces your risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack. Nuts also improve the health of the lining of your arteries. The evidence for the heart-healthy benefits of nuts isn't rock solid — the Food and Drug Administration only allows food companies to say evidence "suggests but does not prove" that eating nuts reduces heart disease risk.

What's in nuts that's thought to be heart healthy?
Although it varies by nut, most nuts contain at least some of these heart-healthy substances:
- Unsaturated fats. It's not entirely clear why, but it's thought that the "good" fats in nuts — both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — lower bad cholesterol levels.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a healthy form of fatty acids that seem to help your heart by, among other things, preventing dangerous heart rhythms that can lead to heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in many kinds of fish, but nuts are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Fiber. All nuts contain fiber, which helps lower your cholesterol. Fiber also makes you feel full, so you eat less. Fiber is also thought to play a role in preventing diabetes.
- Vitamin E. Vitamin E may help stop the development of plaques in your arteries, which can narrow them. Plaque development in your arteries can lead to chest pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack.
- Plant sterols. Some nuts contain plant sterols, a substance that can help lower your cholesterol. Plant sterols are often added to products like margarine and orange juice for additional health benefits, but sterols occur naturally in nuts.
- L-arginine. Nuts are also a source of l-arginine, which is a substance that may help improve the health of your artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots that can block blood flow.

What amount of nuts is considered healthy?
Nuts contain a lot of fat; as much as 80 percent of a nut is fat. Even though most of this fat is healthy fat, it's still a lot of calories. That's why you should eat nuts in moderation. Ideally, you should use nuts as a substitute for saturated fats, such as those found in meats, eggs and dairy products.

Instead of eating unhealthy saturated fats, try substituting a handful of nuts. According to the Food and Drug Administration, eating about a handful (1.5 ounces, or 42.5 grams) a day of most nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts, may reduce your risk of heart disease. But again, do this as part of a heart-healthy diet. Just eating nuts and not cutting back on saturated fats found in many dairy and meat products won't do your heart any good.

Does it matter what kind of nuts you eat?
Possibly. Most nuts appear to be generally healthy, though some more so than others. Walnuts are one of the best-studied nuts, and it's been shown they contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and pecans are other nuts that appear to be quite heart healthy. Even peanuts — which are technically not a nut, but a legume, like beans — seem to be relatively healthy. Coconut, which is technically a fruit, may be considered by some to be a nut, but it doesn't seem to have heart-healthy benefits. Both coconut meat and oil don't have the benefits of the mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

Keep in mind, you could end up canceling out the heart-healthy benefits of nuts if they're covered with chocolate, sugar or salt.

How about nut oils? Are they healthy, too?
Nut oils are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, but they lack the fiber found in whole nuts. Walnut oil is the highest in omega-3s. Nut oils contain saturated as well as unsaturated fats. Consider using nut oils in homemade salad dressing or in cooking. When cooking with nut oils, remember that they respond differently to heat than do vegetable oils. Nut oil, if overheated, can become bitter. Just like with nuts, use nut oil in moderation, as the oils are high in fat and calories.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tips for an anti-stress diet

Every day make sure you eat:

• An orange, fresh vegetables and dark green leaves for vitamin C, folic acid, selenium and antioxidants.

• Fish, such as tuna and salmon for vitamins A, D and E, essential fatty acids for your brain, zinc and manganese for your immune system.

• Half a pint of skimmed milk or two low-fat yoghurts to get your quota of calcium.

• Unrefined carbohydrates, such as wholemeal bread and brown rice – eat three portions to keep your brain serotonin levels up and to provide mood-regulating B vitamins.

• Onions, broccoli and tomatoes and drink tea for flavonoids. These are potent antioxidants that protect cells and may help prevent cancer.

Source: Daily Mirror/

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Foods to prevent/manage Hypertension

With 95% of all cases of hypertension belonging to the essential hypertension category, the best way to prevent hypertension, is to pay close to attention to our diet. Following is a list of 6 common foods that you would normally overlook, but these 6 foods are quite effective when it comes to preventing or lowering hypertension!

Garlic: Garlic is known as the most effective agent against hypertension or high blood pressure, as it contains a compound known as Adenosine which dilates the muscles of the blood vessels, which helps to lower high blood pressure. Further boosting the effectiveness of garlic against hypertension is the presence of hydrogen sulphide and allicin - an organosulfur compound, both of which help immensely in reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol levels too!

To get the maximum benefit from garlic, it is best to consume it in its raw form. Consuming a clove of raw garlic a day goes a long way in controlling hypertension.

Saffron: India is known as the land of spices and herbs, one such herb saffron, is immensely effective when it comes to managing hypertension. Saffron or Kesar, as it is popularly known contains a water soluble carotenoid called as crocetin, which is known to lower high blood pressure in individuals suffering from hypertensions.

In fact researchers point out that in Spain, where saffron is consumed as a part of daily diet, there are very few hypertension cases reported as compared to other nations.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes are found in almost every Indian meal preparation either as a garnish or as an ingredient. But these very tomatoes go a great way in helping to protect you from hypertension, as they contain large quantities of calcium and potassium – 2 substances required to control the levels of sodium in one’s bloodstream, along with Vitamins A, C and E.

Tomatoes also contain anti-oxidants in the form of Lycopene which prevent the LDL cholesterol- bad cholesterol from oxidizing and sticking to the walls of blood vessels which results in elevated blood pressure levels. Moreover Tomatoes are also known to be high in gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) which is proven to lower high blood pressure levels.

Banana: This yellow colored delicious fruit comes packed with potassium, which works in accordance with sodium to regulate the bodily fluids, thereby not letting the levels of sodium rise; rise in sodium levels in the body leads to hypertension. Research conducted by Indian scientists has found that natural compounds found in the banana mimic the actions of anti-hypertension drugs!

Coconut Water: The simple and tender coconut is great when it comes to controlling and reducing high blood pressure. Containing high quantities of potassium in excess of 600 mg per 11 oz of serving, coconut water also contains high levels of Vitamin C which make it very effective in controlling or preventing hypertension. However, one must not consume too much coconut water as it also contains sodium along with potassium.

Spinach: Spinach is one of the richest natural sources of calcium, magnesium and potassium. Plus spinach consists of Folate, a B-vitamin found in tomatoes and citrus fruits; Folate is known to help in the reduction of Homocysteine, an amino acid found in blood which damages blood cells. Folate is also known to help blood vessels relax, which helps to improve blood pressure.

So, now that you know of the foods that will help prevent and control hypertension, do go ahead and incorporate them in your diet and thereby not include yourself in the 10% of adult Indians suffering from hypertension.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Don't go for coffee with fast food

Avoid coffee during a fast food meal because it could have dangerous repercussions for your wellbeing as it causes a spike in blood sugar levels.

"A healthy person's blood sugar levels shoot up after eating a high-fat meal, but that spike doubles after having both a fatty meal and caffeinated coffee - jumping to levels similar to those of people at risk of diabetes," says Marie-Soleil Beaudoin from University of Guelph.

"The results tell us that saturated fat interferes with the body's ability to clear sugars from the blood and, when combined with caffeinated coffee, the impact can be even worse," said Beaudoin, doctoral student who conducted the study, reports the Journal of Nutrition.

"Having sugar remain in our blood for long periods is unhealthy because it can take a toll on our body's organs," adds Beaudoin, who conducted the study with Guelph professors Lindsay Robinson and Terry Graham, according to a University of Guelph statement.

The study is the first to examine the effects of saturated fat and caffeinated coffee on blood sugar levels using a novel fat cocktail which contains only lipids. This specially designed beverage allows researchers to accurately mimic what happens to the body when we ingest fat.

For the study, healthy men drank about one gram of the fat beverage for every kilogram of body weight for their first meal. Six hours later, they were given a second meal consisting of a sugar drink.

Typically when we ingest sugar, the body produces insulin, which takes the sugar out of the blood and distributes it to our muscles, said Beaudoin. But the researchers found that the fatty meal affected the body's ability to clear the sugar out of the blood. The subjects' blood sugar levels were 32 per cent higher than they were when the men had not ingested the fat cocktail.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Remedies for cough

When you have a cough due to cold, it is advisable to increase the liquid intake in your body. Here are some more tips to tackle a bout of cough in this weather:

- Drink plenty of water and preferably warm or hot water. Also, consume tea, coffee, soups etc.

- Avoid eating spicy and fried foods as it irritates the throat.

- Chewing cough lozenges is a good way to keep throat irritation at bay and thus, prevent cough.

- Add honey and lime juice in a warm glass of water with a pinch of pepper. Keep sipping this throughout the day.

- Keeping a clove in your mouth. This will help in preventing cough.

- Eating freshly sliced ginger is beneficial for treating cough.

- Drink a hot glass of milk with turmeric. This is an old and well-known remedy practised in Indian households.