• The Psychology of Eating, part 1

    Part 1 . How the state of the eater affects his/her metabolic capacity.

        Most of us have been taught to believe that good nutrition is simply a function of eating the right food and taking the right supplements. Although this is true, there’s more to the equation. What we eat is only half the story of good nutrition. The other half of the story is who we are as eaters. That is, what we think, feel, believe, our levels of stress, relaxation, pleasure, awareness, and the inner stories that we live out all have a real, powerful, and scientific effect on nutritional metabolism.
        Recent advances in the mind-body sciences have been proving what ancient wisdom traditions have been saying for eons—that the mind and body exist on an exquisite continuum, they are connected intrinsically and profoundly impact one another. So the good news is simply this: you can powerfully change your health and your nutritional status by changing you the eater.


        The Automatic Nervous System is the ‘powerhouse’ that prepares our body for unconscious action and consists of two parts: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) , also referred as “fight or flight”  and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) also referred as “rest and digest”.  It’s an important concept to note that this system is “autonomous” , because it tells us that acts on its own. In other words, you don’t need to tell your autonomic nervous system to do its job — nor can you.
        Our SNS , which triggers our fight or flight response, prepares the body for a perceived threat or danger, increasing blood flow, heart rate  and producing hormones like cortisol or adrenaline , making us more alert and receptive to react. The PNS, which controls our rest and digest response, has the opposite effect of SNS, so instead of increasing the heart rate, it decreases it with the hormone acetylcholine, returning the body to a state of calm and peace. So the PNS basically undoes what the SNS has caused.


        It’s easy to see that the fight or flight response is essential in some situations. Undoubtedly, your body's ability to manipulate the smooth muscles, cardiac muscles, and glands in order to produce quicker, faster, stronger reactions when you need them can save your life. However, it’s also easy to see that if you are unable to perceive truly dangerous situations accurately, you may ignite your fight or flight response more often than is necessary. The point here is that you do not want your fight or flight system to be activated when it doesn't need to be. Original research by David S. Goldstein in the journal Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology states: “If the stress response is excessive or prolonged then any of a variety of clinical disorders can arise.” In other word, activating the fight or flight response too often can cause serious health ramifications.

        You should optimally be in a parasympathetic state 80 percent of the time, but many people struggle to be in this state at any point during their day, for any length of time. From the minute the alarm goes off in the morning, moving around all day long, eating on the run, rushing to work, to finally collapsing into bed, the constant demands keep us on edge. For most of us “fight or flight” just doesn’t stop all day. This feature of the nervous system evolved over millions of years as a brilliant safety mechanism to support us during life-threatening events. So, in the moment of stress, the sympathetic response is activated, and something very interesting happens—the digestive system shuts down. It makes perfect sense that when you’re facing an angry gorilla, you don’t need to waste energy digesting your breakfast. All the body’s metabolic energy is directed towards survival. So, you could be eating the healthiest food in the universe, but  if you aren’t eating under the optimum state of digestion and assimilation—which happens to be relaxation—you literally and metabolically are not receiving the full nutritional value of your meal.

        There are many more ways, that having an imbalanced nervous system can affect your health. When in in a chronic sympathetic state, the body typically produces lots of cortisol. This is a very direct way that your body will purposely create more glucose in the blood, so you can keep being active in your daily life. But chronically high cortisol and blood glucose is not ideal, it leads to high oxidation and cell damage, and eventually insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Another example of how lifestyle – even the parts that are completely separate from diet – determines your health. Your body is telling itself that immediate survival is more important than regenerating cells, reducing inflammation, detoxifying, or reproducing or any other bodily function that isn’t about surviving a crisis.

    So, what has the science to say about the psychology of the eater?


    • A peaceful state is the best digestive aid.

    It’s fascinating how stress, fear, anxiety, anger, judgment and even negative self-talk can literally create a physiologic stress response in the body. This means that we generate more cortisol and insulin, two hormones that have the unwanted effect of signalling the body to store weight, store fat, and stop building muscle. Strange as it may sound, we quite literally change our calorie burning capacity when we’re stressed. What’s more incredible though, is that as we learn to smile more, ease into life and breathe more deeply, the body enters a physiologic relaxation response (rest and digest) . In this state, we actually create our optimal day-in, day-out calorie-burning metabolism. So, you could be following the best weight loss diet in the world, but if you’re an anxious mess, the power of your mind is limiting the weight loss of your body. Far too many people adopt stressful weight loss strategies—impossible to follow diets, overly intense exercise programs, tasteless food, extremely low calorie meal plans—all of which can create the kind of stress chemistry that ensures our weight will stay put. It’s time to relax into weight loss.


    • Overeating—Could be due to lack of awareness.

    Most people think they overeat because they have a willpower problem. Well, here’s the good news—you may not have a willpower problem. The problem for a majority of overeaters is that they don’t actually “eat” when they eat. Studies show that when we aren’t always fully present to the meal, aware of its taste, eating it slowly, or simply feeling nourished by the food, the brain, which requires taste and satisfaction, misses out on a key phase of the nutritional experience. The brain literally thinks it didn’t eat, or didn’t eat enough. And it simply screams back at us—“Hungry!” So, you can dramatically decrease your overeating by increasing your awareness and presence at every meal.


    • Slower eating means faster metabolism

    One of the most basic nutritional questions to ask someone is: “Are you a fast eater, moderate eater or slow eater?” If the answer is “fast”, then it’s time for an overhaul. That’s because the act of eating fast is considered a stressor by the body. Humans are simply not biologically wired for high-speed eating. So when we do eat fast, the body once again enters the physiologic stress response, which results in decreased digestion, decreased nutrient assimilation, increased nutrient excretion, lowered calorie burning rate and a bigger appetite. The bottom line is that you can literally empower your nutritional metabolism simply by slowing down. What’s fascinating is that for many fast eaters, slowing down is quite a challenge. But try this—don’t just eat slowly—eat mindfully , feel nour- ished by your food and take in all the sensations of your meal. And by doing that , you can find pleasure from eating foods that you never thought you liked !


    • Get rid of toxic nutritional beliefs

    Finally, many of us have absorbed toxic nutritional beliefs that are as harmful and debilitating as any of the toxins in our food. Here’s what I mean: It’s surprisingly common for people to believe that “food is the enemy” or “food makes me fat” or “fat in food will become fat on my body” or “my appetite is the enemy” or “as soon as I have the perfect body, then I’ll finally be happy.” Such beliefs may seem harmless, yet they can create a relationship with food and self that’s filled with tremendous suffering and pain. Think about it—if “food is the enemy”, then we are constantly in a fight or flight stress response whenever we eat, or even think about food. Such a powerful stressor can cause all the problems of stress-induced digestive shutdown, decreased calorie burning capacity, and an inner life that’s seldom at peace.

    So, the question is: Is your relationship with food nourishing, or punishing?



    Coming soon:

    Part 2. How to stay more in Parasympathetic Mode.



  • COVID-19 & The Immune System

    Since there is no registered medicine or vaccine* against COVID-19, the immune system is our best defence, because it supports the body’s natural ability to defend against pathogens (eg. viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoan, and worms) and resists infections. When the body encounters germs or viruses for the first time, the immune system cannot work properly, and illness can occur. This scenario is what has occurred in the case of COVID-19 . However, as long as the immune system is functioning normally, symptoms from infections such as COVID-19 can go unnoticed for the majority of the people with no serious pre-existing medical conditions.

    Building a strong immune system is your best defence against infectious illness and disease. Your immune health depends on the lifestyle choices you make every day. By supporting your body's own natural ability to defend itself against pathogens, you will not only have resistance to colds and flus but to other infectious illnesses and diseases that come your way.

    While there are no COVID medications or immunity-boosting supplements that can cure or prevent coronavirus, there are steps you can take to make your defences as strong as possible.

    Immune-Strengthening Strategies

    Healthy living strategies you can do for your immune system include:

    • Eating a healthy, balanced diet and staying hydrated. According to all scientific literature , healthy foods and hydration are vital. Individuals consuming a well-balanced diet are healthier with a strong immune system and have a reduced risk of chronic illness and infectious diseases. Some nutrients are well known to play a key role in immune system health like the antioxidants Vitamin E and Vitamin C, minerals like Selenium and Zinc other Vitamins like Vitamin D, Vitamin A and Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Foods recommended :

    - Fruits and vegetables (especially brightly colored ones) are packed with all these nutrients but also have a lot more to offer to the immune system than just their vitamins and minerals. The phytonutrients, fibre, oils and acids in them, which are responsible for their various flavours and colours, are also responsible for their many health, healing and immune-modulating properties. These bioactive compounds are used by the body to directly combat inflammation and infections and support detoxification and immune cell function through a multitude of mechanisms, many of which have yet to be fully understood.

    - Fish for their Omega - 3 — Polyunsaturated fatty acids which are important in immune response as it produces a compound that can prohibit virus replication. Moreover, Omega-3 fatty acids icosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have anti-inflammatory properties that help with easing inflammatory cytokine responses during viral infections. Fish oils, chia seeds and edamame are packed with Omega-3 PUFA.

    - Honey, preferably raw, is a good demulcent (it relieves minor pain and inflammation of mucous membranes), has antioxidant properties, and has some antimicrobial effects. It is helpful for coughs and sore throats and can be added to hot tea.

    - Garlic contains a variety of compounds that can influence immunity. Some studies have shown that both fresh garlic as well as aged garlic extract and some other garlic supplements may reduce viral upper respiratory infection severity as well as function in the prevention of infection with viruses that can cause colds.

    - Probiotics contain “good bacteria” that not only support the health of the gut but also influence immune system functioning and regulation. Studies have shown that probiotic use can decrease the number of respiratory infections, particularly in children.


    • Removing sugar and processed foods : Cut down processed juices, fizzy drinks , pastries, biscuits and such. A few grams of sugar can destroy your white blood cells' ability to resist infections for several hours.

    • Exercising regularly – Moderate, regular physical activity helps to boost immune system function by raising levels of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies, increasing circulation, and decreasing stress hormones. Establish and follow an exercise program to not only help prevent respiratory infections but also to improve cognitive and physical resilience.

    • Maintaining a healthy weight – Aim for a BMI of 25 or lower. Adults with excess weight are at even greater risk during the COVID-19 pandemic:

    - Having obesity increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. People who are overweight may also be at increased risk.

    - Having obesity may triple the risk of hospitalization due to a COVID-19 infection.

    - Obesity is linked to impaired immune function.

    - Obesity decreases lung capacity and reserve and can make ventilation more difficult.

    - As BMI increases, the risk of death from COVID-19 increases.


    • Getting quality sleep—Sleep has a big influence on immune function, so it is essential to get plenty of sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene and maintain consistent sleep hours—turn off screens, ensure the room is cool, quiet, and dark, and set a reminder to help yourself go to bed on time.


    • Reducing stress and developing good coping mechanisms. Chronic stress can negatively alter immune system responses, making you more likely to get sick. Identify your personal stress reduction strategies and practice them regularly. Include activities in your daily life that help you handle stress, like connecting with loved ones, going outside, practicing meditation regularly, making art or other hobbies.


    • Quitting smoking . Smoking not only increases your risk for complications if you get the virus, it can also make you more likely to contract the disease in the first place. The Centers for Disease Control categorizes smokers as "immunocompromised," which means having a weakened immune system


    • Drinking alcohol only in moderation. By default, alcohol makes it harder for the immune system to gear up and defend the body against harmful germs. Moreover, alcohol can trigger inflammation in the gut and destroy the microorganisms that live in the intestine and maintain immune system health.


    Further research has been conducted and the following (among many) additional supplements are now recommended as options for strengthening immunity:

    • Beta-glucans – numerous human trials have shown that beta-glucans stimulate activity against viral attack, these findings include a decrease in cold and flu symptoms and upper respiratory tract infections compared to placebo.

    • Mushrooms – a variety of mushroom species have been shown to help with immune function in a myriad of ways; some of the medicinal mushrooms include Shiitake, Lion's Mane, Maitake, and Reishi.

    • Berberine – found in the roots, rhizomes, and stem bark of various plants, this natural compound has been shown to have antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties; it can be found in goldenseal, goldthread and Oregon grape species.

    • Sulforaphane – sulforaphane has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties; it can be produced in the body in small amounts by eating some cruciferous vegetables or in more therapeutic amounts in dietary supplements containing glucoraphanin and myrosinase enzyme.

    • Elderberry – studies have shown that elderberry has properties that appear to help fight viruses; choose a low-sugar capsule or tablet, if possible, as opposed to sugary syrup.

    • Echinacea - E. purpurea has been shown to stimulate macrophage activation as well as NK cell activity in both human and animal models and it may be linked directly to increased cytokine expression. Various Echinacea preparations have shown antiviral activity. Echinacea preparations alone have been shown to reduce the frequency, severity, and/or duration of upper respiratory tract symptoms in several trials, and various multi-herb/nutrient formulas containing Echinacea preparations have also been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms.

    • Quercetin - Quercetin has been shown to have antiviral effects against both RNA (e.g. influenza and coronavirus) and DNA viruses (e.g.herpesvirus). Quercetin has a pleiotropic role as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, modulating signaling pathways that are associated with post-transcriptional modulators affecting post-viral healing.

    • Eycalyptus- Essential oils obtained from eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) are traditionally used to treat various respiratory ailments including pharyngitis, bronchitis, and sinusitis. Data of recent studies studies demonstrate marked immunomodulatory properties of both eucalyptus oil and its active ingredient, i.e. eucalyptol. Interestingly, eucalyptus oil has also been shown to have disinfection properties and inhibited the growth of viruses on various utensils and filter devices. Taken together, data from both preclinical and clinical trials point towards the promising therapeutic potential that resides in eucalyptus oil and its active constituent, i.e. eucalyptol in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

    The main way to prevent infections is to stay away from sick people. As for Covid-19, to prevent illness and avoid being exposed to the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, covering your mouth and nose with a mask when around others, covering coughs and sneezes, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily.

    *Various vaccines have been registered after writing this post. Nevertheless, this development does NOT strip away our personal responsibility and ability to support our immune system in order to fight viruses and infections.




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    El TAO es la fuerza mortiz de la naturaleza, la forma del universo, el orden que existe detras de toda la vida y el espiritu inagotable. El tao es la via o el camino que da sentido a la existencia ordenando la vida de los humanos para mantenerse en armonia con el orden natural del universo.


    El Wu wei es uno de los conceptos básicos del que nos habla el Tao Te Ching. Es, de hecho, la idea central de taoísmo. El Wu wei es la relación que conecta la inacción motivada por la acción. Es hacer, sin alterar la naturaleza. Es hacer, siguiendo el “flow” del Universo. Es, por tanto, la práctica del pensamiento Wu wei un modo de actuar que no deja trazas en la naturaleza, invisible, armonioso y que no se delata a sí mismo.


    Una especial forma de fluir sin influir, de vivir sin interrumpir y de favorecer sin impedir. En la caligrafía Zen el Wu wei es representado como un círculo llamado Enso. Dos circulos Wu wei juntos forman el simbolo del infinito, el eterno, esto que no termina nunca , como la vida.


    Ilia Zis

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