Month: May 2015

Monkey Mind

We live in the Age of Distraction. Yet ironically, the success of our future is influenced by the ability to pay attention to the present.

The behaviors of being still and slowing down are not only dismissed but carry the reputation of being unproductive, a waste of time, even lazy. Nothing could be further from the truth. By slowing down and being present, our ability to see our situations with more clarity improves, as does our mental resilience and flexibility. Some of the most profound moments come from watching the grass grow.

Mindfulness is in part about observing the ‘monkey mind’, the constant chatter that is ever present. Instead of directly trying to quiet or calm the mind (because lets face it, this is very difficult to do), it is more about looking at the spaces between thoughts. Living in the moment is a very active state. It is the the practice of being active, open, and placing intentional attention on the present, so that you are not dwelling on the past or projecting into the future. When this is practiced you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judgment, neither grasping a thought or pushing it away.

Road in the ForestMost of us are constantly running away from something or towards something. For example, not wanting to deal with argument that you got into yesterday with your partner or counting down the days left before you leave for vacation. Of course we all have mundane tasks that we would rather not do, as well as having things we look forward to. If you are able to stay in the present moment, accept what is in front of you, take some deep breaths, re-center your attention, watch your thoughts as they rise and fall, you will be able tend to the task at hand in this moment, rather than being caught up in the past or the imaginings of the future.

So why do we want to do this? This non-judgmental awareness of the present imparts several benefits. It has been shown that mindful people are happier, more enthusiastic, more empathetic, and more secure. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces the impulsiveness and reactivity that may underlie attention problems and binge eating. Mindfulness reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, boosts immune functioning, and reduces chronic pain. An article in the  Washington Post taught the beneficial effects of mindful meditation for war veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

water dropletWe need to keep in mind that mindfulness is not an end goal. We don’t achieve mindfulness, we practice it.  There are more formal ways of practice such as mindful meditation, but don’t let this intimidate you. Simply set your intention to pay attention to what is happening right now. You can perform any task in a mindful way. You are basically doing the opposite of multi-tasking (which none of us can really do efficiently anyway). The very act of being present, focusing on the here and now, will paradoxically improve your ability to manage more things with less effort.

Here are here are a few ways to practice being in the present.

Embrace Fretting

Who doesn’t worry about the future? As Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Anxiety about the future is often driven by imaginings and fear. Some suggest setting aside to ‘just worry’ in a non-judgmental accepting way. If you can sit with the sensation in the here and now, usually the anxiety will start to dissipate.

Breathe Deep

When you find yourself feeling consumed with thoughts of the present or past focus on your breath. This is a centering exercise that will bring you into the present and into your body. there are several breathing techniques. One of my favorites is belly breathing: Put one hand on your belly and the other on chest. Breath in through your nose and feel your belly expand and your hand rise. Hold for a few seconds and exhale.

Give your self a break

This doesn’t need to take up hours in your day. For as little as 15 minutes, set aside some time where there is little distraction. Turn off anything that beeps, rings or buzzes. Stop the knee jerk reaction to check your cell phone/computer or electronic devises. Tend to yourself verses others around you. What are your senses telling you? If you tap into your senses you will be amazed as to how often you perform things on auto-pilot. A common habit is to eat meals while surfing the Internet, working or watching TV. Try not doing this. Eating mindfully will no only improve your digestion, but you will enjoy your food in a completely different way.

Nina Paroo, ND


What’s in Your Toilet?

We are going to discuss poop.  Many don’t really pay attention to what is coming out the other end. Shocking, I know. What your stool looks like is an important indicator to what is going on in your digestive system, as well as your overall health. bathroom toilet

So what does a healthy stool look like? Typically, a healthy stool is medium brown. This is in large part because of bile.  Bile is formed in the liver and secreted by the gallbladder, is incorporated into the food that you have eaten to aid in digestion. Bile is actually dark green in color, but as it travels through the intestines its color changes, most often resulting in the characteristic brown stool. A healthy stool should have the form of a sausage or a snake, and have a smooth texture.

Lets focus on bowel movements that are deviations from normal.  Keep in mind that medication and some foods can change the color of your stool and must be considered before thinking that there is something wrong! There is a range of ‘normal’ when we are talking about what your stool should like and most often, an isolated incident of deviation from normal is not cause for alarm. Generally speaking, If it happens multiple times, or there is a significant change in bowel habits it should be investigated.   This color guide  can help bring some clarity to what deviations from normal can mean.

Tarry/ black: This could indicate a bleed coming from the upper part of the digestive system, namely the esophagus, stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. This is because The blood is reacting to the digestive enzymes in the small intestines.

There are other reasons for very dark brown/black stool that you should be aware of. Iron supplements, supplements/medications containing bismuth (Pepto-bismol), activated charcoal can all turn your stool very dark, which is not an indication of a problem. Discontinuing the culprit should return your stool to a lighter shade of brown.

Red/maroon: If you stools are red or maroon it could indicate bleeding in the lower part of your intestines.  There are several conditions that can lead to a red appearance to your stool: Diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, colon polyps, colon cancer, internal or external hemorrhoids (very common), anal fissures (tear) can all lead to various amounts of blood in your stool. But wait! Very often food can influence this to. The most common is beets. Other red vegetables and red food dye can turn your stool a red/maroon color as well.

Green: Green stools are generally the result of bile in your stool that is moving through your intestines too quickly and isn’t able to go through chemical changes to darken your stool. Some may experience this if they have diarrhea. You can also have greener stool if you eating a lot of green vegetables.

Yellow: Infection with giardia lamblia (a parasite) produces a characteristic yellow diarrhea. Gallbladder dysfunction leading the the improper handling of bile can also cause yellow stool.  Pancreatic disease which can result in too much undigested fat in your stool, may cause your stool to have a yellow appearance. Often it will also have ‘greasy’ appearance and can be quite malodorous.

Clay/Grey: This can happen if there is little or no bile in the stool, or the flow of bile is blocked. Liver disease, gallstones/gallbladder disease, and a pancreatic tumor blockage are all reasons stool could have this appearance. The change of stool color to gray or clay typically occurs gradually as these medical conditions progress relatively slowly and stool becomes pale over time.

Now that we have discussed color, lets move onto the shape and consistency of your stool. A helpful chart is the Bristol Stool Chart. This depicts the continuum of consistency, from hard stool to loose stool:

Hard Bowel Movements If your stool is difficult to pass, infrequent, and you have straining, or discomfort, your stool is too hard. Often times stool will be smaller in pieces, dry and/or have cracking. This can be a sign of dehydration, not enough fiber, lack of exercise, food sensitivities, stress, structural misalignment, influence from medication, and changes in daily routine are some common reasons for harder stool.

Loose Bowel Movements  If your stool doesn’t hold its shape or is watery (diarrhea) this is considered to be loose. A variety of things can result is loose stool: infection, food poisoning, food sensitivities, stress, drinking too much alcohol, and hormonal fluctuations can all result in stool that is loose.

There are a varying opinions of how often someone should have a bowel movement. Most sources say that moving your bowels daily to 3 times a week is normal. I tend to disagree with this. Generally speaking, I think that a healthy digestive system is reflected in having 1-3 bowel movements a day. If you are eating then you should expel waste by products often.  If there is a straining, rabbit pellets, thinly shaped stool or it doesn’t feel like a full evacuation, I consider this a sign of constipation. Also, having undigested food in your stool is an indication that perhaps you aren’t chewing your food well enough, and/or your body isn’t breaking down your food properly. Having a small amount of mucous in your stool is ok, but a lot of  mucous in your stool can be an indication of inflammation in your digestive system.

I have been asked many times what the ideal stool looks like, and here is my answer:

It should have a gentle S shape (following the shape of the lower colon), evacuated easily without a lot of straining. It should gently sink to the bottom of the toilet bowel. It is medium brown in color. And finally, it is a ‘one wipe wonder’


Nina Paroo, ND