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Friday, September 30, 2011

Oooo la la Chocolat!

Written by Dr. Modi Batterjee, IBLCL, DHA
AlBidayah Breastfeeding Resource and Women’s’ Awareness Center
We all know that chocolate is closely associated with good feelings such as romance. There is a special satisfaction we get if we cheat on a diet when it comes to chocolate. We savor the moments we spend with our chocolate bars and make many excuses for why we need to enjoy these moments. Many “feel good” emotions over come us when we allow ourselves to indulge in the smooth rich flavors of the cacao bean. We often enjoy the devious feelings we get while on vacation freeing ourselves to enjoy as much chocolate as we want. I wonder why?

Chocolate [chaw-kuh-lit, chok-uh-, chawk-lit, chok-] is a raw or processed food produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Mexico, Central and South America, with its earliest documented use around 1100 BC. The majority of the Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, including the Aztecs, who made it into a beverage known as xocolātl (/ʃo.ko.laːtɬ/), a Nahuatl word meaning "bitter water". The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor (Wikipedia).

It is believed that chocolate is practically the most popular sweet-tasting delicacy in the world and according to history it has been for centuries. It was the Aztec leader Montezuma who introduced the chocolate drink to the Spanish conqueror Cortez, who in turn took it back to Spain. The Spanish made a few creative and tasty innovations to the bitter tasting beverage – they added sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Chocolate bars and candy as we know it today didn't appear until the 1800's. Unfortunately there are many myths surrounding chocolate. Some imply that if it tastes so good, it must be bad for your health; other myths claim that chocolate causes acne, and makes kids hyper. Could these possibly be true?

Ok, we must agree that milk chocolate may not be the healthiest snack around. However, it does contain a number of nutrients such as potassium and magnesium, and provides us with several vitamins such as B1, B2, D, and E. Researchers in New York have found that milk chocolate is one of the only sugary snacks that is least likely to cause tooth decay. The average milk chocolate bar contains approximately 250 calories. This may not be the ideal health food but its calorie count is low enough for a healthy eater to enjoy an occasional chocolate treat. Besides, giving in to our chocolate cravings every once in awhile can help avoid the bingeing that is a healthy eater's worst enemy.

The best part about chocolate is that in its finest form (dark or black chocolate) it can actually be very good for you. Cacao contains lots of antioxidants and antibacterial agents that fight oral bacteria, which causes tooth decay and bad breath. The mere aroma of chocolate is claimed to increase theta brain waves, which result in relaxation. Chocolate also contains phenyl ethylamine known as a mild mood elevator; the carbohydrates in chocolate raise the neurotransmitter serotonin in our brains that give us a sense of well-being. The mono-unsaturated fat known as cocoa butter found in chocolate contains oleic acid, this is claimed to raise our good cholesterol. It is said that drinking a cup of hot chocolate before meals may actually reduce appetite. The health benefits are more pronounced in dark chocolate because it contains more cacao and less sugar than milk chocolate.
The cultivation of cacao involves intensive time and labor that’s extended over a period of three to five years. Sadly, the laborers are given very low compensation rates that make it unworthy of their hard work. These low price incentives for the cacao laborers may be working against its availability and affordable global supply therefore making it extremely scarce. Recently, stated in the British news chocolate will become as rare and as expensive as caviar.

Now that we have a better understanding of our physical and emotional relationship with chocolate we shouldn’t feel so guilty when we hear its calling. It is true, we do feel better when we eat chocolate, it does have a positive effect on our health and well-being. It may become a rare commodity one day so we should value the time we have with it now and appreciate the effort invested in its availability.

So, choose your chocolate wisely, and enjoy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Why so blue? A common Saudi feeling?

By Dr. Modi Batterjee, IBCLC, DHA
A common discussion topic in our society today is “being depressed”. We often complain about feeling blue and think that we suffer from depression. The concept of feeling blue represents the feelings of being down that are associated with the color blue thus having a low morale and feelings of stillness. Feeling blue is very different from being depressed. It is normal for a person to feel sad sometimes in reaction to the typical strains of life and life experiences that have an impact on our routines and the typical flow of our comfortable lifestyles. On the other hand depression is a serious condition that needs proper diagnosis and treatment.

There are many types of depression; each type has its own set of signs and symptoms that must be identified by a professional clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. The different types are: Major Depression, Chronic Depression, Atypical Depression, Post Partum Depression, Bipolar/Manic Depression, Seasonal Depression, and Psychotic Depression. Unfortunately depression cannot resolve itself and if left untreated it could worsen causing indescribable suffering and may lead to suicide. When the normal feelings of sadness become overwhelming, last for long periods of time, and prohibit normal daily functions it is time to seek professional help. Undiagnosed and untreated depression can be life threatening, more than one out of ten people with untreated depression commits suicide. Major symptoms include but are not limited to the following (these symptoms must be properly identified by a professional):
-  Having a hard time concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions.
- Extreme sensations of fatigue.
- Extreme feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
- Extreme feelings of hopelessness and negative thoughts.
- Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping.
- Irritability and restlessness.
- Severe loss of interest in activities or hobbies that were once pleasurable.
- Overeating or appetite loss.
- Constant aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not go away with treatment.
- Continuous feelings of being sad, anxious, or suffering from “empty” feelings.
-  Frequent thoughts of suicide.
Depression is experienced differently for every person; however these symptoms are common with most sufferers. We all have an occasional time when we feel sad but if these feelings become overwhelming and more of the symptoms appear with greater intensity depression may be a cause. Depression is seen in all ages, children and adults alike can have this condition. With the appropriate professional help depression is curable. Although the depressed person may feel like this misery is never ending with treatment it can be overcome. One of the best methods of treatment is to first identify the cause that induced the condition. Treatment plans for depression must include mental therapy and in some instances medications. It is important to consider a patient’s mental health and coping skills that will give techniques to prevent depression from relapsing. Potential causes and risk factors are listed here:
- Loneliness.
- Lack of social support.
- Recent stressful life experiences.
- Family history of depression.
- Marital or relationship problems.
- Financial strain.
- Early childhood trauma or abuse.
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
- Unemployment or underemployment.
-  Health problems or chronic pain.
To reduce the chances of depression setting in we must work on our lifestyles and attitudes. Life choices facilitate the state of mind that we are in. If we concentrate on positive relationships with friends and family, healthy eating, and sleeping patterns we can prevent and overcome depression. Regular physical exercise has an extremely positive effect on our moods and can eliminate almost any sadness that we may face. It is also important to learn how to practice relaxing techniques such as deep breathing, meditations, and prayer. We must manage stress and practice time management effectively when we are trying to improve our moods and ward off negative thoughts that may cause feelings of depression.
If you feel that you may be suffering from depression you can find many resources online that may direct you. It is important to find the appropriate health care for proper diagnosis and treatment. Don’t brush it off as something that will pass; look for help.

A Humble Publication

While most people understand the benefits of breastfeeding infants, the practice is not always supported in all cultures. A Fading Art by Dr. Modia Batterjee is a personal and highly researched exploration of breastfeeding in the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia. A lactation consultant, Batterjee saw firsthand how the Arab culture encourages breastfeeding, yet does not support it, making it difficult for Saudi women to feed their children the way they should. Interlaced with chapters on breastfeeding during Ramadan and birthing practices are Batterjee's own fascinating experiences with prenatal education and breastfeeding counseling. Warmly written and informative, A Fading Art explores how and why breastfeeding is so beneficial, from its rich supply of antibodies and nutrients to the way it bonds mothers and infants together. Batterjee also examines communities and how they work, or don't work, to help families. Batterjee and her family opened Al-Bidayah Center, the first breastfeeding resource and women's awareness center in Saudi Arabia, providing counseling for mothers and training for nurses and health care workers. By giving breastfeeding a hip and cool image, Batterjee hopes to encourage future generations to consider the ultimate feeding practice for infants. A fascinating foray into a different culture and an exploration of the best, most natural nutrition for newborns, A Fading Artis both a thought-provoking study of a practice that is not as easily accepted as it should be and a personal story of an extraordinary woman and her efforts.

The book was recently reviewed by the Australian Breastfeeding Association Book Review Working Group (review attached below) and by Green Prophet. and

If you are interested in reading A Fading Art go to:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hello! This is my first blog post so I will keep it simple. It may be of interest to readers to know why I've decided to blog. I live in Saudi Arabia and I have a lot to say about the female community. Sometimes my posts will be positive and sometimes they will be negative; it all depends on how I feel that day.