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Spice up your life!

Is this why I’m here?

OPINION

 

Spice up your life!

How many of us feel, by the middle of the afternoon, that we’re somehow “out of steam”? A report sent to me by Cory Croymans of the Asian Healing Arts Centre tells of a community organizer in central Maine whose energy crashed every afternoon, necessitating the grabbing of a chocolate bar or candies to get through the rest of the day. “But, I’m 52, she reported, “and these explosions of calories are becoming harder to work off!” I suspect we all know that feeling!
However, help was at hand when a friend told her that cinnamon helped alleviate another health problem. Wondering whether the spice would help her too, she decided to give it a try by taking two 500-milligram capsules in the morning, and immediately noticed the difference. Her chocolate cravings went away and she no longer noticed that crashing feeling in the afternoon. “I haven’t talked to a doctor”, she said, “all I know is that cinnamon is inexpensive, easy to take and it stops the crash.”
Clinical studies support Ryan’s experience. Just half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day lowered blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes, according to a study of
60 subjects carried out at the Agricultural University in Peshawar, Pakistan. .
The same study found that cinnamon also lowered cholesterol. This writer’s experience also supports it; sitting at a computer trying to be creative for most of the day brings on that crashing feeling like nothing else! Cory recommended that, for breakfast, I serve myself sugar-free muesli, with natural live yoghurt, honey, and, (you’ve guessed it!) a generous sprinkling of cinnamon! Believe me, it works! And it’s absolutely delicious.
Ginger, it seems, is another very useful natural substance—definitely not just for flavouring gingerbread and ginger biscuits! This aromatic root has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine to treat health problems including digestive ailments, arthritis, infectious diseases, fever, high blood pressure, pain and muscle aches. These days, researchers are zeroing in on the biochemical effects of ginger in the body, which may not only help explain its benefits but also begin to lay the groundwork for new and less toxic treatments for a host of illnesses. Two key compounds in the spice are gingerols, which gives fresh ginger its pungency, and shogaols, which gives dried ginger its zip.
Some of the most convincing findings on ginger’s health benefits in humans come from studies of morning sickness. A study of 70 women in the first trimester of pregnancy led by Teraporn Vutyavanich of Chiang Mai University reported that women who received one gram of ginger per day had significantly less nausea and vomiting from morning sickness than a control group given a placebo. Whilst that research result is unlikely to be of use to most of us older expats, drinking ginger tea, delicious and easily available at local supermarkets, does seem to be of enormous benefit to the digestion, particularly after over-indulgence in local spicy dishes!
Of even more use might be research conducted by Ali Badreldin of the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, along with colleagues in the UK and the United Arab Emirates, who examined 91 studies on ginger conducted around the world over the last decade. In a 2008 review article in Food and Chemical Toxicology, the researchers highlighted animal and test-tube studies that have found ginger can lower both blood sugar and cholesterol, and contains pain-killing compounds that mimic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, with fewer side effects, thus easing inflammation from arthritis and protecting against ulcers. Badreldin and his colleagues also note the results of studies in rodents that found that ginger has powerful antioxidant properties which protect against the toxic effects of radiation treatment and also against skin diseases caused by ultraviolet B radiation. These studies lay the groundwork for possible ginger-based treatments for diabetes, arthritis and other inflammatory illnesses, protection against radiation sickness from cancer treatment and even cancer itself. Ginger has been used medicinally for centuries, underscoring its safety as a herbal medicine with only a few and insignificant adverse side effects. And remember, ginger is used as a flavouring in many local Thai dishes!
If you enjoy northern Thai food, and particularly if you cook it yourself, you’ll be very familiar with Chili peppers. All hot peppers, from cayenne to habaneros to the new, ultra-fiery Bhut Jolokia or “ghost chili,” get their kick from capsaicin, a compound that triggers the body to produce more heat, and hence, burn more energy.
Studies at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and Laval University in
Quebec, Canada, report that capsaicin and other compounds that trigger this reaction may help fight obesity. But don’t cancel your gym membership just yet! Eating even the spiciest salsa will never beat exercise for burning calories. You might still, however, want to add more spicy food to your diet, as scientists think capsaicin may cause cancer cells to self-destruct while leaving normal cells unharmed. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles reported that feeding mice doses of capsaicin equal to a human eating 10 habanero peppers three times a week dramatically inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells. Another research group at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute investigated capsaicin in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer. In mice fed the equivalent of one spicy Indian meal a day, tumors shrank by nearly half after only three to five days.
So –spice up your life, and feel much better for it! You’re in Thailand, so, even if it takes a while for you to cope with spicy food, persevere—millions of Thais can’t be wrong! Life doesn’t begin, (although it may end…) with a hamburger and chips, and Big Pharma may not have the only answers to our everyday ailments.
With thanks to Cory Croy mans, www.asianhealingarts center.com

 

Is this why I’m here?

I open my eyes. Dogs on the bed, snuggling and snoring; outside the window, the bamboos glitter with dew. Another glorious morning. No traffic noise, no dustcarts rumbling, no car horns blaring, signifying early morning road rage. Just silence, interspersed with the squawks, hoots and whistles of unknown and mostly unseen birds. Is this why I’m here?
I struggle out of bed, disrupting doggy dreams, and stagger to the en-suite, dogs around my feet like the train of an old-fashioned kimono, scattering as I collapse on the loo. Bleary eyes focus on the pale lilac iris-patterned tiles—another poor night’s sleep. Out to the terrace for the first five ciggies of the day, a cup of green tea and 10 minutes’ dog-watching as they inspect the garden for traces of anything unsavoury which might have taken up residence overnight. Check the pool for frogs, drowned or almost drowned. Scoop the almost drowned out and deposit them gently in the long grass. Brilliant blue sky, white fluffy clouds over the distant hills, reminiscent of a Victorian genre watercolour—except for the palms! Is this why I’m here?
Dogs fed, me dressed, (scruffily), face anointed with “the ultimate wrinkle slayer” which doesn’t quite work. Next trip—into the office, dogs trailing with full tummies and collapsing against the walls. My least favourite job-check emails. Weed out the spam, (a good reminder to weed out the garden over lunch), and get down to business. Too much work-another 10 hour day wrestling with words and concepts translated poorly from an unfamiliar language. Does anyone actually bother to read this stuff? Is this why I’m here?
Lunchtime –what the hell happened to breakfast? Don’t know, but it happens every morning. Dogs out to do what dogs do, woofing mightily at something under the creeper by the terrace. Hope it’s not a snake-no, it isn’t. Dog runs off with large lizard in face, followed by dog owner yelling “no,No, NO”. Dog ignores owner, much preferring the obligatory chase three times around the outside of the house, undertaken in case the reptile’s still alive. It isn’t. Dog loses interest, dog owner, mournfully, puts lizard in trash bin. So much for a quiet bowl of muesli and another green tea. Back to the office, having completely forgotten to weed the garden. Is this why I’m here?
Afternoon session. Think-what to write? Thoughts interrupted by dog in garden, woofing at maximum decibels. Sounds suspicious, so go out to investigate—this time it is a snake! In the grass, of course. So far, dog’s winning, but I’m taking no chances as the thing’s at least 3 feet long. Grab dog, put on chain. Grab digging tool, (with VERY long handle), aim sharp end at snake, strike. Very long grass absorbs shock—snake wriggles. Ooops. Decide to remove reptile from garden –loop it over sharp end of digging tool, open gate and throw! Success- snake lands in klong. Didn’t really want to kill it anyway, only give it a headache. Turn round – two dogs departing for the wide blue yonder through very slightly open gate at 90 miles per hour. Cursing, I follow at 80 miles per hour. In my new sandals. Result – blisters and still no dogs. This is definitely NOT why I’m here!
Later. Dogs return. I slam gate shut and put dogs on chain, probably for ever. Or at least until supper. They’re happy and tired. I’m unhappy and tired.
Evening session. Everything I didn’t do in the afternoon session because of snakes, dogs, and the lunchtime lizard. Supper? Forget it! What now—only one option—swim. Turn pool light on, check for any local fauna on bottom of pool, dive in—heaven! After a day of hell. Gently rippling water, cooling and soothing, shadows of trees, glow of moon, total quiet. That’s why I’m here! Let tomorrow take care of itself, I’m off to bed. With dogs.


OPINION:

Last week a major human rights group, Human Rights Watch, suggested that Thai authorities may have intimidated and forcibly deported ethnic Hmong to neighbouring Laos after they escaped a refugee camp last month. Apparently, 1300 Hmong refugees are now missing. At the same time, reports were received that a small number of Kayan had been abducted from a camp in Mae Hong Son, possibly to be used as a tourist attraction somewhere in Thailand. The governor of Mae Hong Son last week assured media that human trafficking charges would be brought against the perpetrators, and that, when found, the Kayan would be returned to Mae Hong Son, where there are also several tourist villages featuring these “long-neck” women. Again, an article in the international media asks whether an “immigrant” problem is actively encouraged in Thailand by not giving credit to the positive contribution to the Thai economy by migrant workers, and by stressing in the popular media migrant issues such as their possible roles in HIV/AIDS, crimes, prostitution and so on. Serious human rights issues are involved –BUT—does this all sound slightly familiar?
In the West, and particularly in the UK and USA, immigrants, legal or illegal, are also taking the blame for similar problems; issues such as taking jobs and homes away from the indigenous population, the rise in crime, drugs, etc, and , of course, for terrorism. It would seem that, every time there is a national or international crisis, the blame must be shifted sideways. Two reasons suggest themselves – the first is normally government induced and media fuelled—and involves focusing the minds of the population away from the real causes of the crisis. The second reason has been valid in people’s minds since we inhabited caves and is best expressed by an English expression, “When times get tough, the knives come out!”
Times, indeed, are tough, and likely to get tougher—all avid online international news readers will have realised by now that the “blame” syndrome is as worldwide as are the current crises. But, surely, when times get tough, all people should join together for the common good? We are all human, we all need the same things to survive, and emotional energy focused on hate and fear is far better used in other ways. Much coverage is being given to the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor of the world—perhaps an even more significant ever-widening gap lies between world governments’ perceptions and those of the millions they govern?
Surely we should remember that humans have an ability to discriminate in a positive manner, and not allow ourselves to be forced into negative discrimination which disguises very real and serious issues worldwide.