Monday, February 27, 2012

Common Cold : Demystified!

Have you ever noticed how medicine commercials for common cold have this one human figure , who always is Glowing, or has a bright aura,  or is always being attacked by monsters, or certain areas around the nose have caught fire , areas around the head have incoming arrows?

I am that human figure today and my nose is changing colours, between Yellow and Red.

Thankfully there aren't any arrows pointing all over my body ( signifying body ache).
Thankfully my brain has not become Red in colour (indicating head ache).

I am simply suffering from common cold.

What is common cold?
A set of symptoms that we call Common cold are caused by a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract( Nasal cavity, Pharynx, Larynx). This may happen due to infection by a variety of viruses, as many as 200, Rhinovirus being the most common.

Essentially, there is no such things as common cold that we refer to. These are only symptoms caused by the several viruses that may affect the respiratory tract.

How does it happen?

The virus deposits itself on to the cells of your nose and causes cell damage. Our body senses the presence and as a defense mechanism trigger the release of inflammatory mediators. Inflammation ( Etymology: Ignite/set alight) is a part of  a response to harmful external stimuli. This is a part of the mechanism of the Innate Immune System , also known as the Non-Specific Immune system i.e. the first line of defense.

This inflammation and activity of the non-specific immune system then produce the symptoms of common cold i.e. running nose, irritation, sore throat etc.

Infact all these are an indication that your body is fighting the virus to eliminate it from the system.
As a defense mechanism the system opens up the blood vessels and releases more fluid and white blood cells to get rid of the virus that caused cell damage.The extra fluid gives you a running nose and the stuffy feeling.

Funny, that that it is infact your own body that causes the symptoms of a common cold.. for your good albeit!

How does it spread?
  • Picking up the virus from an infected person
  • Catching the virus from infested air
  • Catching the virus from a door knob/money/ infested surface etc.
  • Rubbing eyes with infested fingers
  • Inserting infested fingers into your nose .. hahahaha.. always funny!!
  • and other similar situations stated bove

Why is it called common COLD? Does it occur only during cold weather?
It is believed that:  
  • Cold viruses survive outside the host for a longer time in a dry climate and hence may spread more easily during dry winters and summers both
  • During winters our nasal passages become dry and thus it becomes easy for the virus to pass through the passage, but again it only requires entry into the nasal package.
  • During winters synthesis of Vitamin D is low due to low exposure to sunlight, thus reducing the immunity to such infections  
  • During the cold season people stay indoors and gather in crowds indoors which facilitates easy person to person spreading of the virus. 
  • Also, may be we avoid washing our hands in winters as frequently as we would normally do.

Does taking Zinc and Vitmain C tablets help in alleviating the symptoms?

No. Studies suggest that taking daily doses of Vitmain C only shortens the duration of the cold.Thus, an average adult only suffers ONE DAY LESS a year from old, if he/she has taken high doses of vitmain C that year.
Zinc also has minimal benefits.

Suggested Remedies for Colds: 
  1. Take appropriate medication
  2. Drinking plenty of fluids to relieve congestion
  3. Inhale steam to ease congestion
  4. Blow your nose - one nostril at a time to prevent phlegm from moving further down the system
  5. Gargle with salt water to ease soar throat
  6. Drink hot liquids to ease congestion and soothe nose membranes 
  7. Let the body do its job! It knows what to do!
All the best.
Get well soon!
Gute Besserung!
Word gou gesond!
Krya på dig!
Phila masinya!



Sunday, February 19, 2012

Is Suryanamaskar really the Mother of all exercises?

When you're surrounded by the glamour of Bikini Babes flaunting their toned bodies  and Pumped Hunks showing off their six packs , it is easy to conclude that Lifting weights  and spending time in the gym is the only way to get to your dream body.

However, our elders weren't crazy to swear by The Suryanamaskar for achieving long term permanent fitness oriented results.

Oh, Suryanamaskar isn't cool enough for you?? Call it "Sun Salutation".. How does that sound? Cool eh?

Suryanamaskar is a set of postures, said to be challenging 95 -97% of your muscles, whilst only 35-40% are used in daily activities.( remember our Use it or Lose it principle?)

Below is one of the best and most accurate posture series that i could find depicting the 12 positions of The Suryanamaskar:

  • Position 1 - Pranamasana: Stand with feet joined and hands folded in front of the chest and exhale.
  • Position 2 - Hastha Uttanasana: Raise hands and bend backward as you inhale.
  • Position 3 - Uttanasana: Bend forward and place the hands flat on the floor as you exhale.
  • Position 4 - Ashwa Sanchalanasana: Stretch the right leg back while bending the left knee & lowering the torso as you inhale.
  • Position 5 - Adho Mukha Svanasana: Now lift the hips, take the left foot back to join the right foot while lowering your head. Your body should be in a triangular position. This should be done as you exhale.
  • Position 6 - Ashtanga Namaskaram: Now lower the body to the floor and let the chin, chest and knees rest on the floor but not the stomach. Your pelvis will not touch the ground here.
  • Position 7 - Bhujangasana: Drop the stomach/Pelvis and lift your head to raise the upper body as you inhale
  • Position 8 - Adho Mukha Svanasana: Lift the hips up to the triangular position and exhale (same as Pose 5).
  • Position 9 - Ashwa Sanchalanasana: Bringing the left foot forward, you should inhale (same pose as pose 4). 
  • Position 10 - Uttanasana: Straighten your legs and raise hips just as in the Pose 3 as you exhale  
  • Position 11 - Hastha Uttanasana: Raise hands above your head and bend backwards and inhale. 
  • Position 12 - Pranamasana: Fold hands and bring them down to the chest to come back to the starting position and exhale.

Suryanamaskars help in the following ways:

  1. Improves Pulmonary (Lung) & Cardiovascular (Heart) function 
  2. Doing suryanamaskar regularly brings down your Blood Pressure 
  3. Reduces your Resting Heart Rate, which means your heart works more efficiently
  4. Improves functioning of the Respiratory Muscles
  5. Helps in regulating Bowel movements
  6. Reduces emotional stress and calms the mind 
  7. Helps in regulating irregular menstrual cycles
  8. Helps in setting right, muscle imbalances if any
  9. Reduces nagging aches & pains 
  10. Improves blood circulation throughout the body , bringing about a glow on your skin
  11. Helps in exhaling/throwing out of harmful gases/excess carbon dioxide
  12. Burns calories of course
Who should avoid/consult a doctor before starting Suryanamaskars? 
  1. Pregnant women
  2. People with Back problems
  3. People suffering with heart conditions
  4. People suffering with arthritis 
  5. People suffering with high blood pressure
Those who are moderately fit ,and are given a go ahead by doctors to perform this wonderful set of postures ,  can be sure that their chances of falling into the above'Who should avoid' group will be significantly lower as compared to those who do not perform surynamaskars.

How many suryanamaskars should one perform?
Begin doing it, even if it is just one , two or three. Increase gradually to 10, 20, 30 and more as you build stamina and improve your strength & endurance.

So, to you all, Happy Sun Saluting!!



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wine helps: are you consuming 60 litres a day?

So I was at a friend's place. It was a Friday night. Everybody was intoxicated by their own respective poisons. Some were busy mixing up different varieties of poisons , some were happy with large amounts of their own preferred poisons.. some were acting poisonous because of not consuming any poison!

I noticed one of my friends consuming Red wine. He was a Beer head! I couldn't help but ask, " Why Wine?". He said " Wine is good for health!" ... I asked "WHY?" .. He replied, " It's good for my heart you Buzzkill!! Now let me drink in peace"

It was only natural for me to do some research on Red wine and find out what the truth is..

So here's the inside scoop:

Does Red Wine really improve my health?
There is no clear conclusive evidence of the same.There is no research that categorically states that 'x' ml of Red wine daily can cure 'y' disease or bring 'xyz' levels down in the body.

Why the Buzz around Red Wine?
One of the components of Red Wine is RESVERATROL ( an Antioxidant) , which is believed to bring down LDL Cholesterol  ( More on Cholesterol here),  prevent damage to blood vessels and prevent blood clots, is the main reason for the buzz around Red Wine.

So does Resveratrol really Help?? IF Yes/No, why?
Most research that has been done on Resveratrol , has been done on Mice and not on people.

So what? If it's true for Mice, it might help me too?!

May be. Even if you want to make it work for you, an equivalent dose for humans, would translate into a required consumption of 60 Liters a day. ( Capacity chaiye boss! Piyega??)

But evidence is positive, should I start consuming Red Wine?
Though drinking red wine seems beneficial ( there is no evidence), Neither the American Heart Association nor the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend that one should start drinking alcohol just to prevent heart disease. There are better ways of preventing heart disease: Eating healthy, exercising etc. ( Ya'll know! )

So , if I consume Red wine instead of Beer/Whiskey /Vodka , will it help?
There is no conclusive evidence on this. There is a chance all may be equally good/bad , however you want to look at it.

Hence, there is no reason to start consuming alcohol , if you don't.
And if you are a passionate Wine lover, don't overdo it. Moderation is the key to enjoy benefits, if any , from consumption of Red Wine.

Define "Moderation"

Moderation is:

  • 2 Drinks a day for Men
  • 1 Drink a day for Women

Define "Drink" mentioned above:
A drink is defined as: 
  • 12 ounces (355 mL) of beer, 
  • 5 ounces (148 mL) of wine 
  • 1.5 ounces (44 mL) of 80-proof distilled spirits.
Enjoy your drinks... once in a while!.. Cheers!!


Sunday, February 5, 2012

The shocking truth about Cholesterol

Don't be wooed by products promising to be low on "Cholesterol" , because if you don't consume enough cholesterol, your body will make up for it... your liver, to be precise!

For some, the contents of this post may be too hard to believe, but my mission is to debunk myths, no matter how ridiculous they might sound right now. To give you an analogy, there was time when somebody who said that the Earth is ROUND was considered insane. OR there was a decade during which Smoking was not considered harmful... But over the time, research and scientists suggest otherwise.. This is one of those things..

These days , everyone you know is talking about lowering ' Cholesterol '  , which is thought to be a leading cause of Heart Disease.( Few can spell it correctly with an 'e' after the 't').

Here's the shocker: Our body is the most efficient manufacturer of Cholesterol !

How can something so harmful be produced by the body then???
How can our very own liver & intestines produce cholesterol?
Not only that, the liver produces 75% of your body's required cholesterol and sends it to wherever in the body,  it is required.
Also, if you don't consume enough cholesterol , your body will produce the required amount on its own for its use.

All this happens because, our body requires cholesterol!!
  1. It is used to build and maintain membranes.
  2. In the liver, Cholesterol is converted to Bile which aids in absorption of fat along with Fat soluble Vitamins like A,D,E,K in the intestines. 
  3. It also aids in the production of Vitamin D
  4. It aids in synthesis of Hormones;
    • Adrenal Gland Hormones
    • Progesterone 
    • Estrogen
    • Testosterone
So is there a Good and Bad Cholesterol ? ( HDL cholesterol & LDL Cholesterol?)
  • HDL : High Density Lipo-protein
  • LDL: Low Density Lipo-protein
The above are NOT types of cholesterol. Cholesterol is simply cholesterol.HDL and LDL are types of proteins. Cholesterol makes its way to and from tissues by combining itself with other proteins , since fat and our watery blood do not mix well. (HDL and LDL are those proteins).

If cholesterol is not the demon, then what causes heart disease?
Heard Disease is caused by Inflammation of arteries casued by Oxidation of LDL , not due to concentration of LDL.

How does Oxidation of LDLs occur?
Oxidation of LDLs occur when LDLs react with Free Radicals and other factors.

What are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons and can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules.These free radicals occur naturally in the body,however air pollution, Smoking, UV Rays of the sun, chemicals from food, unhealthy processed food, and a lot of other things we put into our bodies also give rise to these damaging particles.  Once formed these highly reactive radicals can start a chain reaction. They turn extremely dangerous when they react with components like DNA and tamper or modify cells. They may even cause cell death. To prevent free radical damage the body has a defense system of Antioxidants 

How to reduce Free Radicals?
By consuming foods rich in Anti-oxidants:
  • Vegetables: red cabbage, spinach, red beet, brussels sprouts
  • Fruits: grapefruit, bilberry, pineapple, watermelons, grapes – particularly red grapes, orange, plum and pomegranate
  • Nuts: walnuts, pecans, groundnuts and hazelnuts
  • Legumes: soybeans, pinto beans and broad beans
  • Dry Fruits: dates, prunes and apricots
  • Spices: cinnamon, cloves and cayenne pepper
  • Meat Food Sources: Chicken, lamb, fish (salmon), turkey and crab meat
Other important pointers to reduce Oxidation of LDLs?
  • Stop Smoking
  • Reduce consumption of Trans Fats 
  • If you have Diabetes or any other Metabolic conditions , get it under control by Exercising and eating Healthy
OK, But What the hell are Trans- Fats now??
Trans Fats are those fats that are not occur naturally and are usually solid at room temperature. Trans fats are formed during hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is a process by which unsaturated fats are bombarded with hydrogen.  These are commercially used in foods to extend their shelf life or to add texture/taste to the food. 

So don't be wooed by products promising to be low on "Cholesterol" , because if you don't consume enough cholesterol, your body will make up for it... your liver, to be precise!