Tag Archives: Animals

Intention in Nature

Dear friends,

I am on safari in the Serengeti in Tanzania as I write these words on my iPhone for this week’s newsletter. The power of intention could not be more powerful here where the circle of life plays itself every day. Watching a cheetah scope out its prey, baboons playing in the trees, giraffes elegantly chewing leaves, and elephant leaving behind downtrodden trees as they slowly walk through the bush, a mother lion suckling its young cubs. Such images are nature perfectly, harmoniously, acting out intention in perfect balance. I feel blessed to be here. Here are some photos which I hope give just a hint of the extraordinary magnificence of the gifts of our planet. Enjoy!

Mallika

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BS-LIST OFFENDER: How the Health Food Industry Is Feeding You Half-Truths About Omega-3

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According to the website of chia-bar maker, Health Warrior, “1 bag of chia = 10lbs of salmon.” These figures supposedly mean lots of “BRAINPOWER” and a slew of other health benefits. There are plenty of other companies and products that claim similar nutritional feats. If only it were all true. In the name of nutrition science and your health, I’m here to call BS on this misinformed hype-y unscientific souped-up marketing claim!

While there may be some truth to the amounts of omega-3 in a single bag of Health Warrior’s product, there is some ridiculously important information health food companies don’t tell you when they equate plant and animal sources of omega-3. To put it simply: omega-3 from plant and animal foods are not created equal. And all that “BRAINPOWER” isn’t going to come from plant sources of omega-3—because it can’t.

Goddesses don’t have to know everything, but they always question what they read and hear. While there are certainly health benefits to now-trendy chia seeds, along with good ol’ flax seeds, walnuts, hemp, etc. there’s just as much misinformation and hype based on the faulty logic of equal or higher amounts of omega-3 in these plant foods in comparison to animal foods.

DON’T FALL VICTIM TO NUTRITION MISINFORMATION & HYPE!
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The omega-3 in chia and flax seeds—or any plant food for that matter—is not made up of the same stuff as the omega-3 in cold-water fish, and pastured animal foods like eggs, dairy and meat. That’s right, you heard me: not just fish, but animal foods in general have omega-3, and the best kind! That is, so long as those animals were pastured/grass-fed (vs. corn, soy, grain or “vegetarian”-fed—even if that corn, soy or grain is organic).

Why is omega-3 from pastured/grass-fed animal foods so great? Because it contains pre-formed fatty acids EPA and DHA. Plant foods do not. The way an animal is raised and fed determines how healthy the fat composition of its foods are. Pastured/grass-fed animals make some of the healthiest and most irreplaceable fats around. Accept no substitutions–they don’t exist!

WHY OUR BODIES NEED OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS EPA & DHA 
You want to eat foods containing EPA and DHA for tons of reasons, including brain, heart, skin and immune system health, a healthy inflammation response, lubricated joints, maintenance of elasticity in cell membranes, healthy cholesterol levels, brain development in children, and normal brain function in adults(1)—basically an endless list of essential bodily functions.

WHY ANIMAL FOODS CONTAIN PRE-FORMED EPA & DHA, BUT PLANT FOODS DON’T
Think you can only get EPA and DHA from fish? Think again. Think of peoples in landlocked countries across time: their access to seafood was limited to occasional trade. In order to be able to nourish themselves, generation after generation, landlocked cultures must have had access to foods containing EPA and DHA. And they did: from animal foods sourced from the likes of pastured cows, goats, sheep, chickens, etc.

When animals eat grass, seeds and insects (yep, insects are part of a healthy diet Nature intended for animals, particularly chickens), their digestive processes convert the omega-3 fatty acid ALA they eat from said foods into omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Any of the foods you eat from these animals—eggs, dairy, meat—have this pre-formed EPA and DHA. In the case of wild salmon (not farmed salmon), they eat shrimp and krill which have, in turn, eaten lots of phytoplankton, putting salmon at the top of a food-chain with more than one stage of pre-formed EPA and DHA consumption.

So animals that eat grass, seeds and insects convert the omega-3 fatty acid ALA in their food to the Essential Fatty Acids EPA and DHA. Plants don’t (c’mon, they make energy from “eating” sunshine, water and soil minerals). One exception: algae. But don’t get too excited: although algae contain DHA, they don’t contain much EPA, nowhere near the ideal 1:1 ratio, or the suggested 4:1-1:1 ratio of EPA to DHA for optimal health and disease-prevention (more on this later).

WHY IT’S SUPER-IMPORTANT YOU EAT PLENTY OF OMEGA-3 FROM ANIMAL FOODS

True, our bodies can make EPA and DHA from plant-sourced omega-3 (i.e. from chia, flax, walnuts, hemp, or any other plant fats). Unfortunately, our bodies don’t make it very efficiently: the conversion rate for the human body to make EPA from an omega-3 plant source (like chia or flax) is only 6-8%, while the rate for DHA is a meager 0.1-3.8%.(2,3)And if your diet is super-high in omega-6 fats (like is it for anyone eating what’s considered “normal” amounts of vegetable/plant oils), this conversion rate is reduced 40-50% to virtually nothing. (4)

To make matters worse, EPA and DHA conversion is especially inefficient when the diet lacks sufficient saturated fat. When you consider that we’re told to avoid saturated fat like the plague in the US, the ability to convert EPA and DHA can and often does become even more compromised (basically, if you don’t eat meat, or even just whole eggs and/or whole-fat dairy, you won’t get much saturated fat unless you load up on coconut or palm oil).(5)

WHY YOU SHOULD EAT PLENTY OF PASTURED ANIMAL FOODS & LIMIT EATING LOADS OF PLANT FATS

Keep in mind that EPA and DHA naturally come together in animal sources. This is no mistake—Nature really does have our backs. Recent research has shown these nutrients function synergistically, and that our hunter-gatherer and cavewo(men) ancestors ate EPA and DHA in equal proportion to one another (meaning a 1:1 ratio). Today’s proportion is somewhere between 15:1-16.7:1.(6) 

It’s super-important you remember: plant sources of omega-3 always come with higher amounts of omega-6 than omega-3.(7)  This makes it nearly impossible to properly balance your omega-6 to omega-3 intake in a 1:1 ratio on a diet that solely or largely relies on plant foods. (FYI: don’t worry about predominantly-saturated-fat tropical oils like coconut and palm—you can and should go to town with them).

Why do you want your omega-6 and omega-3 intake to be as even as possible? Because omega-6 has pro-inflammatory effects, and omega-3 has anti-inflammatory effects. Therefore, higher levels of omega-6 to omega-3 cause inflammation.(8) This is not a good thing because inflammation is the root of disease (we’re talking everything from the common cold and allergies to diabetes, heart disease and cancer). For this reason you want to limit inflammatory foods (read: eat smaller portions), and eat plenty of foods that are rich in an even balance of EPA and DHA.(9,10) Where do you find these foods? Wild/pastured/grass-fed animal foods.

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Simply put, we need animal-sourced omega-3, which comes with pre-formed fatty acids EPA and DHA
—an absolutely crucial info-tidbit that’s all too frequently overlooked or not discussed by the media, health food and supplement companies, and often times even medical professionals. EPA and DHA are pre-formed in animal sources, like wild cold-water fish, and grass-fed/pastured animal foods (whole eggs, meat, lard, tallow, and whole-fat dairy like butter, cheese, yogurt and kefir). Sure you can still enjoy the likes of chia, flax and other plant-sourced fats, just limit them to smaller portions. Your body will thank you.

Does this mean health food companies like Health Warrior are lying to you? I can’t speak for them, but it’s likely they simply do not fully understand the way food works. In any case, you are not being fed the whole truth. And while anger, frustration or disappointment may be natural, understandable responses to this realization, Goddesses remember they possess the power to transform these feelings into beyond-valuable assets, namely the drives to question, self-advocate, investigate, experiment and experience, while remaining open to new feelings and ideas. Always remember, Goddesses: you have the final word when it comes to your health and what you eat.

***

Adapted from Erika Herman’s book, Eat Like a Fatass, Look Like a Goddess: The Untold Story of Healthy Foods

Sources:

1 Ruxton, C., et al. “The health benefits of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: a review of the evidence.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 17(5), 2004; pp. 449-459. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15357699

2 Gerster , H. “Can adults adequately convert alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3)?” International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research 68(3), 1998: pp. 159-173.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9637947

3 Williams, C. and G. Burdge. “Long-chain n-3 PUFA: plant v. marine sources” Proceeding of the Nutrition Society 65(1), 2006: pp. 42-50. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16441943

4 Gerster.

5 Williams.

6 Simopoulos, A. “Evolutionary aspects of diet, the omega-6/omega-3 ratio and genetic variation: nutritional implications for chronic diseases.” Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy 60(9), 2006; pp. 502-507. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed/17045449.

7 Kidd, P. “Omega-3 DHA and EPA for cognition, behavior, and mood: Clinical findings and structural-functional synergies with cell membrane phospholipids.” Alternative Medicine Review 12(3), 2007: pp. 207-227. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18072818.

8 Pischon, T., et al. “Habitual dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in relation to inflammatory markers among us men and women.” Circulation 108(2), 2003: pp. 155-160. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12821543

9 Kidd.

10 Simopoulos.

 

The Whale Song: Ancient Healing for Primal Pain

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Sometimes your pain is primal.

Like a a spectrum of dark light that wants to fall on every aspect your being. Wordless turmoil churning inside you, threatening to explode into your life if you can’t contain it, or don’t escape it, or if you fail at keeping it far, far away. At times like this there’s a need for healing. But who can heal a darkness like this?

Who can reach into a darkness so intense that it is winning in those moments – holding you in a space impenetrable to light? In ancient wisdom traditions, for this there is whale song.

Not all saviors of the human condition come in human form. A darkness as primal and as ancient as ours can be met only with a force equally as primal and ancient. For this, there is whale song.

Listen.

They are communicators. Their song is a song of healing. It will dissolve darkness with its perfect frequencies of ancient knowing. You will cry. You will feel a gentle light washing over you. You will feel a restoration happening in your cells.

Gradually, you will feel saved. They are our ancient safe keepers. They are our primal guardians. They come to heal us. They sing for us to remember. For us to rest. For our love to be restored.

They hold the light in the most ancient of dark places. They will release you back to the light.

* * *

Resources:

1. Modern researchers have successfully recorded whale song the world over.

The whale song is constant. We sometimes record song samples twenty four hours a day. The song rarely ceases. Do the whales create this soundscape to give solace to the newborn in the hours of darkness? In the dark of night, in the deep ocean, only the stars and the song bring hope for the dawn.The Ocean Project

2. Click here to play a recording of whale song shared by Sacred Swims & Communication with Humpback Whales on Soundcloud.

3. Try playing whalesong when anxiety surfaces in you. Have a hot shower or bath. Put on relaxing clothes. Light a candle. And lay still. Let the whale song play. Let it wash over you. If you can, let it play as you fall asleep overnight.

Repeat at least 3-4 times a week.

 

Photo credit: Facebook

Originally published on my website, The Modern Girl’s Guide to Spirituality

Why Rihanna’s Selfie Brings Attention to Animal Smuggling (And the Adorable Slow Loris)

Mega celebrity Rihanna was recently vacationing in Thailand, when she snapped a photo of herself cuddling a slow loris and posted the pic to Instagram. Perhaps an innocent publicity stunt in the singer’s mind, the image nonetheless alerted authorities in Phuket who are trained to spot potential violations of animal smuggling laws. Sure enough, the two young men who provided the furry animal for the celeb’s photo were subsequently arrested and face up to four years in prison and 40,000 baht in fines. Here is the infamous photo:

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Animal lovers might be disturbed by this image for various reasons, not least of which is the absurd caption Rihanna posted with the photo: “Look who was talkin dirty to me!” But even apart from that, animal exploitation is a major issue around the globe, and particularly in Thailand where elephants, tigers, crocodiles, and other animals are regularly smuggled and abused.

As Phuket District Chief Weera Kerdsirimongkon commented, “It’s like a cat-and-mouse game. But this time it’s bigger because a celebrity like Rihanna posted the picture, and there were more than 200,000 ‘likes’ from around the world.” Such exposure is troubling because it shows how uninformed the public is about the associated issues of Rihanna’s photo. But it also allowed authorities to snag the smugglers. So apparently that was the silver lining.

The slow loris is in fact listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with the greatest threat lying in illegal trade and poaching. It’s unthinkable that anyone would ever want to hurt this amazing and adorable creature. Take a look:

Even this video is somewhat problematic because we don’t know how these people got a hold of a slow loris nor what conditions it is living in. But we can thank it at least for giving us a glimpse at this incredible animal.

What do you think of Rihanna’s infamous selfie? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Celebrate Sea Otter Awareness with this Adorable Video

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Sea Otter Awareness Week, which occurs in the last week of September according to SeaOtterWeek.org. To celebrate we found this adorable video of two otters at the Vancouver Aquarium. Take a peek below:

Sea otters are known for holding hands so they don’t lose each other in the current as they sleep.

However, this awareness week was inspired not only because of the pretty universal understanding that sea otters are adorable – but to inform the public of the vital functions they perform in nearshore ecosystems and protect the species from extinction. According to the US Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center sea otter numbers are up this year, which is reason to celebrate! But their most recent survey says that the California sea otter population is still only 2,941. The population needs to remain above 3,090 for three consecutive years to be taken off the endangered list.

So do your part to raise awareness for these awesome animals – share this video and go visit the otters at your local zoo or aquarium! Or you can check out a list of activities for the week here.

What animal would you like to see have their own awareness week? Tell us in the comments below! 

Cute Alert: Animals Adopting Other Animals

Screen shot 2013-09-20 at 11.24.43 AMHappy Friday! We are bombarded with images of how cruel nature can be so often that we can forget how much animals can teach us about love and compassion.

Are humans the only ones capable of caring for children that aren’t their own? This video goes to show how universal the maternal instinct can be, even with animals you never thought would get along. Dogs with nursing kittens – and vice versa – to literal tiger moms and piglets – share their milk, comfort the young ones and adopt them as their own. Have you ever seen something so cute?


What did you think of the video? Share your favorite animal “love stories” with us in the comments below!

Cute Alert: This Little Girl and Baby Gorilla Are Best Friends

This video is taking the Internet by storm, which perhaps says more about us viewers than it does about the girl or the gorilla or their adorable friendship. But before we go any further, let’s take a look and this incredible moment:

From an adult’s perspective, it’s hard not to jump to praise the little girl for her undiscriminating love and curiosity. Where an adult might be burdened by thoughts of species superiority, or over identification with being human, or even with the well-intentioned concerns for animal rights, this little girl springs to playfulness and conviviality. The baby gorilla matches her enthusiasm, playing right along with her. The adults laugh and capture the moment on film, somewhat removed from the scene because, ostensibly, the moment isn’t really theirs to experience.

If you are among those whose mind jumps to thoughts of the treatment of animals in captivity, then we encourage you to investigate those feelings more. Do some research, talk with people who work in such facilities, and stay away from zoos and animal parks if they make you uncomfortable. We will support your cause.

In another light, though, it might behoove us adults to examine our own relationships (or lack thereof) with non-human animals. When we walk our dogs, step around pigeons, or visit zoos, are we approaching and interacting with these animals authentically? Are we seeing their lived existence and appreciating them for what they are? Or do we ever fall prey to feelings of superiority, disregard, or even condescension?

Consider this: Next time you come in contact with an animal, try seeing them and interacting with them as fully and honestly as you would interact with a friend. Let’s all take a lesson from this video’s amazing inter-species friendship and do our species proud!

Thinking Outside the (Skull) Box, Part 2

Outline
photo: h.koppdelaney
   Click here for Part 1

Let’s consider whether only human brains create minds. Few people who have pets or live on farms or go camping would say that the animals they encounter don’t have minds. (This view accords with abundant evidence that the genes, receptors, and neurotransmitters involved in human brain function are present in animals.) Again, if we are asked, “Where is your cat’s mind?” we’d point at its head (unlike an ancient Egyptian, Greek or Roman, who would point to the heart, as he would for himself). Saying that different kinds of animal brains create minds is not so troublesome. We aren’t able to describe what those minds are like (some may lack anything like human self-awareness), but we shouldn’t have a problem conceiving that these creatures at least have one.

Evolutionarily, nervous systems are not always central. Some creatures, like jellyfish, have neuronal nets distributed throughout the body. While humans do possess a central nervous system, we also have other, more distributed nervous systems as well. We have a peripheral nervous system, which includes nerves that gather information for the brain (e.g. the nerves in our sense organs) and nerves that send signals from the brain (e.g. telling our muscles what to do).

After it was observed that the gastrointestinal tract could function quite well when severed from the peripheral nervous system, it was concluded that this constitutes a weblike enteric nervous system.

What makes this a separate nervous system is that there are specialized ganglion cells that are located between muscle layers in the intestinal wall which act like a local brain. If one severs any nerves which contact them (from the brain, by way of the peripheral nervous system), these ganglion cells continue to instruct the intestine to move and absorb and secrete, working quite well and quite autonomously as a self-contained functional unit.
It turns out that the intestinal tract only takes advice from the rest of the body. It harbors its own reactions. When bad news gives you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, you are experiencing an emotion as surely as you experience it in your head. In fact, your gut reaction precedes the thought, “Oh no!” Did the enteric nervous system create such a sensation on its own? That’s unclear, but it’s tempting to think so. Certainly many people trust their gut reactions over the confused and compromised responses that the brain is often saddled with when over-thinking sets in.

The muscles of your face are directly linked to your brain. While we assume that the brain is telling the mouth and lips to smile when we’re feeling happy, the reverse is also true. Seeing a smile on someone else’s face can make you happy, and children are taught to smile as a way to break out of a sad mood. Whether this works or not varies from person to person, but it could be argued that the face is controlling the brain in those instances.

Findings about brain-like processes outside the skull have become common. The conduction system of the heart, which organizes your heartbeat, can be thought of as the heart’s brain in the same way the ganglion cells in the gut are the brain of the intestines. The independence of the conduction system is shown when a transplanted heart keeps beating even though the nerves that connected it to the donor’s central and peripheral nervous systems have been severed. The interaction between the heart’s independent processing and the brain’s is complex and not fully understood. Still more mysterious are the bacteria that outnumber the body’s cells by ten to one, living mostly inside the digestive tract but also in the brain and other organs. We think of these as invaders, but over eons bacteria have been incorporated into vast stretches along the double helix of human DNA. The implications for what we call “being human” are enormous and largely uncharted.

We think we’ve established that cultural assumptions about mind and brain are full of gaps. The location of mind is in doubt, and any attempt to isolate it physically in the skull run into valid objections. In the next post we’ll pursue more of the fascinating possibilities that arise when thinking literally gets out of the box.

 (To be cont.)

***

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 70 books with twenty-one New York Times bestsellers, including co-author with Sanjiv Chopra, MD of Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream, and co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being (Harmony). Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation and host of Sages and Scientists Symposium – August 16-18, 2013 at La Costa Resort and Spa.

Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director of the Center of Excellence at Chapman University, co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony)

P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina and a leading physician scientist in the area of mental health, cognitive neuroscience and mind-body medicine.

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), co-author with Deepak Chopra ofSuper Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)

Neil Theise, MD, Professor, Pathology and Medicine, (Division of Digestive Diseases) and Director of the Liver and Stem Cell Research Laboratory, Beth Israel Medical Center — Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.www.neiltheise.com

photo by: h.koppdelaney

10 Moving Photos of the Black Rhino, Now Extinct in Western Africa

Credit: NagWolf

Rhinos are some of the most strange and beautiful creatures to inhabit this planet of ours. With its sturdy, two-humped body, a head like a hippo, and horns that conjure tales of unicorns, the rhinoceros is an animal who should inspire awe and respect. Why, then, does it consistently make the “critically endangered” list on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species?

The answer: Poaching. These majestic creatures have been mercilessly pursued by poachers for their precious horns, used both in traditional Chinese medicine as well as for personal adornment in various parts of the world. The population of Black Rhinos, in particular, declined over 97% between 1960 and 1995, and they have been listed as critically endangered since 1996. They are now believed to be entirely extinct in western Africa, with three remaining subspecies tenuously populating eastern and southern parts of the continent.

The natural life expectancy for the Black Rhino ranges from 35 to 50 years, which is fairly long considering their immense size (2,000-3,000 lbs at full maturity.) Despite the intimidating horns, Black Rhinos are herbivores and use their strength primarily in fighting one another. Intra-species violence aside, they have no natural predators and have been pushed to the extinction and near-extinction by human practices, alone.

Here are 10 awe-inspiring photos of the powerful Black Rhino, whose compromised existence is no one’s fault by our own:

 

Photo credits: NagWolf, Joachim S. Müller, Vincent Catt

9 Incredible Animals Super Ready for Summer

Gathered from the National Geographic‘s 25th annual “Traveler” photo contest, these ten stunning photographs capture the warmth, joy, and excitement of summer. If you’ve been on any thrilling adventures recently, submit your own photos for the chance to win a 10-day Galápagos expedition for two! The rest of us will join you in spirit and enjoy the breathtaking photos that find their ways to our humble screens.

Like us, these 9 beautifully-photographed animals seem ready to dive headfirst into the summer season. Maybe we shouldn’t speak for them – for all we know they could be pondering the nature of existence – but these shots certainly fill us with a thirst for summer adventure. Enjoy!

Are you traveling this summer? Send us your photos and travel anecdotes!

 

All photos sourced from National Geographic

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