Posts Tagged ‘health’

A Recipe For Wellness
Author: Guest Blogger

This post is authored by Dr. Jay Apte – renowned Ayurvedic physician and expert.  Dr. Apte is the founder of the Ayurveda Institute of America, AyurFoods and Herbal Care (one of the first companies to develop, manufacture and market genuine Ayurvedic food supplements in the United States).  She has also established a Health & Nature Wellness Center (in Northern California) and started schools in Houston, TX, Foster City, CA and Los Angeles, CA.  Dr. Apte is a past president of the CAAM and is on the NAMA board of directors.

Now a days, “health” is defined as the “absence of disease.”  Well,  that is not correct.  Health comes first before the disease.  Ayurveda agrees.  As a matter of fact, preserving the health of the healthy person is Ayurveda’s first goal.

Ayurveda defines health or wellness as the balance at Body-Mind-Spirit level.
*  Experiencing zest of energy, having a good metabolism and getting sound sleep at night are signs of physical balance.
*  Experiencing peace of mind and feeling happy and enthusiastic are signs of mental balance.
*  Having faith and a positive attitude is an (intellectual) spiritual balance.

With such a balanced state, you will enjoy life, your immune system will be strong and you will be disease free.

Let me give you an analogy.  Think about your car.  You take good care of it.  You fill the expensive gas, change the oil every 3-4 months and do the other maintenance work – so it will keep on running smoothly.  And it will take you wherever you want to go.

Similarly you have to take good care of your body – fill it with the right foods instead of junk or processed foods, give it a rest every night for 6-8 hours instead of staying up late, do oil massages periodically, do yearly Panchakarma to detox and cleanse the body, exercise and meditate regularly to keep it fit.  Then your body will also help you go where you want to go in life and achieve what you want to achieve.

You may change the car every 4 years or even every year.  If it breaks down, you may fix it, but it will not run exactly the same as before.  Unfortunately you can’t change your body in a lifetime – you get it only once.  Even if you fix it by treating the diseases or doing the surgeries, or changing the parts, it will not run as smoothly as before.  So you should take utmost care of it?

You probably won’t be able to concentrate at work with severe low back pain or insomnia?  You likely won’t enjoy gourmet food with digestive problems or eating disorders.   You won’t be able to hike and bike if you have chronic fatigue or pain.  Then why not put your health first?

Here is the recipe for wellness:

Serves: 1                      Calories per serving: 0

*  3 meals/day
*  20-30 minutes of morning meditation and Pranayama (breathing exercise)
*  1 hour of exercise/yoga
*  6-8 hours of sound sleep
*  Following the daily routine

Directions:  Combine all the ingredients and savor your health.

In old days the grandparents used to pay attention to everybody’s health.  I remember my grandmother who was the center of our family.  If we had a stomachache, she used to give us a pinch of Ajwan (a digestant spice) and in an hour, the stomachache would disappear.  For cold or congestion, she had a glass of ginger tea or turmeric tea ready.  If somebody complained of a headache, she would put a ginger paste on the forehead.  These home remedies were very effective.  Unfortunately these days, grandparents have disappeared, so it is parents’ responsibility to make some time for the healthy routine.  They have an added responsibility.  They have to adhere to healthy habits themselves, because they know the kids don’t do what they tell them to do, but kids do absord their parents’ habits.  After all, actions speak louder than words.

In our Wellness Center, we bring this ancient wisdom back into our modern life and help our clients to follow the healthy routine.  We offer Ayurvedic consultations, yoga classes, meditation classes, cooking classes and educational seminars to educate people about healthy habits.   Remember, ”An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

© 2010 Dr. Jay Apte

(image by Google images)


Every summer there’s a bevy of news articles about sunscreens, and how some of them may even be harming you and your kids.  Most articles link to the Environmental Working Group’s Annual Sunscreen Guide – which reviews and rates hundreds of sunscreens in mind-numbing detail.  Too much detail, actually.   When researching sunscreens last year, I took one look at this list, got really frustrated and threw my hands up in the air.

I did my own research, and here’s my cheat-sheet of what to look for:

  • *  Ingredients to avoid:  oxybenzone and Vitamin A.  Oxybenzone is a hormone-disrupting chemical that penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream.  Vitamin A has been shown in some studies to accelerate skin tumors and lesions (the very cancers sunscreens are supposed to protect against – how ironic).
  • * You should have 1 of these ingredients:  zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (the active ingredients in many “natural sunscreens”).
  • * Choose one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays
  • * Use at least SPF 30

HOWEVER, there is another important factor to consider:  whether the suscreen protects against the 2 types of UVA rays: short and long.  Most sunscreens protect against short UVA rays, but not long UVA rays.  Long UVA rays are the ones that cause photo-aging and the more aggressive types of skin cancers, such as melanoma.  Interestingly, the FDA for several yearshas been considering a 4-star UVA-ranking system that would make its way onto sunscreen labels, but sadly, there seems to be no movement on this issue.

So what do we use in our house?  A little-know one called SunSmart by Applied Therapeutics.  It contains a patented Z-Cote (basically, a transparent zinc-oxide).  It’s an inorganic/non-chemical sunblock – meaning it sits on top of the skin and doesn’t get absorbed.  It goes on smoothly, withough any oily or white-filmy residue (a MUST for brown skin) – we actually use it instead of lotion.  And it contains yummy stuff like rose extract and jasmine and patchouli oils.

Most importantly, it protects against those long UVA-rays.


This post is authored by Rima Sanka, D.O., a Tampa-based pediatric allergy, asthma and immunologist.  Dr. Sanka has published research about red tide, aeroallergies and primary immune deficiency, has served as a distinguished lecturer at several Florida conferences and has been featured on local news broadcasts.

Food allergies appear to be on the rise – with peanut and tree nut allergies leading the way.  One study showed that from 1997 to 2002, the incidence of peanut allergy doubled in children.  Peanuts and tree nuts can trigger severe, life threatening reactions and are among the leading causes of fatal and near-fatal reactions to foods.  Many of you may remember hearing about a teenage girl who died after kissing her boyfriend – who had eaten a peanut butter sandwich.  Schools, camps, restaurants and daycares have had to completely change their practices and implement special policies to protect children with food allergies.  “Peanut free” schools are becoming more and more common.  Is it all hype?  What should we believe?  Here are some common questions – and the facts.

Can food allergies be outgrown? Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish are generally lifelong allergies; however, recent studies indicate that up to 20% of kids will outgrow peanut allergies (with the rate slightly lower at 10% for tree nut allergies).  The good news is that 85% of children will outgrow milk and egg allergies by 5 years of age.

Can alternative nut butters (e.g., cashew nut butter) be substituted for peanut butter? Many nut butters are produced on the same equipment used to process peanut butter – making them risky alternatives.  Also, many experts recommend that peanut-allergic patients avoid tree nuts as well.  (Tree nuts include, but are not limited to, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts and coconuts.  These are not to be confused or grouped together with peanuts (which are legumes) or seeds, such as sunflower or sesame.)  Tree nuts can be found as ingredients in many unexpected places.  For tips on reading labels, visit the FAAN website.

Can I prevent or decrease the risk of my child developing food allergies? The data here is conflicting. Although it may be the case that delaying the introduction of highly allergenic foods (such as waiting until a child is 3-years-old to give peanut butter) can stem the effects, this may not always work.  According to the results of a prospective, birth cohort study reported in the December 7, 2009 issue of Pediatrics, late introduction of solid foods into the infant diet was actually associated with an increased risk for allergic sensitization to food and inhalant allergens at age 5 years.  The protective effects of breastfeeding for 6-12 months have also had conflicting data.

What’s in store for the future? There has been some exciting new research looking into oral peanut immunotherapy.  This involves introducing minute amounts of peanut daily into a peanut allergic patient in order to desensitize and cure them of their allergy.  Dr. Wesley Burks at Duke University has had some promising results, but this type of therapy is still strictly an academic tool – so don’t try this at home!

How should I manage food allergies? This can be a challenge.  At this time there is NO cure for food allergies.  Avoidance is the ONLY treatment.  In case of accidental ingestion, your doctor may prescribe injectable epinephrine, antihistamines or steroids.

FAAN has developed a variety of resources to help parents, physicians and schools to work together to keep kids with food allergies safe.  Education, communication and cooperation are the keys to preventing allergic reactions in schools, daycares and camps – so make sure to keep an open dialogue.  We’re all in this together!

And remember you’re not alone.  It helps to meet other families who are in the same situation to share experiences.  Support groups are available.

© 2010 Rima Sanka, D.O.

The advice and contents of this blog post are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to constitute any expert or professional opinion.  Nothing contained herein is intended to create a physician-patient relationship.  You are advised to consult with a medical professional.


This post is authored by Ms. Navjot Kaur, a Toronto-based elementary teacher, children’s author and advocate for inclusion.  Ms. Kaur’s first book, A Lion’s Mane, published by Saffron Press, is an important story about a young boy and his Sikh identity.

Children between the ages of 2 and 5 are firmly aware of differences based on gender.  It is quite astounding to learn that these formative years also mold lifelong biases related to race, ethnicity and disabilities – in addition to those based on gender.

By the time our children begin Kindergarten, they, along with their peers, may already have preconceived ideas about who they are.  This unconscious sense of self affects personal growth and self-esteem since these children may only value characteristics they feel hold greater worth.  As parents, we want nothing more than to protect our children and to ensure their safety and progress in society.  Building our children’s self esteem and teaching them to respect others different from themselves is also part of this journey.

Positive images about self and others begin with each of us.  If we consciously try to avoid stereotypical comments within our conversations, our children will learn to do the same.  Adults often slip into “joking” about someone, without realizing that they are systemically promoting prejudice and bias – sending a message to their children that it’s OK to do the same.  A personal example would be the number of “Sardar jokes” we hear in the Sikh community.  These jokes neither reflect the image of Sardars in my family, nor would I wish my son to place low self-worth based on these images or comments.  Bullying incidents often relate back to issues of low self-esteem and self-worth.

We can all do better than to enable this type of poor behaviour.  By giving our children the tools to think independently today, we are setting them up to succeed in tomorrow’s global environment.  
Here are a few tips:

• Encourage your children to ask questions about people who look different.
• Introduce your children to books that talk about global cultures and citizenship.
• When you are in a social gathering and you hear stereotypical comments, do not support them with your silence.
• At home, try to ensure gender roles are equal and respect non-traditional roles to give our children a strong sense of worth.
• Have a positive attitude towards each other and to people around you.

 ACTIVITY:  Have your child create a self-portrait masterpiece!

If someone asked your child, “Who are you?” what would that portrait look like? 

Prompt your child with fun questions like:
If you were an animal, which animal would you be?   Why?
If you were a vegetable, which vegetable would you be?   Why?
Your child can sign and date this beautiful piece of art.  Store as a keepsake to show how much you value her/him.  You can even frame it!

(c) 2010 Navjot Kaur

Self-Care for Moms
Author: Guest Blogger

This post is authored by Ms. Ulash Thakore-Dunlap, a mental health consultant, trainer, and psychotherapist, located in San Francisco.  Ulash is also the creator of Understand My Mind, helping people to understand how the mind is affected by trends in modern society, launching soon!  Learn more about Ulash at

If you are a mom, who is taking care of you as you manage the household, pack the children’s lunches, attend to all your child’s needs and manage their tantrums? 

Self-care includes not only taking time away from your children, but also finding support, attending to your emotional needs, and simplifying daily life and chores.  Moms who practice self-care are physically, emotionally and socially healthier, and help instill the importance of self-care to their children.

Below are tips on self-care for mommies:

Take time off from your children:  Every mother needs “mommy time.” This can include five minutes or a whole day of indulgence.  During “mommy time” avoid (if possible) discussing and thinking about your child. Take a walk in the park, have a long bath, coffee with girlfriends or date night with your partner.  This will help you to feel recharged and relaxed.

Support from other mommies:  Being a mommy can make you feel alone – but know that you are not.  Every mom needs support from other mothers to discuss their fears, struggles and hopes in raising a child.  If you do not have mommy friends or family members who have children, join a moms group in your area.

Support from family and community members:  It is crucial to get support from your partner, family, neighbors and friends.  If you do not have a support network, join a local support group.

Let go of the “super mommy syndrome:  Do you want everything to be perfect (bake the best cookies for the school social and be a career woman, social butterfly, ultimate mom and perfect wife)?  Perfection can place enormous pressure on a mom and lead to disappointment if goals are not met.  Set realistic goals:  it is ok to let go of certain expectations.  If you work full-time and need to prep a dish for your child’s school event – cheat and buy a pre-made dish.  Only you will know!

Minimize stress:  Are you running out of steam? Online shopping is a savior for many moms.  You can order diapers, apparel, food… almost anything!  When cooking, make a little bit more and freeze the leftovers.  This will hopefully cut down time spent in the kitchen.  If your budget allows, hire a cleaner to help you with household chores. You’ll have more time for other things.

Treat yourself:  Next time you go shopping, give yourself permission (within your budget) to treat yourself and do not feel guilty.  If you buy a dress, or a darling pair of shoes, create a whole event around it – a night out with your girlfriends or partner. 

Moms work very hard in raising their children and receive little acknowledgment.  Recognize what an amazing job you are doing in raising your children by practicing “mommy self-care!”  For questions on this topic, contact me at ulashmind[at]

©  2010 Ulash Dunlap


This post is authored by Ms. Ulash Thakore-Dunlap, a mental health consultant, trainer, and psychotherapist, located in San Francisco.  Ulash is also the creator of Understand My Mind, helping people to understand how the mind is affected by trends in modern society, launching soon!  Learn more about Ulash at

For many parents the whole preschool process can provoke anxiety.  Is your child ready? Are you? 

Children can start preschool as early as age 2 (the average age is between 3 and 4).  Preschool is the start of your child’s formal education and is an important milestone.  However, children reach developmental milestones at different rates.  Here are some tips and questions to ask to determine if your child is ready:

Social Development:  Is your child exposed to or interested in interacting with other children?  Such indicators can help parents assess whether their child is ready to belong to a group, which is an essential part of preschool life.  To help your child feel comfortable with other children, join a playgroup.

Cognitive Development:  Is your child able to follow instructions, switch to different tasks and express their needs? At preschool, children will have to follow basic instructions, such as hanging up their coats.  You can help your child practice following directions at home, such as putting their toys away.  Schools will require children to switch from different activities.  If your child has difficulty transitioning, practice ways to work through frustrations and new transitions. In school, the child will need to express their needs in a simple language.  At home encourage your child to verbally express their needs.

Emotional Development:  Does your child cry or show distress when placed in new situations or when meeting new people?  Has your child spent time away from you?  If your child has difficulty separating from you, do not push them too quickly; rather, slowly encourage them to meet new people and face new situations. If your child fears other adults, help prepare your child by allowing them to spend time with a grandparent or babysitter.  You can transition your child slowly to preschool by sending them a few hours a day and gradually building up to part or full-time schooling.  Also, as a parent, you may have you’re your own separation anxiety from your child.  Children are perceptive and in tune with parent’s anxiety.  Get support from others about your fears over your child starting school.

Physical Development:  A child must be ready to take care of basic needs – this includes potty training, washing hands and putting clothes on.  Some preschools do not require a child to be potty trained.  If your child has not mastered these skills, you can practice washing hands, buttoning clothes and potty training at home first.

Finally, make sure to thoroughly research schools to find the best fit for your child: attend preschool fairs and open houses, visit classes and facilities and be sure to ask the program director lots of questions.  This process can help relieve parental anxiety. 

The above are guidelines.  Of course, parents want their children to master all the developmental milestones “on time.”  But remember to just practice school skills in fun ways and be patient!  For questions on this topic, contact me at ulashmind[at]

© 2010 Ulash Dunlap


This post is authored by Ms. Ulash Thakore-Dunlap, a mental health consultant, trainer, and psychotherapist, located in San Francisco.  Ulash is also the creator of Understand My Mind, helping people to understand how the mind is affected by trends in modern society, launching soon!  Learn more about Ulash at

Time after time, I get asked the question “how can I help my child to express their feelings?”

Research shows that children who learn to manage and verbalize their emotions get along better with other children. They keep in better health and enjoy more success in school.   Encouraging a child to verbally express emotions can also help to build self-confidence and self-esteem.

Children under the age of 5 can have difficulty labeling their feelings.  Crying and tantrums are common ways young kids express themselves.  By the age of 2 or 2 1/2, toddlers develop the cognitive skills needed to put their emotions into words.  Here are some techniques parents and caregivers can use to help kids of all ages label their feelings:

Help your child build a vocabulary to express their feelings: Techniques can vary depending on the age of the child.  You can use simple techniques with younger toddlers, such as “are you feeling unhappy?” For older kids, phrases such as “I know you are frustrated and sad because we need to leave the park,” may help them identify emotions.

Play and books:  Play is a wonderful way to encourage children to explore a range of emotions.  During play, you can attach feelings to stuffed animals – “the cat is feeling tired, are you?” And when watching a video, “is the cow excited?”  Using “feelings books” such as The Way I Feel or Feelings For Little Children Series can encourage the discussion of emotions.  Or, you can use your child’s favorite book: “Wow, the bear was feeling very sad when the dog took his food.”

Allow children to express all emotionsLet your child know that feeling a range of emotions is normal – this will help your child to accept both positive and negative emotions.

Getting children to express their emotions and feelings can sometimes feel like riding a rollercoaster – hang in there!  The key to a healthy child is to give them an outlet to express themselves.  For questions on this topic, contact me at ulashmind[at]

© 2010 Ulash Dunlap


We’re shaking things up a bit!

The South Asian Diaspora is blessed with individuals who shine in virtually every field imaginable.  We have artists and aerospace engineers, educators and entrepreneurs – all of whom are can offer wisdom and advice that can enrich our lives and inspire our children.

Starting Monday, we’ll be be turning over our blog to a Guest 1 week out of each month.  We’ll be featuring experts in the fields of health, design, ayurveda, architecture and more.  And you’ll hear from South Asians with different religious and cultural perspectives – because we recognize the importance of educating and exposing our children to all  of what the region has to offer.

Join us on Monday as we introduce our first guest, Ms. Ulash Thakore-Dunlap:  a San Francisco-based mental health consultant, trainer and psychotherapist.  She’ll be blogging about important issues that touch upon a subject that should be top priority on all of our lists:  the mental health of kids and moms.  Ulash has authored several multi-media presentations – at the Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA) Annual Convention, the National Multicultural Conference and Summit (NMCS) and others. 

She is also the creator of soon-to-be-launched Understand My Mind ( – a resource website dedicated to helping people understand how the mind is affected by trends and stressors in modern society. 

Until Monday…


Aveda Ayurveda Rituals

I love Aveda – they’re the only salons I go to for my beauty needs.  I’d much rather have plant-based products used on my hair and skin than chemicals. 

It just so happens that the Aveda philosophy – a holistic approach to beauty and health “that works in harmony with the greater web of life” is eerily similar to elements of the Hindu philosophy.  It’s also ironic that “Aveda” in literal Sanskrit translates to “against the Veda (knowledge).”  Any student of Sanskrit will tell you that if you put an “A” in front of a word, it will mean the opposite of the root word.

So Horst Rechelbacher, the founder of Aveda, obviously wasn’t a Sanskrit scholar.  But he founded a global powerhouse of a company clearly rooted in the ancient Indian system of Ayurveda.  And his book Aveda Rituals is an intelligent and refreshingly concise prescription for incorpating simple Aveda (errr…Ayurveda) style rituals into your daily life.  Rituals like the “Aroma Energizer” and the “Good-Morning Movement” stretching exercises – that awaken your senses and your spirit, connecting you with nature and your surroundings to inspire you to lead a healthier and more fulfilling life.

If an American company can research, re-package and superbly brand ancient Indian wisdom into a format that we can all understand – I’ll take more of those.  Now its off to my evening Meditation Moment.

The Spice Is Nice
Author: Gnaana

‘Tis the season of spices, and all through the house…

Spices are synonymous with India – inseparable, really.  And you’ll sure be smelling and consuming a lot of them during the upcoming holiday season:  cookies, cakes and savoury dishes will be infused with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.  Yum!

Spices also have wonderful health benefits and they are widely used in Ayurvedic treatments.  Smelling them, and learning about how they grow, happens to be a wonderful sensorial activity for kids.  So in the spirit of spices, we featured a simple game for kids in our December newsletter.  We call it The Spice Is Nice, and kids as young as 18 months will enjoy it.  Here’s how to play (for 1 or more players – the more the merrier!):

 1.  Gather 6-10 aromatic spices (we used turmeric, cloves, coriander seeds, cardamom, cumin, and garam masala).  We don’t recommend using red chili powder!
2.  Have your children smell each of the spices while you tell them the name of the spice (use your native language if you can!).  While they are smelling, ask them to describe the smell – i.e., if they like it or not and if it smells like something they are familiar with.  Make suggestions – and be fun and whimsical here – making non-food suggestions – the idea is to get them to think and explore.  You’ll be surprised at what they come up with – garam masala may smell like train tracks!  They can also touch and taste if they want (but wash their hands afterwards).
3.  After 2-3 rounds of smelling, blindfold your child.  Present a spice for them to smell and have them identify its name.  Repeat as many times as desired.
4.  For older kids, supplement the activity with information as to how the spice is grown and harvested, and also how each spice is used in cooking and for other purposes.  The Epicentre’s Encyclopedia of Spices is a terrific online resource.

For extra fun, we’ve put together a set of Spice Trivia questions.  Download here.