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Spotlight Ingredient: Tumeric

 

 Tumeric facts for beauty and beyond

Tumeric comes in different forms, but there appears to be no distinct health benefit of choosing fresh over powdered. 
Credit: David Murray/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

From sneaking into frothy lattés to refreshing juice elixirs and mouthwatering curries, turmeric has quickly become 2017’s ingredient du-jour. But does the golden spice live up to the hype? In a word: yes. A member of the ginger family and a long beloved staple in Indian and Asian cuisines, the vibrant orange-yellow superfood is revered for its health promoting properties and makes a common appearance in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. 

Turmeric possesses strong anti-inflammatory qualities and considering chronic inflammation is a key factor in many of today’s widespread diseases – including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes – the fragrant spice can improve a person’s overall health.

Still not convinced? We present to you five reasons why you should add an extra dash of the turmeric to your diet.

  1. ANTICANCER EFFECTS

Curcumin, a phytochemical and the primary healing agent found in turmeric has strong antioxidant properties that prevent the formation of and neutralize free radicals. According to Phyllis A. Balch, author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, “It [curcumin] stops precancerous changes within DNA and interferes with enzymes necessary for cancer progression.”   A 2013 international laboratory study looked at the effects of combined treatment with curcumin and chemotherapy on bowel cancer cells. The researchers concluded that the combined treatment shows better results than chemotherapy alone.

  1. PROTECTS THE LIVER

The liver is one of the body’s most important organs. It is responsible for converting food to energy, ridding your body of toxins, and producing bile, a liquid that aids digestion.  Turmeric contains chemical compounds that have been shown to protect the liver from damage, improve its ability to detoxify, and support the regeneration of new liver cells. 

  1. IMPROVED DIGESTION

Turmeric helps to stimulate the production of bile, which in-turn assists the breakdown and absorption of fats from your food. It also reduces the symptoms of gas and bloating for people susceptible to indigestion. In fact, in Germany, turmeric supplements are sometimes prescribed for digestive problems.

  1. IMPROVED MENTAL HEALTH

Studies have shown that curcumin can increase levels of the brain chemical BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in animal models. Low BDNF is associated with a host of mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. An increase in BDNF is thought to improve mental health, well-being, and mood. BDNF also stimulates the growth of new neurons in the brain, which could lead to enhanced memory. Studies show that extracts of turmeric contain a number of natural agents that block the formation of beta-amyloid, the substance responsible for the plaques that slowly obstruct cerebral function in Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. LOWERS CHOLESTEROL & IMPROVES BLOOD VESSEL HEALTH

Curcumin stops the oxidation of cholesterol, thus protecting against the formation of plaque in the arteries and the progression of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to cholesterol and plaque build-up), which can lead to stroke or heart attack.

  1. TREATS ARTHRITIS

Because curcumin is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing characteristics, a study was conducted on 45 rheumatoid arthritis patients to compare the benefits of curcumin in turmeric to the arthritis drug Diclofenac sodium, which put people at risk of developing leaky gut and heart disease. The curcumin group showed the highest percentage of improvement in overall [Disease Activity Score] scores and these scores were significantly better than the patients in the diclofenac sodium group. More importantly, curcumin treatment was found to be safe and did not relate to any adverse effects. 

  Written by Sofia Sosunov

Toxic Beauty - 7 Ingredients to Avoid

 

Some beauty ingredients have surprising links to carcinogens

When it comes to putting things into our bodies, we tend to take careful consideration of the ingredients and their origin, but somehow this important moment of reflection often slips us by when it comes to what we’re putting onto them. And while it’s increasingly crucial to check our food labels, we also need to be more discerning when it comes to selecting skin and beauty products. As the largest and most exposed organ in the human body, our skin will absorb whatever we put on or around it, making it especially vulnerable to infiltration by unsafe chemicals. In fact, 60% of what we slather, pat or spray on our skin daily is absorbed into the bloodstream.

It's no secret that most cosmetics contain chemicals, although recognizing their degree of hazard may be as difficult as pronouncing the chemicals themselves. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the average woman’s face is exposed to about 168 toxins from the 10-12 products she uses in her daily skincare and beauty regimen (men use about half as many products in their daily routine with an average of 85 toxic ingredients while kids get exposed to approximately 60 ingredients in a typical day). Horrified? So are we! But these alarming numbers can be significantly reduced if we became a little more mindful and educated about the substances we so freely use on our bodies.

To help you detox your beauty cabinet, we’ve compiled a list of seven harmful ingredients you should be wary of before buying your next lipstick, deodorant or face cream. 

Parabens

Parabens are a class of widely used preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast in creams, lotions, ointments, and other cosmetics, including deodorants. Sounds good, right? Not quite, there's more to the story. Parabens contain estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors. Alarmingly, you can also find these dangerous chemicals in food and pharmaceutical products.

Toluene

Derived from petroleum or coal tar sources, toluene (you may see it on labels listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene), is a strong solvent that can dissolve paint and paint thinner. Commonly found in nail polish, nail treatments and hair color and bleaching products, toluene is a petrochemical that can affect the respiratory system, cause nausea and irritate your skin. Expecting mothers should avoid exposure to toluene vapors as it may cause developmental damage to the fetus. If you’re still unconvinced of its harmful impacts on your health, this potent chemical has been linked to immune system toxicity.

Formaldehyde

A colorless, flammable gas often used in cosmetics to help protect products against contamination by bacteria during storage and continued use. The two known categories of products with the most formaldehyde are hair straightening treatments and nail hardeners.

The most common side effect of formaldehyde in cosmetics is skin irritation, including scalp burns and hair loss. But the major concern is that formaldehyde causes cancer. The National Toxicology Program’s 2011 June report classified formaldehyde as a carcinogen under conditions of high or prolonged exposure—conditions typical for industrial workers and professional groups, including embalmers and even salon workers.

Synthetic colors

If you glance at your product label and notice FD&C or D&C, they represent artificial colors (F — representing food and D&C representing drug and cosmetics). These synthetic colors are derived from petroleum or coal tar source (lovely, isn’t it?). Banned by the European Union, synthetic colors are suspected to be a human carcinogen, a skin irritant and have even been linked to ADHD in children.

Propylene glycol

Commonly used as a skin-conditioning agent, propylene glycol is a synthetic organic alcohol. It has been associated with causing dermatitis as well as hives in humans — sensitization effects can be manifested at propylene glycol concentrations as low as 2 percent! Widely used because of its relatively low cost and versatile nature, it can be found in moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup products, conditioners, shampoo and hair sprays.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

This surfactant appears in more than 90 percent of personal care and cleaning products (think foaming products). SLS’s are known to be skin, lung, and eye irritants. A major concern about SLS is its potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen. These combinations can lead to a host of other issues like kidney and respiratory damage. They can be found in shampoos, body washes, mascaras and acne treatments.

Phthalates

A group of chemicals used in hundreds of products to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. The main phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products are dibutyl phthalate in nail polish, diethyl phthalate in perfumes and lotions, and dimethyl phthalate in hair spray. They are known to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and reproductive birth defects in males and females. You can spot them in deodorants, perfumes/colognes, hair sprays and moisturizers.

Finally, as a general tip try to always opt for products with as few ingredients as possible. That way, you can rest assured that you’re being exposed to fewer chemicals overall. While change is not always easy, it’s time to apply a more considered approach to our beauty regime. Nourish your skin as you do your body.

Green is beautiful

 – Written by Sofia Sosunov

Smiling Your Way to Wellbeing

 In the midst of hectic schedules, social stresses and the rushed lifestyle associated with modern urban living, it’s easy for negative thoughts to arise and accumulate on our faces. We sulk, scowl and frown to express irritation or frustration when things do not go our way. And while being told to cheer up is the curse of the downturned mouth, smiling amid the mayhem may not only make us appear more approachable but be the key to good health and longevity.

According to Taoism, "emotional intelligence" is the process of recognizing emotions by their effects on the body, and employing exercises that transform negative sentiments into positive life force, or Chi. The life force stems from the vibratory nature of phenomena: the flow and tremoring that is happening continuously at molecular, atomic and sub-atomic levels. One of the most ancient Taoist Inner Alchemy (Neidan) practices, is the "Inner Smile." Normally we think of a smile, as an expression of friendliness or benevolence directed towards other people. But with the Inner Smile meditation, we offer the smile to ourselves, directing it towards our major internal organs. According to the Tao, different physiological systems store different emotions, and therefore organs have different energies. The Inner Smile meditation focuses on five organ systems: the heart, the lungs, the kidneys, the liver/gall bladder, and the stomach/spleen. Starting as a mere facial expression, the smile spreads to soften the whole body, dissolving malevolent energy and replacing it with gratitude and serenity, empowering us towards strength and restoration.

While you may be unconvinced of the merits of a simple smile, before you raise a sarcastic eyebrow or pull a frown, you may want to consider the implications. Prominent French physiologist, Dr, Israel Waynbaum, found that facial muscles used to express emotion activate specific brain neurotransmitters. His research shows that frowning triggers the release of the stress hormones cortisol, adrenalin and noradrenaline. Stress doesn't merely turn our moods a little sour, it spikes blood pressure, weakens our immune system, accelerates aging, increases our susceptibility to anxiety and can lead to weight gain (especially around the abdominal area). Meanwhile, the effortless act of smiling changes your brain chemistry. It signals the body to release feel-good chemicals, such as endorphins, which give us a natural high, and help to fight off depression, reduce pain and relax muscles. Smiling also releases immune-boosting T-cells, which defend the body against germs, viruses and bacteria and accelerates healing.

But what if we don’t feel like smiling? Can we fake it until we make it? Although a genuine smile has a deeper impact, a surface smile tricks the brain into producing the same chemicals. And scientific studies have shown that the more we smile, the more we want to smile. As Buddhist monk and global spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

For a detailed guide to the Inner Smile Meditation see:

http://albanyqigong.com/images/Inner%20Smile%20and%20Six%20Healing%20Sounds%20Practice.pdf

 – Written by Sofia Sosunov