Is fasting right for me?

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One of the greatest pleasures for me and surely for many others, is traveling. Knowing other ways of life and exploring the way people in distant cultures relate to their environment, including ways of nourishing, is fascinating to me.

Even though there are many stories to share after traveling through 3 countries and around 15 cities or towns in almost a month, I’m going to focus on an experience I had that I’m sure may happen to others and it can be quite useful to have in hand.

As you can imagine, I applied all the recommendations and common sense to avoid getting sick in my belly since inevitably when the environment changes, our bioecosystem is also affected and digestion is the first aspect that shows. We only ate in known restaurants varieties of salads, and tagines of lamb or chicken with lemon or plums and more vegetables with couscous. (Tagine refers to a clay pot in which a animal protein, spices and vegetables are cooked. It is very common in North Africa and its widely popular and easy to find). Of course , I only drank bottled water without ice.

Anyone would think that when you eat like this for 8 days, there’s no reason to get sick. Right?

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Well, I thought the same until we had a long day traveling and I started feeling sick in my stomach, I was green, had diarrhea, abdominal pain, I was sweating, I felt weak and unhappy. I really did not understand what could have provoked that reaction, I concluded the  vegetables were not washed properly considering I took all the precautions.

This was the breaking point that made me decide to do intermitent fasting, which is what I plan to write about today. Intermittent fasting means not eating food (only water or herbal infusions) for a period of at least 12 hours. I fasted for periods of 12 to 15 hours alternating days and little by little I began to feel much better. (Always hydrating with mineral water and salts, of course)

There are different types of fasting: intermitent fasting for 12-16 hours a day a couple of days a week, calorie-restriction by eating only 500 calories per day (and fasting the rest of the day), 24 hour fasting 2 days of the week or more days.

Some people close to me, fast regularly obtaining good results and some others have asked me several times about this topic. This is the reason I decided its worth explaining the benefits of this practice and what needs to be considered before you attempt to fast.

What happens in the body when you fast?

  • Beneficial bacteria are radically improved in the intestine. Remember that the cells of the microorganisms that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract exceed the human cells in a ratio of 10 to 1. By strengthening the intestinal flora, the immune system is beefed up, mental clarity improves as well as energy levels and it is harder to get sick and to stay sick
  • Changes in metabolic function: By not having glucose (which is the main source of energy in the body), the body begins to burn fat cells as an alternative form of fuel. This means that it helps you lose weight
  • Reduction of cellular inflammation and reduction of free radicals
  • Longevity increases and incidence of diseases are reduced
  • Increase in insulin sensitivity

As you can see, it really has many benefits, I’m just mentioning the most important ones.

In any case, it is crucial that the following points are taken into account to obtain positive results.

Points to consider before fasting

  • Hydration is crucial and should be of good quality: mineral water, herbal infusions for example
  • If you suffer from eating disorders such as bulimia,  fasting is not recommended
  • Consume highly nutritious foods on non-fasting days that contain good quality protein (both vegetable and animal protein unless you are vegetarian), healthy fats (nuts, seeds, olives) and minimize carbohydrates
  • If you suffer from adrenal fatigue, diabetes 1 or hypothyroidism you should not fast because it may generate negative hormonal responses
  • You must have sleep cycles of 8 hours per night

As you can see, fasting is excellent but it is not for everyone. It is important to consider bioindividuality to determine if this option is feasable. Personally, it worked for me and it is very likely that I will do it more often.

As always, I hope this blog is useful and if so, do not forget to share it with everyone you care for.

 

Bear hugs!

 

Maria Ximena Ospina

Integrating mind and body

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Hi there my friends,

As you know, my interest is to motivate, educate and, above all, raise awareness to create well-being at all levels. Physical nutrition, (by physical I refer to food), is crucial to have optimal levels of energy and prevent disease. Clearly, nobody wants to be sick. However, physical food is not everything. Drinking smoothies and becoming vegan is not enough if one doesnt cultivate self-awareness (Mindfulness). And how hard it is to practice it every day! The good news is that it is not impossible, we all have the capacity to observe ourselves inwardly and give a name to those tendencies that we have, which lead us to act in a certain way (sometimes constructively and others destructively).

Only when this exercise of self-awareness is done constantly, it is possible to redirect attention in such a way that it helps us to live a life with plenitude and well-being.

Photo by geocities.ws

Some people might think “why are you writing about this topic that has nothing to do with food?” I can say that it has EVERYTHING to do with food. An anti-inflammatory diet is excellent, it will contribute tremendously to improve health but if that person has a negative perception about himself, has low self-esteem and feels lonely, it is very likely that the changes in diet are not entirely effective. The connection between body, mind and spirit is very close, therefore it is necessary to pay attention and cultivate every aspect. Many scientific studies show that problems such as anxiety, chronic pain and depression are curable when a higher level of consciousness develops.

So, friends, this blog is an invitation to self-observation.

In this path of getting out of the usual “autopilot” mode in which we live, I am very interested in what we are taught by experts in mindfulness and neuro-codification. So I’m going to share these authors because I want you to investigate on your own. Do not even believe what I write, I simply wish to encourage you to open your mind so that you can expand your consciousness and thus achieve the fullness and wellbeing that we want so much. (I clarify that I have no relationship with these authors, nor do I get benefits for naming them)

Photo by goodreads.com

 

 

“If you increase consciousness, changes come alone”

Jon Kabat -Zinn

 

Jon Kabat-Zinn – American professor of medicine and molecular biologist, considered as the father of mindfulness, affirms that through mindfulness, (through Zen meditation) it is possible to restore corporal and mental balance creating well-being. The active observation of the present moment without judgments is transformative, it has the ability to change our brain, to expand memory, to increase learning capacity and to manage stress by favorably affecting the amygdala in the brain (which is the internal alarm button that produces stress ). Check out this article and this video.

This topic is closely related to epigenetics which refers to the study of all non-genetic factors that regulate gene expression without altering the DNA sequence. Dr. Nathalie Zammateo, – Belgian Biological Sciences PhD- wrote a book called The Impact of Emotions on DNA, which I think is very interesting because it talks about DNA being information, with millions of neurotransmitters communicating with each other. The activity of these neurotransmitters is affected by the environment and part of the environment are emotions. When emotions are managed (through self-consciousness) it is possible to generate emotional health which is reflected in physical health.

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Every day, there are more scientific studies and more evidence that shows that the mind has an incredible power over health, thoughts whatever they are, generate emotions and when these are very intense and negative they also make us sick and take us off balance.

The Solution?

I have already said it in other blogs and I will continue saying: meditation is a great tool and for this there is a lot of information on YouTube where you can find guided meditations, music to meditate, yoga and many options for everyone.

Stop making excuses for not paying attention, changes start from the inside out and each one of us has the tools to achieve a better version. So I encourage you to get focused. If you need professional help, I am available to device a personalized plan for you.

Namaste!

Maria Ximena Ospina

 

Interview with Dr. Joel Furhman Part 2

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Hi dear friends!

Remember the first part of this interview? If not, go back to my previous blog.

Previously, Dr. Furhman was mentioning that he recommends to keep animal products to the minimum and the reasons why. (Apart from the fact that food industrialization methods have decreased the quality of products, it is now proven that they also raise a hormone called HGF1 (Insuline Growth Factor 1) which increases heart rate, diabetes and rates of cancer.

CONTINUATION OF INTERVIEW

MXO: It’s interesting that you touch on this because in this country (Colombia), there is a belief that if they aren’t any meat, chicken or fish on the plate, is not a complete meal. We need to educate people about this.

Dr. Furhman: Right, when I was in high school I was taught the same, this was 30 or 40 years ago. Now I am in my sixties and we have studies that show that animal products, high in protein, drive growth hormones too high and accelerates growth that shouldn’t be growing as an adult. For example, growth of cancer. We want foods (plant foods) that don’t drive the growth hormone that high. So, we are able to obtain muscle mass but we are not going to have that extra growth hormone that will cause cancer cells.

We have been confused for years but now we have studies that have followed people for years to see the effects of plant protein vs animal protein throughout their lives and we see that those on a plant diet have less heart attacks, less strokes and less dementia.

If you really want to include animal products in your diet, I recommend to limit it to 10 ounces a week maximum. You can make delicious meals with a tiny bit of animal products just to flavor the dish.

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MXO: Can you tell us more about GBOMBS?

Dr. Furhman: It means: Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds. I want people to memorize these foods because they are the ones that show more protection against cancer, it prolongs life spam if they are cooked regularly.

MXO: What is the relationship between non-nutritional foods and emotional health?

Dr. Furhman: I use research studies to wrote a book called Fast Food Genocide that documents how process foods, commercial baked food and fast foods are linked to depression in a non-dependent manner. 2 serves of these foods a week will double our risks of dementia and depression, when you go more than two serves a week, you will increase the chances. Now in the United States, 1 of 5 Americans are mentally ill, a 100 years ago, it was 1 in a hundred Americans. And no one is talking about this. People know that these foods cause diabetes but no one is talking about the effects on the brain. It affects intelligence, behavior, creativity, emotional positivity. Unhealthy foods make you into a food addict and when you are an addict, you are driven by your desire to feed your addiction. It becomes the purpose of your life. So, everything else suffers, family life, your outlook to life, everything. People become prisoners of their own addiction.

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MXO: If anyone wanted to learn more about your work, where can they find more information?

Dr. Furhman: I have built a facility to help people with food addictions, also I have written 10 books to guide and educate everyone and I see patients in my office. For those who are just starting, I would recommend the book The End of Dieting. Another great book is Eat for Health and at my website www.drfurhman.com people can ask me questions, check research studies, get recipes, and have access to a lot of information.

MXO: Excellent! Dr. Fuhrman, thank you very much for taking the time to share your knowledge with us. I am a big fan of your work and now through this interview others can also learn this valuable information.

Dr. Furhman: Terrific, best of health for you and your readers, I am so grateful for the fact that you are spreading the word in different parts of the world.

 

Ok, my friends, I hope you learnt more about nutrition and wellbeing as I have doing this interview.

I would absolutely love to read your comments, they motivate me to continue sharing with you. Don’t forget to share with friends and family.

Hasta pronto!!

 

Maria Ximena Ospina

 

 

 

Interview with Dr. Joel Fuhrman Part 1

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Hi dear friends!

As promised, I am sharing the interview with Dr. Joel Furhman. Talking to such a prestigious doctor was an absolute pleasure and now I am ready to share it with you!

Interview

MXO: Good evening Dr. Fuhrman, it is a pleasure for me to meet you virtually and have you share your knowledge with us.

Dr. Furhman: Thank you.. It’s a pleasure for me to be here.

MXO: Apart from being a Board-certified family physician, have written 10 books related with nutrition, you have done extensive research in the field of nutrition helping lots of people to lose weight permanently and reverse chronic diseases. According to the data collected by the Colombian Department of Public Health, 56% of the population are obese and most chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, heart disease and some types of cancer, represent about 90% of the public health costs.

Clearly these figures are alarming, and we need to look at nutrition and habits in a more conscious way.

As an Integrative Health Coach, I am very interested in sharing studies from recognized medical doctors like yourself to educate people about the dangers of our current eating habits and lifestyle habits.

Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with us today. Recently I wrote a blog about the nutritarian diet which you advocate.

Can you explain what the nutritarian diet is about?

Dr. Furhman: Certainly. Well, the question is, is there one goal standard or ideal way of eating that can maximize the life spam of the vast majority of people? In other words, what are all the factors, nutritional and dietary that will slow aging and extend human life spam? When we do that, we find that when we rev nutritional excellence up that degree to maximize human life spam, prevent cancer, heart attacks, strokes, dementia, then we also have a powerful way to reverse disease. So, people who are diabetic, will lose weight and become non-diabetic, people who suffer from headaches, the headaches will go away, those who suffer from asthma, will stop using inhalers because it goes away, so what I am saying here is not only that nutritional excellence not only prevents chronic diseases, it is also more therapeutically effective than medications.

A nutritarian diet means a diet rich in nutrients and I will refer to two principles. Firstly, the most foundational studies show that the most proven methodology to slow aging and extend the life spam its moderate caloric restriction in an environment of micronutrient excellence. This means exposure to a diversity of micronutrients from colorful plants. What we see in developed countries is that diets are high in processed foods and animal products and very low in foods with phytonutrients, antioxidants, with anticancer effects.

The second principle has to do with a diet that is hormone – favorable because certain hormones in excess can increase the risk of cancer. For example, when you are overweight, specially around your belly, those fat cells produce vast amounts of estrogen, and high levels of estrogen increase the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.

MXO: Do you think we can control appetite with a diet rich in nutrients?

Dr. Furhman: Having a diet rich in nutrients means less appetite, no rush of sugar means no addictive behavior towards food. When people eat diets with a high glycemic content (high levels of glucose), like bagels and white rice, the body responds with a huge insulin release response, and this increases the chances of heart disease, cancer and dementia. The brain can be damaged by the rapid rush of sugar in to the blood stream but it can also be damaged by the high level of insulin.

More sugar also means more calories, and this caloric rush can create addiction. Why? Because it stimulates dopamine in the brain creating addictive behaviors. It has a drug-like effect in people.

When you eat a diet that is high in water, fiber and nutrients it occupies space in the stomach, its digested slowly and helps to control appetite.

MXO: Can you explain the term “metabolic waste” and how it relates to body toxicity?

Dr. Furhman: The modern diet is high in animal products, which has lots of nitrogen waste, ammonia, urea, uric acid, and the processed grains (carbohydrates) don’t contain nutrients, both raise toxins in the body, metabolic waste products, so the body has more toxicity. In a diet like this one, when you try not eat more food, the body is going to feel more fatigued, weaky, headachy, basically you won’t feel well in a non-feeding state because the body is trying to cleanse and repair in the non-digestive state. So, you eat a meal right, and you are busy digesting and eating and you feel better because your body stopped detoxing.

When a person is not eating healthy, they build up more waste products in the body and the waste products act like drug waste (same as with drug addicts). People mistakenly confused fatigue as a sign of hunger, but it’s not hunger its being toxic. This toxicity means more acidity, more free radicals which will affect the entire body.

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Photo by Wellandgood.com

MXO: Ok, so we know we need to eat a diversity of colorful vegetables. If fresh vegetables aren’t available, would you recommend frozen vegetables?

Dr. Furhman: A lot the times frozen vegetables are even more nutrient rich and even fresher. Sometimes when they pick the vegetables, they overcook them or are not good quality (making reference to cooked frozen vegetables as opposed to fresh frozen vegetables) so it’s better to eat the frozen vegetables that were picked and frozen right away.

MXO: There is a growing number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in Colombia including children. If you could give 2 specific recommendations what would they be?

Dr. Furhman: The most favorable carbohydrate for a diabetic are legumes like lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas, all type of beans. They are full of resistant starch and they contain slowly digestive starches. Another food that I recommend are nuts and seeds, they are good fats which are broken down very slowly. So, a typical lunch could be a big salad with raw vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, lettuce with a nut dressing with almonds and sunflower seeds, with some balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic. So, the secret is to make the dressing with nuts, not with oil. And then a bowl of beans soup and a piece of fruit for dessert. So, we are not using processed oils, rice or refined carbs.

Ideally you want to get most of your carbohydrates from beans, raw vegies and fruits.

We are talking about a diet that is heave in plants basically.

If animal products are in the diet, they should be kept to a minimum level because they drive the nutrients out of the body that are needed to heal. Also, because they raise a hormone called IGF1 (Insulin Growth Factor 1) which increases heart rate, makes diabetes worse and increases rates of cancer. So, we want to keep this IGF1 hormone low by being on a vegan diet or keeping animals’ products to the minimum.

End of Part One

Are you learning something new? What are your thoughts? I would love to read your comments.  Keep an eye on Part Two of this interview.

In the meantime, subscribe to my site to keep learning how to nourish yourself better.

Bear hugs,

 

Maria Ximena Ospina

The Power of Self Talk

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Hi there my friends!

I bet this happens to many of you because unfortunately, we do it often: you are sitting in front of someone and while he/she is talking to you, you have a hundred thoughts running through your mind. Your body is there but your mind is somewhere else. In the meantime, the person in front of you is hoping you are listening, but clearly you are not. You are not present. We are bombarded by thoughts every minute of the day, some have to do with situations in the past and others with plans in the future, but rarely with the present. While we are recreating the different scenarios (of what could have been but didn’t or what could be but hasn’t happened yet), we waste a lot of time not realizing that what matters is what we are now. Our internal narrative becomes our world, we play the same scenario so many times in our mind that without knowing it, we act on it and make it our reality. This is the power of self talk. Not only can we shape our destiny with our thoughts, we can alter them if we pay attention to the quality of these thoughts.

But how do you become aware of the quality of your thoughts? Because they happen very quickly and we also act on them very quickly. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I can share with you these tips that have helped me and I trust that if you are persistent, you will also benefit from them. They are not magic tricks, in other words, you will not see results overnight, they are meant to create a mindset that builds you up so think of them as steps to include in your routine to a better you.

Start a gratitude practice

It is always easier to be negative. Whichever the situation is, because life is not perfect, focus on finding reasons to be grateful. Be grateful for being alive, for the experiences that you have lived so far, for your health, for feeling the sun or the cold wind in your face, for the food in front of you. Focus on the positives, not the negatives. This practice sets a wonderful tone to start your day. If you are religious, include it in your prayers, and if you aren’t, simply be grateful to the universe for being here. 

Set your intention for the day

Make clear what you want to achieve and write it down. Words are powerful and the more you see them and repeat them to yourself, you will subconsciously create the space for these actions to occur. You are manifesting the universe what you really want so focus your energy in making it happen. Like they say, fake it til you make it!

 

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Develop your tribe

Being healthy is contagious and being miserable is also contagious. Surround yourself with people who share the same values. Take part in meditation groups, attend events where you know you will find others who love what you do and actively participate. Your tribe will be your best resource when you need someone to build you up, when you are feeling down or lost and more importantly you can also give back , which is even more rewarding than receiving it.

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Get active

Physical exercise is clearly important for physical health, but even more for mental health. When you find yourself down, over thinking, put on your trainers and go walking, running, walk your dog, find an activity that you like. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which are our natural painkillers, they help reduce stress and create a sensation of positive feeling.

Abdominal breathing

Who would have thought that abdominal breathing actually massages your digestive system? Apart from calming your mind and reducing stress, it also aids proper digestion and helps to strength the immune system. Take a few minutes when you first wake up or before you sleep to practice abdominal breathing. Lay on your back and place your hand on your belly and see how it expands and contracts, try it for a few minutes everyday and you will feel the difference.

Being aware of our thoughts can be hard, but the more we develop mindfulness, we will be able to protect ourselves from diseases. Remember that being healthy is not only the food we eat, it also includes our thoughts and our internal narrative. Be patient and consistent, I promise that you will see the positive effects on your overall health if you do it and more importantly, everyone around you will also benefit from it.

If you want to learn more about this topic,  there are different research studies on the web, but I can recommend Dr. Bernie Siegel who has done extensive research and written different books related to self healing and the effects of positive thinking to cure diseases.

 

Don’t forget to share and like if you learnt something new today! I would love to know your thoughts on this topic.
Bear hugs,

 

Do you get angry, run away or become invisible?

images-2Many of us know that stress affects health in general but I think we still need to understand and assimilate better what are the effects of being constantly in this state (of stress) since it is one of the main causes of degenerative diseases that affect society nowadays. Clearly, we live in a world where it is increasingly accepted to live half-heartedly. What do I mean by this?

To live tired, running from one side to another, without energy, with sleep and digestion issues.

Years go by and many people continue living this way, which only brings unhappiness, frustration and health problems not to mention the effect on our personal relationships. In this blog, I want to focus on the solutions, because there are solutions. It is a question of doing it consciously and constantly and patiently.

So let’s talk about stress and biochemical processes in a simple way.

Of the various systems that humans have, it is the limbic system, which manages physiological responses to emotional stimuli. The hypothalamus and the amygdala are key organs in the triggering of emotions in our body. When the brain’s amygdala is activated, our danger detector, it creates imbalances in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part that allows us to learn, make decisions and direct behavior. The brain amygdala is like our internal alarm button that makes us react to danger. Our body does not know if the danger is associated with a survival issue (if a lion is chasing us and we have to run for our lives) or simply if it is an argument  with the boss. The sympathetic nervous system is ignited and triggers a series of biochemical processes in preparation to “fight or flight”. This is our primary internal defense mechanism.

Once the amygdala is activated, the pituitary gland orders the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol, which are the stress hormones. From here onwards, the body is prepared to defend itself, which is why the heart rate is accelerated, the contraction movements of the stomach are inhibited, the pupils are dilated and blood glucose levels raised. (in addition to other processes)

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Photo by autopsiareview.org

According to several scientific studies, I am referring in particular to those analyzed by Dr. Mario Alonso Puig (of whom I have spoken on several occasions, whom I admire for his knowledge about human behavior and neuroscience), it is demonstrated that mindfulness or self-consciousness, (developed through the practice of meditation), increases the size of the hypothalamus which makes us less reactive and we can better regulate our emotional state.

It is also proven that physical activity is of great help to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which is what allows us to save energy, recover normal  body functions, think and act clearly and live in a calm manner. Both systems: sympathetic and parasympathetic work together, we can assist these systems to live healthier and happier with good habits.

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photo by lamenteesmaravillosa.com

Cultivating healthy habits

Meditation and physical activity are really the best ways to improve our health.

Meditation allows us to modulate the chemical reactions that activate the amygdala, making us less reactive. We accept our emotions and feelings kindly and see them for what they are. Without judgments or attachments. We learn to let them go which means we do not keep them in our body as toxic elements. (That later on cause diseases such as depression, fibromyalgia, digestive and heart issues).

On the other hand, physical activity increases brain function by improving memory, it increases oxygenation of the brain, creating and connecting of neurons which help us in learning processes. In addition, at a hormonal level, endorphins, serotonin and dopamine are triggered generating feelings of well-being, calm, joy and even euphoria. Its my natural drug of choice!

As I said before, the solutions exist and do not cost money or long treatments, just by implementing these two habits in your life as well as a healthy diet, you will be in the path to wellness and success. I practice both regularly so I can say that they do help me to keep calm and understand better my emotions and reactions.

I hope you have learned something new today, and more importantly, that it inspires you to learn about mindfulness and gets you in the right mindset to start exercising. Remember that anyone has the power to make changes, it is hard, I know that, but it is possible, and you are not alone. I can help you get there.

Do not forget to share this message and give me your comments. I would love to know your opinion.

 

Bear hugs!