December 18, 2002,
Why should we drink plenty of water?
AYURVEDA & YOU
Winter is here, beware of sun-rays
WITH the onset of winter, a feeling of coolness is prevailing all-round. The eyes that often had a feeling of burning, irritation, itching, etc, are also having respite. But don’t be complacent about the protection against harmful ultraviolet rays. Surprisingly the quantum of these harmful rays is higher during winter, on cloudy days and on the mountains. Some experts feel that the rise in the harmful rays is 17 times during cool winter months as compared to the months of scorching heat during summer. It is further interesting to state that as you ascend in the mountains to get a chill or enjoy snowfall, the UV rays increase by 16 per cent per 1000 metres of ascent. The further problem is of reflection of sunrays from various surfaces; it is about 85 per cent from snow as compared to only 5 per cent from grass or earth surface.
So, with the advent of winter, it is the visible part of the sunlight and consequent heat which decreases and not the harmful UV sun-rays. As you plan to visit hills next time or wish to have a glimpse of snow-clad mountains in the higher reaches, give adequate protection to your eyes.
In India, many people take to sun worshipping, as a matter of faith. Besides that, many more have to expose their eyes to sun-rays, since their profession or sports necessitates their being outside a great deal of time. Most people are not aware of the potential damage the invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays can do to their eyes. UV-A penetrates deep into the eye and may injure macula. Consequently, we see a large number of cases of solar burns of the macula, especially after solar-eclipse.
On the other hand, photokeratitis, also called corneal burn, is due to intense UV-B rays; a condition causing a lot of pain. These rays can also give rise to eyelid burns, skin cancer around the eyes, pterygium, dry eye, cataract and macular degenerations in the long run. So, the damage due to these harmful UV rays to the eyes occurs on a much larger scale throughout the year, especially. during the winter months.
It is estimated that there are 37 crores of workers in the unorganised sector, who have to mostly work outdoors and are not aware of any eye protection against harmful sun-rays. There are many others, including the elitist cricketers who play in the sun throughout the day. Construction workers, including engineers, players, athletes, farmers, vendors, fishermen, beach-revelers and others who spend extended hours outdoors unprotected also have the risk of eye damage from sun-rays of various kinds.
The depletion of the ozone layer due to increasing pollution from the environment is causing greater exposure to sun-rays. Also, the denudation of the earth surface by destroying trees, grass, etc, and replacement with concrete and sand structures are enhancing the reflection of these rays and thus greater exposure. The best defence against sun-rays is the constant use of suitable protective goggles and brimmed hats or caps. By protecting eyes now, you prevent developing eye diseases when you are older.
From the foregoing it appears that most people engaged in the agricultural sector and construction work, who constitute a majority of our population, are totally ignorant about the existence of UV rays in the sunlight on the one hand and their damaging effects on the eye on the other. While many well-to-do and elitist men and women may cover their eyes with coloured goggles, more out of fashion and good looks, even most of them are ignorant about the importance of UV absorbent glasses. The same is the status of our celebrity sportspersons, who protect their heads with helmets and their body with pads, but few wear UV protective goggles. If, despite such large-scale ignorance and such a large population being exposed to harmful rays, many eyes have not been lost as yet, that does not mean that we should be careless in this regard.
Different ultraviolet rays are found between 50 nanometres and 380 nanometres. It is recommended that you protect your eyes up to 400 nanometres i.e. the glasses should be protective against all invisible sun-rays, the so-called UV-400. It is worth-spending a bit more to go in for fully protective glasses. It is important to emphasise again that UV radiation is much more during winter and in the hills and is enhanced by haze and light clouds.
As eye-specialists, we have abdicated our responsibility of advising our patients about the choice of lens material and the type of frames, and left this job to optical shops, whose main interest is to sell a goggle which yields more profit. While wraparound frames provide greater protection against harmful rays, they will prefer an expensive frame that may hardly cover only a small part of the eyes. Similarly, their interest is served by selling big brands, which are sold for several thousand rupees.
It is believed that amber colour is better than blue colour. Polarised goggles can be customised to the needs of the person concerned — driving, fishing etc. Photo-chromic will help the one who has to go out often. Such glasses do protect the eyes against UV rays. Those who use it as sports wear should use scratchproof polycarbonate plastic, which is tough and impact-resistant. In children it is especially important to wear these tough glasses.
Glasses with anti-reflective coating are anti-glare, so good for night driving as well as a protective against computers and TV light. The public should seek advice about eyes and the eyewear from an eye-specialist and not from a non-doctor.
Why should we drink plenty of water?
Water makes up a staggering 70 per cent of the human body, a fact that in itself suggests it has a many and varied role to play in our health and wellbeing. Water’s ubiquitous nature means that it participates in all the physiological and biochemical processes that are essential to life. From nerve impulses that travel around the body, to the transport of oxygen and nutrients around the system, water plays an integral role. When the body gets low on fluid, pretty much every process is unlikely to work to full capacity. No wonder then that dehydration may give rise to a diverse array of symptoms, including headache, fatigue, muscle cramps and constipation.
But it’s not just a matter of our general wellbeing — there is now quite a body of scientific evidence linking increased water intake with a reduced risk of major illness. Research shows, for instance, that drinking more water significantly reduces the risk of developing kidney stones. Perhaps more surprisingly, research also suggests that water might play an important role in the prevention of cancer. A couple of studies found that those who drink more water enjoy a reduced risk of developing cancer of the bladder. Another found that women consuming five or more glasses of water per day had about half the risk of developing cancer of the colon than women consuming two or fewer glasses of water a day.
ALL foods contain natural oils to varying degrees which provide nourishment and strength to body tissues. Ayurveda has dealt with vegetable oils under the heading of aharopyogi varga and the taila varga. Let us briefly discuss the therapeutic qualities of the few edible oils mentioned in ayurveda and also of some of those which were invented later.
Sesame oil: Commonly known as tila taila , it is the most commendable of all oils. It is sweet with accompanying astringent taste, hot in potency and is endowed with properties to penetrate subtle channels of the body. Used in abundance in the panchkarma therapy, sesame oil is the best medicine to alleviate vata. It promotes general strength and skin health and is recommended to be applied in all types of cuts and wounds, insect bites, as enemata and massage oil in the diseases of the nervous system like paralysis, stiffness of the limbs and muscle weakness. Many famous classic ayurvedic oils such as Mahanarayani Taila, Bhringraj Taila, Jatyadi Taila and Brahmi Amla Taila are prepared in the sesame oil base.
Mustard oil: Known as sarson oil in common parlance, mustard oil is used in almost every home in India, particularly north India. It is pungent in taste and is hot in potency. As an edible oil, it acts as the killer of intestinal worms and is best recommended for massage in conditions involving general dryness of the skin during the winters. Applied locally after mixing with a little of mushak-karpur, it serves as a magic remedy for urticaria and non- specific itching of the skin- folds.
Coconut oil: Extensively used in South Indian cuisines, coconut oil has been described as an oil which is cool in effect. It is also known as a hair nourishing agent, skin tonic, body and mind energizer and endowed with many other qualities similar to that of cod liver oil. Coconut oil is applied as a household remedy for skin allergies, eczema, burns and scalds.
Almond oil: Not utilised as a cooking oil, almond oil is more favoured by the exponents of the Unani system of medicine for health formulae and massage therapies. It is hot and heavy in effect and is a general health tonic. Almond oil is regarded as an aphrodisiac and eye and brain refresher and has been used since ages for the massage of the body and the scalp and also for instilling into the ear and the nose. It is laxative in effect and patients suffering from stubborn constipation get symptomatic relief if they regularly take half to one teaspoonful of almond oil daily with hot milk at bed-time.
Castor oil: Also known as eranda taila , it has been traditionally used as a purgative. All ayurvedic texts have eulogised it as a panacea for acute and chronic cases of rheumatoid arthritis and there are many classic decoctions and guggul preparations where castor oil is an additive. As a household remedy for such cases, castor oil can be safely taken in a dose of 10 to 20 ml at bed-time with hot milk or used simply by adding it into the wheat flour while making the chapatti.
Olive oil: Though not mentioned in ayurveda, olive oil is a cooking medium in the countries of West Asia and Europe. It has nowadays gained immense popularity throughout the world and its massage is specially recommended in emaciated and weak children. Olive oil is also a favourite of the beauticians as its regular application is believed to allay premature wrinkling and loosening of the skin. Being very hot in effect, it should be avoided by persons of pitta prakriti.
Other oils: For cooking purposes many oils like those extracted from the seeds of groundnut, sunflower and cottonseed are used in India. They are nutritious, heavy and hot in effect. The rice bran oil, which was previously used in far-eastern countries, seems to be gradually entering Indian kitchens. It is reported to be light, easily digestible and closer to the safe parameters set by modern scientists. But one should not prefer oils which are chemically treated and added with colouring agents.
Herbal way of fighting AIDS
New Delhi: Even as anti-retroviral therapy for AIDS remains out of reach of most of those who need it, experts are stressing on nutrition as the first line of defence and herbal treatment, which has proved to be efficacious in many cases, says a new book.
"In every country there are numerous herbal therapies widely in use by HIV positive people, given the high cost of treatment as also the growing number of affected people in developing countries," says the book, "Combating AIDS : Communication Strategies in Action".
These herbal therapies may be effective in curing some of the "opportunistic infections" that come with AIDS. Perhaps, some of the herbal therapies have anti-retroviral properties, says the book, authored by Arvind Singhal, Professor, School of Interpersonal Communication, Ohio University, and Everett M. Rogers, Professor, Department of Communication, University of New Mexico.
"Turmeric, a naturally occurring spice and an ingredient in curry, has shown promise. Also, keezhanelli, a common weed in Tamil Nadu in South India, has been used for centuries as a treatment for hepatitis A," the authors say. PTI
SYDNEY: Branding older drivers as a road menace has been proved unfair with research showing that only a few with brain impairment due to various illness are involved in accidents.
A three-year research project in Melbourne has found that it was a small proportion of accident-prone older drivers, with illnesses such as early dementia, heart disorders and stroke, who had given others in their age group a reputation of being bad drivers. ANI
Better memory via ‘mental walk’
LONDON: If you wish to improve your memory, then better start following the so-called "mental walk" technique, a trick which was first devised in ancient Greece, says a new British study published in the latest issue of Nature Neuroscience.
A team of researchers, led by Dr Eleanor Maguire, of University College London, conducted a series of tests on the brains of people who had the ability to perform extraordinary feats of memory shows. They found that the superior memories of these people, who received high ranks in the World Memory Championships, held annually in London, were not due to any exceptional intellectual capacity or unusual brain structure. ANI
WASHINGTON: The use of contrast material could worsen the condition of patients with acute lung injury (ALI) because it causes the lungs to fill up with fluid, making it more difficult for patients to breathe, according to a new study published in the journal Critical Care.
ALI is a serious lung disorder characterised by the widespread destruction of lung tissue resulting in a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. It is important for doctors to examine the lungs of these patients to see how badly they are injured. ANI
WASHINGTON: US scientists have found that the ability of Nematode worms to convert potentially harmful fats into helpful ones might be harnessed to cut heart disease and strokes.
Despite their tiny size, these worms
appear to be better at coping with Omega-6 fatty acids — a fat that
contributes to blocked arteries in humans. The worms naturally convert
Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids, which decrease inflammation in blood
vessels and help prevent the formation of blockages. A particular
chemical made by the worm appears to have a beneficial effect on human
cells in a test tube. ANI