Thursday, December 16, 2010

New website!

Check out the new site! I'll be transitioning over to that from now on (finally decided to make the switch to wordpress), so make sure to check!

A new post is up... Is our food influencing our mood?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Foods fighting cancer

“Autopsy studies from people who died in car accidents have shown that about 40% of women between the ages of 40 and 50 actually have microscopic cancers in their breasts. About 50% of men in their 50s and 60s have microscopic prostate cancers. And virtually 100% of us, by the time we reach our 70’s will have microscopic cancers growing in our thyroid. Yet without a blood supply, most of these cancers will never become dangerous.”~Dr. William Li, MD
All of us have tumor cells in our bodies. The problem is when they grow blood vessels and develop a blood supply: this is termed “Angiogenesis.”

In this Ted Talk by Dr. William Li, he talks about how our focus on cancer prevention should be on preventing the growth of blood vessels to tumors. Preventing this angiogenesis is one of the most important defenses against cancer, and he argues that this is something we can actually do with our diet.

Focusing on our diet might be the key to preventing the growth of cancers.

He explains: “Mother nature has laced a large number of foods and beverages and herbs with naturally occurring inhibitors of angiogenesis.”

Some of these naturally occurring anti-angiogenic foods include the following:
  • Red wine/red grapes (Reservatrol
  • Strawberries (Ellagic acid
  • Soybeans (Genistein)
Here are some others: 

He ends by making the point that many local and sustainable foods are naturally anti-angiogenic. This is important because, as he says:
“For many people around the world, dietary cancer prevention may be the only practical solution, because not everyone can afford expensive end-stage cancer treatments, but everyone could benefit from a healthy diet based on local, sustainable, anti-angiogenic crops.” 

Saturday, December 11, 2010


"It’s easy to underestimate how difficult it is for someone to become curious. For seven, ten, or even fifteen years of school, you are not required to be curious. Over and over and over again, the curious are punished.
I don’t think it’s a matter of saying a magic word; boom and then suddenly something happens and you’re curious. It’s more about a five- or ten- or fifteen-year process where you start finding your voice, and finally you being to realize that the safest thing you can do feels risky and the riskiest thing you can do it play it safe.
Once recognized, the quiet yet persistent voice of curiosity doesn’t go away. Ever. And perhaps it’s such curiosity that will lead us to distinguish our own greatness from the mediocrity that stares us in the face." 
~ Seth Godin, from his book Tribes (thanks to Dr. Bruce Hopper for the recommendation!)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

There is a space

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." 
~Victor Frankl

From an excellent post at Zen Habits... check it out!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How do you do it?

“Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other.” 
~Henry David Thoreau
I recently met a fellow ashtangi who is also a first year medical student in New York. She asked for advice on keeping up a yoga practice during medical school… and I need help coming up with a good answer.

How does ANYONE keep up a yoga practice through sleep deprivation, stress, exhaustion, emotional highs and lows (be it from graduate school, a demanding job, a break-up, new motherhood, etc)? It’s during these times that we especially need to make time for a daily practice. 

Here are some things that helped me maintain some sort of yoga practice over the past few years... it’s a list I’ll have to keep adding to as I have to figure it out all over again next year as an intern:

  • Get up in the early morning for a home practice. No matter how early! If you have to be at the hospital at 5:30, get up at 3:30... you may be tired at first but it will transform the rest of the day.
  • Make a little cup of coffee before practice. After such sleep deprivation I would honestly not have been able to practice without this.
  • Do a long practice at a studio on your days off. This makes all the difference! A home practice is really hard to maintain and having a weekly "tune-up" with a teacher/ yoga community is key.
  • Find like-minded friends. It may take a while to find them but they are out there! Crank up the heat and practice together at home (especially when the studio is closed). Do “partner yoga” sessions and experiment with new things.
  • Listen to your body and do the practice you need. Some days just sit, some days focus on second series, some days do more backbends or inversions... know what you need.
  • Take staycations. When you do get some precious vacation days, spend some time at home doing yoga, sleeping, eating well. Staycations are the best vacations :)
  • Do weekend workshops when possible. Take advantage of teachers when they come to you (you can learn a lot during one intense weekend).
  • Don't hide your yoga practice from your other worlds. This is what I did for the first couple years of medical school (not sure where this came from – I guess I was afraid of what people would think), but by my 3rd year I stopped hiding it. I realized there are LOTS of people out there who do yoga or want to do yoga... so keep writing, talking, sharing, and build up the yoga community around you! 
That's all I have for now, but I really want to hear what's on your list… how do you do it?

Home practice with Caitlin (medicine intern) and Mariana (soon to be medical student!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Is your mind wandering?

I don’t know about yours, but my mind loves to wander. I'm usually jumping between my to-do list, worries, plans, memories... anywhere but where I am.

What do exercise, good conversation, and sex have in common? According to this study recently published in Science, these are the times when our minds wander the least -- the times when we are most in the present moment.

From the opening paragraph of the paper:
Unlike other animals, human beings spend a lot of time thinking about what is not going on around them, contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or will never happen at all. Indeed, “stimulus-independent thought” or “mind wandering” appears to be the brain’s default mode of operation. Although this ability is a remarkable evolutionary achievement that allows people to learn, reason, and plan, it may have an emotional cost. Many philosophical and religious traditions teach that happiness is to be found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and “to be here now.” These traditions suggest that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Are they right?
I like the way the authors went about answering this question: they used an iphone app to randomly contact people throughout the day and collect information on their daily thoughts, feelings, and actions. They were then able to create "an unusually large database of real-time reports of thoughts, feelings, and actions of a broad range of people as they went about their daily activities." 

They recorded people’s answers in this database Check out that website if interested -- you can sign up to start tracking your own happiness levels (I just did!).

3 interesting findings from the study:
  1. People’s minds wander frequently.
  2. People were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not.
  3. What people were thinking was a better predictor of their happiness than was what they were doing
They found that people are happiest when making love, exercising, and in conversation. Our minds tend to wander unpleasantly when we are working, sleeping, and at home on our computers. 

It seems that the ancient traditions were right: our wandering minds lead us to unhappiness. So maybe the key to happiness is figuring out how to control our minds.

That’s really the whole point of yoga: to train and discipline our minds, to keep coming back to the present moment, to practice being here now.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Getting enough omega-3's (without fish)

One of my concerns with being a non-fish eating vegetarian is the question of whether I get enough omega-3 fatty acids (“good fats”): Should I eat fish sometimes? Should I be taking fish-oil supplements? My body might need me to put those lox on my bagel and cream cheese?

We’ve heard why omega-3’s are good for us: they help reduce inflammation, reduce risk of heart disease, reduce risk of dementia… not to mention they may help keep protect your telomeres.

The other day my younger sister forwarded me a news alert from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, highlighting a recent study of 14,422 people showing that women on vegan diets do have an expected lower intake of omega-3’s, but they also have greater conversion of plant-based precursors to omega-3’s, and thus they have higher than expected blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

That’s reassuring! That means that our bodies will probably make adequate amounts of omega 3’s from a plant-based diet (which includes walnuts, flaxseeds, plant-based oils).

I was especially glad to see a medical peer-reviewed paper addressing the bigger problem of our diminishing fish supply:
“Current dietary recommendations for maintenance of [adequate omega-3 levels]… are to consume one or more portions of oily fish per week; however, the supply of wild fish is dwindling and efforts to conserve the fish supply are needed.”
(If you haven't yet seen the documentary End of the Line, check it out!):