Can One Day of Exercise Protect Your Heart for Days?

heart, heart health, exercise, cardiovascular, workout

If you have ever tried to lose weight, you have likely been told to move more and exercise.  This statement may sound pretty generic, however it is true.  Although the Health and Human Services suggests working out at moderate intensity for 150 minutes a week, a recent report has found that even just one high-quality session of pre-conditioning the heart could keep your heart healthy all week long.

What is moderate exercise?

According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate exercise is an intensity in which you can carry a conversation, but cannot sing. For example, if your breathing quickens, but you are not quite out of breath, then you are engaging in moderate exercise.  Examples of moderate exercise may include:

  • walking briskly
  • gardening
  • ballroom dancing
  • water aerobics
  • biking slower than 10 miles per hour

Exercise and Heart Health Research

Animal studies have shown that one session of exercise can protect the heart for the rest of the week. This is based on infarct size, or size of an area of necrosis in an organ caused by obstruction of blood circulation.  The pre-conditioning exercise studied has been shown to reduce infract size, in turn reducing risk of heart disease.  This pre-conditioning involves training the heart during periods of ischemia, or reduced blood flow. In turn, the training is expected to reduce infarct size during periods of occlusion, or vessel blockage.

These types of studies have not yet been done in humans. However, researchers feel that there is great promise for this type of therapy to be done with patients in the days before a scheduled heart surgery or procedure. It is thought that such “cardio protection” could help lower risk of complications or death and improve overall health outcomes.

Other Heart Healthy Things You Can Do Each Week

Besides exercise, there are plenty of things you can do each week to help improve your heart health.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables: The fiber and nutrients found in fruits and vegetables has been shown to help lower risk of heart disease. Some examples of these nutrients include folate, magnesium, potassium, as well as vitamins A, C, and K. Also, non-starchy vegetables, or those vegetables other than corn, peas, and potatoes, are low in calories. Therefore, such foods can be eaten in great volumes to fill you up without putting you over your suggested calorie intake for the day.
  • Eat less processed foods: Boxed goods, frozen or prepackaged convenience meals, and canned soups are just some examples of processed foods that can hurt your heart. The reason you should limit such foods is because they can often be high in sodium, fat, and sugars that are used to make these products last longer in your pantry or refrigerator.  High sodium foods in particular can contribute to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Manage stress: Stress can also contribute to high blood pressure.  In addition, when you are stressed, you may eat more sweets and other comfort foods more often. Over time, this emotional eating can lead to weight gain. In turn, weight gain can increase your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. You should find ways to manage stress such as:
    • talking to a friend or counselor
    • taking a yoga or meditation class
    • performing relaxation breathing
    • listening to music
    • using essential oils
    • engaging in some sort of “me time” every day. “Me time” involves some time each day in which you engage in an activity you enjoy that gives you time to yourself to breathe.
  • Take heart-healthy supplements: Besides a multivitamin each day, you may want to consider a heart healthy supplement such as Circova if you are at risk for heart disease. Circova is a supplement by Vita Sciences that contains Hawthorne extract as well as  antioxidants such as flavonoids and catechins that have been shown to improve blood flow and blood pressure.
  • Visit your doctor regularly: Be sure to visit your healthcare provider on a regular basis to get your blood pressure checked and to assess your heart disease risk. For most people, once a year is sufficient. However, if you have high blood pressure or a history of heart disease or diabetes, then you may want to visit more often such as every 6 months.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

American Heart Association (March 2014) “Moderate to Vigorous: What is Your Level of Intensity?”

American Heart Association (May 15, 2015) “Can antioxidants in fruits and vegetables protect you and your heart?”

Lou N. (November 30, 2017) “One Workout May Protect Heart from Ischemia for Hours or Days.” Medpage Today 

Mayo Clinic (May 19, 2017) “Exercise Intensity: How to Measure It”

Mayo Clinic (July 25, 2015) “Myocardial Ischemia”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary (accessed December 11, 2017) “Infarct”

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Could Coffee Help You Live Longer?

coffee, lengthen life, health

If you’re like me, the day does not begin until I have had my cup of coffee. Whether it be the aroma, the caffeine, or the wake up signal to my digestive system, my body craves coffee from the moment I rise from my evening slumber.  Over the years, there have been mixed reviews about whether or not this common habit was helping or harming us. However, a recent report has found that coffee may actually help you live longer.

Coffee and Health

Caffeine may be the first benefit you think about receiving when consuming your cup of joe. However, research has found that energy is not the only good thing that comes from consuming this beverage. Three cups of coffee a day has been found to be the magic number that can provide lower risk of many health conditions including:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Uterine and liver cancer

The only exceptions to these positive findings include some studies of unfiltered forms of coffee. French press or espresso, which contain the substances cafestol and kahweol, may slightly increase cholesterol levels.  However, the decreased risk of many health conditions seems to outweigh such negative findings. A 2015 study found that consumption of the beverage is linked to an approximate 8 to 15 percent reduction in risk of death, with more benefits linked to those who drank more.  In addition, a June 2016 report by the World Health Organization removed coffee from its list of potentially carcinogenic foods.

Coffee and Longer Life

A recent report has found that moderate consumption of coffee, or about three cups a day, has been linked to:

  • lower risk of cancers of the prostate, endometrium, skin and liver.
  • decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and better insulin and blood glucose control.
  • decreased risk of liver disease, gout, and gallstones.
  • Lower incidence of cognitive conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s, depression, and Alzheimer’s.

The health benefits of decreased heart disease and diabetes risk have been linked to the antioxidant effect of chlorogenic acid.  Also, the coffee lipids cafestol and kahweol have been linked to possible lower risk of certain cancers and liver disease.

Researchers are not sure of the exact component of the beverage that provides the most health benefits. Also, there is no solid proof that coffee lowers risk of any disease. However, the link between decreased incidence of death and coffee intake is suggested to be a good enough reason to add a bit of the beverage to your daily routine.

Other ways to Improve Length of Life

Besides drinking coffee, there are many small things you can do each day to help improve your quality and quantity of life.

  • Eat a fiber-rich diet of fruits and vegetables. Sounds simple enough, but unfortunately just 12-percent of Americans actually eat the suggested 2 cups each of fruits and vegetables each day.  Not only do these types of foods contain digestive-friendly fiber, but also contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients have been found to provide many anti-inflammatory benefits that have been found to help lower risk of chronic disease.
  • Stop smoking and lower alcohol intake.  Any substance that your body sees as a toxin will put strain on a your health. Smoking in particular constricts blood vessels, therefore increasing risk of heart disease. On the other hand, alcohol can put a strain on your liver since it will have to work extra hard to filter this toxin from your body.
  • Reduce stress and get plenty of sleep. Stress can affect sleep and lack of sleep can be stressful. Therefore, it is important to manage one to help the other.  Relaxation breathing, yoga, or talking to someone can help you manage stress. For sleep, talk to your doctor about specific medications or supplements, such as melatonin, that may help you catch some more Z’s.
  • Take vitamins and supplements daily.  If you are not getting enough nutrients from the food you eat, a vitamin and supplement regimen may help. A recent study in China has found a potential link between the health of the gut and longer life.  A probiotic supplement daily, such as Biovia 30X by Vita Sciences, may help improve diversity of gut bacteria in your body and promote improved digestive health and immune support.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Bian, G., et al. (2017) “The Gut Microbiota of Healthy Aged Chinese Is Similar to That of the Healthy Young.” mSphere, 2 (5): e00327-17 DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00327-17

Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (January 2012) “What is it about coffee?”

Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (September 25, 2017) “The latest scoop on the health benefits of coffee.”

Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (September 2014; reviewed and updated October 31, 2017) “How to boost your immune system”

Medline Health News (November 30, 2017) “Could Your Coffee Habit Lengthen Your Life?”

Medline Health News (November 16, 2017) “CDC Wants America to Eat Its Fruit and Veggies”

 

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Is Calories In, Calories Out the Key to Losing Weight?

weight loss, apple, nutrition, orange, calorieIf you have ever tried to lose weight, then you probably have been told to track your calories. Most calorie trackers focus on keeping track of the calories you consume through food.  On the other hand, fitness trackers or workout machines may track how many calories you burn during the day. However, is there more to the story of weight loss, or is calories in and calories out the only key to success?  A recent report by health experts reveal that there may be more than simple math in the weight loss equation.

What are is a calorie?

A calorie is a unit of energy that is found in food and beverages. The four major macronutrients that consist of calories include:

  • protein at 4 calories per gram
  • carbohydrate at around 4 calories per gram
  • fat at 7 calories per gram
  • alcohol at 9 calories per gram

Whatever calories you consume that are not used as energy are stored in the body as fat. In simple terms, you may lose fat stores if you consume less calories than you burn.  Calories can be burned by physical activity, but calorie expenditure may also increase in those who are growing, injured, or ill.  This is because your body will need more energy to support such processes that involve cell reproduction and other related processes.

Are some calories healthier than others?

Not all calories are created equal. The recent report reveals a growing trend of people focusing solely on the number of calories in and calories out, rather than the quality of calories consumed. Although this may lead to a calorie deficit, and in turn weight loss, it is not necessarily healthy.

For example, a piece of candy and an apple may both contain 100 calories. However, the candy mostly contains empty calories because they contain little to no nutritional value. The calories in the candy are mainly from simple carbohydrates like sugar as well as fat.  However, in the apple, those same calories contain many nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. Therefore, the calories from the apple will provide your body with more health benefits than the candy.

Weighing in on the “Calories In, Calories Out” equation

The latest diet craze known as CICO (Calories In, Calories Out), may lead to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies according to experts. If you are not looking at the nutrient quality of the calories you consume, then you may increase your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, anemia, to name a few. In addition, if you restrict yourself of too many calories, then you may develop fatigue and malnutrition, which does your body more harm than good. Contact a registered dietitian to help you determine how many calories you need to support your lifestyle, while still helping you to lose any excess weight.

How to Work on Weight Loss

There is no one size fits all plan to help everyone lose weight. However, there are several things you can do today to get on the right track towards healthy weight loss and maintenance.

  • Watch your portion sizes at meals and snacks. A simple way to determine how much food you need to eat at each meal involves your protein and fiber needs. Most adults should consume at least 25 grams of fiber a day through whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Your protein needs, in grams, can be determined by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.75.  Once you determine your fiber and protein needs, use a nutrition tracker to ensure you meet these needs with mostly whole foods, or foods that are minimally processed.  Also, chew your food more per bite, slow your pace of eating to 20-25 minutes per meal, and be mindful of the food choices you make by looking at nutrition labels before you make food purchases.
  • Stay active most days of the week.  Balance out each week with cardiovascular and resistance exercises. Cardio exercises include walking, jogging, swimming, or biking. These exercises work to increase calorie burn. Resistance exercises, on the other hand, such as lifting weights, doing push-ups, or using resistance bands, help to maintain lean muscle mass. Maintaining your muscle mass as you lose weight helps you to maintain calorie-burning power, also known as metabolism.
  • Get plenty of sleep.  Weight loss may be more difficult for those who do not sleep well.  This is because lack of sleep can disrupt the hormones that control hunger and appetite. Try to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble sleeping due to visiting the bathroom regularly, stop drinking fluids at least 2 hours before bedtime.  If pain is keeping you up, visit your doctor to get support.  If you are not sure what is causing your restless sleep, you may have sleep apnea. You can ask your doctor about getting a sleep study done to determine the cause of your sleepless nights.
  • Visit your doctor if diet and exercise are not leading to weight loss. If calories in and calories out are leading to weight plateaus or gains, then there may be an underlying health issue. Research has shown that some people who have a family history of obesity may have a harder time losing weight than those that don’t. This could be due to:
    • genetic factors.
    • increased risk of conditions like hypothyroidism or insulin resistance.
    • environmental factors such as growing up without knowledge of healthy eating behaviors.
  • Fill in your nutrient gaps with vitamins and supplements. At the very least, take a multivitamin such as Zestia by VitaSciences. Zestia contains a blend of Super Food extracts, probiotics, and digestive enzymes helps to support optimal health. If you live in a climate with little sunlight, you may also need to add a vitamin D3 supplement to your daily routine.  Low vitamin D levels can affect many aspects of health such as bone and immune health, to name a few.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (November 16, 2016) “Finding a Balance” 

Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (May 2014) “Eating fiber-rich foods helps keep the heart healthy”

Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (updated April 11, 2017) “Why People Become Overweight” 

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed November 27, 2017) “Protein”

Medline Health News (November 22, 2017) “It’s the Latest Diet Craze, But Is It Safe?”

Medline Plus (accessed November 28, 2017) “Vitamin D” 

 

 

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Are You Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables?

fruits, vegetables, produce, fresh, colorful, antioxidantsDo you think you eat enough fruits and vegetables every day?  You may track your macronutrients, have an apple a day, and be free of digestive concerns but still be missing the mark.  A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found that most adults in the United States could stand to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables each day.

Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables

Studies have shown that the more fruits and vegetables people eat, the less likely they are to have heart disease. This is because a diet rich in fruits and vegetables contains a lot of fiber and nutrients, which in itself can help many aspects of health including:

  • improvement of blood pressure
  • lowering cancer risk
  • decreasing risk of getting diabetes
  • prevention of constipation
  • keeping the digestive system healthy
  • maintaining eye health

More recently, it has been found that the phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables provide many of its health benefits. For example, the carotenoids found in many brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes and carrots have many health benefits. One of the carotenoids, lycopene, has shown potential for reducing risk of prostate cancer. Furthermore, research has shown that another phytonutrient, lutein, has been shown to reduce risk for cataracts. However, more studies need to be done to show the full health benefits of such phytonutrients.

What is the recommended intake for fruits and vegetables daily?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), most people should consume about 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables every day.  This amount of produce would help you to reach the recommended daily fiber intake of most adults, which is around 21 to 30 grams.  However, some may think that fiber supplements will do the job if they don’t want to eat fruits and vegetables. Although fiber supplements may be helpful for filling the gap of your daily fiber needs, they should not be relied upon for your full daily intake of fruits and vegetables. This is because the fiber supplements will not provide the many health nutrients that fruits and vegetables provide.

CDC Fruit and Vegetable Intake Report

A recent report from the CDC found that only 12-percent of Americans are eating enough fruits and vegetables. High cost and limited access to fruits and vegetables seem to be the biggest barriers to meeting daily recommended intakes.  However, a report by the USDA found that it is possible to meet such intakes for about $2.10 to $2.60 per day.

Fresh apples, orange, and carrots were found to be some of the lowest cost produce. Also, frozen green beans, canned corn, romaine lettuce, and Roma tomatoes were some of the least pricey produce options.  However, this amount may still be a lot for more low-income families. In those cases, the following tips may be helpful in ensuring everyone can get in their daily dose of fruits and vegetables.

  • Buy produce when it is in season. This is because if more of a type of produce is being harvested, the cost will be less for you. An added bonus is that in-season produce will also be more flavorful.
  • Check to see what Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits provide.  Recent benefits provide funds to purchase produce at local farmer’s markets.  For this reason, such funds could help offset any produce costs you may incur at the supermarket.
  • Buy frozen produce in bulk. You can often find family size bags of frozen veggies at lower cost than their smaller size counterparts. In addition, frozen produce will not go bad as quickly, so you do not have to worry about any waste if you do not eat it right away.

Fitting More Fruits and Veggies in Your Day

Follow the tips below to get more fruits and vegetables into your daily routine.

  • Slice up some apples with a side of peanut butter for a sweet and salty treat.
  • Keep it simple with some salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss veggies in these simple ingredients, then bake on a cookie sheet for 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the produce you are cooking. This roasted cooking method will bring out the natural sweet and savory flavors of produce.
  • Pair a cup of baby carrots with some hummus or Greek yogurt dressing for a salty, crunchy snack.
  • Load up your lunch bowl with salad greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and top with nuts and seeds for extra fiber power.
  • Replace your nighttime chocolate piece with a cup of grapes or berries over Greek yogurt for a filling sweet treat.
  • Use veggies as a foundation for your favorite recipes to add fiber. Use spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini instead of spaghetti or riced cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes.

If you are having trouble meeting your daily fruit and vegetable needs, add a daily multivitamin such as Zestia by Vita Sciences. Zestia contains a potent mix of superfood complexes, fruit and vegetable compounds, probiotics, and digestive enzymes to help support optimal overall health.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (September 5, 2017) “Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet.”

Centers for Disease Control (accessed on November 20, 2017) “Top 10 Reasons to Eat MORE Fruits and Vegetables.”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed November 20, 2017) “Vegetables and Fruits.”

Mayo Clinic (September 26, 2015) “I find it difficult to eat enough fruits and vegetables. Is there any harm in taking a fiber supplement every day?”

Medline Health News (November 16, 2017) “CDC Wants America to Eat Its Fruits & Veggies.”

United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (2017) “Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations Can Be Met for $2.10 to $2.60 per day.”

United States Department of Agriculture (August 2, 2017) “SNAP and Farmer’s Markets.”

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Could Antioxidant Treatment Reduce Arthritis Pain?

pain, rheumatoid arthritis, arthritisAre you looking for a more natural way to deal with your rheumatoid arthritis pain? Some prescription medicines  may make you feel foggy, cause stomach ulcers, or  cause weight gain.  However, recent studies have shown that more natural antioxidants may help reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain without so many side effects.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder affecting the joints and other body tissues. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system wrongly attacks the body. Therefore, damage can be caused in the skin, eyes, lung, heart, and blood vessels.  Also, damage to the joint lining causes deformity in the joints, such as in the hands. Because of this damage, daily tasks and simple movement can become more difficult and painful.

RA tends to affect smaller joints first such as those in the fingers and toes. Some symptoms of the condition include:

  • Tender, swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

Larger joints such as those in hips and knees may be affected as the disease progresses. However, nearly 40-percent of those affected by the condition have non-joint symptoms. The eyes, salivary glands, blood vessels, and nerve tissues are just some of the other body tissues that can be affected by RA.

Current RA Treatments

The most common treatment to arthritis pain are NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs reduce pain and inflammation. Lower strength forms of NSAIDs can be purchased over-the-counter. However, long-term use of such medicines can cause symptoms such as:

  • ringing in your ears
  • stomach pain and ulcers
  • heartburn
  • heart problems
  • liver and kidney damage

Other treatments for RA include steroids and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS). Long term use of steroid though can thin bones and cause weight gain.  DMARDS such as methotrexate can slow progress of the disease. A newer class of DMARDs called biologic agents, which include Humira and Xeljanz, work to reduce inflammation. However, these medicines may have side effects such as liver damage and increased risk of infections.

Antioxidants and RA Pain

Mediterranean diet, olive oil, health fats, olives, tomatoes, vegetables, heart healthA journal article in the Frontiers in Nutrition suggested that fiber-rich and antioxidant-rich foods may decrease inflammation in those with RA. Furthermore, it was suggested to get such benefits from some of the following foods and drinks.

  • dried plums
  • pomegranates
  • whole grains
  • turmeric
  • olive oil
  • green tea
  • blueberries

Other recent research has confirmed that antioxidant treatment may be helpful to those with RA. For example, a 2003 study talked about how the antioxidant defense system is weakened in RA patients. Therefore, researchers suggested therapy including standard drugs along with antioxidants to help reduce tissue damage in such patients.

In addition to these studies, more recent research has also shown potential for antioxidant treatment of RA. For example, a 2008 study found that antioxidant therapy combined with lower doses of standard drugs may help reduce tissue damage. Due to these lower doses of prescribed drugs, such treatments may help reduce harmful side effects.

Other Ways to Reduce Inflammation

  • Stop smoking since this activity can constrict blood vessels and cause inflammation in the body and its tissues.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: If you do decide to have an alcoholic drink, choose phytonutrient-rich red wine that contains polyphenols such as resveratrol. Also, be sure to limit consumption to no more than 1 standard drink a day for women or 2 standard drinks a day for men. For example, a standard drink of wine is equal to 5 ounces.
  •  Take probiotics through fermented food such as yogurt or through a supplement such as Biovia 30 by Vita SciencesBiovia 30 contains 30 million strains of diverse good bacteria that helps to strengthen your immune system. Probiotics can help restore good bacteria in your gut.  When your body has more good bacteria, it makes it easier to fight off bad bacteria that may be damaging your immune system.  Therefore, a stronger immune system can help fight off inflammation in the body.

Furthermore, recent research shows a link between deficits in the intestinal microbiome and autoimmune disease. Although more studies need to be done, it is suggested that treatment of gut microbiota may be the key to improving effective treatments for such conditions as RA.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Horta-Baas, G., Romero-Figueroa, M. del S., Montiel-Jarquín, A. J., Pizano-Zárate, M. L., García-Mena, J., & Ramírez-Durán, N. (2017). Intestinal Dysbiosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Link between Gut Microbiota and the Pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Journal of Immunology Research2017, 4835189. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4835189

Jaswal, S., et al. (December 2003) “Antioxidant Status in Rheumatoid Arthritis and role of Antioxidant Therapy.” Clinica Chimica Acta, 338(1-2): 123-129.

Mayo Clinic (August 9, 2017) “Rheumatoid Arthritis.” 

Medline Plus (November 8, 2017) “These Foods May Help Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain.” 

Van Vugt, R. M., Rijken, P. J., Rietveld, A. G., van Vugt, A. C., & Dijkmans, B. A. C. (2008). Antioxidant intervention in rheumatoid arthritis: results of an open pilot study. Clinical Rheumatology27(6), 771–775. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10067-008-0848-6

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Could Fiber Help Lengthen Life of Colon Cancer Patients?

You may hear time and again to eat your veggies. In many cases you may have heard this is relation to a heart-healthy diet regimen. However, recent research has shown that increased fiber intake may also have reduce risk of colon cancer.

What is fiber?

fiber, fruit, vegetable, grains, whole grain, colon, gut, health, beansFiber is an undigested macronutrient in food that comes in two primary forms. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. This type of fiber has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as:

  • Starchy vegetables and legumes such as peas and beans
  • Fruits such as apples and citrus fruits
  • Non-starchy vegetables such as carrots, squash, or beets
  • Grain sources such as barley, oats, or psyllium husk

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. This type of fiber has been found to help in bulking stool to help improve waste removal from the body.  In turn, insoluble fiber can be helpful for those with constipation. This type of fiber can be found in foods such as:

  • Whole grain foods such as whole wheat flour and wheat bran
  • Non-starchy vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and other leafy greens, or green beans
  • Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, beans, or legumes

Fiber and Colon Cancer Research

A recent study looked at data from 1575 patients from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study who had colon cancer that did not spread beyond the colon. Researchers looked at fiber intake in the four years after diagnosis. They tried to relate this data with health outcomes during this time.

It was found that for every five grams of fiber consumed, risk of death by colon cancer was reduced by about one-fourth.  There is no way to confirm if fiber really helped these patients live longer. However, it is suggested that increased fiber intake after diagnosis could still benefit overall health.

Furthermore, it was suggested by researchers that increased fiber intake may actually reduce risk of getting colon cancer in the first place. This is due to fiber’s ability to lower inflammation in the body that can lead to cell damage and increase risk of chronic disease. However, the study did find though that fiber found in cereal and whole grains had the greatest impact on survival from colon cancer.  Supplements and fruit fibers had the least impact on risk of death from any cause. Finally, vegetable fiber intake was linked to a lower risk of death from any cause.

Ways to Eat Better for Gut Health

Fiber not only helps with heart health and improving health outcomes or those with colon cancer. Fiber also helps keeps you more full in between meals and in turn helps manage weight. Furthermore, fiber can help provide good bacteria to your gut, which further promotes a healthy digestive system. More and more research is showing that a healthy gut is the key to lower risk of many diseases and improved overall well-being. Here are some tips to help you eat for better gut health.

  • Start your day with a fiber-rich breakfast: Try out quick and delicious fiber-rich breakfast options such as whole grain toast with some avocado and eggs or peanut butter and sliced banana. Oatmeal prepared with milk and flavored with cinnamon and diced fruit is another way to get the most fiber and protein balance in your morning meal.
  • Add in fiber-rich snacks throughout the day to curb cravings: In between meals, reach for a 1/4 cup nuts or seeds for some fiber fullness.  Also, apple slices with a tablespoon of peanut butter or a few whole grain crackers with cheese can provide the fiber and protein balance your body craves during snack time.
  • Keep lunch and dinner meals lean and green: As you get later into the day, focus on lean proteins and green vegetables as your main energy source. Lean proteins could be anywhere from chicken or fish to plant-based proteins such as legumes, tofu, or quinoa.  Balance these proteins out with a few cups of leafy greens or other non-starchy vegetable for clean and filling energy for the latter part of your day. Non-starchy vegetables include pretty much any vegetable except for potatoes, corn, and peas.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day: Water is a necessity to keep the body healthy inside and out. Aim for half of your body weight in ounces in water daily, or at least 64 ounces a day. This fluid intake can include any unsweetened beverage such as unsweetened tea, flavored water, or decaffeinated coffee.
  • Add in a gut-friendly probiotic daily: Probiotics can help build good bacteria in your gut. Good bacteria help keep bad bacteria out of your gut, in turn improving digestive health and overall well-being. Add in a probiotic such as Kolonex by Vita Sciences. Kolonex contains a healthy and powerful blend of psyllium husk, probiotics, and bentonite clay that has been shown to support decreased bloating, weight loss, improved bowel transit, waste elimiation, detoxification and increased energy levels.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Harvard Health Publishing (October 2016) “Can gut bacteria improve your health?”

Mayo Clinic (Sept. 22, 2015) “Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.”

Medline Health News (November 2, 2017) “Fiber-Rich Diet Boosts Survival from Colon Cancer.”

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Could Probiotics Improve Health Outcomes After Injury?

probiotic, fermented food, yogurt, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, gut health, digestion

Fermented foods can provide natural sources of good bacteria.

From hearing your stomach grumble when it’s hungry to the gurgling sounds of indigestion, the gut reminds us everyday of its important presence in our health. Gut bacteria are vital to keeping balance in the body. Also, gut bacteria make sure that any food consumed is being used for energy.  However, recent research has shown that gut bacteria may also be crucial for positive health outcomes after injury.

What is gut bacteria?

Gut bacteria is part of a community of microorganisms such as fungi and viruses that live in the gut microbiome. Also, gut bacteria get along well with the cells of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and are not known for causing disease. Functions of gut bacteria include:

  • breaking down nutrients to be used for energy
  • protecting the body from toxic invaders
  • breaking down and eliminating drugs from the body

Imbalances of gut bacteria in the body can lead to conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  Also, gut bacteria live in harmony with the immune system and work together to keep the body safe from “bad” bacteria. However, an imbalance in “good” versus “bad” bacteria in the gut could have an impact on immune system function.

Gut bacteria and Injury

A study of 12 critically injured adults in the journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open looked at the status of gut bacteria health over time. Stool samples were taken 24 hours and 72 hours after admission to the hospital.  After 72 hours, three types of bacteria had been depleted in the injured group, while two types of bacteria had risen.  More studies need to be done to explore this finding more. However, the researchers suggest that gut bacteria structure could affect patient outcomes after traumatic injury.  Furthermore, probiotics may be one future treatment to help improve patient outcomes in these cases.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics, which means “for life,” are live microorganisms meant to have positive health benefits.  You may see on store shelves many probiotic medicines containing bacteria from the groups Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.  However, since each strain of bacteria benefits a different function in the gut, the more types of strains in a probiotic, the potentially greater health impact. Probiotics may be helpful in preventing diarrhea caused by infections and antibiotics as well as in treatment of those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Basic functions of probiotics may include:

  • maintaining a diverse community of microorganisms
  • maintain a protective barrier for the gut to keep out pathogens
  • recover balance after infection, antibiotic treatment, or other disturbances
  • Stop growth of and fight off unwanted microorganisms
  • Nourish and strengthen the immune system

Biovia30 by VitaSciences provides 30 million colony forming units per dose of diverse strains to help restore balance in the gut and promote immune system strength. Furthermore,  Biovia30 contains various strains of Bacillus, Lactobacillus, and Bifidobacterium to help you build up “good” bacteria stores and keep “bad” bacteria out.

Other ways to protect the gut

  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other fiber-rich foods to help promote diversity of gut bacteria.
  • Stop smoking or don’t start since smoking can negatively affect gut bacteria and the immune system. Not only does smoking constrict blood vessels, but it also causes inflammation in the body which can cause cell damage.
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress such as yoga, meditation, or exercise since stress can alter gut bacteria populations. Stress is one of the contributing factors of IBS.
  • Lower saturated fat intake to help lower numbers of inflammatory microbes in the gut.
  • Consume phytonutrients such as polyphenols and tannins found in colorful berries, beans, nuts, seeds, and teas. These compounds can nourish microbes in the digestive tract.

Probiotics shown great promise for helping to treat various health conditions. However, potential benefits of probiotics must be confirmed by further research. Please contact your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

Sources:

Conlon, M. A., & Bird, A. R. (2015). The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health. Nutrients, 7(1), 17–44. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu7010017

Jandhyala, S. M., Talukdar, R., Subramanyam, C., Vuyyuru, H., Sasikala, M., & Reddy, D. N. (2015). Role of the normal gut microbiota. World Journal of Gastroenterology : WJG, 21(29), 8787–8803. http://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v21.i29.8787

Medline Plus (October 26, 2017) “Gut Bacteria May Change Rapidly After Severe Injury.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (October 2016) “Probiotics: In Depth”

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Can you treat a migraine without pain medicine?

migraine, headache, medicine, painIf you have ever had a migraine headache, you know the pain is so intense that a trip to the hospital may be in store.  In this case, the ER staff may use an opioid  pain medicine as a first resort. However, a recent study has shown that this commonly used drug, also known for its addictive qualities, may not be the best choice for migraine relief.

What is a migraine?

A migraine headache involves a throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head, usually along with other symptoms. Nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light are some of the most common symptoms of such headaches. Pain can occur for hours, or even days, and warning symptoms such as  constipation, mood changes, neck stiffness, increased thirst, or frequent yawning may precede a migraine.  In rare cases, right before a migraine you may get aura symptoms such as flashes of light or blind spots.  In the 24 hours after, you may have symptoms such as confusion, moodiness, dizziness, and weakness.

Aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine may be used for treatment of most migraines. More severe cases may require medications such as Triptan or Ergot, which help constrict blood vessels and block pain pathways.  However, opioids are used if a person cannot tolerate such medicines.

Migraine Relief Research

A recent study in the journal Neurology looked at 127 patients who had at least trips to the New York emergency department for migraine headaches.  Half of the patients received the opioid hydromorphone and the other half received an IV of the dopamine-releasing drug prochlorperazine.

After 48 hours of treatment, sixty-percent of people from the prochlorperazine group versus thirty-percent of the hydromorphone group felt relief.  In addition, the prochlorperazine group was 30-percent less likely to ask for more pain medicine after treatment than the opioid group (6-percent versus 36-percent).  This study suggests that anti-dopaminergic drugs may provide more relief to migraine headache sufferers than opioids. However, you should be sure to talk with your healthcare provider to find the best treatment for you.

Natural Ways to Relieve Migraine Pain

  • Learn to cope (LTC) : This treatment gradually exposes patients to headache triggers to help them become desensitized to such triggers.
  • Practice consistent overall wellness: Be sure to get a good night’s sleep of at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night and eat healthy, balanced meals every day. Also, be sure to find healthy ways to manage stress such as doing yoga, engaging in relaxation breathing, or taking a walk daily.
  • Stay active: Regular exercise can help not only manage stress, but can also prevent migraines.  Exercise reduces such headaches by reducing tension in the body. Furthermore, staying active can help reduce body weight.  Since obesity is thought to be a risk factor for migraine headaches, weight loss could reduce such risk.
  • Other medicinal treatments: Cardiovascular or anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, and Botox may be prescribed to help prevent migraine headaches. However, for the more natural route, reach for Migravent by Vita Sciences.  Migravent contains natural ingredients such as PA-free butterbur, CoQ10, magnesium,  and riboflavin. This formula has been found to help prevent migraines and support reduced frequency of such headaches and related symptoms.

Disclaimer: Please be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new medication.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

Mayo Clinic (April 26, 2017) “Migraine”

Medline Plus (October 18, 2017) “Skip Opioid Treatment for Migraine in the ER”

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Could Excess Weight Shorten Your Life?

age, healthy eating, apple, green, aging, healthAccording to the National Institutes of Health, the average American can live tan average of 79 years.   However, did you know that a few small lifestyle changes could add years to your life? It was found that for every few pounds you lose you could be adding years to your life.

A recent study in Nature Communications looked at genetic data from 600,000 people in North America, Europe and Australia. Smoking, body fat, thought processes and the genes related to such can affect life span.

Of all conditions observed, smoking and traits linked with lung cancer were found to have the greatest impact on reducing life span. Smoking one pack of cigarettes a day over a lifetime can lead to a loss of seven years of life.  However, if a person quits smoking, they can get back those years and live as long as someone who has never smoked.

Obesity is a common risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. However, body fat percentage and other factors linked with diabetes were found to decrease life span. Two months of life can be lost for every 2.2 pounds of excess body fat. This could be related to the increased risk of obesity-related conditions related to excess weight, but the direct reason for this result is not confirmed.

Finally, those with an open mind may live longer than those who were not. For every year of studying done beyond school, a year is added to a person’s life. This could be related to those studying more having sharper minds as they age, but it is not confirmed why. By maintaining mental sharpness, you are helping to keep the body’s software up to date which aids in overall wellness.

Other Ways to Add Years to Your Life

If you want to add years to your life, there are many things you can do.

  • Eat better:  A balanced diet of fruits and vegetables provide fiber that can help manage weight and keep blood glucose levels stable.
  • Stay active: A good balance of cardio, resistance, and flexibility exercises can help you stay young as you age. Resistance exercises such as lifting weights, working with resistance bands, or performing push-ups, can help maintain lean mass. Lean mass can help keep you more mobile as you age and in turn prevent injury. In addition, lean mass can keep bones and joints strong and improve insulin resistance.
  • Sleep more: While you sleep, the body regulates fluid, blood glucose, levels, and blood pressure. Therefore without the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep a night, you may be putting yourself at risk for chronic disease. If you have trouble sleeping, try  reducing screen time before bed, getting blackout blinds, stop eating and drinking two hours before bedtime, or get a white noise machine. Check with your healthcare provider if pain or other health issues that may be keeping you up at night.
  • Practice preventative health: Be sure to visit your doctor every year or more often to check for chronic disease risk factors. Knowing your numbers such as blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and vitamin levels are important for health tracking. If any of your numbers are out of range, you could increase risk for chronic disease and decrease quality of life.
  • Take a multivitamin: To ensure you are getting your daily nutrients, try the Zestia multivitamin by Vita Sciences. Zestia contains a combination of fruit and vegetable extracts, probiotics, and digestive enzymes to help support an optimal quality of life.

Sources:

Harvard Health Publishing (accessed October 16, 2017) “Tips for  longer life”

Medline Health News (October 13, 2017) “Good Lifestyle Choices Adds Years to Your Life” 

National Institutes of Health News in Health (June 2016) “Can You Lengthen Your Life?” 

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Could Hypertension Increase Dementia Risk in Women?

Ifhypertension, blood pressure, brain, memory, dementia you have high blood pressure, heart disease may be the health concern most on your mind. However, high blood pressure can be a risk factor for more than just heart conditions.  A recent study has found that women in their 40’s with high blood pressure have an increased risk of dementia.

What is high blood pressure?

A systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher and a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher defines a diagnosis of high blood pressure, or hypertension.  Systolic blood pressure is a measure of the pressure when the heart contracts, while diastolic blood pressure is a measure of the pressure in between heart beats.

Hypertension occurs when there is some sort of damage or blockage that causes a narrowing of the blood vessels.  This narrowing slows the flow of blood and oxygen to tissues and organs in the body. Over time, this delayed oxygen and blood flow can cause damage to cells in the body that can lead to disease. Therefore, high blood pressure can lead to increased risk of diabetes, kidney damage, stroke, and vision loss.

Hypertension and Dementia

A recent study in the journal Neurology looked at the medical records of about 5600 patients over 15 years to see who developed dementia.  Those women in their 40’s with hypertension had up to a 73-percent risk of developing dementia.  Although, the same was not true of women in their 30’s or of men in their 40’s.  However, further studies must be done to determine the reason for these results.

Previous studies have found a link between high blood pressure and dementia, but it was not clear if hypertension before the age of 50 was a risk factor for the condition. However, it is clear that the brain is a metabolically active organ that requires oxygen to function properly. Without oxygen, brain cells starve and become damaged causing disease and dysfunction.  In order to get enough oxygen, blood flow to the brain must be healthy. Therefore, anything that prevents or delays blood flow, such as hypertension, could lead to cell damage in the brain as is seen in dementia.

Hypertension Prevention

To lower your risk of diseases such as dementia, take the following steps to prevent or control hypertension.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet of lean proteins, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and plant-based oils.  Be sure to limit your intake of sugary and salty processed foods which can increase hypertension risk.
  • Stay active most days of the week.  Walking, jogging, biking, dancing, and swimming are some ways you can stay active to keep your heart healthy. Try to be active for 30 minutes a day for most days of the week to help manage your weight and blood pressure.
  • Limit alcohol intake to no more than one drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men.  Over this limit, alcohol can raise blood pressure and can also make it difficult to manage a healthy weight.
  • Control weight since those who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for hypertension than those of a healthy weight.
  • Don’t smoke since smoking can deprive your body of oxygen since it constricts blood vessels. In turn, smoking can increase risk of hypertension and related health issues.
  • Take all prescribed medications to help manage hypertension so that damage to the body’s cells can be limited.
  • Add in heart-healthy vitamins and supplements to your routine such as Presura by Vita Sciences. Presura contains a combination of hawthorn berry, niacin, and garlic extract to help support healthy blood pressure levels. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen. It is important to make sure that any new supplements will not interact with your current prescribed medicines.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

Sources:

American Heart Association (October 2016) “Changes You Can Make to Manage Blood Pressure”

American Heart Association (October 2016) “Understanding Blood Pressure Readings”

Medline Plus (October 4, 2017) “High Blood Pressure in 40’s a Dementia Risk for Women?”

National Institute on Aging (March 1, 2015) “High Blood Pressure” 

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