Emotional demands become physical pains (Part 5)

Updated 28 May 2014

Emotional demands become physical pains (Part 5)

For the past four weeks, I have been discussing different ways to relieve stress induced back and neck pains and muscle spasms. Last week, it was about the benefits of a nutritious diet to restore body equilibrium. A healthy food regimen will not only help replenish the adrenal gland and de-stress, but will also rebuild health and give energy and wellness. Physical and emotional stress can inflict a great deal of damage on the body, brain, mood and mind. It can lead to chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, cancer), autoimmune disorders as well as depression and mental illnesses. Stress may appear harmless, but it can be at the root of many disorders.
Now, let us go back to where I stopped. It is not enough to be on a healthful diet, you also need to restrain from certain so-called foods and drinks.
It is important to avoid simple sugars (soda, cola, and soft drinks, desserts, pastries, ice-creams, milk chocolates, milk shakes, Frappucinos, alcoholic beverages…), excess caffeine, alcohol, refined carbohydrates (white rice and bread), fast and fried foods, trans fats, processed foods, artificial additives (coloring, preservatives, flavors…), taste-enhancers (MSG), and artificial sweeteners (aspartame, saccharin…) as well as tobacco smoking and drugs. They magnify stress symptoms (muscle spasms and pain, allergies, autoimmune disorders) by increasing the toxic load on the immune system and organs. Sugar consumption (one portion of cheesecake, milkshake, chocolate desserts or…) in studies was shown to suppress the activity of immune cells and system.
Meals should also be free of pressures and should be respected by maintaining a calm, relaxing atmosphere. They should be void of arguments, screaming, quarrels, or chaos. They should be peaceful. One should avoid announcing bad or even irritating news on the table. Such agitating and disturbing announcements can upset the stomach, leading to nausea or vomiting.
In fact, a recent study indicated that eating in a serene and good mood enhances the body’s metabolic rate and speeds the digestion. This is part of the mind/body connection. The digestion is very much connected with the mental state. Meals should be considered sacred. One should start with God’s name and words of thanks rather than with turmoil and anger.
Another frustrating aspect of stress is that it disrupts the body’s metabolic rate, resulting in weight gain and obesity. Lurking stress hormones (cortisol) sustain the elevation of blood sugar and insulin in the system, obstructing weight loss and promoting weight gain. Obesity is another form of stress on the body. Excess body fat releases inflammatory chemicals, making cortisol flood the system, which leads to metabolic syndromes (diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer).
A positive attitude and optimism are effective ways to wipe out automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) that invite emotional and mental stress. Make plans for the future, look ahead, and avoid the cultivation of destructive thoughts (Read “When Grief Becomes overwhelming” published in March and April 2014). Entertaining ANTs and negativity can be detrimental to mental and physical health and wellbeing. Instead, a smile can make stress vanish. Make time to watch a comedy. Let go and laugh.
Another effective way to control stress and anxiety is deep inhalations and exhalations, which relax the body and control stress hormones. Especially when coupled with fish oil intake, stress reduction becomes more efficacious.
Applying ice packs is a fast pain reliever on new injuries, bruises, fractures, and torn muscles, tendons, and ligaments. People wonder when to use heat or ice. Golf Digest Professional Adviser Ralph Simpson, physical therapist and former fitness trainer, advises ice packs for recent injuries (muscle tissue, ligament, and tendon tearing, bleeding, bruises, knocks, bone fractures, sprains…) to suppress inflammation. Ice is an anti-inflammatory remedy. As for heat therapy, it is more effective on older injuries or chronic muscle spasms and pains as it relaxes and loosens up knotted muscles, especially after massage therapy. Put waxed paper between skin heat packs. Wet heat is more effective.
Recovery from stress also requires other methods like therapeutic exercises yoga, tai chi, or chi gong. I consulted Suzette Garza Alfadl, an Iyangar yoga instructor and owner of Try Yoga Studio in Jeddah.
Suzette suggests several yoga poses, asanas. She says hatha yoga is used for therapeutic purposes in hospitals and health care facilities around the world to help relieve stress, muscle spasms, back pain, autoimmune disorders, and mental health issues. Anybody (healthy or debilitated individuals) can practice yoga. Those with bad postures, resulting from extended use of computers and television and deskbound jobs, can benefit from yoga, too. However in order to practice yoga properly, you need a qualified yoga instructor to guide you. She suggested several helpful poses. I chose the following ones.
Suzette says savasana (corpse pose) relieves the neck pain. Lie on the floor or mat, extending legs parted hip width. Bend knees in case of back pain. You should respect the natural curves of the spine. There should be a three-fingers space between the neck and floor and also between the lumbar area of the spine and floor. If the gaps are not there, slide a folded or rolled face towel beneath the nape and floor to “create a soft curve,” she says. Support the head, if it tilts backwards. Maintain the position for 5 minutes to lengthen and relieve the spine and ease vertebrae.
As for the lower back (lumbar area), Suzette recommends the modified Salabhnasana (modified locust pose). Lie flat facing the floor, mat, or blanket. Bend your knees and open them hip level. Turn thighs inwards to keep knees aimed at the floor. Rest palms on the floor at shoulder level. Raise your head by pushing with the palms as well as the knees and legs. Keep position for 5 to 10 breaths and repeat around 3 times.
To align the spine furthermore, Suzette recommends Adhomukha Svanasana (down facing dog pose) after the locust pose. Go on your hands (fingers wide open) shoulder level, knees hip width, and toes curled under (slightly outwards). Press hands slightly outward to lift the knees, supporting the legs with slightly outward feet. Buttocks should point to the ceiling, pushing thighs back. Straighten legs to stretch the hamstrings without forcing them. Bend knees if necessary until you manage to straighten the legs. By extending the arms and legs, the spine and neck will lengthen, too. Maintain pose for 5 to 10 breaths. Repeat 2 to 3 times. Suzette favors these poses to relieve the back.
Physical and emotional stress inflicts tremendous damage on the body, brain, mood, and mind. Unhealthy lifestyles are stressors that intensify stress and its side effects, leading to chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, cancer), and autoimmune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis…) as well as back problems, depression, and mental illnesses (Alzheimer’s, dementia…). Stress may appear harmless, but extended mental and emotional pressures can be at the root of many undesirable disorders and ruin the joys of life.
Before you rush to spinal surgical procedures, try the mentioned techniques. Benefit comes when healthy methods are applied synergistically and regularly to complement each other, achieve effective results, and give energy and good health.
• The Most Dangerous Thing You’ll Do All Day, by Bill Philips and the Editors of Men’s Health
• Golf Digest Professional Adviser Ralph Simpson, physical therapist and former fitness trainer
• Suzette Garza Alfadl, Iyangar method yoga instructor and owner of Try Yoga Studio, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Individuals with medical conditions or on medication should consult their physicians when they decide to introduce anything new in their diet even if it is natural.
The previous Health Solutions articles are located at www. arabnews.com
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Dayma: Levantine flavors with a contemporary twist

Updated 25 October 2020

Dayma: Levantine flavors with a contemporary twist

  • Levantine cookhouse Dayma offers a selection of classic dishes with a contemporary twist
  • Dayma seals the deal with a card showing a cup of coffee and a translated Arabic proverb

DUBAI: Those of us who grew up eating Levantine cuisine will recall the warmth and flavor of many dishes, along with childhood memories of family gatherings and chitchat.

Levantine cookhouse Dayma offers a selection of classic dishes with a contemporary twist.

Starters include shatta prawn crescents — sourdough sambuseks stuffed with prawns, shatta (a Middle Eastern hot sauce), ginger, coriander and lime. The crispy dough encloses a zesty and slightly spicy filling.

Aubergine sfiha stars — sourdough shaped stars with smoked eggplant, pomegranate molasses and walnuts — are a smokier, vegetarian version of the Arabic meat pastry or sfiha.

Dayma also offers a selection of four starters in its “swingers special.” Try a range of pastries and decide which you would recommend.

From the dips, we would suggest the carrot mutabbal, a perfect marriage of tropical and Middle Eastern flavors. Unlike the original recipe based on smoked eggplant, this one uses whipped carrots and caraway, tahini, slivered dates and coconut shavings. The dip has a delicious sweet flavor with an interesting sour aftertaste.

Among the mains, if you are looking for a more traditional or mainstream example of Levantine cuisine, try Beik’s lamb chops. The meat is delightfully tender, with a sweet and smoky flavor.

Looking to try something old style cooked in a new style? The kebbeh mini-tray bake features burghul pie filled with a tasty stuffing of minced beef, caramelized onions, sour cherry and flaked almonds, generously spiced with cinnamon. 

Another delicious main is the yellowtail faskar. Locally sourced sea bream fillet is marinated in ginger, tamarind and coriander and then barbecued, giving it a smoky flavor.  

Dayma seals the deal with a card showing a cup of coffee and a translated Arabic proverb to honor the Middle Eastern tradition of serving guests coffee after a meal.

A great place to try traditional Arabic cuisine with a clever contemporary twist.