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So far wellness-sutra has created 49 blog entries.

Ayurveda | Ancient system, new faith

By |March 9th, 2016|General|

Kala Shekhar, a 48-year-old homemaker in Bangalore, started getting searing pains in her left hip in 2009 and found herself limping to compensate. Shekhar took the painkillers prescribed by her allopathic physician and found that while she would get relief for 7-8 hours, the pain would return. She was told that she needed hip replacement surgery. She chose to change her course of treatment and went to the Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine (I-AIM), Bangalore, for Ayurvedic therapy—this reduced the pain. In May 2012, the pain returned with such severity that she couldn’t get out of bed. She returned to I-AIM, where she took a sustained course of treatment; she is now free of pain and can walk without support. Read More

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, writes on public health issues and is a research scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.

Colostrum: A supplement you may not know much about

By |March 9th, 2016|General|

Avinash Inamdar was prone to persistent upper respiratory tract infections, and had been battling chronic fatigue for years. Dr Inamdar, 59, heads the department of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, BJ Medical College, Pune, and he took the tried and tested path of loading himself with antihistamines and antibiotics to fight the infections. He also developed an intolerance to foods like banana and curd. Six weeks ago, he decided to explore a new route, and began a course of cow colostrum supplements.Read More

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, writes on public health issues and is a research scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.

Why you should be exercising right now

By |March 9th, 2016|Warm Countries|

S Ravi, 49, who lives in Washington, DC, US, writes in an email interview: “In 2011, I was diagnosed with both high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. For a person who led a very active life with no history in family, was vegan, and who took pride in being fit, the diagnosis came as a shock. Not wanting to start taking medication right away I started with a lifestyle change. It was not just about the revision of my diet but also about walking whenever I could, every single day. After several months, I found that my fasting blood sugar had come down to the prediabetes range.”

Prediabetes is a condition where the person’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. “Since then I have been consistent with my walks and now walk up to 5 miles (around 8km) daily. I don’t need medication for my blood sugar yet and am hoping that I won’t need it in the near future either,” writes Ravi.

Many people with prediabetes get diagnosed with diabetes within a decade. But Ravi is unlikely to be one of them as long as he sticks to his diet and exercise regime, says Shashank Joshi, consultant endocrinologist, Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai. “I have many such patients who have successfully been able to keep diabetes at bay with a disciplined lifestyle. It requires motivation and discipline but can be done.” In other words, it’s difficult but doable.Read More

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, is a wellness consultant and a clinical scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US

Being a smart patient

By |March 9th, 2016|Warm Countries|

It’s dengue season and you find yourself awash with high fever, muscle pain and fatigue. After waiting for a couple of days when the fever continues unabated, your family suggests a visit to the general physician. You read about the symptoms of dengue on the Internet (and Ebola too, as there is an epidemic in West Africa and this is a globalized world after all). You worriedly make an appointment with the doctor. On arriving at the clinic, you see the string of patients sitting in a line against the clinic wall and resign yourself for a wait. You mentally congratulate yourself for bringing your Kindle along and settle into the one chair left vacant. After waiting for an hour and a half, the nurse sends you in. The doctor spends 10 minutes taking your history before you’re ushered out with a prescription for crocin, lots of fluids, and plenty of rest. You’ve taken all the research that you did to show your doctor and ask if you need to get any additional tests done but he dismisses the information, saying you have viral fever. Your suspicion that this is something more serious doesn’t leave you till the fever and all the other symptoms do, five days later. Read More

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, is a wellness consultant and clinical scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.

Let the music in

By |March 9th, 2016|Summer|

I love music. Singing relaxes, and dancing rejuvenates me. I would rather sing or dance to de-stress than do anything else. Listening to music is the next best thing. And my experience with music is far from singular. Music has been long known to inspire emotions and actions. For some people, music is particularly beneficial. And there is medical research evidence to show this.

Prof. Michael Thorne, vice-chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University in the UK, who was recently in India to set up a master of arts (MA) programme in music therapy, writes in an email interview that for some people “activities such as singing in choirs and playing in orchestras have health benefits similar to the way that sports and other leisure activities do”.

Music is known to reduce stress and enhance your sense of well-being, but just how effective is it in doing that?

Prof. Thorne says, “Music psychology literature and research shows that tailor-made music-listening programmes can help to reduce stress but the type of music must relate to the individual’s needs and tastes.” In other words, for music to do its thing, it should be the kind of music that affects you positively and should be the kind that either relaxes or energizes you.

Bangalore-based Namrata Baruah, 30, an advertising professional and a singer/songwriter, enjoys classical music because it relaxes her. She says long work hours and pressure often take a toll on her health, but singing and listening to classical music relaxes her and improves her overall health.Read More

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, writes on public health issues and is a research scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.

Sugar: the sweet devil

By |March 9th, 2016|Feature, Winter|

One-quarter of what you eat keeps you alive. The other three-quarters keeps your doctor alive,” says the hieroglyph on an ancient Egyptian tomb. I was reminded of this wisdom when I came across a paper in the British Medical Journal on how sugar consumption can be toxic. The paper by James DiNicolantonio, published in December, argues that excess sugar, not salt, is responsible for high blood pressure. Since heart disease often ensues as a result of high blood pressure, the paper argues that we should control our sugar intake if we want to keep hypertension and heart disease at bay.

Aashish Contractor, head of the department of rehabilitation and sports medicine at the Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai, is not convinced: “We need to take these results with a pinch of salt and I am not using this pun intentionally.” He says researchers sometimes try to negate the importance of one lifestyle modification when touting the benefits of another, to emphasize their point. It dramatizes the research findings, but it doesn’t necessarily give people an accurate picture. “I would say that both sugar and salt are important and I tell my patients to control the intake of both to keep blood pressure and heart disease in check,” says Dr Contractor.

Given that the process of making sugar from sugar cane was developed in India and is mentioned in the Atharva Veda, the consumption of sugar-laden foods is woven into our sociocultural fabric. No celebratory occasion is complete without a sweet offering and rationing sugar intake is tough. But ration it we must. Read More

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, is a wellness consultant and a clinical scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.

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Invest in real friendships

By |March 9th, 2016|Feature, Winter|

My close friends keep me grounded, help me stay centred, remind me of what is important and make me laugh, a lot. Good friends are a necessity, particularly in the times we live in. Our everyday lives are hectic, filled with physical and emotional stresses that we increasingly have to deal with in isolation. Social media has taken over our lives and while that means we are connected to more people and have more friends than ever before, we aren’t necessarily connecting with our friends meaningfully.

Saumya Pant, an assistant professor at Ahmedabad’s Mudra Institute of Communications (MICA), who is leading a social media study at the institute, says on email: “At MICA, we have been researching the wide use of Facebook by the youth in India. Our preliminary findings are reinforcing the value of relationships both online and offline. Our research suggests that it seems to be more important to have a few good friends instead of a large network of acquaintances since deep relationships provide a sense of security and foster higher self-esteem, keeping our hearts and minds healthy.”

Anjali Chhabria, psychiatrist and founder of counselling centre Mindtemple, Mumbai, agrees. She says on phone, “Interacting with an online friend via social media versus meeting a friend in person is like watching pornography versus engaging in the real thing.” In other words, talking to a friend in person or over the phone is qualitatively far superior to a social media interaction when it comes to the impact it has on your happiness and sense of well-being. Read More

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, writes on public health issues and is a research scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.

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Money can buy you smiles…

By |March 9th, 2016|Feature, Winter|

There is a popular belief that the things that bring us happiness aren’t for sale. Songs have been sung about this, poetry written, and while it’s a lovely sentiment, it is wrong. Money allows us to buffer ourselves against daily worries and gives us more leisure time. It also allows us to control the nature of our daily activities and for us to have more meaningful work. Scientists have found that each of these is a necessary ingredient in the recipe for a happy life.

Yet researchers have also found that wealthy people aren’t that much happier than the not-so-wealthy. Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert and his colleagues Elizabeth Dunn and Timothy Wilson write in a paper titled “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right”, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology in March 2011, that the reason the correlation between happiness and money is modest at best is because people don’t know the basic scientific facts about happiness. Prof. Gilbert and colleagues have compiled principles on happiness that will help you spend your money in a way that enhances your emotional health. The paper compiled eight principles that are based on more than 80 studies in consumer psychology by Prof. Gilbert, Dunn, Wilson and many other researchers. Of those eight principles, five are presented here.

u Happiness often comes from spending money on experiences

Research shows that people are often happier when they spend money on experiences like vacations and concerts rather than things like clothes. Bangalore-based Talha Salaria, 35, corporate lawyer and founder of Lawyers At Work (LAW), agrees. “A couple of years ago I was wondering whether to gift my mother jewellery for her birthday (which my mother loves) or take her for a holiday to Singapore. Finally, just the two of us went for a holiday and had a fabulous time. Looking back, I sometimes wonder why I even thought about what now seems like an obvious choice.”
Some experiences are obviously better than others. Goa-based psychologist Arpita Anand says, “There are memories associated with experiences that continue to bring happiness long after the actual experience is over.” People are happier travelling to holiday destinations than travelling in a car to get to work. The key seems to be engagement—if you are engaged in what you do, you will be a happier person. Read More

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, writes on public health issues and is a research scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.

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The Mediterranean Diet,Adapted

By |February 2nd, 2015|Summer|

The Mediterranean (Med) diet is replete with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, wholegrains and olive oil, with moderate consumption of fish and chicken. Red meat, sweets and dairy products are eaten sparingly, though red wine is drunk in moderation with meals. Increasingly, it has become the “go-to” diet among doctors as research shows that it reduces the risk of a host of modern-day illnesses, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cardiovascular disease, and the overall risk of premature death.

The diet is a relatively recent phenomenon, not a traditional diet of the region. It was first observed in Greece, Spain and Italy in the years immediately following World War II. It was a style of eating that emerged from war rationing but has since proved remarkably healthy compared to the global increase in consumption of fast foods loaded with sugar, red meat and refined carbohydrates.
And it doesn’t take much to adapt an Indian diet to a Mediterranean one.

In early April, an article in The New England Journal of Medicine headlined Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease With a Mediterranean Diet described the results of a multicentre study in Spain, reawakening the discussion on the Mediterannean diet among researchers and clinicians alike. The study followed 7,447 Spaniards between the ages of 55 and 80 for nearly five years. Among the study participants, more than half (57%) were women and all were at high risk of heart disease. The risk was determined by including in the study people who were smokers, diabetic, or had three of the following conditions—hypertension, elevated LDL cholesterol levels, low levels of HDL, were overweight or obese, or had a history of premature heart disease. The study participants were randomly assigned a Med diet that had either nuts or extra virgin olive oil added to it or were recommended a low-fat diet that didn’t necessarily include olive oil or nuts. In each of the three groups—two Med diet groups and one control/low-fat diet group —nutritionists ran training sessions every quarter where adherence to the diet was determined with a self-administered questionnaire, followed by personalized advice. To figure out if the study participants were actually using the olive oil or eating the nuts, the researchers took urine and blood samples at random at the end of years 1, 3 and 5 to check for olive oil and nut metabolites. Read More

Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, writes on public health issues and is a research scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.

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