Wellness Words

Sometimes terms used in the wellness world can be confusing. What does ayurveda mean exactly? What is reiki? What are collagen peptides? I have put together a mini alphabetical guide with all these words that may be new to you. Many of them come from Sanskrit, the ancient language of Hinduism.

ADAPTOGEN : an adaptogen is a substance considered to help the body adapt to stress. It is a term used in natural medicine and the substance is usually a plant. Adaptogens might help stabilize and balance various physiological processes within the body. Licorice root, rhodiola, ginseng or ashwanganda (read below) are well-known adaptogens. 

ASHWAGANDHA : ashwagandha is an herb whose roots have been used for centuries in traditional Indian medicine. It is mainly used for its stress-relieving properties. Also known as "Indian ginseng", ashwagandha contains chemicals that might help calm the brain, reduce inflammation and blood pressure. 

AYURVEDA : ayurveda is the science of life (from the Sanskrit ayur = life and veda = science). Ayurveda is based on the idea that the mind and the body are connected. One of the principle of ayurveda is that the mind has the power to heal the body. A very simple and clear example of this is meditation : through this practice of the mind you will make your body decrease the production of stress hormones (like cortisol or adrenaline). Ayurveda also has a very personalized approach of your health, learning about your prakruti (your "essential nature") will give you the keys to be balanced. 

BIOHACKER : a biohacker is someone who wants to gain complete control of their own biology. It is kind of a a "do-it-yourself body enhancement". Being a biohacker can be as easy as improving your posture to prevent injuries. A biohacker can go further by boosting his serotonin and dopamine levels for example.

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BULLETPROOF DIET/COFFEE : Bulletproof refers to the diet invented by Dave Asprey which consists in eating foods high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbohydrates. The foundation of this diet is the "Bulletproof Coffee", a coffee drink with butter and medium-chain triglyceride derived from coconut oil. According to Asprey, Bulletproof coffee helps burning fat and creating energy. The bulletproof diet is a ketogenic diet (read below).

COLLAGEN PEPTIDES : collagen is the long-chain of amino acids that builds our skin, connective tissue and bones but cannot be absorbed through our diet. Collagen peptides are made by breaking down the full-length collagen molecules and can be absorbed into the bloodstream (excellent explanation by Further Food). Most of the time collagen peptides powders are sourced from bovine and fish skins. There isn't a vegan collagen. Collagen peptides supposedly have many benefits like : improving skin appearance, helping with joint health, tendon and bone strength, gut health...

CORTISOL : cortisol is a hormone made by your body (by the adrenal glands). Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone” because it’s one of the main hormones we release when we are under any sort of pressure. It is essential to the good function of our bodies and it keeps us responsive to our environment (like when you wake up your cortisol levels are going to increase). But an abnormal degree of stress can make your cortisol levels too high and lead to weight gain, sleep disorders, hormonal imbalances... Adaptogen herbs (read above) can help lower cortisol.

CRYOTHERAPY : cryotherapy is the process of using very low temperatures for medical therapy. If you go to a place where they practice "cryo" you will be put in a very low temperature cabin, below -200ºF. This extreme cold treatment helps body inflammation reduction. Athletes like to do cryotherapy to treat tissue damage. 

CUPPING : cupping therapy is a form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin. A therapist puts special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create suction which is supposed to have benefits for your health (inflammation, blood flow, relaxation...) Note that there isn't research to back up the potential benefits of cupping.

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HOLISTIC : holistic is the derived adjective of holism which comes from the Greek holos which means "all, whole, entire". Therefore holistic medicine is the attempt to treat the patient as a whole person. In holistic medicine the practitioner is not going to look only at the disease but will consider the whole person (body, mind, spirit, and emotions). "Holistic health tends not to provide a quick-fix solution, but more of a total health overhaul, with complete balance of mind, body, and spirit as the ultimate goal" (source Nutrition Therapy Institute). Ayurveda is a holistic medicine, ayurveda helps us to understand our unique constitution (read above). 

KETOSIS : ketosis is a metabolic process. When the body does not have enough glucose for energy, it burns stored fats instead. This process results in a build-up of acids called ketones within the body. So ketones are a byproduct of this metabolic state. They are a source of fuel, just as glucose is a source of fuel. Ketosis is a natural process, it allows your body to function in a state of caloric deprivation. However ketosis is encouraged when you follow a ketogenic diet or low-carb diet. Ketosis is referred to as the body's "fat burning" mode.

KUNDALINI : kundalini is a Sanskrit word (kundala = cercle) which refers to a spiritual energy located in the base of the spine. A kundalini yoga practice aims to awaken/release this energy by specific movements, meditation and breathing. Kundalini yoga is known as "the yoga of awareness".

LEPTIN : is a hormone made by your body (by the adipose cells). Leptin is known as the "satiety hormone" since it helps regulating energy balance by inhibiting hunger. Leptin's role is to tell the brain that we have enough fat stored and that we don't need to eat or that we don't have enough and that we need to eat. There is a medical condition called "leptin resistance" where the brain doesn't receive the leptin's signal, it often happens with obesity. Leptin has a very important important role when we lose weight because of a diet : "when people lose fat, leptin levels decrease significantly. The brain interprets this as a starvation signal, changing our biology and behavior to make us regain the lost fat" (source healthline).

MCTs : MCTs stands for medium-chain triglycerides. It is a  form of saturated fatty acid that has numerous health benefits (like improving cognitive function and weight management). "MCTs get their name because of the length of their chemical structure. Medium-chain fats are digested easily and sent directly to your liver, where they have a thermogenic effect and the ability to positively alter your metabolism" (source Dr Axe). Coconut oil is a good source of MCTs. However coconut oil has longer-chain triglycerides as well. A pure MCTs oil is made in the lab. 

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NTP : an NTP is a nutritional therapy practitioner. An NTP is "a person who has studied nutrition science and uses a therapeutic approach to address the health of the whole body. They cannot use their education or expertise to prescribe, diagnose, prevent, or cure any malady or disease, nor can they use that terminology when working with clients" which make them different from RD (read below - source Nutrition Therapy Institute).

RD : an RD is a registered dietitian who is a nutrition professional. An RD is "a person who has studied nutrition science and has fulfilled all of the educational and examination requirements of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for recognition as a qualified nutrition specialist". They also are "regulated healthcare professionals who are licensed to assess, diagnose, and treat nutritional problems. RDs are qualified to apply nutrition therapy in all states" which make them different from NTP (read above - source Nutrition Therapy Institute).

REIKI : reiki is an alternative form of medicine from Japan. Reiki practitioners use their hands on  the patient in order to encourage emotional or physical healing. It is known as "energy healing". There is a lack of scientific support to reiki even if stress reduction and relaxation are experienced by many patients. 

VINYASA : a vinyasa is a term used in yoga to refer to the transition between two different positions. It comes from the Sanskrit vi = in a special way and nyasa = to place. During a vinyasa movements form a flowing sequence in coordination with the breath. It typically refers to the transition from plank to upward-facing dog to downward-facing dog. 

I hope this little list helped you and that you can come to it if you are in doubt!