Tag Archives: Healthy Lifestyle

She Conquered Tuberculosis Thrice

“Difficulties in your life do not come to destroy you but to help you release the hidden potential and power”. This quote by the late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, a scientist and the 11th President of India, is the dictum for nurse Divya Sojan, who during the 11 years of her nursing career, has battled with tuberculosis (TB) thrice.

Here is her story as narrated by her via an interview given to CNS (Citizen News Service), during the 51st Union World Conference on Lung Health held virtually last month.

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Divya, who hails from Kerala, finished her 4 years General Nursing and Midwifery course from PD Hinduja College of Nursing, Mumbai in 2009. She then started working at PD Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Mumbai. It was while working there that she was first diagnosed with TB in 2011.

She recalls that “During a tiring night shift in 2011, I felt a shooting pain in my chest. An X-ray showed pleural effusion and a patch over the left upper zone of my lungs. I was started on a 4 drug treatment regimen for drug-sensitive TB. Even though I initially suffered from nausea and joint pains, I did not have any severe side effects and recovered completely after 6 months. I did not even feel like I was having TB. I was staying in a hostel and my friends took care of everything for me”.

A year later, she got infected with the H1N1 virus while taking care of a swine flu patient in the same hospital.

“I was wearing a mask and had just been there for a few minutes to help and the patient’s ventilator tubing got disconnected. The very next day I developed flu symptoms and tested positive for swine flu. Five of us were there with the patient but only I got infected, perhaps because of my low immunity.”

In 2014, Divya left her Mumbai job to do her Masters in Neuroscience at India’s top medical institution (All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi). It was while studying in Delhi that one day she suddenly felt a pain in her chest – the kind of pain she had had earlier. An X-ray revealed a patch over the left upper zone of her lungs. After a CT scan, she was started on treatment for drug-sensitive TB, for a second time. This time she had to take streptomycin injections also. Due to mild pleural effusion and breathing difficulty, she was hospitalised in AIIMS for one month.

Divya recalls that “With the injections and the tablets, I felt a lot of weakness and had no energy to stay up late night and finish my assignments. But I coped somehow with the unstinted support of my teachers and my friends who became my caretakers. My friends strived their best for me to not miss my family. My seniors took good care of my physical and mental well-being. Even though I was struggling, I went back to my studies after getting discharged from the hospital and finished my treatment in 8 months.”

In 2016, after finishing her post-graduation, Divya got a job as a nursing officer in AIIMS, which was indeed a matter of pride for her. Happy days were there again. The future looked bright and rewarding.

Last year (in 2019) because of Delhi’s infamous air pollution (and also because of her ambitions) Divya thought of moving out and try for better job opportunities abroad. In the process, she got a routine chest X-ray done. To her surprise, the X-ray showed consolidation over the upper and middle zone of her left lung. Bronchoscopy and molecular diagnostic (CB-NAAT) test revealed that she had rifampicin-resistant TB. And thus began her treatment for multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB).

“I was devastated and dreaded the long treatment regimen that was to follow. From day one of the treatment life became miserable in every sense. I was taking 22 tablets plus kanamycin injection daily. I suffered from severe nausea, vomiting and frequent syncope (fainting or passing out). I could not retain any food, not even water. Within one month I had lost 8kgs of weight-from 56kg to 48kg.”

It became impossible for Divya to continue with her hospital duties while adhering to the toxic and debilitating treatment. So she decided to take leave, go to her parents’ home in Kerala and take treatment there (from the Directly Observed Treatment Shortcourse or DOTS centre). While she got all the love and care from her family, there seemed to be no end to her medical woes. In the 3rd month of her treatment, she suffered from a blurring of vision – another side effect of the medicines.

“I had sleepless nights, crying spells and emotional breakdowns. Neither I nor my family could figure out what was happening to me. There was a lot of mental and physical trauma. Life was hopeless and miserable. Many times I thought that death was better than this suffering.”

On top of this, she received a memo from her hospital in Delhi that her sick leave had not been sanctioned for any further period. Although Divya had planned to stay in Kerala for the whole duration of her treatment, she had to return to Delhi after 5 months to join her duties.

Divya is all praises for the TB care and control programme in her home state of Kerala. “The way the doctors, nurses and coordinators at the DOTS centre spoke and behaved with me touched my life. What makes a huge difference is that the Kerala TB cell works with their hearts and not just with their brains.”

Divya was finally cured of MDR-TB in April 2020, but not without a permanent mild hearing and vision disability. She attributes the successful completion of her arduous treatment to the support she got from her family and friends throughout her difficult days. “My whole family was a big support and they held me close when I had emotional breakdowns. It was only because of my family and friends that I did not go into depression.”

Divya’s story is a grim reminder of the crucial need to protect our nurses and other healthcare workers. They play a vital role in providing health services, even in difficult times like the current pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife “to celebrate the work of nurses and midwives, highlight the challenging conditions they often face and advocate for increased investments in the nursing and midwifery workforce”. WHO has also highlighted that nurses are at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. Yet they face a lot of stigma in many places.

Divya appeals for giving importance to the well-being of all healthcare workers. “We need to take care of ourselves first so that we can take care of our patients. We have to be mindful of taking proper nutrition and build our immunity, which we often tend to neglect and ignore. Healthcare professionals are always at higher risk of contracting workplace infection as they are in constant contact with patients. They deserve to get vaccinations, leave when they are sick, periodic check-ups to screen for TB and other infectious diseases and easy access to treatment. Preventive and infection control measures need to be in place in hospitals and strictly adhered to.”

Getting paid sick leave from work is another issue. Divya was sanctioned leave only for 5 months during her 9 months’ long MDR-TB treatment. “I had to join work putting my health at risk of opportunistic infections. Mental health issues were just ignored and I skipped my tablets during night shifts. Leave-rules for TB patients needs to be amended and implemented”.

Divya strongly feels that treatment literacy of the TB patient is very important. “Often the patient does not even know why and for how long the treatment will last, and why treatment adherence is important. The mental health of TB patients is another area which needs more attention. The doctor should assess the mental health of the patient and refer her/him to counselling services if need be. Most importantly, we need to have TB support groups because, at times, even a doctor or counsellor cannot gauge and understand how it feels like to be a TB patient.”

Her tryst with TB has made Divya a better and stronger human being. “From my personal experiences, I know how it feels being hopeless and worthless. Today, as a nurse I can better understand the pain of my patients. I have understood how important it is to talk with love and care with each patient, to support and provide them information about their treatment. I learnt the value of being heard and of treating my co-workers with compassion and empathy. It is high time to end discrimination and stigma which I felt, even from healthcare professionals, during my MDR-TB treatment.”

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About the Author

Shobha Shukla is the award-winning founding Managing Editor of CNS (Citizen News Service) and is a feminist, health and development justice advocate. She is a former senior Physics faculty of Loreto Convent College and current Coordinator of Asia Pacific Media Network to end TB & tobacco and prevent NCDs (APCAT Media). Follow her on Twitter @shobha1shukla or read her writings here www.bit.ly/ShobhaShukla) Shared under Creative Commons (CC)

Previous article about DIvya Sojan on LST

A day in the park and yoga

Well-Kept with a diversity of flora and fauna, the District Park of Janakpuri is one of the best parks for morning routines in Delhi. Therefore the best place for beginning the day in the park and yoga

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA

Hence, from the break of dawn, people staying in the neighbourhood come to this Sprawling Park.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA

Not only the leafy foliage acts as the oxygen chamber but also the shady trees provide relief from the sweltering heat in summer.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA

As a result, in the green expanse people walk, jog, exercise, gym, play team sports and meditate.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA
1.25 Km longs tails for walks and jogs

Moreover, even on the most crowded day, this idyllic park provides quietness and solitude.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA
Fragrant and Medicinal Eucyalyptus

The Fragrance of the Eucalyptus fills the air throughout year. The intoxicating smell of the Saptaparani in the autumn evenings harbingers the winter.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA

Now that the pandemics slowed the lifestyle, the park repaired by itself. The monsoon made the park even prettier.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA

The grassy lawns are greener, and the flowers are in full bloom, unhindered by humans.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA
Walking barefoot

The paved paths make walking and jogging smoother. You don’t need shoes; you can walk barefoot unhurt on the 1.25 km long trail.

MORNING PARK WORKOUT
MORNINGOpen Gym

People of all age groups come here. Some come to relax and chatter, while others come to tone up their body and mind.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA

Some of them have been coming to the park for 40 years. They share a special bonding with the trees and the park dogs.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA
A permanent resident of the park and a friend of reqular visitors. Pampered with food.

Mynah, Crows, Sparrows, Pigeons and Squirrels are some of the permanent residents of this park.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA

Now that the traffic is less, you can listen to the birds chirping.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA
The leafty foliage to heal writers block

In addition, If you experience writer’s block, you can get healed when you walk through the shady paths covered by the canopy of tall, leafy Eucalyptus, Ashoka and peepal trees.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA

Besides the colourful foliage of the Amaltas, Gulmohar and Bougainville on the vast expanse of the parks provide a visual treat.

MORNNG PARK GAMES

When you walk through the park, some people get noticed because of their unique mannerism in walking, jogging and meditating.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA
Padma Mayurasana/Lotus Peacock Pose

Mr Krishnan is one such regular visitor where for beginning the day in the park and yoga. He walks on the trails and does yoga on the grassy lawns.

A DAY IN THE PARK AND YOGA
Mayurasana/Male Peacock pose

Yoga is one way to remain healthy and maintain mental equilibrium in this pandemic.

 YOGA POSTURE
Halasana/Plough pose

When we approached Mr Krishnan, he agreed to show us yoga asanas that will be beneficial for various diseases.

YOGA ASAN
upta Konasana/Reclining Angle Pose

As a matter of fact, he said he never he allowed a video shoot of his daily yoga practice.

WALKING IN THE PARK AND YOGA
Matsyasana / Fish pose

Meanwhile as he demonstrated the yoga postures, we watched and listened to him with silence and concentration.  

Watch the Video:

8 Fitness trends in the United Kingdom in 2018

While living in such a fast-paced world Fitness trends can be really hard to be up to date. New research is being done every day putting pressure on all of us to stay in the loop.

It is not so different in the fitness world. New training routines and methods are introduced every month. So today I’m going to talk about fitness trends in the UK in 2018 and hopefully give you a better idea of what might be suitable for you as an individual rather than a mass user.

Ballet Fitness

Ballet fitness is a unique fitness class to improve your grace, posture and fitness level. Classical ballet moves incorporated in challenging fitness routine. Which helps to connect your body and mind as well as challenge your physical ability. Ballet classes usually combine Ballet, Stretching and Pilates. Some classes can be very fast paced while others are slower. Also, some classes offer more technical ballet while others concentrate on fitness with just a few ballet elements.

I would highly recommend you to do very good research beforehand. Having a ballet fitness class in your routine once a week can really improve your flexibility and even confidence!

Small Group Training Studios

While for the past couple of years a big hit was low bugged big gyms, this year the new hit is small fitness studios for classes exclusive.

City centres, as well as suburbs, are full of small studios for classes. The range for these studios can be really wide. From cycling or circuit training to pilates, yoga, dancing or even meditation. The place usually comprises a very small space which can accommodate a max. of 20 people, creating a secure and exclusive place for training. They usually have a fixed timetable and quite a strict booking system. Prices can vary from £20 to £30 per session. As many studios are opening at the moment, every studio is trying to be as exclusive as possible, offering unique classes which are great for the user.

Hiit

Yes, HIIT training is still very big in the UK!

What is it?  High-intensity interval training is one of the most popular training styles to lose fat. HIIT trend started back in 2014 and now it is so popular that almost every gym offers a class.

HIIT class includes very fast pace followed by slow pace interval. These classes are very popular at lunchtimes as they usually last only for about 20-30 minutes. I usually incorporate HIIT Style in my workouts. And most of my clients find it the hardest part of the workout!

Fitness Trackers

It all started with £2 pedometers and progressed to £10000 diamond encrusted iWatches!

Wearable technology got extremely popular this year in the UK. Probably every other person has got one. It comes in different sizes, colours, shapes and technical profiles.

British people are obsessed with sharing their progress with friends as well as challenging each other. This is a great way to be fit and motivated. Some bands or watches will send you a reminder if you have been sitting for too long. I always recommend my clients to get one to stay on top of their fitness.

Races

While obesity alarm rises really high, the UK is trying to fight this really hard! This year, particularly, it has been really active regarding races. Charities, companies, schools, universities, associations and communities are pulling themselves together and organizing group events. From 3km walks to triathlons, we’ve been busy! Being a part of a running club or getting ready for a fitness event is now extremely popular. It’s so much easier to get motivated when you are in a group with others. People are encouraged to also involve their family and friends. Even sedentary people are trying to get involved.

Why not start with something along the lines of a 2k walk for your favourite charity? Doing things for a particular purpose really motivates people. Personally, I love this new trend.

Personal Training

As a personal trainer in the UK, I’ve learnt quite a few things throughout the last years. I can confidently say that fitness and exercising have become a really big trend in the recent years. With so much information available online people sort of became confused and started seeking professional help and advise.

Personal training is really big at the moment in the UK. You can hire a personal trainer to come to your home or any desired location including parks and squares. Some PTs do not train outdoors or do not travel – they have a base where they work from, like an exclusive personal training studio or a simple public gym.

Personal training is a luxury service and can be very pricey. Making sure that you have the right trainer is very important! My advice is that you do your research and go through a couple of consultations before signing up.

The 24h Gym

You might be wondering who would be going to the gym at night… You might actually be surprised!

The 24hour gym can get very busy during the night hours. Many night goers are students as well as shift workers. When for some people it seems like madness to train in the middle of the night, for others this is the only way they can fit in a workout within their busy schedules. You should be aware that most 24h gyms are unsupervised during the night and for security reasons changing rooms might be locked.

Unfortunately, there are no classes available during the night and I’m not sure if there are any PTs who would be willing to work at night. You might want to make sure that you have a workout plan in place. You can easily find a 24h gym near you. They are very popular in suburban areas within cities.

Online Training

 The growing popularity of social media has had a huge impact regarding online training and its development. A lot of personal trainers and coaches are calling themselves ‘influencers’ and ‘online couches’. Online personal training is very ‘price-efficient’ but it comes with its cons too.

Usually, online personal training means that the trainer is sending you a monthly programme, which means no face-to-face training. Do you really have to rely on your own expertise for correct posture whilst performing exercises?

Some trainers offer nutrition supervision along with the exercises. Doing good research is highly recommended here. Not all online trainers actually hold a fitness qualification. Some of them have just been training for years themselves and therefore think that they can also train others.

Be very careful and make sure your online coach not only looks good but do actually know what they’re talking about. Ideally, they would have fitness qualifications, talk to them and ask them where do they get their knowledge from. You want to make sure you’re in the hands of a professional when it comes to training and your health.

Conclusion

So many fitness trends around might leave you feeling confused… You might want to know where to start, so I’ll give you very simple but helpful advice.

Experiment and find what works for you in terms of your body and mind. Some people might like classes because it feels like working as part of a team. Others prefer personal training because they’re working on a one-to-one basis. Endurance training or HIIT training can be a good mixture to start with if you like cardiovascular activities.

A lot of my clients now want to concentrate on the way they move as well as getting rid of pains and aches. If you can feel that your posture is not correct or you’re having chronic pain then it might be good to start with some mobility work.

Sometimes not being part of the trend is also a good thing. As long as you can find what suits you, you should not feel the need to follow something just because it is popular!

About Justina

 fitness trends in the UK in 2018Justina Triasovaite is a certified female personal trainer in London and also runs justinatraining.com, a site with useful information for those who are interested in general fitness and body transformation. A committed health and fitness fanatic, Justina is very passionate about helping people transform their lives. 

The content is the views of the author. Does not repesent the perspective of Lifestyletodaynews.com

10 reasons Why you must bicycle today, on world’s first ‘World Bicycle Day’

Today, June 3 has been declared as, the first, ‘World Bicycle Day’ by the UN. According to the UN declaration, one of the benefits of cycling is that “the synergy between the bicycle and the user fosters creativity and social engagement and gives the user an immediate awareness of the local environment”.

There is more to Cycling………….

Cycling is beneficial in improving your health, reducing pollution and increasing your understanding of your surrounding.

Feeling One with Nature

The oneness that you feel with nature is unique and cannot be experienced by using any other means of transportation. You cannot feel the experience even by walking.

Science-fiction are just fictions

We read so many science-fiction about the future where people will be far-removed from nature. They live in a technological habitat, surrounded by the gadgets and with little interaction with nature or fellow humans. Go cycling to change your perception. Man can coexist with nature even when they are immersed in technology.

Return to Nature

Now there is a change in perception. People are understanding the importance of Nature. There are many ‘back to nature’ and ‘sustainable development’ activities. The interest that people show in the kitchen garden, home cooking and nature tours are an indication that we understand that for the existence of the human species we need to live in tandem with nature.

Striving to Co-Exist

Understanding nature and striving to co-exist with the natural environment is a necessity. Nowadays most of us take a break from our city life, permeated by technology, and travel to places that are almost untouched by the automation.

Balancing Nature and Technology

We go back to nature because we know nature has much to offer to our existence. We get rejuvenated in our health by spending some time with the environment.  We tend to be more creative when we are closer to nature.  Preserving the environment is a selfish need of the human species. So we have the Nature movements and the Sustainable development models.

Cycling for Sustainable Development

When you cycle you will feel the breeze. You will see all the flora and fauna and humans around you.  As you are travelling in the open space, not in a closed vehicle, you will feel one with nature. That feeling of oneness is the beginning of your positive outlook towards the environment and other species.

World Bicycle Day

Feel the Surrounding

Yes, you can feel the nature with your five senses. When you travel in a car you are in a closed environment and artificial air conditioning.

Less pollution

There two types of pollution that happen when you Cycle. Since Cycle does not run on fuel,  you are saving the environment from gas emitted from fuels. On the other hand, your body becomes more immune to pollution. Your lungs and internal organs are healthier because of more intake of oxygen.

According to the UN cycling has ‘has a positive impact on climate”. If more people use cycle then there will less pollution.

World Bicycle Day

Health Benefits

When you cycle your cardiovascular fitness increases. There is the movement of joint and muscular flexibility. A number of diseases are prevented or becomes less severe by cyclings like diabetes, some cancers, arthritis and diseases.

Perfect transportation during traffic jams

On a day when there is a traffic jam, you can speed through the traffic. There is o excuse for being late to work.

In many countries, there are depots where you can rent a cycle and go the office. There is the twin benefit; you are following a fitness regime on a working day as well as having a pollution free commutation.

According to UN “The bicycle can serve as a tool for development and as a means not just of transportation but also of access to education, healthcare and sport”.

Enjoy bicycling today and share your experience in the comment box.

 

Indian diet 50% short of high-quality Protein

After food shortage in India was resolved by the green revolution, nutrition experts in India found that the Indian diet was inadequate in the intake of good quality protein. According to experts, the diet should be balanced including carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Protein is an essential component for every stage of life.

During pregnancy, the vegetarian mother should take milk for high-quality protein. After birth, the requirement of protein is very high in 0-2 age group and Adolescence. In the old age, people consume less food and proportionately the consumption of protein is also reduced. During the old age, the amount of protein should not be lowered.

There is a misconception in India that protein is for body building only. Protein is required in every stage of human life. On the other hand, if you have a protein only diet and do not exercise then the protein will go out of the body with urine. You must have a balanced diet of high-quality protein, carbohydrates and fats.

For instance, you can have idli with sambar, rice with rajma and a glass of milk. All the three meals in a day and the two snack must include a high-quality protein food. Milk, poultry and meat are sources of high-quality protein which is digestible. Vegetables are less digestible compared to the nonvegetarian sources.

Nutrition experts say that cereals are a good source of protein, and the ideal ratio of consumption of cereals and proteins is 60:40. Too much or too little protein is not good for health. During the healing process of some diseases, protein is essential.

To maintain a healthy lifestyle we must follow the right ratio of protein, energy and exercise.high-quality protein

In order to increase the awareness of protein among the Indians and to clarify the misconceptions, Indian DIetetic Association (IDA), Delhi Chapter on 18th July declared 24th-30th July 2017 as ‘The Protein Week’. Dr B Sesikeran, renowned nutritional pathologist said,  “In India, there are many myths around the sources of protein, people are confused about their dietary protein intake and often assume that it is for body builders only, however, protein is a fundamental nutrient across life stages that helps in maintaining good health and active ageing.”

The initiative is supported by Protein Foods Nutrition Development Association of India (PFNDAI). Protein intake impacts every life stage. “Our vegetarian diets are already deficient in protein both in quantity and quality, so we need to supplement with protein which not only fills up the gap but is high quality enough to ensure our cereal and pulse-based protein quality would be elevated,” said Dr J S Pai, Executive Director, PFNDAI.

Speaking at first such initiative in the country, to spread awareness and discuss myths and realities of protein, Ms Anuj Agarwala, Nutritionist, Department of Pediatrics, AIIMS and Former President, IDA Delhi Chapter, said “It is important to begin early and focus on a protein rich diet right from the start, which should be continued through all the life stages of development and growth. Children particularly have high protein demand to propel their growth during growing years, as they grow in spurts. Demands for protein among children is particularly high during preteen and teen phases of growth spurts.”

During The Protein Week, IDA with PFNDAI, will hold educational seminars across the country to spread awareness and discuss myths and realities of protein.

Follow traditional diets to reduce obesity

While being interviewed for the post of a dietitian , a candidate was asked if she were a poor housewife and she wanted to cook a nutritional meal for her husband what would she cook. She said she would prepare drumstick leaf curry and sardine curry. Two items very cheaply available in Kerala two decades ago.

Nowadays our concern is about obesity. How to prepare food that is nutritional and reduces obesity. The answer is there in our traditional diet, the ingredients are available in the market. We can also grow a few vegetables in our little balconies.

I feel that ‘elaborate daily meals’ is the fad of the 21st. Having tasty food three times a day and ensuring right combination of food is as a result of the consumerist culture of today.  In my childhood days, on a normal day, I don’t remember having the right kind of accompaniment for a breakfast dish: Instead of chutney or sambar there will be sugar with idli, and instead of puri with chole there will be puri with mango pickle. The right combinations were available only on special occasions. Most children in my native village use to have pazhamkanji (old rice) for breakfast.

There were many reasons for the mismatch in food combination:

  • Shops were few and far between
  • Very few cooking gadgets
  • Unavailability of ready-made ingredients
  • Less income
  • Taste was of least priority
  • No choice: we ate what was put before us
  • Very little exposure to restaurant food

Nowadays we give the highest priority to taste, whereby nutrition comes second in importance. We ensure to have apt combinations for the meals and also taste should be as good as the restaurant one. So we add a lot of masalas and sometimes cook the food for a long time so as to get a particular tasty texture. Since tickling the taste palate in of utmost importance, we prepare different types of food every day. If yesterday we had roti, today we have puri and tomorrow idli. According to experts if we have the same kind of food every day we consume less, on the other hand, if different kinds of food are cooked then we have more food since we relish a new variety of food. For instance, the cooked rice left overnight soaked in water (pazhamkanji) and consumed for breakfast, was a tradition in Kerala. There are many nutritional benefits of pazhamkanji. Why not follow traditional diets to reduce obesity.

Go back to traditional diet………..

Nowadays we revive our tradition in our dressing, family values and ceremonies. When it comes to food, we take the tastier options of different cultures and from a tradition of our own. Why not instead of just adopting the tastier, easier, convenient and happier traditions, let us also adopt some of the tougher and bitter traditions which gave our ancestors a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tough dietary tradition followed by our ancestors and may help to reduce obesity:

Same diet every day

We know very well the staple diet of our ancestors. My ancestors used to have rice;  they had rice for lunch and dinner and sometimes even for breakfast, which is known as pazhamkanji (old rice), considered as one of the most nutritional breakfasts in the world. According to some medical experts, if we stick to our childhood diet in adulthood, then we remain healthy lifelong.

prominence for nutrition

Our ancestors never added flavour to make the food tastier. Every ingredient had some kind of nutritional content. My ancestors used jaggery, (containing antioxidants and mineral) in coffee, tea, sweets, etc. They had green leafy vegetables with rice for lunch. And the labours had pazhamkanji for breakfast which gave them stamina for their hard labour.

Add some bitter in platter

Post delivery diet in my village includes a jaggery sweet mixed with equal amount of fenugreek powder. This bittersweet combination is said to be the secret of the stamina of the elderly women in their 70’s even after giving birth to 7 to 8 children. Many good medicinal food items are bitter, so we must make it a habit of giving bitter food to kids. I know a mother who never gave sugar products to her daughter till she was 5 years old. She was given only naturally sweetened products like fruits and vegetables. And in the meantime, the girl became more interested only in naturally sweet products.

Seasonal diet

When I visit my mother’s village home there are no rewards for guessing what my mother will prepare for me. During the mango season, there will be mango thoran (Thoran is shallow frying of any minced vegetable, mixed with grated coconut and spices), mango curry, mango pickle etc. During Jackfruit season there will be jackfruit chips, mashed jackfruit, jackfruit seed fry, jackfruit halwa etc. And if there is a bunch of banana: first there will be banana flower thoran; then a few raw bananas will be fried or made to thoran; then the rest of the bananas will be kept aside to ripen. Now the inner portion of the banana stem will be made into thoran ( very rich source of fibre and good for the kidney stone).

Strict meal timing

In my village, if someone asks you at 1:30 PM that if you had lunch and you answer is in the negative, then the villagers will rate you as an undisciplined person. In my village, people follow an unwritten schedule for food: Breakfast at 7:00; Lunch at 1:00; Tea at 3:30 and Dinner at 7:00.  In our busy office schedule, we might say maintaining a strict timing is impossible. I know a number of people in various kinds of occupation who stick to their traditional diets and habits, no matter which part of the world they are, or how much work pressure they have.

A friend once said that the Tamil Brahmin community follows their dietary tradition no matter wherever they are. To make her point more clear she said just watch a Tamil Brahmin at a Buffet in a Five Star Hotel. They will look at all the dishes and finally settle down with idli and sambar, or rice and a veg curry.

I think we all need to follow the dietary tradition of our ancestors and not be carried away by all the tasty, enticing odour and attractively presented food items that will pave way for obesity.

For a healthy adulthood parents must ensure kids get enough Nutrition for growth

Mother has a 75 year old helper called Bhavani Amma. I remember Bhavani Amma for her peculiar diet, or ‘strict diet’, that baffles everyone. Before telling about her diet I would like to explain her background.

Bhavani Amma spent her childhood on the shores of backwaters in Allappuzha which is famous for the paddy fields and fresh fish. She grew up on a diet of nature fresh rice and fresh-caught fish curry. In her twenties she was married off and she came to settle in our part of Allappuzha . Fish caught from the backwaters, rivers and sea reaches our village only after 8 to 10 hour. Bhawani Amma is choosy, she eats only fresh-caught fish with soft bones. Which means most of the days she had frugal diet. Bhawani Amma doesn’t consume chicken and in case non-veg is cooked in her home, she will survive on tea, from a nearby tea-shop, (chaya-vellam as we call in Kerala prepared from 1 portion milk and 2 portion water) for the next two days.

She has a concave stomach hollow like a shallow frying pan. My mother used to worry that Bhawani Ammani will one day starve to death because of her stubborn diet.

Last year Bhawani Amma slipped and fell; and as it is common among elderly we thought she was going to be bed-ridden for the rest of her life. To our surprise the doctor said that she had a minor injury and she will recover soon because of all the calcium she had accumulated in her younger days.

Bhawani Amma’s story compels me to believe that whatever we do in growing period keeps us healthy and sharper in our adulthood and old age. A doctor once said that after the age of 40 if you suddenly start having milk that would not benefit you in any form. And all of a sudden if you start jogging after the age of 40 that would not benefit you. Your diet and fitness regimen should be inculcated in the childhood.

Born during the time when the environment was unpolluted, nature provided Bhawani Amma, from a poor family, with all the nutrition for growth. In today’s world even the fish and vegetables are polluted. So we do not have the uncontaminated natural source to accumulate all the healthy nutrients. Hence we need to depend on food supplements to provide necessary vitamins, proteins and minerals during the growing period. One such popular and easy source of nutrient intake is by malt-based milk drinks.

Parents are doubtful whether milk health drinks are good for the children. Nowadays as we do not have the natural sources to provide proteins, vitamins and minerals to our kids, giving them malt-based hot milk drinks helps provide some nutrition for growth. Studies by consumer organizations show that malt-based milk drinks contains vitamins, minerals, calcium and protein; either all or majority of the nutrients. Children grow up within the blink of an eye and they should not be denied the essential nutrition for growth.

A mother of a 20 yr old girl now wonders whether her daughter did not grow taller because she did not give milk drinks. So instead of ruminating over ‘to give or not to give’ malt-based milk drinks to kids, better start giving them a hot glass of milk drink everyday. Since Consumer studies do not show any side effects of having milk drinks let the kids have milk drink and accumulate some nutrients.

Where does lead in food come from?

Our body does not require lead, an element found in nature, but because of the presence of lead in many consumer products, and manufacturing process, we get exposed to lead. We have some amount of lead in our body which is not dangerous as long as  it is within permissible limits. The problem with lead is it does not get out as easily from the body, as it gets inside the body. Hence when the lead accumulates in the blood over a period of time it can lead to health issues – damaging the nervous system, causing brain disorders, repeated anemia, a low IQ level, headache, affecting the immune system, impaired fertility, and hypertension. It accumulates in both soft tissues and the bones. The US considers ‘lead’ the number one environmental threat to the health of children.

For the last few month I was trying to convey the above message to the Consumers in India, but with little effect. Along with students of Delhi University, I did a research for Consumers India about Lead Hazards in India. The findings were alarming as lead was found in food, household items, paints, soil and air. Getting the message across to the consumers was difficult because they think there are bigger health hazards in the polluted environs of the city.  We were searching for new methods to educate the public – Seminars in schools, huge billboards in hospitals and messages through media. If there is a suitable substitute for lead then it can be eliminated. Lead Petrol was removed in India after protests from activists and NGOs’.

Thanks to the controversy regarding Lead in Maggi, Consumers are all ears to know about the hazards of Lead. Developed countries have a measurement to find out if a person is within the permissible limit of lead or they need to take medical help. A child in the US is said to be exposed to lead if the Blood lead level is between 4 and 10 mcg/dl(Micrograms Per Decilitre) and precaution are sought from the authorities to find out the source of exposure and precautions to be taken. And if the child has blood lead level of more than 10 mcg they have to undergo  medical treatment.

There are numerous sources of lead exposures – lead batteries, lead paints, pottery with lead paints, newspaper prints, the prints on plastic cover, soil, vegetables that are grown in soil with high concentration of lead, water with lead and air.  We are exposed to lead in all our daily activities and if we check our blood lead level, we might be diagnosed as victims of lead exposure. In our research we found vegetables like spinach contains lead and they are not removed even by thorough washing. Lead is also there in jellies, ice creams and tinned food, as the soldering is of lead.

Food items FDA (The US) checked for high lead c

The United States FDA has stated a number of products that may contain lead more that the permissible level.

  • In 2004, United States Consumer Product Safety Commission found that Candies contained unsafe amount of lead from the wrappers.
  • In 2002, FDA found that Milk Chocolate contained more than permissible limit of lead, which was because of the chocolate liquor used in it. The manufacturers were asked to take precaution while taking raw materials. However the level of lead was found to be high in Dark Chocolates as they contain higher amount of liquor chocolate.
  • FDA also found  lead in candy but within permissible limits. Candies contain sugar (lead in sucrose) which contains ‘average levels of contaminants that are well below the applicable limit’.
  • Mexican candies with chilli as ingredient had detectable level of lead because of the soil they were grown.
  • Candies with tamarind as ingredient was found to have lead because the products were packed in lead glazed bowls.

Where does lead in food come from in Maggi?

In our research we never found any case with noodles having lead. So I asked Vinay Kumar C, Environmental Researcher, National Referral Centre for Lead Projects in India, about the possible routes of lead exposure in Maggi, and following are his assumptions:

1. Masala ( Taste Makers): The success of Maggi is in it’s unique taste of added masala packet which comes with it, prepared exclusively comprising various ingredients. Lead may be entered in any of the raw materials procured – research have indicated that Lead Chromate are usually found in healthy haldi ( turmeric ) and mixed species as common adulteration.

Read also: Serve global brands in India with desi tadka – An anecdote on how Maggi made inroads in India 30 years ago.

 2. Water: Even the water employed during the whole process of Maggi preparation may be contaminated with Lead/ toxic chemicals due to the sub-standard/old metal piping in the various manufacturing units. The possible contamination may also be in its source.  Ex : ground water, tankers from unknown source.
3.Packing: The plastic employed to packing Maggi products need to be tested and certified as various plastic (bright solid-coloured plastic packing bags/covers) may contain high concentrations of lead as per the studies & test results  of Northeast Recycling Council,US.
4.Production Machinery:  The old paints on the machinery or the oil agents( containing lead content) used for running the equipment may have come in contact with production.

In an interview to Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Uday Annapure, an associate professor of the department of food engineering and technology at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, said that while none of the many food additives used in making the wheat noodles support lead, some components of the soup-flavoring packet, such as onion powder and wheat flour, “come from agricultural sources, all vulnerable to lead contamination,” (Source WSJ)

During the course of the research I asked an eminent person about who could be given the credit for the elimination of lead from petrol in India. He said in this big country, India, a single person or an organisation cannot bring about a change. I beg to differ from his argument in this case of spreading awareness about lead hazards. Had lead not been detected in Maggi, no one would have bothered to read this article. Maggi did in 2-minutes what Lead activists could not do for decades – spread awareness about lead exposure among consumers in India.

 Also Read:Lead poisoning: How safe are you?

                          Lead hazard in India!!!

Lead in Food

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