Midlife Health: Watermelon

Cool Off with Watermelon

Cool Off with Watermelon

Do you find yourself feeling more energetic during the summer months? Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) tells us that plants grow faster during summer and people act more energetically. Blood and the body’s qi quicken their pace.

TCM claims that the heart can over-function, causing you to sweat, and this then restricts the functioning of the lung. There are certain foods that are recommended to enhance lung functioning and maintain the body’s normal sweating mechanisms – watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, mung beans, cucumber, bean sprouts, duck and fish.

So there’s good reason if you find yourself gravitating to a juicy slice of watermelon this summer. You may need cooling down, especially if you’ve been sweating a lot and thus losing Vitamin B.  Watermelon, which is a staple of many people’s picnic table, is nature’s gift to help us cool off. It is a great source of Vitamins B6, B1, magnesium and potassium which are excellent for keeping your energy levels up and muscle cramping down.

In TCM watermelon is an important healing food.  High in beta-carotene and antioxidants, it has been used medicinally to treat heart disease, diabetes, liver problems and kidney infection. Eat it regularly to help reduce high blood pressure. It also aids the body in releasing toxins via its ability to increase the  body’s need to urinate.

Additionally, watermelon can be effective for sunburns when used topically. The juice is cooling to the skin and promotes healing.

If you’re going to juice or blend the watermelon, include some of the white and green rind, as well as the seeds – they are a digestive aid. Just make sure your machine can break down the seeds.

Midlife Health: Vitamin C, the Kiwifruit Way

Although I don’t have too much of a “sweet tooth”, one of my favorite desserts is Pavlova. Basically it’s a round merengue “dome” with a soft, marshmallow-type center and topped with whipped cream and fruit.  Although I don’t make them often, I did have one just the other night while out to dinner at a New Zealand-style restaurant.  You will generally only find Pavlovas in Australia and New Zealand.

DownUnder we frequently put kiwifruit on top of the Pavlova, often along with strawberries.  So what’s in a Kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa)?   They are delicious and loaded with Vitamin C along with other nutrients. The flesh is either a translucent, bright-green color (the most common one) or golden which is less common but equally delicious.Their skin is furry and although edible, not very tasty. The fruit itself has more Vitamin C than a similarly-sized orange, more vitamins E and K than most other fruits, almost as much potassium as a small banana and as much fiber as one of my favorite breakfasts – a cup of cooked oatmeal.

Kiwifruit was “born” in China and was originally know as Chinese Gooseberry, a name I still remember from growing up in Australia. New Zealanders however named it in honor of their national bird when they began to cultivate it commercially. Italy, Chile, Greece and France are now also commercial producers.

Components of kiwifruit have potential properties of a natural  blood thinner.  From a study performed at the University of Oslo in Norway it was reported that eating two to three kiwifruit daily for 28 days significantly reduced the stickiness of platelets and  blood triglyceride levels (something along the lines of “aspirin therapy”), potentially reducing the risk of blood clots.  The fruit is also a natural source of provitamin A, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

One other benefit that appeals to me is that kiwifruit is low on the pesticide contamination list so if you can’t find organic ones, then conventionally grown fruits will add very little to your body’s pesticide load. Always a important consideration when buying foods today!

And in case all this talk of Pavlova has started you salivating … How to Make a Pavlova

Midlife Health – The Eyes Have It!

Castor Oil Plant

Last weekend I attended an all-day lecture by Dr. Norman Shealy. His discussion of energy medicine and alternative healing remedies was most informative. One of the topics that peaked my interest was using castor oil for cataracts. My mother had cataracts removed many years ago and I have a number of friends who’ve recently had surgery for the same reason.  If this is an issue for you, the following tips might be helpful.

The growth of cataracts is an issue many people face as they age.  Cataracts are a clouding of the natural lens of the eye. The lens is responsible for focusing light and producing clear images. The larger the cataracts become, the more fuzzy the vision.  The process is begun by poor circulation that prevents the eye from ridding itself of “debris.”  Surgery may be the only resolution for a late-stage cataract but castor oil may help you resolve the issue in its early stages.

Castor oil was apparently used by the Egyptians for eye irritations, the medical intuitive Edgar Cayce recommended it for cataracts and Dr Shealy also endorses it.

The directions for use are to simply put one drop of the pure oil (make sure the oil is free of any contaminants) in each eye at bedtime. If you’ve ever used castor oil for any reason you’ll know why you want to do it at bedtime.  The oil is very sticky and you’ll certainly have cloudy vision for about half an hour.  Over time the oil gradually dissolves the cataract.

To prevent cataracts, you might want to increase your intake of lutein and zeaxanthin, two of the most abundant carotenoids in our diet. A new study from Finish researchers suggests that increased levels of lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce the risk of cataracts by about 40%. Increasing evidence supports the role of these two carotenoids for eye health, which also includes decreasing your odds of being afflicted with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

These carotenoids are available as supplements but if you want to go the natural route, here are foods that contain lutein and/or zeaxanthin:

  • kale
  • collard greens
  • spinach
  • swiss chard
  • mustard greens
  • parsley
  • eggs
  • beet greens
  • okra
  • red pepper
  • dill
  • romaine lettuce
  • endive
  • celery
  • scallions
  • leeks
  • broccoli
  • leaf lettuce
  • squash
  • green peas
  • carrots
  • artichoke
  • pumpkin
  • dates
  • grapes
  • oranges

Another recommendation for eye health is Vitamin D3. A recent study from the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London showed that after taking vitamin D3 for only 6 weeks, older mice showed improved vision as well as reductions in inflammation of the retina and levels of amyloid beta accumulation, a hallmark of aging.  This suggests that vitamin D3 may be helpful in preventing AMD, the most common cause of blindness in elderly people.

So if you are looking to improve the health of your eyes, consider trying a more natural path before undergoing surgery.

Midlife Health: Feeling Anxious? Passionflower can Help You Relax.

No, it doesn’t have anything to do with “passion in the bedroom” or anywhere else! It has to do with calming you down. Passionflower has been used to treat nervous restlessness for over 200 years.  It slows the pulses and sedates. The herb works by increasing levels of the chemical GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA lowers the activity of some brain cells, making you feel more relaxed.

Insomnia.

Passionflower has been shown in numerous studies to be a great sleep aid. It relaxes the nervous system without causing drowsiness the next morning. It actually works with (rather than against) the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle.

Restless Leg Syndrome and Nerve Pain.

Passionflower has also been shown to be effective for RLS, neuralgia and shingles.

High Blood Pressure due to Stress and Anxiety.

Because of its calming effect, passionflower helps reduce high blood pressure.

Anxiety.

A 2001 issue of the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics published data from a small double-blind study with 32 people suffering from general anxiety disorder. Participants in the study received a daily dose of either a passionflower liquid extract (45 drops) or 30 mg of a common anti-anxiety drug, oxazepam. Both groups displayed a significant decrease in their anxiety symptoms after four weeks but those taking passionflower did NOT report any severely impaired job performance, while 44 percent of the patients taking oxazepam did. 

PMS and Menopause. Passionflower can help to relieve the anxiety, irritability, depression and cramps that are often associated with menopause and PMS.

Use: Passionflower can be taken as a capsule (400-500 milligrams), a tincture (30-40 drops in a small amount of water) or a herbal infusion (pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes) two to three times a day. You will often find it in teas where it is mixed with other calming herbs such as chamomile, peppermint and catnip.
It is not recommended for pregnant women or children under two. Nor should it be taken with tranquilizers or sedatives since it may intensify their effect.  Adults over 65 and children between the ages of two and 12 should only take low-strength preparations.

All material is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Please consult a physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or condition.

Midlife Inspiration: You’re Never Too Old to Live Your Dreams

I recently spent some time visiting assisted-living facilities and nursing homes.  The event that prompted this “adventure” was my mother having a stroke and becoming visually impaired. Unfortunately this necessitated her no longer being able to live on her own and therefore having to make other arrangements.

What struck me as I was investigating these facilities and talking to some of the residents was how disengaged in life many of the folks had become.  The “why” I discovered was that fundamentally they believed they had nothing left to live for.

Some hadn’t even begun to empty out their “bucket lists” –  do those things they had always dreamt about.  When I commented that it was never too late, the majority said, “Oh no, I’m too old.”  What a sad statement.

I don’t believe we’re ever too old to experience the joy of doing something we truly love, even if it’s just a small piece of it.  For example, a client once told me that, at the age of 75, he was far too old to even contemplate becoming an architect, his life’s dream.  Perhaps he wasn’t about to go back to school to do the requisite study but does that mean he couldn’t live out his dream in another way.  He could have opted to volunteer at an architect’s office or do some simple online CAD training.  Anything that was related to architectural work.

If you need some inspiration to follow your dreams, then maybe these examples might spur you on:

  • Benjamin Franklin, at age 78, invented bifocal spectacles.
  • Mary Fasano, age 89, earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard.
  • Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum at 90 years of age.
  • David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, taught himself ancient Greek when he was at an advanced age just so he could master the classics.

Ages 35-55 might be the peak times for creativity in many fields but people in their 60s and 70s, though slower, are as productive as they were in their 20s. So if you’ve given up because you think you’re too old, think again, get rid of that limiting belief and GO FOR IT!

Cellist Pablo Casals was 91 when a student asked, “Master, why do you continue to practice?” His reply, “Because I am making progress.”

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