Category Archives: Health

How Healthy Muscles Generate Force?

Whether in whispering a syllable or lifting a heavy weight, we require the coordinated use of muscles. The human body has numerous muscles for moving our various joints. We have various types of muscles in our body, some for involuntary contractions, such as cardiac muscles and some for voluntary contractions, such as skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscles can vary in sizes and shapes. Some of the most common and larger weight bearing muscles are those in our limbs- such as the biceps muscles in our arms or the quadriceps in our thighs – more commonly referred to as the quads.

Muscle are composed of muscle fibers that extend from tendon to tendon that connect to our bone. Fibers can vary in sizes depending on the size and type of muscle. The muscle fibers are grouped together into bundles that lie alongside in parallel or in series depending on the size of the muscle. The smallest unit of a muscle fiber is known as a sarcomere which is responsible for producing the muscular contraction – or the smallest unit of force from the muscle fibers.

Muscle fibers are innervated by the alpha motor neuron (MN) that resides within our spinal cord. Motor neurons will innervate several muscle fibers scattered throughout the muscle and not necessarily the fibers lying next to each other.  This type of distributed innervation ensures the MN’s electrical activity can stimulate the whole muscle globally. The alpha motor neuron and all the muscle fibers it innervates forms one motor unit (MU). When the alpha motor neuron receives neuronal excitation, it is activated and it will electrically stimulate each of the various muscle fibers it is connected to. Muscle fibers are physiologically compatible with their motor neurons and larger fibers are connected to larger neurons.

The total number of fibers that a neuron is connected to determines the innervation ratio. One important thing is that MN has a one to many mapping to its muscle fibers. This means that one MN is connected to many fibers throughout the muscle. This leads to distributed and smooth muscle control. On the other hand, each muscle fiber is typically innervated by just one motor neuron in a one on one mapping. However, one exception exists in the muscles of the tongue.

A motor unit will be activated when the alpha motor unit is electrically stimulated and reaches its action potential. The signal passing down to the fibers causes the muscle fibers to contract and cumulatively we have a motor unit twitch– it is the building block of the force produced by a muscle. When the MU is repeatedly activated, we have continuous bursts of MU twitches. When the MU is activated faster, the twitches will summate or tetanize to our muscle force.

This is the idea behind force. Each muscle is composed of hundreds of MUs depending on the size of the muscle. The brain sends the command or neural excitation to each motor unit. With increasing excitation, more and more and larger units are activated. Hence the force output increases and also smooth out as the twitches summate.

Want to Get to the Roots of Health?

We share the health benefits and medicinal properties of these five super root vegetables.

Turmeric: Curcumin is the rich compound found in turmeric that gives it the bright yellow color and has many other properties beneficial to health.

  • Delays the occurence and progression of diabetes
  • Helps to protect and fight against cancer
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties for management of joint pain and arthritis
  • Protects the brain from neurodegenerative diseases such as stroke and Alzheimeres’

Ginger: The phenolic compounds found in ginger has many health benefits.

  • Helps to relieve gastrointestinal issues and promotes healthy digestion in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
  • Reduces inflammation and can be used to treat inflammatory disease conditions
  • Decreases risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality
  • Improves hair growth and skin complexion
  • Increases overall energy and stamina

Beetroot: The phytonutrients that beets are packed with gives it the bright crimson red color and has numerous benefits for overall health.

  • Lowers blood pressure within hours of drinking beet juice
  • Boosts stamina and increases energy level
  • Beets have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. Beets contain betaine, a nutrient that helps protect cells and enzymes from oxidative stress and help fight against inflammation
  • Has anti-cancer properties. The phytonutrients found in beets help fight against cancer

Sweet Potato: They are packed with carotenoids which give them their bright orange color and makes them one of the super root vegetables.

  • Sweet potatoes have natural sugars which are released into the bloodstream slowly and this prevents the occurrence of blood sugar spikes.
  • They contain the compound magnesium which has anti-stress and relaxing effects.
  • Sweet potatoes are high in carotenoids that have anti-oxidative properties and help to fight against cancer as well as delay the progression of aging.
  • They are a valuable source of iron which helps to support a healthy immune system.

Garlic: The health benefits of garlic have been well known for centuries. It is packed with the compound Allicin which gives it many medicinal properties.

  • Raw garlic consumption on a regular basis will lower bad cholesterol levels . It has been found to be a super food for centuries  in preventing the development of heart disease and in regulating blood pressure.
  • It also has anti-bacterial properties. Diluted garlic extract can be used to treat bacterial infections.
  • Daily consumption of garlic prevents against stomach and colorectal cancers. It helps to boost the resistance of cells against cancer.
  • Loss of collagen can lead to reduced elasticity in aging skin. The anti-oxidative properties of garlic protect skin against free radical damage and decelerate the loss of collagen.

How to De-Stress Instead of Distress?

We share helpful tips on how to de-stress when otherwise in distress!

  1. Meditate to relax and spiritually connect with oneself deeply at the very core on a regular basis. Besides meditating, set aside a me-time to do something fun for yourself. It could be anything just for 15 minutes a day that gives you a lot of joy.
  2. Practice light yoga or other physical activity to keep up the energy level and boost metabolism.
  3. Practice taking deep breaths to relax oneself and to deeply connect at the very core on a regular basis.
  4. Watch your white sugar consumption and replace with natural substitutes wherever possible. Sugar is no different than any other addictive substance. Hence it is very important to limit the intake of refined sugar.
  5. Eat more whole foods and limit the intake of processed foods. Whole grains and complex foods go a long way to increase our metabolism, prevent diabetes and contain much more nutritional values than processed foods.
  6. Absorb plentiful sunshine and get some vitamin D. If you live in a place without regular sunny days,  it is recommended to take vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D enhances mental and physical activity and prevents depression.
  7. Schedule only limited blocks of time to be on social media and minimize gadgets and device usage. Enjoy life’s bountiful gifts by being in the moment.
  8. Organize your day, prioritize all your activities by order of importance and de-clutter all your belongings.
  9. Connect with your family, friends and loved ones by appreciating them for their love and support on a regular basis. Feelings of gratitude and being loved uplift our moods and immediately alleviate stress.
  10. Last but not the least, make someone else’s day by doing something special for them and making them smile.

How To Breathe Your Problems Away?


We really never give breathing a second thought. We mostly feel convinced that we are breathing properly – it is really surprising how many people are actually not doing this basic task correctly. The other strange fact is that we were doing it right when we were little babies – if you watch babies sleeping, you will see their abdomen move up and down as they breathe. They are actually taking in nice deep relaxing breaths. However, as we get older, maybe from stress or from anxiety and panic, this basic instinct of correct breathing gets modified and we start taking in shallower and often rapid breaths that hardly go past 1/3 of our lungs. Stress often prepares our body for a flight or fight mode, which may lead to short and rapid breathing or hyperventilation that in turn can become a habit with continuous levels of constant anxiety.

Improper ways of breathing can affect our well-being both physically and mentally. Insufficient oxygenated blood can make us feel exhausted, increase our blood pressure, tire our muscles quicker and affect the activity of the brain. Thus, we would feel more tired and sluggish due to the lack of essential nutrients in the blood. On the other hand, taking deep breaths has the opposite effect of lifting up our moods as well as boosting our physical well-being when we have sufficient oxygenated blood flowing through our system. The saying, ‘Take a deep breath and relax’ is truly a healthy saying. It is literally how we should be breathing to feel relaxed as well as super energized.

Proper breathing starts with the nose and not through the mouth. Also, the breathing should be silent and if it is not, then we are either hyperventilating or have obstructions in the nasal pathways that typically lead to sleep problems and snoring. Finally taking deep breath may require some amount of practice to nail it. Our breathing system involve the diaphragm and muscles in the abdomen and chest. In order to get a feel for proper breathing, sit upright and comfortable, place your left arm on your upper chest while your right arm should be on the abdomen, in the cavity of the rib cage. Inhale deep until you feel the air go all the way down to your belly, then slowly exhale – all the while being conscious to have our body muscles relaxed. When we breathe properly, the right arm placed over the abdomen should move up and down, just like it did when we were babies!

How To Maintain A Healthy Pregnancy?

Early prenatal care is important in promoting a healthy pregnancy. It starts with prenatal visits to the doctors to ensure that we are staying on top in all of the following areas:

1) Avoid smoking, drugs and alcohol: These are the absolute no-no(s) to get out of the way. Smoking or even second-hand smoke, alcohol and drug intake can affect the development of the fetus and affect the infant’s health. During pregnancy, the expecting mother should not have anything to do with these harmful substances.

2) Medications: Most pregnant woman may already be taking some medication, such as for acne or for chronic pain or for any other medical condition. It is important to discuss with the doctor which of these medications are still safe to take.

3) Avoid toxic substances: At all costs, we must stay away from exposure to any harmful chemical solvents or other toxic substances, such as lead or mercury.

4) Minerals/Vitamins: We have to ensure that we are taking adequate amounts of folic acid as supplements throughout the pregnancy to prevent the child developing any neural tube defects. The good news is that most prenatal vitamins will have at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. Also your healthcare provider may give you supplements of vitamin B12 and assess that your iron levels are adequate.

5) Eat a Healthy Diet: It is important to have balanced meals with variety of fruits and mixed berries, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, proteins and low-fat dairy products to ensure the developing fetus has all the required nutrients. Also during this time one should drink plenty of fluids. Here is an awesome link that helps pregnant women to create a checklist of their daily meal plates:
https://www.choosemyplate.gov/moms-daily-food-plan

6) Eat a safe diet: Pregnant women should avoid all kinds of raw fish, processed meat, undercooked meat and unpasteurized cheese. They should also avoid fish with high content of mercury. The FDA guidelines for pregnant women are that 12 ounces a week of fish with low levels of methyl mercury, such as shrimp and salmon, is a safe choice during this time.

7) Limit Caffeine Intake: Excess caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage. Your doctor can dicsuss with you and recommend the total amount of caffeine you can take. They may suggest an upper limit of 200 milligrams of caffeine per day.

8) Maintain a healthy weight: The doctor will recommend how much weight you can safely gain during pregnancy based on your current weight or BMI. It is important to follow the weight-gain chart as gaining too much can lead to many other problems such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure etc.

9) Maintain physical activity: It is very important during this time to maintain a light level of physical activity. Some of the best forms of exercise during this time is walking and swimming with minimum physical strain. Activity improves sleep during pregnancy, helps to maintain healthy weight gain and also makes childbirth easier.

10) De-stress and relax: Last, but not the least, relaxing and de-stressing throughout your pregnancy is probably the best thing you can do for yourself and for your bundle of joy. Try to engage in peaceful and relaxing activities even when you feel anxious or stressed out – with a little bit of mindfulness and meditation, you can de-stress instead of distress!

How To Walk Away From Pains and Aches?

We take our walking skills for granted ever since we learnt walking as babies – thereafter, we don’t give it a second thought. Often times we notice people with atypical walking steps and strides and we may ourselves be walking incorrectly but are not consciously aware of it. Walking improperly is one of the major contributors towards joint pains, hip problems and body aches including headaches. In this article, we will cover three basic points of walking properly

The most important biomechanics of walking involves the first step contacting the ground with a heel strike while the second foot should have the toe on the ground. The heel strike is followed by that opposite toe pushing off from the ground and the cycle continues with the other foot. The alternating heel-strike followed by toe-off is the only correct form of stepping. We may notice that young children have a spring-like motion in their step whereas some older individuals will shuffle their toes forward without landing with the heels first. Shuffling and other improper forms of walking create imbalanced pressure points. We can practice proper walking at first with slight exaggerated movements until it feels more natural. The head will bounce up and down slightly and there will be a swing in the step when we walk properly!

The second point is to pay attention to the stride length. The stride length should not be too short and it should not be too long either. Sometimes people will walk with lazy short steps and this type of walking does not contract the gluteus muscles at all. We can try to find the stride length that gives a slight contraction in our gluteus muscles but at the same time is quite comfortable. Thus when we are walking, the hip and the gluteous muscles will also be working.

The third important point to pay attention to is the shoulder movement during walking. The opposite shoulder to the heel strike should rotate slightly towards that leg. As the cycle continues there is a crossover rotation of the shoulder joint towards the opposite leg.

To summarize, the first contact with ground should be with the heel strike, followed by the toe push-off using a comfortable stride length. There is also a slight rotation of the opposite shoulder towards the leg with the heel strike.

At first we can practice these walking points by exaggerating the movements until it feels natural. Following these steps in walking will ensure that the pressure points in the body are appropriately balanced and this will help to relieve unnecessary hip pains, joint pains and aches. Thus, with just walking we can get rid of a lot of unnecessary pains!

How to Break the Cycle of Hunger and Insulin Resistance?

Have you ever felt trapped in a cycle of continuous hunger and food cravings and never feeling satiated? Many of us live through this feeling every day when the more nutrients we consume, the more we crave and never feel quite satisfied. What are the underlying mechanisms and implications of this state of the metabolic system? Well this might seem like a detour but stay tuned with me! I am going to bring it around full circle and try to simplify the complex scenario involving insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance itself is quite simple to understand. It is the condition where our body cells are not responding to the insulin produced by our pancreas. The underlying biological mechanism leading to the condition of insulin resistance appears to be inflammation which can be modulated by the fatty acid composition of the diet. The human body has numerous checks and balances in place to provide optimal blood glucose levels and avoid unnecessary upheavals. These days we have excess nutrients and insulin has the difficult task of defending the body against potential damage from excessive nutrient intake. All nutrients are however naturally inflammatory since their metabolism into other compounds can lead to increased inflammation. Cellular inflammation can disrupt and deactivate insulin’s action by disturbing signaling mechanisms within the cell.

Insulin resistance can be modulated by the fatty acid composition in our food. Omega-6 and saturated fatty acids (such as palmitic acid) are the pro-inflammatory molecules, whereas omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory molecules. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids can decrease and even reverse inflammation within the hypothalamus. Saturated fats can cause inflammation in the hypothalamus of the brain disrupting the signaling pathways mediated by the hormones insulin and leptin that make us feel ‘full and satisfied’. As a result, our brain continues to send hunger signals to our stomach and unfortunately the vicious cycle of inflammation and insulin resistance continues. As a result, there is accumulation of excess calories which are stored as fat in the adipose tissue.

Excess weight however, is not the cause of insulin resistance. The origin of insulin resistance may start with inflammation in the hypothalamus that disrupt satiety signals, increase hunger and food intake starting an orchestra of events that go downhill. When there is excess fat in the body, that is not necessarily a problem if the fat can be safely stored in healthy fat cells that are responsive to insulin. However, fat cells do not have an unlimited capacity to expand. When they expand uncontrollably, it results in inflammation of the fat cell. With ongoing inflammation in the fat cell, high levels of free fatty acids can leave the fat cell to enter the general circulation where they can be taken up by other organs, such as liver and skeletal muscles. These organs also eventually develop insulin resistance. The liver in fact, cannot safely store large amounts of fat which can lead to fatty liver disease.

Skeletal muscle is a very important tissue for uptake of glucose and for storing energy. Physical activity can reduce insulin resistance in skeletal muscles and also increases the uptake of glucose without requiring insulin. The amount and composition of fatty acids in the diet can have a significant role in the modulation of insulin resistance. Last but not the least, monitoring thyroid function can optimize metabolism and prevent the development of insulin resistance.

How Insulin Resistance Can Affect You?

Food that we consume is broken down and processed in our digestive tract into sugar molecules known as glucose that can be easily absorbed by the cells of our body. The amount of #glucose# in our blood is modulated by the hormone #insulin# released by the #pancreas#. These glucose molecules are assisted by insulin to gain entrance inside the cells of the body. The insulin binds to the glucose molecules and act as a key that unlocks the door to the cells. Specifically, the insulin will carry the glucose to the #liver#, #muscle# and fat cells to be stored for release of future energy. In Type II #diabetes#, the cells are not responsive to insulin and this is known as #insulin resistance#. The insulin will still carry the glucose molecules to the cells but the cells will not open their doors as easily. As a result, there is too much sugar build-up in our blood, known as blood glucose concentration, which can damage the liver, kidneys, eye and nerves. The pancreas in turn tries to pump out more insulin to deal with the high glucose concentration in the blood stream. As a result of the increased insulin in the blood, it is also very difficult for the body to burn fats. In fact, the fatty acids in the blood move into fat storage that lead to increase in weight gain. Additionally, since the cells don’t have enough glucose to provide continuous energy release, one can feel more tired and have more sugar cravings.

Thus insulin resistance causes:

1) Fatigue and tiredness
2) Increased food cravings
3) Increased weight gain.

How can we cope with insulin resistance? We can eat more complex carbohydratess to slowly introduce the glucose into our blood stream – this prevents too much insulin from releasing and building up in the blood causing fat storage and subsequent weight gains.

We can simultaneously increase our levels of #physical activity# and engage in moderate exercises. When our muscles are more active, that increases the amount of glucose that can be easily taken up by our muscle cells, without needing the help of insulin. Additionally, the #energy storing capacity# in our muscles increases gradually with increased muscular activities.

In Search of a Habit of Activity

Nowadays, with the explosion of advanced technology, there are numerous #fitness apps and #activity #trackers to chose from. Undoubtedly, these work well for all those who are already into fitness and #training. Needless to say, these active individuals are into regular #exercise training and have formed the healthy habit of working out. They are invested into being healthy by training themselves physcically and require little to no extra motivation to get them moving.

My concern is for those who are on the more #inactive end of the spectrum and therefore do not benefit from these fitness apps or activity trackers. The missing link is still the motivation and desire to move – a key factor without which the #sedentary people remain inactively so – we are in crucial need of a habit of activity. For the benefit of the sedentary people, there should be other innovative solutions geared towards motivating or resetting their will to become more physically active over time. Perhaps an innovative and creative way to engage these individuals gradually towards developing an inevitable habitual level of activity is warranted.

Easier said than done of course – what would be some of these innovative methods that would help the inactive person to form a healthy habit of frequent activity? One idea that has been implemented in some fashion is the reward based mechanism. There are some merits in this type of reward mechanism such as providing health coupons to those tracking enough activity points. However, if the rewards are mainly for healthy products, it is still a challenge to attract the not-so-health concerned individual. We may need to explore other novel ways that appeal to the fundamental desire of habitual activity. If you have other ideas please free to share.

How to Prevent and Stay on Top of Diabetes?

Diabetes is becoming one of the most widespread chronic diseases affecting millions of people worldwide with healthcare costs soaring to billions of dollars. The question in our minds is how to prevent this adult onset type II diabetes? And once we do get it, how can we manage it effectively?

Greasy and sugary carbohydrates along with long hours of sitting at work or in front of the TV result in a pattern of continuous weight gain. An unhealthy weight and sedentary lifestyle is the main culprit leading to diabetes. Research has shown that people with a higher BMI and those who experience muscle loss or sarcopenia from inactivity are more susceptible to developing diabetes with advancing age. The risk of diabetes is much greater for people over 65 years of age than those below 40. (Reference: American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/)

Food that we eat is metabolized into sugar molecules known as glucose that can be easily absorbed by the cells of our body. These glucose molecules require another compound, insulin, to gain entrance inside the cells. The insulin binds to the glucose molecules and acts as a key that unlocks the door to the cells. In Type II diabetes either the body does not produce enough of insulin molecules or the insulin that is being produced is unable to bind with the glucose. This is also known as insulin-resistant diabetes. As a result, there is too much sugar in our blood, known as blood glucose concentration, which can damage the liver, kidneys, eye and nerves. Also a very common symptom of diabetes is dehydration, fatigue and frequent urination. Since the cells of our body do not have enough sugar they become more fatigued and also dehydrated.

It is therefore crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and BMI to prevent the onset of diabetes. In order to maintain a healthy weight or to lose excessive weight, one can make a habit of eating balanced meals that have the right proportions of vegetables, fruits, starch and proteins. A visual guidance is to fill up half of the plate with non-starchy greens, a quarter with lean proteins and another quarter with starchy foods. Additionally, participating in light to moderate activity and doing aerobic exercises ensures a positive energy flow through our system and prevents muscle loss.

Once a person is diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to regularly measure and monitor blood sugar levels. A daily routine of balanced and frequent meals with lean proteins, lots of fibers and complex carbohydrates is recommended. The meal plate should be ¼ protein,  ¼ starch and ½ of non-starchy veggies and some fruits. Substituting sweet cravings with naturally occurring sugars such as dates, honey and those found naturally in fruits can reduce blood sugar spiking. Additionally, maintaining light to moderate daily exercises that is not too strenuous is also recommended. 7-8 hours of sleep in diabetic patients cannot be over emphasized. Some people with type 2 diabetes can manage their diabetes naturally with healthy eating and regular exercise.

If sugar cannot be controlled naturally, however, the doctor may prescribe oral medications. It is important to take these meds regularly as indicated. Pill boxes are a great way to organize them so we can stay on top of our meds. In more advanced diabetes, the doctor will prescribe regular insulin shots to help maintain blood sugar levels. The injected medication acts rapidly in our bodies and therefore it is necessary to coordinate the insulin shots with timely intake of food.

Besides frequently checking our weight, blood sugar and blood pressure levels, it is important for diabetic patients to have several annual checkups. Urine and blood tests should be done for monitoring heart, kidney and liver functioning. Also, a dilated eye exam, a dental exam and a complete foot exam every year is highly recommended.