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  • Hemi B

Black cumin (Nigella Sativa) has somewhat of a mythical reverence in ancient texts of Ayurveda to Biblical references to Islamic texts. Its purported benefits include improving cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, improving tri glyceride ratios and even helping manage post menopausal symptoms.

Nigella Sativa, also known as kalonji, black cumin is used as a spice in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine.

The dry roasted seeds flavor curries, vegetables and pulses. The black seeds taste like oregano and

have bitterness to them like mustard-seeds. It can be used as a "pepper" in recipes with pod fruits, vegetables, salads and poultry.

More than a thousand medical papers have been published in the last 50 years that have cemented black cumin's status in the 'miracle' herbs category.

As little as quarter a teaspoon of black cumin powder a day may result in its benefits being noticed in a few months.

Toast it lightly and grind it to a fine powder. It can be used as an added spice during cooking or simply consume it with a glass of water.

Till Next time,

Stay Healthy

Stay Happy

Mitun De Sarkar

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  • Hemi B

Has this happened to you?

You wake up in the morning with a sore throat more often than not.

You feel discomfort after eating a large meal.

You have regular feeling of heartburns and certain foods trigger regurgitative burps causing burning sensations in your throat.

If you experience these events frequently, it may be a good idea to get yourself checked by a gastroenterologist for possible GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).

What is GERD?

At the base of our esophagus and the top of our stomach is a small muscle called the sphincter muscle. The purpose of this muscle is to ensure that the food we consume goes into the stomach and stays there, not coming back into the esophagus.

Certain foods, medications, alcohol and sometimes congenital disorders make this muscle weak or loose, resulting in stomach acids rising into the esophagus and causing reflux (which may result in vomiting, particularly in younger children) and very commonly, acidity (a term widely used for acid reflux).

Regular reflux occurrence can cause a host of health issues, including

  • Nausea

  • Bad breath

  • Trouble breathing

  • A hard time swallowing

  • Vomiting

  • Wearing away of tooth enamel

  • A lump in your throat

  • A lingering cough

  • Laryngitis

  • Asthma that comes on suddenly or gets worse

  • Sleep problems

How Can Diet Help

Our bodies love balance. That includes a balanced pH level in our body. Water is regarded as pH neutral with a pH of 7. Lower than 7 is considered acidic, higher than 7 is considered alkaline. Our stomach pH is between 1 to 4, which is naturally acidic as the gastric juices need to digest the food we have consumed and break it down to absorbable nutrients.

So if stomach is naturally acidic and acid in esophagus is bad, we must try and keep it in the stomach right?

That is correct.

Research is ongoing and more research will bring about more data, but currently from some small studies it is suggested that a diet that focuses on alkaline foods and avoids foods that are acid producing or have a sphincter relaxing effect reduces symptoms of GERD and helps in managing the disease.

Foods to avoid

There will be a lot of disappointed readers after reading this list, I can fully understand why. But the tradeoff to avoiding these foods may be better sleep, less instances of heartburn and overall improvement in heath.

·Chocolate and mint: Why? These two actually relax a muscle at the base of the esophagus (the esophageal sphincter to be exact). Once relaxed, this allows stomach acid to wash up the esophagus, which irritates the voice box.

·Alcohol, coffee, caffeine and hot spices: I love a good cup of coffee and spicy food, but these items increase your stomach's acidity so much that it escapes up the esophagus. Alcohol is a natural relaxant and hence relaxes the sphincter muscle too. If you are suspecting you may have GERD, best to avoid these for a while and observe if the symptoms ease up.

·Fried food, processed and fatty meat and dairy: Fried food has never been good for us, meat doesn't need to be processed and eating leaner cuts just makes sense for so many reasons. Cheese, as delicious as it is, is clearly not health food. So, all of these were no-brainers.

Foods to have

I would like to point out that every body is different and though some may find this way of eating very beneficial, it may not change much for some. I highly encourage anyone trying to manage GERD to always follow your physician’s advice and seek professional guidance when in doubt.

·Milk: Non-dairy milk such as coconut milk, soy milk, cashew milk, almond milk, etc.

·Protein: Plant protein whenever possible and lean cuts of meat that are not breaded

·Grains: Whole grains

·Vegetables: Pretty much everything, as fresh as possible, preferably raw and never fried; leafy greens like spinach and kale are especially good, as are broccoli and cauliflower, avocado, cucumber and mushrooms.

·Fruit: Pome fruit (apples, pears), tropical fruit (except pineapple), berries, melons and bananas

·Fats: Plant fat likes olive oil, coconut oil and fats from fish

·Beverages: Water, juice (that is just juice) and herbal tea.

In addition to this:

·Avoid smoking

·Get to a healthier weight, if currently overweight

·Wear proper fitting clothes, not too tight, especially around the waist

·Avoid over eating

·Do not eat too close to bed time, keep a gap of at least 3 hours from last meal to sleeping

·Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly

Most GERD symptoms can be managed through lifestyle interventions, however some serious cases may require medical intervention, including certain anti acid medications and in very severe cases surgical options may be suggested.

As always, the world of nutrition and its benefits/impact is being researched at a rampant pace and new research brings about new insights. If have a concern about what condition is bothering you, I recommend seeking professional guidance.

Till next time

Stay Healthy

Stay Happy

Mitun De Sarkar

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  • Hemi B

By now most of us have come across the term 'Hangry'. As the term suggests, it means that some people tend to get angry (easily) when they are hungry. Hungry+Angry= Hangry.

This tends to happen when you haven’t eaten for a while, the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood decreases. When your blood sugar gets too low, it triggers a cascade of hormones, including cortisol(a stress hormone) and adrenaline (the fight-or-flight hormone). These hormones are released into your bloodstream to raise and re balance your blood sugar.

The release of cortisol can cause aggression in some people. Also, low blood sugar may interfere with higher brain functions, such as those that help us control impulses and regulate our primitive drives and behavior.

This kind of shift in mood is quite perceptible. The ones who tend to get hangry are most times aware that its the lack of food for a prolonged period of time that is causing a shift in their behaviour ( I am one of them). This tendency to be irritable is also managed reasonably easily, have a nutritious, balanced meal and it voila, the irritability subsides.

More complicated is the relationship between the gut microbiome and its influence on the more imperceptible mood disorders.

The gut is physically connected to the brain through millions of nerves.

Therefore, the gut microbiome may also affect brain health by helping control the messages that are sent to the brain through these nerves.

Certain species of bacteria can help produce chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. For example, serotonin is an antidepressant neurotransmitter that's mostly made in the gut.

A number of studies have shown that people with various psychological disorders have different species of bacteria in their guts, compared to healthy people. This suggests that the gut microbiome may affect brain health.

However, it's unclear if this is simply due to different dietary and lifestyle habits.

A small number of studies have also shown that certain probiotics can improve symptoms of depression and other mental health disorders. (

Increasing research is being conducted in the area of probiotics and prebiotics, the kind of bacteria which are good for our gut health. (Human cells make up only 43% of the body's total cell count. The rest are microscopic colonists).

My take on how food can affect your mood are these:

  • If you have a tendency to be 'hangry', eat small nutritiously balanced meals at regular intervals, depending on your lifestyle. (an apple or a handful of nuts between meals can go a long way)

  • Eat a diverse range of foods: This can lead to a diverse microbiome, which is an indicator of good gut health. In particular, legumes, beans and fruit contain lots of fiber and can promote the growth of healthy Bifidobacteria.

  • Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir all contain healthy bacteria, mainly Lactobacilli, and can reduce the amount of disease-causing species in the gut.

  • Prebiotics are a type of fiber that stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria. Pre-biotic rich foods include artichokes, bananas, asparagus, oats and apples.

  • Polyphenols are plant compounds found in red wine, green tea, dark chocolate, olive oil and whole grains. They are broken down by the microbiome to stimulate healthy bacterial growth.

  • Antibiotics kill many bad and good bacteria in the gut microbiome, possibly contributing to weight gain and antibiotic resistance. Thus, only take antibiotics when medically necessary.

Till next time,

Stay healthy

Stay Happy

Mitun De Sarkar

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