Monthly Archives: July 2019

Vitamin D for improved insulin sensitivity

vitamin d, sun, sunshine, health, vitaminYou may not realize it, but as you stand outside you are soaking up vitamin D. This is because the rays of sunshine beaming down on you help stimulate synthesis of this vitamin. Even with this natural source of vitamin D, some of us may still be deficient. Research shows that this may lead to issues with insulin sensitivity. Let’s learn a little more about this body’s need for the sunshine vitamin for optimal metabolic health.

How much vitamin D do I need?

Just 30 minutes of sun exposure in the late morning and early afternoon will fulfill your vitamin D needs. However, you need to make sure you expose either your face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen. Also, be sure to do this twice a week for optimal absorption.

But if you live in certain climates or have certain risk factors, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Those groups of people at risk for deficiency include:

  • Breastfed infants
  • Older adults
  • People with limited sun exposure
  • Dark-skinned persons
  • Those with fat malabsorption issues

Health benefits of the sunshine vitamin

Vitamin D is well-known for its important role in bone health. It helps the body absorb calcium better. This is turn, can promote strong, healthy bones. However, besides bone health, new research shows the importance of this sunshine vitamin in other aspects of health. For example, some experts suggest that vitamin D could help improve metabolic health.

Vitamin D and metabolic health

A recent study looked at a group of nearly 100 adults at least 25 years old with newly diagnosed diabetes. The adults received either placebo or 5000 IU of vitamin D daily. Glucose tolerance tests and insulin sensitivity tests were done at baseline and after six months. Study results show that vitamin D supplements can help improve insulin sensitivity in those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Those without type 2 diabetes did not see any significant improvement.

Because of this research, it shows the importance of having your vitamin D levels checked. If you can catch your deficiency, then you can start on a supplement to help protect your bone and metabolic health.

Other ways to improve metabolic health

Besides taking a vitamin D supplement, there are other things you can do to improve your  metabolic health.

Move more: According to recent research, exercise can help you better manage blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Therefore, try to move at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week for optimal heart and metabolic health. And don’t forget to add in some resistance training twice a week for about 15 minutes to help maintain lean muscle mass and healthy metabolism.

Eat more soluble fiber: Some research shows that eating more foods high in soluble fiber can help improve insulin sensitivity. Foods high in soluble fiber include oats, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and some fruits and vegetables. Not to mention that soluble fiber slow digestion and help your body absorb more nutrients from the food you eat.

Taking dietary supplements when needed: Besides vitamin D, experts also suggest that consuming probiotics or omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help improve insulin sensitivity in those with type 2 diabetes. Also, supplements like Glucarex by Vita Sciences may help improve the health of those with diabetes. Glucarex contains compounds like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon. These natural compounds help promote healthy weight loss, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

Take home message 

There are many ways to help improve metabolic health. But one way you may have never thought of is getting enough vitamin D. Now that you know, it’s important to have these vitamin levels checked at least once a year so you can stay on top of your numbers. And along with moving more and eating a healthier diet, you can ensure optimal health.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

Lemieux, P., et al. (2019) “Vitamin D supplementation increases insulin sensitivity, beta-cell function.” European Journal of Endocrinology, https://doi.org/10.1530/EJE-19-0156

Lillis, C. (March 29, 2019) “Natural ways to improve insulin sensitivity.” Medical News Today.

Medline Plus (last updated July 10, 2019) “Soluble vs. insoluble fiber.”

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (last updated July 9, 2019) “Vitamin D.”

 


  • Could a pet improve your mental health?

    dog, pet, mental health, health, happy, healthyAnxiety and depression can take a huge toll on quality of life. It can affect your work, relationships, and can also make it hard to take care of your yourself. However, recent research shows that having a pet may help reduce anxiety and depression. Therefore, let’s learn more about how a pet could improve mental health status as well as other ways to help yourself feel happier and healthier.

    Basics of mental health

    By definition, mental health involves your social, emotional, and psychological well-being. And a person may be more prone to such issues through factors like genetics, traumatic life experiences, or a family history of such issues.

    There are many types of mental health issues, with the most commonly known being anxiety and depression. Some general signs of such issues include:

    • eating too much or too little
    • mood swings
    • Low energy
    • unexplained aches and pains
    • inability to perform daily tasks
    • feeling confused or on edge

    These are just a few early warning signs of mental health issues. And if you notice such signs, it may be time to visit a healthcare professional. Also, you can visit the Mental Health America website for helpful resources.

    Pets for better mental health

    The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that the “pet effect” may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Experts also report that pets and therapy animals can lower feelings of stress, loneliness, and isolation. Not only that, but research also shows that pets can spark biological changes that can help reduce anxiety and depression.

    One of these changes is that having a pet encourages physical activity. Exercise can improve not only brain health, but also the health of your body. This in turn can help improve your quality of life.

    Pets can also improve your social support networks. For example, when you take your dog to the park or in public, people will likely interact with you and your pet. This in turn could help you feel more connected to your community. Also, this connection could help you feel less lonely and isolated.

    Recent pet research 

    Also, the presence of a pet in the home could help you feel a sense of security and protection. A 2019 study looked at the impact of pets on physiology of college students. The study divided 249 students into four groups. One group had 10 minutes stroking and playing with cats and dogs. Then, another group observed those people interacting with the animals. Finally, the other two groups either looked at slideshows of animals or simply sat and waited in silence.

    All the students had their saliva samples taken in the morning and after their interaction. Study results show that those who interacted with the animals had significantly lower cortisol, or “stress hormone,” levels as compared to baseline than the others. This early study shows promise that having a pet could help reduce mental stress in the body and mind. In turn, having a furry friend could help improve quality of life for their owners.

    Other ways to improve mental health 

    If you don’t want a pet or don’t have the time or money to care for a pet, there are other ways to improve mental health at home.

    Improve your diet: Experts report that eating foods high in refined sugars, like sugary drinks and processed snacks, are harmful to the brain. In turn, they can impair brain function and lead to mental health disorders like depression. Therefore, try to limit such foods in the diet and focus on adding more antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables that can reduce inflammation in the body and mind.

    Add a supplement: In addition to eating healthier foods, you can also add a supplement to help improve your mood. An example of such a supplement is Elevia by Vita Sciences. Elevia contains natural ingredients like GABA and 5-HTP that help calm the mind and body while boosting serotonin, or “feel good hormone” levels.

    Move more: Exercise helps release endorphins that can reduce stress in the body and mind. Therefore, try to be active each day by walking, jogging, cleaning house, dancing, or swimming, to name a few ideas.

    Get involved: Volunteering in your community or joining groups like a walking group or arts and crafts group can help you feel better. This is because it will help yo feel less isolated and will provide you a better sense of purpose in your life.

    Find support: Talking to a counselor or joining a support group can help you talk about what is causing stress in your life. And by talking about it, you can obtain resources from others to help reduce stress in your life. However, always be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional first if you feel you may be depressed or anxious.

    Take home message

    Taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. Therefore, whether it be a pet or gaining support from your community, there are plenty of small things you can do to help yourself. However, if you feel like you don’t know where to start, then visit your healthcare provider for resources.

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

    References:

    Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed July 22, 2019) “Tips.”

    Feldman, S. (November 2018) “Alleviating Anxiety, Stress and Depression with the Pet Effect.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 

    Mental Health Foundation (accessed July 22, 2019) “Pets and mental health.”

    MentalHealth.gov (last updated April 5, 2019) “What Is Mental Health?”

    Sandoiu, A. (July 19, 2019) “More evidence that pets benefit mental health.” Medical News Today. 

    Selhub, M.D., E. (November 16, 2015) “Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food.” Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School. 


  • Less fried foods for lower heart disease and stroke risk

    fried food, fried, unhealthy, heart attack, strokeAs you walk along the street during any summer carnival, it’s no doubt you’ll take in the sweet smell of cotton candy and the fragrance of fried foods like funnel cakes and fries. These fried foods can hold so many memories for many of us spending time with family and friends. Not to mention that such treats can taste delicious. However, recent studies show that the more you eat fried foods, the higher your heart disease and stroke risk.

    Heart disease and stroke facts

    Besides being one of the leading causes of death in the United States, diseases of the heart come in many forms. However, it’s cardiovascular disease or conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that are most dangerous. Such conditions include heart attack, angina (chest pain), or stroke.

    Stroke is also in the top five leading causes of death in the United States and is also related to a vessel condition. It occurs when blood flow in the artery that supplies blood to the brain is blocked. Less commonly, a stroke can occur when this artery leaks or ruptures.

    Fried foods and heart disease

    Fried foods can taste good and can be purchased at a lower cost than healthier convenience food options. However, the long-term cost of eating such foods can be high. This is because eating such foods on a regular basis can place your heart health at risk.

    Foods that are fried contain high amounts of saturated and sometimes trans fats. Research shows that when such fats in the diet are replaced with unsaturated fats, heart disease risk is reduced.

    In fact, a recent study looked at the effect of fried food intake on heart disease and stroke risk. Study results show that those people who ate fried foods one to three times a week had a 7% higher risk of heart attack and stroke compared to those who ate fried foods less than once a week. Also, those people who ate fried foods daily had a 14% higher risk of such conditions.

    Other ways you can lower heart disease and stroke risk 

    Besides reducing fried food intake, there are other things you can do to lower your heart disease and stroke risk. Use the following tips to help your heart be at its healthiest.

    • Eat more fruits and vegetables: Consuming a colorful array of fruits and vegetables can help provide antioxidants to the body. Each color of the rainbow of produce contains different antioxidants that can provide varying health benefits to the body. Overall, having plenty of antioxidants in the diet can reduce inflammation in the body and lower risk of chronic diseases like heart disease.
    • Sleep enough each night: Research shows that poor sleeping patterns can increase risk of heart disease and stroke. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults sleep seven to nine hours each night. If you find you’re having trouble sleeping, it may be helpful to visit your doctor for treatment. They could recommend a sleep study to help identify any health issues that could be disturbing your sleep.
    • Manage stress: Too much stress can have an impact on your heart health. Therefore, be sure to manage your stress with some relaxation breathing, meditation, yoga, or talking to a counselor each week.
    • Visit your doctor regularly: It’s important to visit your doctor at least once a year to check your numbers. Your numbers include cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and body weight. These numbers can help identify any heart health risk factors you may have. The earlier you find such risk factors, the earlier you can receive treatment and prevent your risk of stroke.
    • Take supplements when necessary: If you are lacking certain vitamins or minerals in your diet, you may need a supplement such as a multivitamin or fish oil. Supplements could help your body receive the antioxidants you need to fight oxidative stress and lower chronic disease risk factors. One such supplement is Circova by Vita SciencesCircova contains ingredients like L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne to help promote improved blood flow and blood pressure.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (May 3, 2018) “About Stroke.”

    Gordon, S. (July 11, 2019) “More evidence fried food ups heart disease, stroke risk.”

    Houston, M. (February 2018) “The relationship of saturated fats and coronary heart disease: fa(c)t or fiction? A commentary.” Ther Adv Cardiovasc Dis., 12(2):33-37.

    Koo, D. L., Nam, H., Thomas, R. J., & Yun, C. H. (2018). Sleep Disturbances as a Risk Factor for Stroke. Journal of stroke20(1), 12-32.

    Mayo Clinic (March 22, 2018) “Heart Disease.”

    Medline Plus (last reviewed December 26, 2017) “Antioxidants.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed October 30, 2018) “National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times.”


  • Ramp up your exercise routine to reduce anxiety

    walk, walking, health, exercise, fitnessAlthough many of us may feel anxious from time to time, this anxiety may resolve after a hot bath or cup of tea. However, for a portion of the population, this feeling continues to affect them daily. It can impact daily life in a way that interrupts daily living such as work, sleep, and relationships. Therefore, for those with anxiety disorder, treatment options are necessary. Besides prescription medications, recent research shows that increasing intensity of exercise may help reduce symptoms of anxiety disorder.

    What is anxiety?

    About one out of every five people in the United States suffer from anxiety disorder. Those with this disorder are not just feeling anxious before a big event, but feel anxious most of their life. For example, these people feel an excessive amount of dread that is persistent and uncontrollable.

    Anxiety disorder can come in many forms such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Those with OCD may feel like if they do not perform certain, often repetitive tasks that something bad will happen. Other forms of anxiety disorder include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic attack disorder, and phobias.

    General symptoms

    If you experience the following symptoms as well as excessive worry for at least six months, then you may have GAD. If you feel this may be you, be sure to see a qualified healthcare provider for treatment options.

    • feeling nervous or on edge
    • having a sense of impending danger
    • increased heart rate
    • rapid breathing rate
    • difficulty concentrating
    • trouble sleeping
    • digestive issues
    • weakness or fatigue

    How is anxiety treated?

    Anxiety treatment usually involves prescription medicines, especially for those with moderate to severe forms. Also, therapy can help with symptoms, whether you take medicine or not, to help teach you ways to manage symptoms. A common form of therapy used is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT teaches people how to think, behave, and react differently to those situations in life that produce the most anxiety for them.

    How can exercise help anxiety?

    Research shows that exercise can be a great supplemental treatment for anxiety. This is because studies show that exercise can, in the long-term, reduce inflammation in the body. In turn, a person can not only lower risk of inflammatory conditions like heart disease and diabetes, but also anxiety and depression.

    In fact, research shows that exercise, especially moderate to high intensity exercise, can lower pro-inflammatory markers in the body. Another 2018 study looked at exercise impact in those with panic disorder. Study results show that although exercise increased stress right after performing it, it lowers depression and anxiety scores over the long-term.

    About exercise intensity

    To reap the mental health rewards of exercise, intensity matters. Studies show that moderate to high intensity is best for reducing mental health symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate intensity exercise occurs when:

    • your breath quickens, but you’re not out of breath
    • a light sweat develops after about 10 minutes
    • you can talk while moving, but cannot sing

    On the other hand, high intensity exercise will produce deeper and more rapid breaths and you will start sweating in a few minutes. For optimal health of mind and body, most adults should move at a moderate intensity at least 150 minutes a week, or at least 30 minutes for 5 days a week. Or, if you prefer higher intensity exercise, move at this intensity at least 75 minutes a week, or at least 15 minutes a day for 5 days a week.

    Other natural treatments

    Besides exercise, there are other natural treatments that can help reduce inflammation in the body. Eating more fruits and vegetables each day can provide anti-inflammatory antioxidants that can help. Also, you could take a natural supplement daily such as Sereneo by Vita Sciences. Sereneo contains ingredients like magnesium, chamomile, and valerian to help promote higher levels of the “feel good hormone” serotonin in the body. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

    Take home message

    If you suffer from anxiety, then you may be desperate for treatment that will improve your quality of life. Along with medicines and therapy, exercise can be an effective adjunct treatment. Not only that, but exercise can also improve your physical health as well. So, start moving a little more each day to help both your body and mind be in its best health.

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

    References

    Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed July 8, 2019) “Understand the Facts.”

    Anxiety and Depression Association of America (accessed July 8, 2019) “Symptoms.”

    Aylett, E., Small, N., and Bower, P. (July 2018) “Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice – a systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMC Health Serv Res., 18(1):559.

    Lattari, E., et al. (February 2018) “Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Anxiety Symptoms and Cortical Activity in Patients with Panic Disorder: A Pilot Study.” Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health,14:11-25.

    Mayo Clinic (May 15, 2019) “Exercise intensity: how to measure it.”

    National Institute of Mental Health (July 2018) “Anxiety Disorders.”

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (last reviewed on February 1, 2019) “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.”


  • A plant-based diet may help those with Crohn’s disease

    Have you ever been told to eat your veggies? Many of us have been told as children that vegetables and other plant-based foods would help us grow strong. And as adults, you may have been told that eating more vegetables will help you manage your weight. But recent studies show that plant-based foods may also be good for your gut health, especially for those with Crohn’s disease.

    What is Crohn’s disease?

    Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can greatly impact quality of life. Those with the condition have symptoms like abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, weight loss, malnutrition, and fatigue. Also, people with severe forms of the disease can also have inflammation in their skin, eyes, joints, and liver too.

    If you think you may have Crohn’s disease, there are certain tests that can help diagnose it. Such tests include a colonoscopy, a CT scan, an MRI scan, or certain blood tests like a fecal occult blood test. Once diagnosed, you can treat this condition with anti-inflammatory medicines, immune system suppressors, or antibiotics. Other medicines people may use to relieve symptoms of Crohn’s include:

    • anti-diarrheals
    • pain relievers
    • iron supplements
    • vitamin B-12 shots
    • calcium and vitamin D supplements

    People with Crohn’s disease may need some vitamin supplements since the disease can sometimes cause deficiencies. For example, the disease can cause B-12 deficiency in some or may cause anemia due to blood loss from blood in the stool. Also, those with the disease  may be at higher risk for the bone weakening condition osteoporosis which can make calcium and vitamin D supplements necessary to help strengthen bones.

    Why is a plant-based diet good for you?

    A diet rich in plant-based foods are healthy for you for many reasons. Plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds contain not only fiber, but also antioxidants. Antioxidants help reduce inflammation in the body, and therefore can help reduce risk of inflammatory diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and digestive conditions like IBD.

    In fact, research shows that a plant-based diet can improve weight, blood glucose levels, as well as mental health. In turn, such a diet can help increase quality of life of those with diabetes. Therefore, adding in at least 1.5 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables a day into your daily regimen can help enhance your health for many years to come in many ways.

    Plant-based diet and Crohn’s disease research

    A recent case study shows promise that a plant-based diet may help those with Crohn’s reduce symptoms. One man with Crohn’s disease started a plant-based diet with no animal-based products or highly processed foods after treatment for his disease was not fully working. Although he received IV infusions of medication every two months for a year to help his symptoms, he still had not achieved remission of his symptoms. He still suffered with abdominal pain, bloating, and fatigue.

    So, during his second year of using medication, he started a plant-based diet. After six months of sticking to this diet and exercising, a colonoscopy revealed “complete mucosal healing with no visible evidence of Crohn’s disease.” Now researchers are not sure if this type of diet would help everyone with the condition, but it does provide experts with the drive to do more research into this type of diet for those with the condition.

    Other ways you can improve gut health

    Besides eating a plant-based diet, there are other ways you can help your gut health including the following:

    • Eat more fermented foods: Foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, or drinking kombucha contain healthy bacteria. Therefore, they can provide the body with good bacteria that can help increase diversity in the gut, and in turn reduce inflammation.
    • Take a probiotic supplement daily. A probiotic supplement is another way to get more healthy bacteria into your gut. Be sure to take one daily that contains a diverse array of strains and at least 1 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) like Biovia30 by Vita Sciences. Biovia30 contains 10 probiotic strains with a total of 30 billion CFUs per serving to help promote digestive health.
    • Manage stress: Whether you use yoga, meditation, or talk therapy to help you manage stress, be sure to do something to help you stay calm. This is because stressors, even those like a lack of sleep, can disrupt the bacteria in the gut.
    • Exercise often: Research shows that those who exercise most days of the week have a greater diversity of gut bacteria than those who don’t. So, try to be active as often as you can to help your gut health.

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

    References:

    Centers for Disease Control (November 16, 2017) “Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables.”

    Leonard, J. (May 28, 2019) “10 ways to improve gut health.” Medical News Today.

    Mayo Clinic (June 26, 2019) “Crohn’s disease.”

    Paddock, Ph.D., C. (June 27, 2019) “Could a plant-based diet be the answer to Crohn’s disease?” Medical News Today. 

    Toumpanakis, A., Turnbull, T., and Alba-Barba, I. (October 2018) “Effectiveness of plant-based diets in promoting well-being in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review.” BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care., 6(1):e000534.