Self Massage

self massage     Self massage can be a great asset to many types of individuals.  I started performing self massage on myself nearly a year ago.  At first I performed it quite regularly and now only as needed.  It can be beneficial for a variety of reasons.  The reason why I originally began it was for reproductive health, however it is also excellent for digestive health as well.

     By massaging your abdomen you increase blood circulation in the organs beneath.  There are different resources online for helping someone perform massage on themselves.  I usually just lay on my back and massage in circular motion all around the abdomen, focusing on the areas that contain the uterus and ovaries.

I also perform a femoral artery massage, which basically backs up blood from the femoral artery into the abdominal cavity organs including the uterus and ovaries.  I have successfully used both of these methods to improve menstrual health and normalize the length of the menstrual cycle.

     There are certain guidelines that should be followed, including do not massage if you may be pregnant because it could induce a miscarriage, or during menstruation as it will increase blood flow.  A good schedule to start with is the day after ovulation until menstruation begins if pregnancy is not possible.  Also check with your Doctor before beginning this if you have any cystic disorders as you do not want to cause anything to rupture.

     Femoral and abdominal massage may also be useful for digestive health, as you can also increase blood flow to the digestive organs.  Thus this practice is helpful for both men and women.  When focusing on digestion, you typically work on the same areas because they also contain the lower digestive tract, however in addition also include the upper quadrants to include the stomach,  liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.

     Many resources can be found online to guide you in performing self abdominal massage.  To perform femoral artery massage I found this youtube video to be quite helpful.  If you have any questions or comments on the topic please leave them below.  I highly suggest giving it a try for a few weeks and seeing if you notice any difference. 

 

 

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Yoga

yoga     Yoga is something I have recently begun practicing over the past few months.  And by practicing I mean a free class once a week, and then on my own during the week.  I took a beginners yoga class about 3 years ago in college and thoroughly enjoyed it, but was never able to take it again after because it can be expensive.  Finding free classes has been a real life changer.  If you are looking for free classes I have three places that I know of that you may be able to find near you as well.  The first is Lululemon which offers a free yoga class once a week.  Next I utilize Athleta which posts various classes on their online schedule and most of the time yoga is available.  Lastly, and even more unlikely resource is the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance office which offers a variety of exercise classes and yoga is a frequent one.

     So far I have noticed in a short time I have made quite a bit of progress in a few areas thanks to yoga.  I was previously jogging a few times a week (which I still also do) however I did not notice any of these changes until after I begun practicing yoga.  The two most obvious changes are in muscular development and flexibility.  These both surprised me because I took Tae Kwon Do as a young adult and worked very hard to build muscle and flexibility but was never able to achieve so much in so little time and with only 1 real class a week!  I also thought that my running I was building core muscle but let me tell you yoga will show you how much muscle you have yet to develop, the same goes for flexibility.

     Besides the physical changes I have seen, I have also noticed mental changes too.  I crave yoga.  I know that Saturday mornings are my therapy.  There is something so beautiful about practicing and ancient body art that is quite therapeutic.  The breathing exercises, listening to your body, quiet time and meditation if you are so inclined are wonderful for calming your mind, and bringing your life back into focus.  Also seeing yourself progress physically brings its own sense of accomplishment that none can rival.  There are also many scholarly research sources that demonstrate the benefits of yoga.

     It is shown to be good for anxiety and depression and also for improving the digestion system.  Although I could not find any scholarly articles stating its usefulness for balancing womens hormones, it is traditionally used for this.  In the same way that yoga stimulates the digestive system it is also thought to stimulate the reproductive system as well and encourage core tone, increased blood flow to the reproductive organs, and just the other day I was in quite a rather odd pose and the instructor mentioned that it was supposed to stimulate the thyroid gland.  Overall I highly recommend yoga for men and women of all ages.  Perhaps I will post a photo of myself in the weeks/months to come as I work on perfecting my inversions!  Have any of you anything to share about your experience with yoga?

 

Prebiotics

prebiotics and probiotics

     Something that everyone especially women should take is a high quality probiotic.  If you are unsure whether one is high quality or not there are a few clues to look for.

First of all, a good probiotic is always refrigerated even before opening.  The bacteria are alive and need to be kept fresh in a refrigerated so I recommend buying from a store where they are sold refrigerated and not shipping from online unless they ship refrigerated .

The second thing to look for one with multiple strains, they create a stronger colony.

Third, look for one with about 10 billion active live cultures.  Only a small percentage of what you take actually survives to reach your gut and colonize so the more the better!  So even though 500 million may sound like a lot it really isn’t.

Probiotics consist of good bacteria and they help to replenish and fortify the good bacteria in your gut so that you do not have it overrun by bad bacteria.  Besides aiding in digestion, a probiotic will help regulate bowel movements and can even give a healthier appearance to your skin!  It can help to create a healthy pH environment and prevent the growth of bacteria or yeast, produce certain vitamins and fatty acids, and even metabolize old circulating hormones like estrogen that can build up in your body and cause problems.  So now that you know the importance of probiotics and what kind to look for, you need to know when to take it.

You should take it during or after a meal.  This is because the food in your stomach will dilute the acidity of your stomach and make it more likely for a larger percentage of the probiotics to survive.  Also, keep in mind prebiotics.  These do not need to be supplemented, but rather they can be found as components of different types of food, such as fructooligosaccharides from inulin – which can be found in many dietary fibers.  Foods that include inulin are Jerusalem Artichokes, Chicory, Onions, Leeks, Garlic and Bananas.   If you consume some of these food on a regular basis you should not worry about prebiotics,  however if you do not regularly consume these types of foods then a probiotic fortified with a prebiotic might be for you.

Prebiotics work by nourishing the good bacteria in your gut to increase healthy gut flora.  They are important because simply taking a probiotic will not do much good unless it can be fed by your diet.  So inulin is a great probiotic food, but remember that the good bacteria has to keep the bad bacteria in check and bad bacteria feeds off of sugar and refined foods so your whole diet is actually pertinent to your gut health. I will discuss that in another post of GI health.

Gluten Free

gluten free diet

     So why this new gluten free phenomena all of a sudden?  Well our diets are not what they used to be.  A century ago, people didn’t have cereal for breakfast, bread for lunch, and then pasta for dinner.  If they had gluten it was from cooking actual wheat the grain or having a piece of whole grain unprocessed bread for breakfast.   They didn’t have it in the excess the we have it nor was it excessively processed and contaminated through that process.  Also it wasn’t genetically modified and hadn’t evolved as much from its original state of being.  Also, their lives weren’t the picture of health which is why I am against any diets of our ancestors that are popular right now (AKA Paleo).  That is for another post however.

     Gluten in essence is a protein found in various grains.  It is known to be inflammatory in your gut.  As we know the majority of your immune system is in your gut and it should be protected and cared for an inflammatory foods avoided.  Gluten free diets used to be exclusively for people with Celiac’s Disease but not anymore.  I experimented going gluten free and let me tell  you I noticed a difference right away.  I felt less bloated, constipation and general gastrointestinal discomfort.  I also felt less tired after say a big pasta meal. Gluten free beauty products are also becoming popular right now as people who are sensitive to gluten internally can also be sensitive to gluten externally.

     People with Leaky Gut Syndrome or Candida are recommended to go gluten free to help alleviate unnecessary stress on the digestive system.  Many people are realizing the benefits of going Gluten Free and it is one of the fastest growing markets out here now in the food industry.  Just be careful because many gluten free products substitute with GMO corn or soy and barely any gluten free products are organic..  Try to stick with brown rice based substitutes instead of corn.   And just because something is gluten free does not mean you should eat it.  There are plenty of junk food options out there as well.  Just use gluten free varieties of what you would normally eat as substitutes.  Example: brown rice pasta instead of whole grain pasta.  It also has the added bonus of being high in protein as well.