Pink Eye

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Right after I arrived home, I knew I caught something on the plane. It was filled with people coughing all the way. Usually, I can withstand this kind of environment and stay healthy. Not this time – started with mild cough and runny nose, and then all of a sudden total outbreak of red eye several days later, I was infected in the eyes. Yeah, pink eye.

The Symptoms

I never had pink eye at very serious level until now.

Note: You can skip the next paragraph if you dislike gross details.

My eyes basically ooze out ugly pus (eye discharge) all night without me knowing. The next morning my eyes are glued together by this yucky stuff. I have no choice but to contact my family physician to ensure the problem is not something life or sight threatening. I went to see the optometrist. She gave me the bad news that I have viral infection in my eyes. The pus, however, is actually good news because my immune system is reacting to the virus and the pus is, exactly like the phlegm one gets in the throat from flu, the resulting product of expelled virus and my body fluid. If my body could not fend off the virus, there would be little or no discharge and the discomfort (including sharp pain) would be worse.

In short, I caught pink eye and it is in a form that I just need to take care of my eyes until the virus is cleansed out.

How It Started

So how did I get the infection? Nope, not the dirty hands or whatever you read from the internet. It is simply the virus gets into my eyes through the breach of the part of sinus connecting to the eyes.

How do I know? It happened right after I blow my nose and blood is found due to the dry condition in Canada.

It took just two hours after that to turn my eyes from clear white into bloody eye.

How to Handle Pink Eye Safely and Comfortably

Here is the good part on how to handle pink eye safely and comfortably. I have done this with my kids before so I know it reduces the discomfort a lot.

To help the eyes recovering faster, we have to flush out those discharge so that they do not scar the eyes and do not damage the sensitive skins around the eyes. To do that, warm water is better than cold water, unlike what majority of things you read out there. Warm water made from boiled water is safest. Add coconut oil to the mixture too as it helps to soften the discharge coming off the eyes.

Remember not to rub the eyes harshly because the mucus actually stick to the skin. Trying to remove them by force can bruise your skin. You have to start with just soaking the eyes with the warm water mixture first. Only until the mucus are dissolving that you move onto using very soft material to clean out the pus.

Once the cleaning is done, use regular eye drops that simulate tears to flush out the hidden mucus. Then clean out the pus again.

Once you are done, you can apply coconut oil all around the eyes to help the skin to recover.

At this point, if the eyes are swollen and in pain, using a cold compress on the eyes will sooth them.

If there is no mucus to deal with, you can keep the eye drops in the refrigerator so that they can sooth your eyes on contact.

An important thing to remember though is that if you have only one eye being infected, you should be extremely careful not to contaminate your other eye by your hands or the environment. One good way is to wash your hands (or using hand sanitizer) often.

To Speed Up the Recovery

Well, drinking lots of water and having enough rest are the two most important things to do to get rid of pink eye.

Since the discharge from the eyes are highly contagious, it is also advisable not to travel around so that you will not infect the others.

Seriously, when your eyes are constantly discharging yucky stuff, it can be quite scary for anyone meeting you face to face.

End Notes

My eyes are getting better. Most of the redness is now gone. Overall I do not have much discomfort from my eyes, just inconvenience.

However, my work schedule is totally disrupted. I managed to response to some email every day but nothing much can be done beyond that when your eyes are not cooperating. I can tell that another catch up race is in the making.

This bout of sickness reminds me to be grateful for having pretty good health overall. I should take good care of my body from now on even when I am traveling. If I were not that confident of my fitness, this round of illness could be totally avoided.

Another good lesson of “pride goes before a fall”.

Flu Got Me, I Got Oregano Oil

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After years of sickness free life, the flu in this season finally got me. The soreness and aches are real, as the battle between my immune system and the flu virus is going on fiercely. Since there is really no cure for flu, I have to tough it out. However, there are ways to reduce the ailments and shorten the recovery time.

To manage the symptoms, the obvious choice is using painkiller like acetaminophen to control the fever and reduce the pain from muscles and bones. For cough related symptoms, however, I find using oregano oil is much better than using the cough syrup from the drug stores.

First, make sure you get at least food grade oregano oil. If you happen to have access to oregano essential oil, it is even better.

Put a few drops (5 to 10) of oregano oil in small amount of water. If it is essential oil, put in 1 to 3 drops to start with because they are way more potent than the regular one. Then mix it hard with a spoon or whatever because you do not want to consume too much of the oil all at once. Some people choose to mix oregano oil with coconut oil instead and that works well too in my experience.

Sip a little of the mixture and keep the liquid under your tongue. This is the fastest way for us to absorb the substance within the oregano oil. The burning sensation will kick in pretty quickly. The experience here is the reason most people will give up the remedy. Hence start with a more diluted liquid and increase the concentration of oregano oil up to a level you can still tolerate.

After 30 seconds or so start letting the liquid to dip down your throat. Oregano oil has anti-inflammation property and the ability to cut through the phlegm. It also helps your throat to recover a bit faster. Aside from its awful taste to some, I think oregano oil is a much better cough control substance comparing to the cough syrup out there because it does not make you drowsy so that you can actually carry out your day like normal if you choose to.

Repeat this process 3 to 4 times a day will keep the coughing under control.

There are other benefits with consuming oregano oil like keeping our appetite up which contributes greatly towards a speedy recovery.

Just a reminder though, to recover from flu, the tried-and-true method of resting a lot and drinking enough water is still the best way to go.

How Scientific Approach to Meditation Revolutionizes this Gift from Our Ancient Past

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Meditation, the mystical practice that has gained so much recognition lately from the Internet, has been around for literally thousands of years in various forms and styles. It gained its flame because of the supposedly superpower you can unlock within yourself like becoming wiser, calmer and perform better in almost everything. However, for normal people who tried to learn this, more than half of them are likely not able to benefit from practicing meditation. In fact, it is creating more frustration and confusion than helping out these people to live a better life. After all, it was called a mystical skill for a good reason. Well, thanks to latest scientific research and technology, this ancient technique of training our mind is now much more learnable than ever.

I touched on this subject of meditation over the years but I tried to minimize the coverage because of several factors. First, it was much less acceptable to even talking about meditation just ten years ago. It was even namely as “evil” when you whisper the name to someone whose religious background somehow tainted by bad information. Second, self learning meditation is always difficult because there is no easy way to track one’s progress in such training. Unlike learning a subject with scientific facts that you can be quizzed later on to see how much you remember or understand, a normal person do not have a simple way to self assess the improvements they have made from practicing meditation.

Modern meditation techniques introduced by many famous gurus actually helped a lot more people because they simplified the whole concept down to something much more tangible. For example, the famous one-moment meditation has been helping so many people in dealing with their everyday stress and hectic lives. There are many scientific researches made public that help people to understand that being more mindful (through meditation) can benefit them so much that their brains are rewired in a good way.

So we now know meditation helps people in a very meaningful way. Its health benefits are tremendous. But these researchers have not been able to solve the biggest obstacle of making meditation something accessible to everyone, until now.

I reviewed a product called Inner Balance at my other site, Essence of Trading, focuses on its benefit on trading performance. This product is basically a portable heart rate monitor that connect to your cell phone through Bluetooth. What makes it special is that it can track your heart rate variability (HRV) in real-time giving the user instant feedback of their current state of calmness. Yep, you read this right. For the first time, there is a way for anyone who does not have access to a good trainer to learn the foundation of meditation, which is slowed down breathing, to finally learn the skill properly, quickly with much less frustration.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a pretty good indicator of one’s calmness which was very difficult to measure before the discovery and deeper understanding of how our heart lung functions are affected by our mood swings. Maybe, in the future there will be even better measurement tools discovered along the way. But why wait if we already have something on hand that can help us now.

Anyone interested in getting Inner Balance can go to their site and check out the products offered there.

(Affiliate disclosure: I have signed up to become an affiliate after I gave out a whole bunch of this device as gifts and see the amazing results on my friends and family)

I will try not to repeat what I wrote in the review here. Anyone interested in that can read it later.

What I like to say here is that many traditional practices from our ancestors could be labelled as mystical but not all of them are bad. Once we start to understand more how they work, the mysticism dissolves, resulting in a more accurate view of what they really are. Meditation, now with enough scientific researches done on the subject, is shining through with real life practical use in medical treatments like reducing anxiety, lowering high blood pressure and improving performance from sports to trading. It is a real gift from our ancient past.

The Single Most Effective Way to Weight Loss

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I have seen so many people having this problem with overweight that I always wonder why they are having such a hard time in cutting down the fat from their bodies. There are even TV shows with people signing up there to be coached by nutritionist, exercise coach, etc. to drop their weight to a healthier level. It is amusing to see such phenomenon happening in China as well with their younger generation showing exactly the same type of obesity issues. Seriously, in my not so humble opinion, all these fancy diets and exercise regimes we see out there are not really attacking the problem directly, hence the difficulty in getting the overweight crowd back in shape.

Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional. What I write here is my personal opinion. Seek medical advice from your doctor if you plan to do anything affecting your health.

What’s Underneath the Overweight Symptom Matters

For some people their overweight issue is actually a medical condition like hypothyroidism. If the underlying medical condition is not treated, doing all kinds of healthy routines will not get the person far. The worst part is that the process of such healthy regimes also destroy the person’s determination over time as the ineffectiveness is usually blamed on the person as oppose to the experts who are offering the advices.

Once the medical condition is put under control, or that you are relatively healthy in the first place, the next step is easy. It helps to do exercise but not everyone can afford to do that due to various reasons. The way to weight loss is always eating less food. To be specific, eating less food that induces weight gain and bloating is the key to control our weight. The concept is so simple but it is very hard to do if you listen to the weight loss meme out there. After all, controlling our craving is hard.

Really?

Trick Your Brain with Healthy Filler

It is well known that in any weight loss regime, using some type of filler food is always the key component. When people are eating junk food, they put excessive fat, sugar and carbohydrates into their bodies. Healthy fillers like broccoli and cauliflower when cooked without sauce or a lot of seasoning can keep us feeling full. Hence eating them as replacement to potato chips, fries, noodles, rice and pasta of course will drop your weight fast.

The goal with eating filler food is to get your body used to a lower calorie diet without giving yourself a hard time feeling very hungry. Once your body has reduced weight, it will automatically demand lower calories as a result. In other words, using filler food is to trick our brain to stop craving for food.

But there is a problem with these healthier alternatives. They just take too much time to prepare. They are also unhealthy when prepared in advance. Fast food and microwave meals exist for a reason. They are way more convenience when you feel hungry and need a fix quickly.

If there is a healthy filler that does not require so much work, everyone can enjoy a healthier life.

Is there anything like that out there?

Yes!

The Cheapest Solution to Weight Loss

I like to introduce you to konjac noodles, your new best friend in weight control.

The root of the konjac plant is used to make this bouncy tasteless noodle in many countries in Asia. The Japanese name for the konjac jelly is Konnyaku. The noodle is also known as shirataki noodles. They are transparent in color. The noodles are just shredded version of the jelly blocks.

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You can buy these noodles from Asia supermarkets at very low price. Interestingly, Asians mainly eat this food in their hotpots which is one of the most unhealthy way to consume food.

These instantly edible noodles have several very interesting properties. First, they are extremely low in calories, making them a good candidate as a filler food. At less than 10 calories per 100 gram of konnyaku noodles, you cannot get any food doing the same.

Second, this noodle contains no sugar, sodium (salt) and fat. This property tells you that the konnyaku noodle is an acceptable filler.

Third, this noodle has about 2% fibre and 1% protein by weight. With the healthy nutrients, you know they are healthy filler.

If it is so good for weight control, why is no one talking about it?

Actually, the weight loss industry and the health food industry know about this for a long time. The weight loss industry has been selling supplement tablets mixed with konjac powder for decades. The health food industry also catches up with organic konjac powder to mix with your own cooking.

But they are not going to tell you the best way to really benefit from eating konjac is to get the instant version at a low price.

There is Always a Catch

Even if someone learned about Konjac and ventured to buy whole bunch of these konnyaku noodles hoping to start their weight loss regime, that person will likely drop the idea after opening the first package. That’s the catch.

Konjac products themselves are odourless just like any other jelly making ingredients. The original konjac powder, however, when being used in the cooking process, produces a smell that is not very pleasant. It is consistent with other jelly making ingredients too.

But for a normal person who has never experienced that, you can imagine what the person thinks when they first open a package of konnyaku noodle. Many people simply assume the food went foul. When they open up the second package, they will probably give up the whole idea.

To pre-process the konnyaku noodle, you just need to rinse the noodle in water for several minutes. You can also just rinse it once and then leave them in water for several minutes. The smell from the konjac water will be completely removed. You can either eat the noodle right after because it is fully cooked. You can also store the noodle in the refrigerator for a week.

Hence, if you hate the smell, pre-made a whole batch of konnyaku noodle in the frig so that you can use it anytime you want to eat.

Just in case you cannot get the straight up noodles and instead getting what you see below, don’t panic.

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This is a fancy version of the konnyaku noodle. They are small bunch of noodles tied in an open knot that you can easily untie. They are made this way for people putting them into hotpots.

Eat It Anyway You Like

There are many ways to enjoy konjac noodle. Simplest way is to eat it cold with a little bit of soya sauce, cold noodle sauce or fish broth. That’s very traditional Japanese style.

Another traditional way to eat konnyaku noodle is mix it into seaweed salad.

In many Asian countries, they throw the konnyau noodle into their hotpots.

Unlike pasta or rice, the konnyaku noodles do not absorb flavour very well. You see everywhere on the internet said it does but that is not true. It is just another misinformation spread by the internet copycats. To make the noodles absorbing just a little of the flavour, it takes several hours of soaking in the sauce or broth. An alternative solution is, of course, to thicken the sauce but that also means you are eating a lot more calories as a result.

Another difference between konnyaku noodles and pasta is that pasta are chewy and soft while konnyaku noodles are bouncy. For some people this difference in texture can take some time to get used to. If you can stopping thinking of konnyaku noodles being a replacement of your pasta and accept it as it is, you will adapt to the experience much more quickly.

For diet purpose, you can use it to replace your pasta or your bowl of rice in your regular meal. You can also prepare the noodle in a light sauce or salad dressing so that you can snack on it instead of your usual unhealthy snacks or expensive diet snacks.

Healthier Life Can Be Easy

The beauty of using konnyaku noodle is that there is really no change to your overall eating habit. Just replace everything you are eating that is unhealthy with the noodle will do the job. And the preparation time and effort is next to none. Once your weight is dropping, your body will make the adjustment necessary for you. i.e. you will likely crave for less food.

Now you know the secret to weight loss and it is not something difficult to do. Take control of your weight today!

p.s. I have recommended this to many people and have seen great results from them all. There is really no point for me to repeat myself again and again. Hence writing this piece to save myself the trouble.

Steve Maxwell: How to Exercise

This is a clip from a long interview of Steve Maxwell at the YouTube channel London Real. As an expert in training all kinds of athletes, his wisdom on exercise is very interesting. I agree with him that we should not over do exercise if our goal is to stay fit only.

You can find more video on Steve Maxwell online.

3 Weeks of No Exercise and Sleep Deprivation

Last few weeks I have to travel far frequently to take care of things in remote areas. My daily routine was totally disrupted. Cannot exercise when there was not even enough time to sleep. Now that things settled down, I learn some important effects on my health that is very useful.

First, when I finally get to do my daily exercise routine, strength in my legs is not affected much. Feels awkward for about a minute and then things just go back to normal. My guess is that I have to walk a lot over the past few weeks, my legs still got enough exercise to stay in shape.

Then problem started to show when I did my ab exercises. I was able to do what I usually do but with difficulties at the end.

Finally, pull ups and other upper body exercises became so difficult that I am not able to do half of what I did 3 weeks ago. This sucks big time.

A good lesson learned – better planning necessary to stay in shape no matter what.

And the question of striking a balance between enough sleep and exercise – if we have very limited amount of time left for both, what to do?

Sleeping is a Skill

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My late girlfriend used to stay awake most of the nights doing all kinds of things. When she became so tired she would sleep for just couple of hours and start the next day all energized. Those who do not know her would think that she must have slept well the night before. Little did she know that not able to sleep is both potential cause and symptom of having endocrine related illnesses, cancer included. We tried so many things to help her overcome the struggle to get better sleep. She eventually learned how to sleep well (most of the time) and it was a great triumph in helping her to stay healthy for a long period of time.

Many People Unlearned How to Sleep

When we are babies, we acquired the sleeping skill naturally since we can do absolutely nothing else. Over our life time, however, many people may have unlearned the skill because of many reasons. The most common one is having a lifestyle that keeps irregular sleeping schedule. Another is stress related anxiety that keeps the brain busy hence not able to sleep well or to fall asleep. Once the original sleeping pattern we learned from childhood is disrupted, many people can no longer find a way to get to sleep well anymore.

The trouble gets worse as many people try to improve their sleep through the use of alcohol and medications.

Drinking to get oneself to sleep works in the beginning but it will escalate to heavy drinking quickly if your not one of those lucky persons who are born with extremely low alcohol tolerance. Heavy drinking cannot get one to sleep. All it does is making you black out for couple of hours and the aftershock will make you wake up yet not able to sleep again.

Using medications also “works” if you consider turning into a zombie is actually sleeping. These drugs usually just turn off your senses (in greatly simplified terms) for specific amount of time. It helps people who desperately needing some sleep. The problem, however, is that such form of sleep is not a real sleep that our bodies need. Many of these sleeping pills have so many side-effects that they are now blamed for causing all kinds of illnesses themselves. One of common side-effects is that you cannot stop taking the drug or you will have very bad withdrawal symptoms including not able to sleep at all. Another side effect is that you will have serious memory loss after prolonged usage of such drugs.

Enough Sleep is Necessary for Longevity

During sleep our bodies repair itself. This is especially important for our brain to function properly. Only certain stage of sleep where our brain can go into its daily cleansing routine. Thus, people whose work is heavily analytical (e.g. trading) would have their performance degraded badly if they do not have enough sleep. I mentioned a hack to deal with lack of sleep by inducing sleep like behaviour in our brain.

When we are sick, it often reduces our ability to sleep well due to the ailments the illness is causing. But then the lack of enough sleep would induce further weaknesses with our immune system. So, it is just way too easy to go into the spiral down effect in terms of our health once you failed to keep your sleeping quality up.

If we have to choose between enough sleep and having enough exercise, my take is that enough sleep is always more important, given that you do in general have enough exercise most of the time. Remember, it is very easy to maintain or improve your overall health by integrating exercise into your daily lives. Going to the gym is completely overrated if you do not have the luxury due to a very hectic schedule.

Just like any other life decisions, be aware of the long term implications of depriving yourself of sleep so that you can schedule sleep just like you schedule exercise into your daily activities. This approach to sleep will go a long way in improving your quality of life.

Learning How to Sleep for the First Time

For those of you who are already in trouble on getting to sleep, there are countless number of approaches out there to help you to fall asleep.

One very consistently successful approach is to keep a bed time routine so that you can ease your mind into a stage that you know you have to go to sleep in certain amount of time. Many people simply wait until they seriously need to sleep as they cannot even keep their eyes open and then they go to bed. That’s exactly how one unlearn sleeping in the first place. The way we learned to sleep as a baby is that we are trained to be in an immobile position first, having the comfort on a bed or being hold onto a secure position and then we fall asleep.

So go search on youtube or whatever about sleeping routines. Many famous gurus like Tim Ferriss have videos on their sleeping routines all explained. There is no need for me to duplicate the effort here. Just watch some of them and see if you can create your own routine so that you can sleep better.

Many people who tried various strategies to get better sleep often give up when they do not see results the first few days. Somehow all these methods just seems not working for them. What they do not understand is that they are likely already unlearned how to sleep. It is like you are bed ridden for months and try to walk again. It can take days or even weeks to gain the sleeping skill back.

One great example illustrating the point is the switching of sleep schedule for those who have no problem sleeping in the first place. It takes usually 3 to 4 days to reprogram our minds to the new schedule, even if it is just 2 to 3 hours off from the original one. For those people who have trouble going to sleep in the first place, there is no real switching to a new schedule at all because they just cannot tell if there is a schedule change.

In short, it is important to have patience in training yourself to get to sleep. Do everything you have learned to improve your sleep and tough it out like you are training yourself with a rigorous exercise regime. Any improvement you get with your ability to sleep better will benefit yourself for the rest of your life. It’s worth it.

Tools to Assist Our Sleep

One recurring pattern I see with people whose health is extremely compromised is that they cannot sleep unless there is strong heat generated around them for couple of hours. For example, those people who are going through cancer treatments often feel coldness when they try to sleep. But that in turn makes it very difficult for them to sleep well as it feels so cold that they wake up from shivering. And it is not that they are not dressed properly or that they do not have blankets to keep them warm. It is the fact that they cannot generate enough heat themselves from inside their bodies.

Using regular heat fan or turning up the heat in the room does not help because they have the negative effect of drying up the air we breath in which can wake us up from dry throat.

The better solutions I found help a lot in this situation are heating equipment that target our bodies directly.

First, there are the heating blankets that cover on top of us. Those ones help but not very effective because the real coldness actually happens on the back of our bodies. In Chinese medicine point of view, when our heart lung functions are weak, the first sign is coldness radiating from our back directly behind the centre of our torso. Hence, putting the heating blankets underneath us work better. However, these heating blankets suffer the same issue as the regular heat fan for which they dry up the air nearby.

And then there is the bed warmer systems that are either water based or air based. These systems pump the warmed water or air into tubes that form a mesh, usually in the form of a mattress cover. These systems provide consistent warmth without the drawback like the blankets. I have recommended these systems to a number of people who have trouble sleeping and they did wonders for these people.

Finally, there is the biomat method which is based on something totally different from the other products mentioned above. There are a number of companies making these mats with far-infrared that help the person using them to generate heat within themselves. By far, I found these mats work the best and the improvement in sleep quality (and overall health) for many people has been amazing.

Supplements to Assist Our Sleep

Another approach to helping one sleep is the use of medications. As I explained earlier, the prescription stuff are not likely a good idea if you do not want long term side effects to get you eventually. However, there are many natural supplements out there that can help us. As long as the supplement is made with quality raw materials and no toxic fillers, you can safely use them without the side effects associated with the prescription drugs.

Remember that these supplements can assist us to get to sleep or improving the overall quality of sleep (I will explain later the difference), they cannot make you sleep. Sleeping is a function of our minds. If you have lost the skill to sleep, you have to train yourself to get it back.

One common supplement to help us sleep better is Melatonin. Many people tried using it and the results are totally mixed. After reading this article up to this point, you should know the reason. Melatonin can help only if you still know how to go into sleep. It promotes sleepiness, not knocking you out like the sleeping pills. Another aspect of using melatonin is that you cannot use too much of it. Many people buy the maximum dose ones hoping they work better. Well, it does not work that way. Too much melatonin in our system can lead to “after shock” where you are more awake several hours later if you are not asleep by then.

In Chinese medicine, there are at least 5 to 6 types of herbal medicine that promotes better sleep. There are also 3 to 4 types of herbs that putting us at ease to get us to sleep. All of them has to be used in moderation and has to have breaks if they are used for prolong period of time. For example, many of these herbs should be used at most for 2 weeks time and then one has to stop taking them for a week. Or, you can go with taking them 5 days a week and stop using them during weekends. It is not because of toxicity of the herbs that you need to take these “medicine holidays” like those chemo drugs. The need to take breaks is because of the build up of natural resistance of these substance. Continuous usage will lead to your body no longer reacting to the supplements with the desired effects.

So, it is alright to try out various herbal supplements to see which one works for you. Just remember that you should take breaks from using them so that their effectiveness on you can be maintained.

Falling Asleep is a Skill, Staying Asleep is Something Else

Out of the many sleeping issues, from Chinese medicine point of view, the one that actually stop people from having a good night of sleep is actually the ability to stay asleep. Yep, failing asleep can be trained but if you wake up some 5 minutes later because of your body is telling you that you must wake up you will be stuck with another night of no sleep until the sun rise.

To help us staying asleep, the environment plays an important role. Usually, people who are too deprived from sleep would crash to sleep for many hours from time to time. But that is not enough to repair the damage that has been done to their bodies. When they feel better after these black out type of sleep, they would return to the same problem of not able to stay asleep. That can often be resolved by making the sleeping environment more sleep friendly.

One very common practice nowadays is putting a TV in the bedroom facing the bed. And for some others, the dresser with a huge mirror facing the bed again. These objects, together with many shiny items, are your worst enemies in keeping you in sleep. In Chinese astrology, there are other bad implications with the arrangement but the most basic issue of not having a good night of sleep is now confirmed by Western research that we human indeed detect the reflections from these objects and react to them while we are sleeping. Hence, the disruption of our sleep by these objects in the night is a reality.

It is easy to resolve this problem. Just cover them with dark non-reflecting cloth materials when we are getting ready to go to sleep. If possible keep the room in absolute darkness. Using very deem night light only if it is necessary. Since everyone has a different tolerance level of light reflection while sleeping, it takes experiment to figure out your comfort level. Personally I can sleep in broad day light with no problem at all while I know some friends who need total darkness in a room to stay in sleep.

There are many factors affecting our sleeping environment like the room temperature, humidity, sound and smell. By controlling these four factors, one can create a “sleep mode” where one feel safe to sleep just like they are experiencing the comfort feeling when they are babies. I know someone who must use certain kind of aromatic smell at night to get to sleep and stay in sleep as well. There are many others who need certain kind of sound as a background noise to keep them sleeping because of their sensitivity in hearing other sound.

There are several Chinese herbs that are prescribed to patients to reduce the sensitivity of their senses while asleep which in turn improve the sleep quality a lot. I have not seen supplements made from these herbal ingredients yet. If I see that being offered in the supplement market, I will mention that in future post.

Better Mood, Better Health, Better Life

Take your time to figure out what you need to get yourself to sleep and keep yourself sleeping. Make this a project, a goal, for yourself. If there is something rewarding that is very much achievable, I guess sleeping is one of them.

I don’t think I need to talk about the many benefits of better sleep. After all, you are reading this article all the way up to this point. What I like to say is that better sleep leads to better mood and better health. And that goes a long way in improving your life and likely the ones around you.

Soy Sauce: It Can Be the Reason You are Bloated

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Many people use soy sauce in their cooking and at the dining table without thinking much about it. It is so common in Asian cuisines that it is assumed to be safe for everything. Well, it is not.

Soy sauce is a fermented product. We know very well from Chinese medical point of view that a person with any form of injury or internal inflammation should avoid fermented food at least until after the wound is closed up or that the inflammation is gone. However, many people would not notice that they are eating fermented food when they prepare their food with soy sauce. That’s one of the reasons why it takes so long for some people to recover from a simple shoulder injury (or post exercise stiffness) even if they cautiously avoiding food that is known to keep the inflammation staying longer. The most common form of reactions to soy sauce due to internal inflammation is bloating.

There is also this growing issue of soy sauce allergy. There are more and more cases of allergy reactions to soy sauce that were unnoticed before. Only until after some people actually go for allergy testing due to allergy reactions to other allergens like gluten that they discover that they are allergy to soy sauce as well. If you do have such problems, try switching to organic non-GMO soy sauce to see if the problem goes away. Many people I talked to actually have no allergy reactions since they switched.

Dining out at a non-Asian restaurant no longer guarantee that you are safe from soy sauce. Many Western restaurants prepare their food with a hint of soy sauce to improve the favour. So telling your server at the restaurant that you don’t want your food prepared with soy sauce can often help. One classic way to reduce the soy influence on our bodies is drinking green tea. If you find you are very bloated several hours after dining out at a Chinese restaurant, and that drinking green tea right after can bring you back to normal, you know you need to avoid or reduce soy sauce in your diet.

Finally, just try using simple sea salt or going fancy with Himalayan pink salt instead of using soy sauce for favouring. If you have never tried that, you will discover a whole new dimension of taste from the original ingredients that were masked out by soy sauce.

Seriously, putting soy sauce on everything is kind of boring, isn’t it?

Picture Source: Wikimedia.org

Taking Supplement or Not

Assorted pills

It is very interesting how divided people are in terms of taking health related supplements. Many older people hold the belief that these supplements are just snake oil that the big companies created to grab more money from gullible people. Some other people, especially those whose health are compromised, keep on seeking for better supplements to relief their pains, insomnia and other ailments. The big question boils down to one thing though – are you knowledgeable enough to make the right decision for yourself whether you need supplement or not.

Many Supplements Actually Work

Many classic supplements, especially the ones made with natural ingredients, work. And most of us actually eat them in one form or another. The very flavourful soup you drank when you were young, the traditional fermented food from your home country and those special cocktail of stuff in your herbal tea for treating your cold are all functional supplements, in a way. The old ways in making these digestible stuff to augment our health still work but it takes time and lots of effort to prepare them. Technology and medical science has taken on these tasks, resulting in readily available forms of these supplements.

However, we have a new issue to deal with as it gets much easier to access to these health supplements. Namely, there are so many kinds of supplements and so many brands to choose from. It is very difficult to figure out which one to take and what is actually suitable for your situation.

Everyone Needs Some Form of Supplements to Stay Healthy

Once a person has reached their prime of 30 years old, the ability to absorb nutrients declines. This belief comes straight from traditional Chinese medicine and is confirmed by Western medical science with better details. This very simple fact contributes a lot to the aging process. Think about this. When you cannot absorb the same quantity of nutrients from the same amount of food you eat, you are starving your body from what is needed to maintain it in top healthy state. Slowly, the deficiency in certain types of essential nutrients will cause sickness in you without you knowing. It is exactly like the story of boiling a frog.

One good example is vitamin D deficiency which was told to me by a nurse managing research cases on patients with long term illnesses. Tons of people living in Canada and other regions of the world where sunlight is not there for the better half of each year rarely get enough vitamin D. Worse yet, as one ages, the ability to absorb sunlight to convert that into vitamin D declines quickly. It takes an elderly much longer time under the sun to get the same benefit like a young adult. One can eat to get enough vitamin D but one has to be aware of the issue in the first place to make sure their diets taking care of that.

The surprising issue with long term mild vitamin D deficiency is feeling depressed. When someone feels down they tend to stay home which in turn further reduce their exposure to sunlight that is essential in generating vitamin D themselves through their skin. Another form of the mild depressed state is the increase in anxiety. I can keep on going of the problems one will get from this one simple issue which can take forever to write. The main point is that we can become very ill from causes we are not aware of, even though you may consider yourself having a relatively healthy lifestyle.

To help patients with long term illnesses that keep them bed ridden, vitamin D is often prescribed now to keep these patients out of mood swings and improve their recovery speed. It works wonder and the approach is adopted in many places in the world.

But if you can keep yourself healthy in the first place by taking vitamin D supplement, why not?

Know Yourself for Real

People often take supplements when they feel something is not right with their bodies. Other times, it is recommended by the family physician after regular body check up. One common recommendation by physicians is taking calcium supplement for women that are 40 years or older as a preventive measure. But can you do more to help yourself?

In fact, yes you can figure things out before it gets to the point it is affecting your health. You can ask for comprehensive checking on your blood profile on both essential nutrients and hormone levels. In Canada, such tests can be ordered by our family physician without extra costs. In many other countries, it will cost you but I think it is well worth it.

One reason why supplements are getting so many bad reps is that people are taking them based on observed symptoms. But many symptoms are common among many kinds of ailments you may be having. In other words, you are guessing what your actually underlying issue is without the proper scientific background nor the complete picture of the situation like having your blood profile on hand. Your pick of supplements will likely be whatever last pop science article or video suggested instead of well informed decision.

So, in fact you can use trial and error method until you find the supplements you need. It takes a long time to get the right combination. Just be patient and learn to study yourself by recording how you feel over time so that you can eventually figure out what you need.

Or, you can use the more scientific approach with blood profile and other biometric measures (i.e. blood pressure, oxygen concentration level, etc.) to see what you need and target those deficiencies right from the beginning.

Personal Preference

I prefer taking supplements that are basically food over the highly refined pills coming from these brand names that have very expensive price tags. It is not because I do not believe that they work. In fact, I know many of these brands work very well. The main concern is that from my background in Chinese medicine, I know these highly concentrated dose of nutrients or stimulants would overdrive the liver (not just the liver as in Western medical science, I am talking about the liver system as in Chinese medicine) over time. In other words, continuous usage of such supplements may eventually cause your liver problems years down the road as suggested by Chinese medicine theories. Again, it is just my personal opinion so if you do not agree to what I say here, move on.

I treat taking supplements similar to taking medicines for sickness with same kind of care. I make such I know what I put into my body but I am also willing to experiment with different supplements to see the effects first hand. Sometimes things just do not workout the way I expected. I certainty hope that whatever I am doing now can help me staying fit and active by the time I am at my 80s.

If you are getting to middle age or older like me, and interested in maintaining good health in years to come. It may be the right time now to educate yourself about health supplements so that you can make informed decisions yourself. In this era of chronic diseases everywhere, safe guarding our health is a challenge we should all take very seriously.

Breathe: Do You Know How?

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We all breathe but it is rare that people are breathing correctly. The difference is clear and the impact on health and mental clarity is very significant. Yet, no one spend time to talk about it at all. Well, for one, talking about basic of the basics generate no buzz. So, here it is on how to breathe right.

Most people breath by simply relaxing their chest hence air flow in. Naturally, you will let the air out as your brain detected signals from your lungs that the oxygen intake is used up. Yep, your brains and bodies are doing that with every single breathe you take. But there is a problem with that, you are using just 25-30% of your lung capacity on each breathe. You are providing bare minimal supply of oxygen to your brain and your body.

By practicing the following simple breathing exercise for 2 weeks, you will reprogram your body and your mind to increase the average air intake to at least 45%-60% of your lung capacity. Do not underestimate this change – we are talking about 100% increase or even more in terms of air intake volume, or oxygen supply going into your body. This does wonders to your health. If your daily activities include a lot of mental work (e.g. having a desk job), you will see marked improvements in your ability to concentrate as well.

1. Preferred to lie down somewhere. If you are doing this first thing you open your eyes, you are already on the bed. Try not to do this when you are going to sleep because it can make you more awake thus delaying your bed time.

2. Breathe in by pushing your stomach/ tummy out first until it reaches 70% to 80% from the maximum you can do when pushing hard.

3. Then expand your chest to continue the breathe in process until your chest is at least 60% to 80% from the maximum you can do with expanding your chest from breathing in.

4. Relax and let the air out slowly. If you can control it to take as long as the breathe in time, it is a bonus.

5. Repeat the breathing for at least 30 times.

Remember your lungs and the muscles surrounding it are just like the rest of your body. They can be trained to become stronger and more flexible. The breathing exercise above will strengthen your respiratory system and teach your brain to breathe like this method when you are not practicing it deliberately. The more you do it, the faster it will become a natural part of you.

Note: I was talking to my son the other day that I suddenly remember this is actually one of the fundamental breathing work that one has to learn before doing all the more complex ones. I guess we all tend to forget about things that is already a part of yourself.