Mar 29, 2016

How I controlled my hair fall (and how you can too)


tl;dr answer - I stopped using shampoo.

Hairfall has become one of the common issues among women today. Hormonal changes, stress, increased body heat, hard water, lack of adequate nutrition, lack of proper sleep, PCOD/thyroid issues are some of the reasons why many women are facing hair fall, especially in urban areas. I've also been one among such women. After 3-4 years of taking multiple steps, I've finally managed to control it.

The first and most important step that has shown good results is that I have stopped using shampoo. Why this drastic step? I have tried 3-4 leading brands of shampoo that promised less hair fall and strong hair. They end up making the hair look so frizzy that you have to use their specific conditioner to get the straight look which would last for a day or two max. Once I had been to a parlor for hair wash and the lady was quick to spot and say "mam, your hair fall is very high. why don't you try this brand of shampoo?" She handed me a pack that was way too expensive which I politely declined. Another time, a lady suggested I go for hair straightening which is the latest "trend". Somehow, I feel that hair straightened that way looks too artificial (might be easy to manage ofcourse!)

It's been more than 4 months since I stopped using shampoo and I'm so happy that I've taken the step forward. It has not only benefitted my hair but also helping the environment a little by not sending chemical-loaded water into the sewage pipes. What's the alternative, you might ask. As I have been embracing the concept of "return to your roots" quite seriously with my food, I searched for answers from our ancestors. Years ago, my grandma used to apply warm gingelly oil on my scalp and then apply a paste of shikakai paste(soapnut powder) to wash my hair every Saturday. I used to hate this paste as a kid primarily because it would get into my eyes and burn like hell.

I got hold of a pack of shikakai powder from an organic fair sometime last year and then there's no looking back. Hairfall has reduced a lot and my hair feels good and dense. It acts as a natural conditioner too. During winters, I massage my scalp with coconut oil while for summers, I use gingelly oil. After leaving the oiled hair for 10-15 minutes, I apply the shikakai paste and rinse it off. That's it - easy, simple and effective.

Apart from this major change, I have also started including more curry leaves in my diet in the form of curry leaves podi and chewing the leaves that we generously add in our South Indian dishes (which we nicely collect in a corner of our plates to throw away). All other lifestyle changes that I have mentioned in my earlier posts on PCOD and migraine would also have helped me control my hair fall.

Shampoos are loaded with many harmful chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulfate, polyethylene glycol, parabens, diethanolamine etc. Please look at the ingredients list during your next purchase. The used shampoo water eventually gets into our lakes and rivers, contaminating the water bodies. The plastic packaging that we throw out every time a bottle gets over ends up in landfills.

Switching to natural alternatives that are not marketed day-in and day-out using celebrities and making tall promises is the right choice for many issues today.

P.S. If you are not able to find shikakai powder, try Meera herbal powder. It is usually stocked up in a corner in the bottom-most shelf of the shampoo rack. Or ask your grocer to procure it.

Mar 21, 2016

The "instant" life

We wake up, we would rather grab a cup of instant coffee than take a few more minutes to prepare the traditional, filter coffee.
We fall sick, we would rather pop some antibiotics immediately than let the body's immune system to fight it out.
We feel pain, we would rather pop a pain-killer and get instant relief than try to understand why the pain has occurred in the first place.
We feel hungry, we would rather grab a pack of ready-to-eat food and stuff our mouths than prepare healthy snacks and stock up at home/office.
We want to cook, we would rather buy a pack of cut vegetables or sprouts and whip up something quick rather than cut the vegetables by ourselves.
We want to make dosa, we would rather buy the readymade batter pack than prepare the batter using a electric mixer/grinder at home.(Dear grandma, you really used that huge traditional Indian stone grinder? unbelievable!)
We don't get sleep, we would rather pop a sleep inducing tablet than try to calm our minds by doing pranayama/yoga nidhra.
We visit our extended family and we would rather buy a pack of chocolates/biscuits as a treat for the kids than spend some time preparing a healthy treat at home by ourselves.
We are over-weight/obese and we would rather buy shape-fit clothes than take up exercise everyday.

Numerous such examples of how we run towards "instant" shortcuts than seeking the "right" solutions. I can't help but yet again reflect back on my favorite line from Harry Potter when Dumbledore says "we have a choice between what's easy and what's right".

In Tamil, there is a very interesting word - "menakkedal" (மெனக்கெடல்). For some reason, I have fallen in love with this word. In English, it would roughly translate to "deliberate effort".

Our grandparents made the time for deliberate effort on activities that's important for their health as well as their family. Neither our parents nor we are ready to make this time.
Is it the easy availability of such "instant" shortcuts?
Is it the excessive, loud marketing that makes us believe that these shortcuts are indeed the solutions?
Is it that we are so time-starved?
Is it that we think these efforts are not worthy of our time?
Is it that our priorities are so different?
Is it that we are so addicted to technology and devices that a few minutes away from them makes us feel insecure?

Since I was born in early 80s, I have seen the lifestyle of then and now. I feel strongly that the present lifestyle is not sustainable - neither for us, our health, our relationships nor for the environment.

Let's embrace "deliberate effort" on the priorities that are important for the long term. Let's make time for them - our health, our relationships, our peace.

Mar 17, 2016

8 ways to control migraine attacks

The migraine and I go a long time back. I remember we started to date around my engineering 1st year. The relationship continued for a solid 10-12 years and now finally we have drifted apart. When I look back, I had a number of bad habits that fueled this relationship:
- Skipping breakfast (not my fault entirely during college days, I had no choice)
- Drinking less water (again not my fault during college days. I hated going to the stinky, dirty bathrooms to answer nature calls)
- Giving long gaps between meals
- Drinking too much of tea and coffee (around 3-4 cups a day during my full-time working days)
- Eating more of cafeteria food (which in turn increased acidity)
- Eating too much of packaged food (around late evenings which is worse)

Whenever the migraine hits me with its full force, I would pop a pill immediately (Saridon tablet to be specific) and sleep for 30 minutes. The pain would have reduced but I would end up with severe acidity. My laptop bag always had a saridon strip handy for these migraine attacks in office. I neither tried any home remedies nor did I sleep it out without a painkiller.

During my pregnancy and lactation days, thankfully migraine didn't dare to take me out on a date. In the last 3-4 years, due to the following 8 conscious changes I started to make, the breakup has finally happened.

1) Eating breakfast every morning - Not the ready-to-eat processed cereal junk but proper, home-cooked Indian breakfast
2) Drinking atleast 2 litres of water everyday - I keep sipping from my steel bottle (no plastic) every now and then. I carry water from home whenever I step out.
3) No long gaps between meals - I eat whenever I feel hungry. I snack on healthy foods whenever I feel like munching something - dates, fruits, cucumbers, buttermilk etc
4) Reduced intake of tea/coffee - I stick to a max of 2 cups. If I feel like drinking one more cup, especially during winters, I have a cup of green tulsi tea, lemon ginger tea or cinnamon tea (without any milk or sugar)
5) Reduced time spent in front of a computer/laptop/smartphone - this is still tough but since my hobby involves time in the kitchen, I can easily take some time off from a screen :-)
6) Complete full-stop to junk food - I don't eat any of the packaged snacks, chips, chocolates or cookies. I don't have any craving for them.  Looking at the ingredients list of such junk food, any educated person should say No to them immediately. But sadly, our education system doesn't teach us how to keep ourselves fit and healthy, what to eat, what to avoid, how to cook healthy food etc. We are easily fooled by the so-called intelligent marketing of such processed foods.
7) Taking less stress - this is also tough but I'm atleast aware whenever my mind goes into the stressful mode and I try not to dwell too much about the people/incident/situation causing the stress. I know, easier said than done! :-(
8) Exercise regularly - My migraine attacks have reduced a lot ever since I started practicing Yoga.

Although these 8 steps have reduced the migraine attacks, I still face it once in a while - whenever the food triggers acidity, when I spend too much time in the sun, when I go to a hill station for a vacation etc. I also sometimes get sinus headaches when I wash my hair and not dry it immediately. It's very important to understand the trigger that is causing the headache in the first place. Once I know why it has happened, I usually try one of these home remedies that have helped me tremendously. And I have completely stopped taking any painkillers for migraine.

1) If it is a sinus headache (pain around eyes, nose and forehead), I do steam inhalation for 5 minutes. This is quite effective.
2) If it is due to acidity (throbbing headache along with nauseous feeling), I drink a glass of lemon water. I make myself a cup of ginger tea. Sometimes buttermilk with hing and grated ginger also helps.
3) If it is due to weather change, I try to sleep it out. Or I apply a paste of dry ginger on my forehead, wait for 15 minutes and wash it off. During winters, I sip plain warm water or Ajwain / Jeera infused warm water throughout the day.
4) If it is due to stress, listening to my favorite music is very helpful.

Do share if any other home remedies have helped you in controlling your migraine.

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