All posts by Staci

Could breastfeeding and probiotics help infant gut health?

breastfeeding, world breastfeeding week, healthProbiotics are getting more press each and every day for their health benefits. From skin health, improving bone health, and of course, enhancing gut health, the possibilities seem endless. In fact, a recent study shows that combining a probiotic with breastfeeding in the first year of life can have improvements in the gut health of infants.

Basics of probiotics

Probiotics are simply any bacteria, fungi, or other living organism that has the potential to improve health to the host. The health of the body depends on a balance of different bacteria in the gut.  An imbalance could lead to health problems such as gas, bloating, constipation, and other gut health issues.  You can maintain a good balance of probiotics in the gut by consuming a diverse probiotic supplement every day. You can find good bacteria in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, or kimchi as well.

To feed such probiotics, it is important to consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains like oats or wheat bran.  Prebiotic foods like these are important to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria.  Together, probiotics and prebiotics can improve the health of the gut, immune system, and in turn overall health.

Breastfeeding and probiotics

A certain type of bacteria, known as Bifidobacterium infantis, is found naturally in the gut of infants upon birth.  This bacterium helps to keep the gut healthy. It is usually in lower concentrations in the gut of babies from developed countries. This bacterium is nourished by breast milk from the infant’s mother, acting in the same way a typical prebiotic food would to a probiotic strain.

A study of mothers and breastfed infants looked at the effect of Bifidobacterium infantis supplements on infant’s gut health.  One group of mothers and babies received the supplement with lactation support from day 7 to 21 after birth.  Meanwhile, the other group received only lactation support.  Study results show that those given the probiotic had positive changes in the make-up of the infant feces for up to a year after treatment. During this year, the “good” bacteria crowded out “bad” bacteria linked with asthma, allergies, and other immune-related diseases. This study suggests that this probiotic, upon further study, could help prevent immune-related diseases in babies from developed countries.

Which probiotic should I take?

There are so many types of probiotics on the market today. This can make it confusing to know which one to choose. Every probiotic strain has its unique benefits, so you may want to do your research before choosing one.  A qualified alternative healthcare provider, such as a naturopath, may be able to assist you in making your choice.

Regardless of which strains you choose, a diverse group of strains is recommended.  Diversity of bacteria is important to help your gut create a balanced population.  Also,  a capsule or other medium will allow optimal survival of the bacteria as it travels to your gut.  One example of a high quality probiotic is Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences.  This probiotic contains 30 billion colony forming units of bacteria and 10 different strains.  Furthermore, Biovia 30 can help boost the immune system and improve digestive health with regular use.

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

References:

Healthline (accessed July 31, 2018) “The 19 Best Prebiotic Foods You Should Eat.”

Nagpal, R., et al. (2012) “Probiotics, their health benefits and applications for developing healthier foods: a review.” FEMS Microbiology Letters, 334(2012): 1-15.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (accessed May 17, 2018) “Probiotics: In Depth.”

Science Daily (June 9, 2018) “Bifidobacteria supplement colonizes gut of breastfed infants.”


  • Could turmeric help prevent glaucoma?

    Tunnel vision is usually used to describe someone with a narrow point of view. Taken literally however, it can describe the type of vision that results with untreated glaucoma.  With eye injury prevention month coming to a close next week, it seemed right to talk about ways to prevent glaucoma. This is because those with eye injury are at a higher risk of developing this condition.  A recent study has found that turmeric, a natural spice, may be the golden ticket to potentially prevent glaucoma and preserve eye health.

    glaucoma, eye, vision, healthWhat is glaucoma?

    Glaucoma is not just one eye condition. However, it is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and can cause vision loss and blindness. Research suggests that eye pressure is a major cause of the vision loss caused by glaucoma.

    Another risk factor of optic nerve damage, and in turn, glaucoma, is high blood pressure. Even though it may seem unrelated to eat healthy to keep your eye healthy, there are blood vessels in your eye that get their blood flow from the heart. When high blood pressure constricts blood flow, it can cause pressure in the eye. In turn, this can cause vision issues.

    Turmeric and glaucoma prevention

    When you consider the heart health component of vision health, then turmeric as a preventive treatment makes sense. This is because turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory agent.  Since heart health issues stem from increased inflammation, then turmeric may very well benefit such conditions.

    Turmeric is a root plant grown throughout Asia and Central America. It is an important part of ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for inflammatory-related conditions like pain, fatigue, arthritis, and breathing problems.  Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric due to its antioxidant properties which help prevent cell damage that can lead to chronic disease.  Although it is consumed as a spice in foods, turmeric can also be consumed in tablets, capsules, tea, or extracts.

    A recent study shows that eye drops containing curcumin may help treat or prevent glaucoma. A rat study found that twice-daily use of the curcumin drops for three weeks helped reduce retinal ganglion cell loss.  In other words, the eye drops helped preserve the cells in charge of delivering visual information from the eye to the brain.  This study suggests that curcumin eye drops may be a treatment or preventive treatment for those at risk for glaucoma upon further study.

    How to help eye health

    Besides curcumin, there are things you can do today to help improve eye health.

    • Eat right by consuming lots of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables every day.  This will help reduce inflammation in the body and in turn keep your eyes healthy.
    • Keep your weight in a healthy range since obesity can increase risk of diabetes, which can in turn increase risk of vision loss.
    • Protect your eyes with sunglasses or other eyewear like goggles or safety glasses. This is because you can prevent eye injury from sports or work accidents if your eyes are protected. Also, shielding your eyes from the UV rays of the sun can reduce eye damage.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start since it can constrict blood vessels. This can in turn negatively affect blood vessel health of the eye and increase risk of eye diseases.
    • Reduce screen time each day since looking at a computer, television, or phone screen too much without taking a break can put strain on the eyes. Therefore, experts suggest taking a break from the screen every 20 minutes by looking 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
    • Take a eye health supplement daily like Ocutain by Vita Sciences. Ocutain contains antioxidants such as lutein and beta carotene that can benefit vision health.

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

    References:

    Boyd, K. (April 13, 2018) “Who is at risk for glaucoma?” American Academy of Ophthalmology Online.

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (accessed July 24, 2018) “Turmeric.”

    National Eye Institute (September 2015) “Facts About Glaucoma.”

    National Eye Institute (accessed July 24, 2018) “Eye Health Tips.”

    Science Daily (July 24, 2018) “Turmeric-derived eye drops could treat glaucoma: study.”

     

     

     

     

     

     


  • Could you work schedule be hurting your gut health?

    overtime, work, night shift, tired, nightNight shifts, or working from evening to morning, can be rough on your body and mind.  Your meal patterns can become confused. Sleeping patterns can become thrown off course. And in turn, weight gain and sleeping issues can develop over time. A recent study has found that night shifts can cause digestive problems over time by throwing off the body’s internal clock.

    What is circadian rhythm?

    Think of your circadian rhythm as a clock inside of your body telling you when to sleep, eat, and digest, among other things.  The internal clock in the body releases hormones at certain times to help you stay awake, provide energy, and help regulate processes such as digestion and blood pressure. Working night shift or traveling across time zones can disrupt this internal clock. This is because being awake when the body is programmed to sleep can confuse the body’s natural rhythms. Previous studies have found that those who work night shift have an increased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

    Circadian rhythm and gut health

    A recent study looked at the effects of night shift work on various health markers. One group of people had a normal day shift and nighttime sleep schedule. The second group worked night shift three days in a row and slept during the day.  Hormones such as melatonin and cortisol were also measured. Melatonin usually increases at night to help you sleep. On the other hand, cortisol is normally higher in the day to help with metabolism and blood glucose regulation, among other things.

    Study results show that those who worked night shift had a shift in their brain’s internal clock by two hours.  Although significant, even more so is that the digestive system was thrown off course by 12 hours. These results suggest that night shift work can cause digestive problems over time.  Therefore, researchers will continue to study ways to help minimize this impact of night shifts on gut health. They hope that further studies will help identify ways to tailor meal time to minimize night shift’s impact on gut health.

    How to help your gut health

    In the mean time, there are several things you can do now to help improve your gut health, no matter what time of day you eat.

    • Eat smaller meals to help prevent heartburn or indigestion. Smaller meals will make it easier for your body to break down the nutrients from the food you eat.  Eating a large meal at one sitting can put a lot of pressure on your digestive system, especially if you have a job that involves a lot of sitting. Smaller meals can reduce bloating after meals and has been found to help reduce symptoms in those with a history of acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome.
    • Drink plenty of water to help improve the flow of waste out of the body and to help improve nutrient absorption from the foods you eat.
    • Stay active to help stimulate digestion and prevent constipation, which in turn can cause symptoms such as gas, discomfort, and bloating.
    • Take probiotics to help restore or maintain a healthy balance of bacterium in the gut to aid digestion.  Probiotics that are diverse and potent such as Biovia 30X by Vita Sciences can help boost the immune system and promote gut health.  Those with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome have especially found probiotics to be helpful in reducing symptoms. Consuming foods that contain probiotics such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir, to name a few, can also help improve gut health.
    • Eat plenty of fiber such as that found in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods.  This is because fiber can help bulk the stool and slow down digestion to help improve nutrient absorption from foods. Fiber-rich foods can also act as prebiotics. Prebiotics are compounds from certain fruits and vegetables such as bananas, asparagus, soybean-based foods, and whole grains that feed probiotics. In other words, the prebiotics help promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.

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

    References:

    Liverpool, L. (July 9, 2018) “Nightshifts disrupt rhythm between brain and gut, study shows.” The Guardian Online

    NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Check: Healthy Options to Stay on Tract.”

    NIH News in Health (April 2018) “Tick Tock: Your Body Clocks: Understanding Your Daily Rhythms.”

    Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, T. (February 27, 2018) “Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Online

     


  • Eat more vegetables to improve diabetes health

    Now you may be saying to yourself, “Another article telling me to eat vegetables.” :sigh: However, this is not just another one of “those” articles. There are more reasons to eat your veggies than you may think.  Besides providing digestive-friendly fiber and antioxidants, a recent study has shown that eating a more plant-based diet can actually lower your heart and diabetes health numbers.

    What are your “numbers”?

    Your numbers are the markers that you and your healthcare provider can use to track your health progress. These numbers include cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels, to name a few. It is important that you have these numbers checked at least yearly. If you already have diabetes or another chronic disease, have labs checked more often as recommended by your doctor.

    Why are vegetables so important?

    Vegetables are important for many reasons.

    1. Fiber: Vegetables and other plant-based foods contain the complex carbohydrate  known as fiber. The gut does not digest fiber. Because of this it doesn’t count towards your total carbohydrate intake, hence net carbs.  Net carbs are grams of total carbohydrate from grams of fiber from the nutrition label. In addition, fiber can help you stay fuller longer. This can aid weight loss efforts if eaten at meals and snacks. Finally, fiber is great for gut health. This is because it helps bulk stool and slows digestion to help the body absorb more nutrients from food consumed. Increased fiber intake can help lower cholesterol numbers and keep blood glucose levels more stable.
    2. Antioxidants: When people tell you to color your plate, antioxidants are the reasons why.  Antioxidants are compounds that help reduce cell damage in the body. In turn, they help lower your risk of chronic disease.  Every color of the rainbow in plant-based foods represents a different set of antioxidants. Each set of antioxidants provide different health benefits. Research has linked diabetes with oxidative stress-related cell damage. Therefore, eating a lot of them can help prevent  or improve diabetes health outcomes.
    3. Prebiotic quality: Probiotics, or “good” bacteria, are becoming all the rage these days and for good reason. Research shows that a good balance of bacteria in the gut may help reduce oxidative stress-related cell damage. In turn, this may help lower risk of chronic diseases linked to inflammation such as heart disease, diabetes, certain skin conditions, and digestive conditions, to name a few. Probiotics are living organisms like bacteria or fungi that can benefit health. They can be found in supplement form or in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or sauerkraut. On the other hand, prebiotics are those foods that help feed probiotics. Just like when you are hungry, probiotics may not work as productively if they are not fed. Therefore, plant-based foods such as artichokes, asparagus, and bananas should be eaten everyday.

    Diabetes and plant-based food research

    A recent study looked at the effect of a vegetarian diet on health outcomes. An analysis of studies found that vegetarian dietary patterns were linked with significantly lower:

    • HbA1C
    • fasting glucose
    • LDL cholesterol
    • body weight
    • body mass index (BMI)
    • waist circumference

    This study suggests that a plant-based diet pattern may help improve the health of those with diabetes.  More studies will need to be done to confirm specific long-term health benefits for diabetes management. However, in the meantime, add in more plant-based foods to your diet like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for other benefits.

    In addition to eating more plant-based foods, you can try diabetes supplements as well to help control your blood glucose levels. Glucarex by Vita Sciences contains ingredients like chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon that can support weight loss and healthy blood glucose levels.

    References:

    McMacken, M. and Shah, S. (May 2017) “A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.” Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, 14(5): 342-354.

    Nagpal, R., et al. (2012) “Probiotics, their health benefits and applications for developing healthier foods: a review.” FEMS Microbiology Letters, 334(2012): 1-15.

    The Diabetes Council (May 16, 2016) “Antioxidants for Diabetes.” thediabetescouncil.com/antioxidants-diabetes-what-you-need-to-know/

    Viguiliouk, E., et al. (2018) “Effect of vegetarian dietary patterns on cardiometabolic risk factors in diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Clinical Nutrition, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2018.05.032

    Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, T. (February 27, 2018) “Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Online.

     

     


  • Free your gut from inflammation with probiotics

    probiotic, fermented foods, health, gut healthProbiotics have become the talk of the town, and for good reason. Every day more research shows that taking probiotics can reduce inflammation in the gut, and in turn, may help reduce risk of inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, eczema, and inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, adding a probiotic to your daily routine may be the answer to help free your gut, and in turn your body, from inflammation.

    What is inflammation?

    Inflammation is a response to injury, infection, or foreign bodies in the body. This process is often linked with redness, swelling, and pain. In the body, however, can be a good thing since inflammation helps to get rid of any toxins and help the body heal.  However, too much of just about anything can be a bad thing.

    Oxidative stress, along with inflammation, is often associated with chronic disease risk. When the body’s cells encounter oxidative stress, cell damage may occur, and in turn, chronic disease risk may increase.  Oxidative stress occurs, by definition, when there is an imbalance in prooxidant stress and antioxidant defense.  This occurs when free radicals, or any species with one or more unpaired electrons, steal electrons from other cells to become paired. In doing this, a chain reaction of free radical formation is set off. This  in turn can lead to cell damage.

    What are probiotics?

    Probiotics are living organisms such as bacteria or fungi, that have health benefits.  You may see probiotics in your local grocery store or health food market. It can be confusing to know which strain(s) will be most beneficial for you.  The key will be to find a probiotic product that is diverse in the amount of strains that it contains, so that you can benefit from a wide variety of bacterium.

    For example, one diverse probiotic product is Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences. This probiotic product contains 30 billion colony forming units of 10 important Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains.

    How can I benefit from probiotics?

    Probiotics can help restore balance of bacterium in the gut. This can help reduce inflammation in the body and reduce chronic disease risk.  The benefits of probiotics range from lowering cholesterol to strengthening the immune system.  In addition, probiotics can help improve symptoms in those with digestive conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. Furthermore, there is evidence that those with skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and acne may benefit from probiotic treatment.

    You can add probiotics in your diet by consuming more fermented food or by taking a probiotic supplement. You can add some probiotic-containing foods to your diet such as:

    • sauerkraut
    • kimchi
    • kefir
    • yogurt
    • miso
    • tempeh

    It is also beneficial that if you consume probiotics in any form, that you also consume prebiotics, or foods to help feed the probiotics in your gut.  Examples of prebiotic foods include:

    • fruits such as bananas
    • vegetables such as asparagus, soybeans, garlic onion, leeks, and artichokes
    • whole-grain foods such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, and bran cereal
    • Flaxseeds

    Therefore, free yourself from inflammation in your body today by adding some pre- and probiotics to your daily routine.

    References:

    Baek, J. and Lee, M-G. (2016) “Oxidative stress and antioxidant strategies in dermatology.” Redox Report, 21(4): 164-169.

    Biswas, S.K. (2016) “Does the Interdependence between Oxidative Stress and Inflammation Explain the Antioxidant Paradox?” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, Volume 2016(Article ID 5698931): 9 pages.

    Nagpal, R., et al. (2012) “Probiotics, their health benefits and applications for developing healthier foods: a review.” FEMS Microbiology Letters, 334(2012): 1-15.

    NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Check: Healthy Options to Stay on Tract.”

    Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN, T. (February 27, 2018) “Prebiotics and Probiotics: Creating a Healthier You.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Online.

     


  • Could exercise reduce inflammation in the body?

    exercise, inflammation, health, obesityWhether you walk, run, swim, cycle, or dance, exercise is a great way to keep your heart in tip top shape.  Exercise is also recommended for weight loss, controlling blood glucose levels, and even for helping reduce stress by releasing endorphins.  Recent research has shown that exercise may also be good for reducing inflammation in the body, and in turn reducing your risk for many chronic diseases.

    Inflammation and oxidative stress

    Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection that results in redness, swelling, and painful. It is part of the body’s immune response to such foreign bodies or substances. Inflammation can lead to oxidative stress, which can damage cells and in turn increase risk of chronic disease states.

    Exercise and Inflammation

    A recent study in the Journal of Physiology looked at the impact of exercise on the health of obese individuals.  Inflammation has been linked to many obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Therefore, exercise therapy to reduce weight and improve heart health may reduce such inflammation.

    A group of young, obese adults participated in a six-week exercise program that involved three 60-minute bicycling or treadmill-running sessions each week. Blood samples taken at the start and end of the study. These samples reveal that the exercise regimen produced a decline in stem cells that create the blood cells responsible for inflammation.  This study shows promise that exercise may help obese individuals to reduce risk of chronic disease as well as others with inflammatory disease status. However, further study of the effects of blood changes on energy consumption, fat storage, and other inflammatory conditions is warranted.

    Other ways to decrease inflammation

    Besides exercise, inflammation can be reduced in the body in various ways. Oxidative stress, which is linked to inflammation, can be reduced by diet changes and improvements in gut health as well. Here are some ways you can reduce inflammation through your daily intake.

    • Plant-based diets have shown to decrease inflammation. A 2016 study found that a plant-based diet can help reduce levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein in the body.  Research suggests that plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts contain antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress in the body.  Therefore, be sure to add in plant-based foods in your diet at each meal to help reduce inflammation in the body.
    • Stay as natural as possible in your diet. Try to consume mostly whole plant-based foods versus processed foods so you can get the full antioxidant benefit.  In addition, additives and preservatives in processed foods may increase oxidative stress in the body.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start. Smoking of any kind can introduce chemicals into the body that can cause oxidative stress. Not to mention that smoking can increase blood pressure and heart disease risk by constricting blood vessels.
    • Reduce pollutant and other stress exposure. Staying out in the sun for too long without protective clothing or mineral-based sunscreen can increase oxidative damage to cells.  Also, exposure to pollutants such as car exhaust, industrial smoke, and other chemical-based substances can increase oxidative stress. Therefore, try to reduce your exposure to such things to decrease inflammation in the body.
    • Probiotics may help decrease inflammation. More and more research shows that taking probiotics daily can help reduce oxidative stress in the body. Different probiotic strains can have different impacts on health. However, many probiotic strains have proven to possess ant-inflammatory qualities. Inflammatory conditions like acne and eczema, inflammatory bowel disease, and high cholesterol can improve with probiotic use. An example of a probiotic with a diverse array of strains is Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences which contains 30 billion colony forming units (CFU) to help promote digestive health. Therefore, consider adding a probiotic to your daily routine to help improve your overall health inside and out.

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

    Sources:

    Biswas, S.K. (2016) “Does the Interdependence between Oxidative Stress and Inflammation Explain the Antioxidant Paradox?” Hindawi Publishing Corporation, Volume 2016, Article ID 5698931, 9pp.

    Bjorklund, MD, G. and Chirumbolo, Ph.D., S. (January 2017) “Role of oxidative stress and antioxidants in daily nutrition and human health.”

    Eichelmann, F., Schwingshackl, L., Fedirko, V., and Aleksandrova, K. (November 2016) “Effect of plant-based diets on obesity-related inflammatory profiles: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention trials.” Obesity Reviews, 17(11): 1067-1079.

    Nagpal, R., et al. (2012) “Probiotics, their health benefits and applications for developing healthier foods: a review.”

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (accessed June 26, 2018) “Probiotics: In Depth.”

    NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Health.”

    Preidt, R. (June 20, 2018) “Exercise May Ease Inflammation Tied to Obesity.” HealthDay.


  • The Top 5 Ways to Lower Your Heart Disease Risk

    heart disease, heart health, fruits, vegetablesHeart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. It accounts for one in four deaths each year. However, yo can prevent heart disease by changing some lifestyle factors to lower your risk. Risk factors of heart disease include poor diet, physical inactivity, being overweight or obese, being a smoker, and having diabetes. Fortunately, by working to change a few things in your daily routine, you can lower your risk of heart disease. Here are the top five things you can do today to lower your risk of heart disease.

    1. Stop smoking or don’t start. Smoking can constrict your blood vessels and make it hard for oxygen-rich blood to get to your heart. In turn, this can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the percentage of smokers in the United States is at its lowest. However, there are still about 14-percent of Americans, or about 30 million people, who are still smoking. More and more young people are vaping instead of smoking, but experts worry that this is just another way for people to get addicted to nicotine. Therefore, no matter if its a cigarette, e-cigarette, or vaping device, stop smoking for your heart health. Contact Smokefree.gov to speak to an expert to help provide advice and resources to quit.
    2. Eat a more balanced diet. I’m sure you have been told time and time again to eat more fruits and vegetables. However, the fiber-rich quality and antioxidants in such foods can help reduce oxidative stress in the body, which can lower risk of chronic disease like heart disease and diabetes. Therefore, include fruits and vegetables with every meal, in a variety of colors to provide you with a diverse array of nutrients. Also, balance out your veggies with lean proteins like chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, and/or low-fat dairy products.  Stick to mostly whole, minimally processed foods to avoid unnecessary salt, sugar, and preservatives.
    3. Be more active. Try to move more each day to keep your heart strong. Walking, gardening, swimming, biking, or aerobics are some examples of ways you can incorporate some movement in your day. Try to get at least 30 minutes of activity at least 5 days a week. You can split this exercise into small segments of 5 and 10 minutes throughout the day if you need to for any reason.
    4. Manage stress. Stress can lead to poor sleep, high blood pressure, and lack of motivation to eat healthy or exercise. Therefore, stress can have a domino effect on your entire health status if not managed properly. If you feel you are unable to manage your stress, try talking with someone. A counselor or therapist can help you figure out strategies to manage your stress. You can also try yoga, meditation, relaxation breathing, and/or acupuncture to help you manage your stress and in turn lower your heart disease risk.
    5. Visit your healthcare provider regularly. Whether you have a history or family history of heart disease or not, you should visit your doctor regularly. You should have labs done at least once a year to check your cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. This is because life can change a lot in a year, and you can find yourself stuck in unhealthy lifestyle habits without even noticing unless an abnormal or high lab finding alerts you to it. Therefore, visit your doctor regularly, and even more often if you do have a history of heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic disease.

    Take your health journey one step at a time. In addition to the steps listed, you can also try adding supplements to your routine if you feel there are any nutrient gaps in your diet.  Try a heart healthy supplement like Presura or a multivitamin like Zestia by Vita Sciences. Changing your lifestyle may not be easy. However, the improvements in your quality of life you will be rewarded with will be worth it.

     

     

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

    Sources:

    Associated Press (June 19, 2018) “Smoking Hits New Low Among U.S. Adults.” 

    American Heart Association (updated May 17, 2018) “The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations.” 

    Centers for Disease Control (November 28, 2017) “Heart Disease Facts.” 


  • Is eight hours of sleep enough for your health?

    sleep, healthWhen you don’t get enough sleep, it can affect your whole day. You may move slower, have less energy, your mind may have a hard time learning or remembering things, and you may be more easily stressed and irritated.  In turn, these factors can affect your productivity during the day and the way you get along with others. Therefore, it is super important to get enough rest at night. And just when you thought that you were reaching your health goals, a new report states that eight hours a night of rest may not be enough.

    Why is sleep important?

    Besides feeling better and having more energy, getting more rest at night impacts many aspects of your health. Harvard University reports that getting enough Zzz’s helps to regulate many body functions such as:

    • keeping the immune system healthy
    • muscle growth
    • tissue repair
    • protein synthesis
    • growth hormone release

    Also, lack of sleep can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.  One cause of such risk is the impact of poor sleep on the circadian rhythm. Furthermore, your risk for such conditions is higher if your circadian rhythm is thrown off.  Late nights, jet lag, shift work, medications, or medical conditions can impact circadian rhythm.

    New sleep recommendations

    Previous recommendations say that most adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. However, a recent report reveals that eight hours may not be enough for optimal health. Scientists say that while in bed, only about 90-percent of that time is spent actually sleeping. Therefore, if you are in bed for eight hours, you may only be getting less than 7 hours and 12 minutes of rest.  If you go to bed for 8.5 hours, then you will be getting closer to the recommended eight hours each night.

    How to get better sleep

    If you have trouble even getting your eight hours of rest each night, then use the tips below to help you. If these tips still do not work, then be sure to see a qualified medical provider to help you identify the reason for your sleep troubles.

    • Meditation can help increase theta waves in the brain. These waves are the same kind that the brain produces during a nap.  If you have a hard time falling asleep, then try meditation to let your brain rest.
    • Get blackout curtains for your room to help stimulate rest. This is because the circadian rhythm is controlled largely by environmental cues like sunlight. On the other end of that spectrum, cut screen time and turn lights out by a certain time each night to get your body and brain ready for bedtime. Researchers recommend a cold, quiet environment for optimal sleep quality.
    • Try a supplement such as melatonin to help you fall asleep.  Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the body’s pineal gland. Usually, at sundown the body produces melatonin to prepare the body for rest. The body may not produce enough melatonin due to exposure to artificial light in the evening, or conditions such as mood disorders, insomnia, dementia, or stress-related conditions.  This can lead to problems falling asleep as well as low energy in waking hours. Melatonin supplements have been found to help those who may have trouble falling asleep.  Another supplement option is Somnova by Vita Sciences, which contains melatonin along with L-theanine, which both show promise for providing restful and refreshing sleep.
    • See a specialist. If you snore or have trouble breathing at night, then you may need to see a specialist. A sleeping study could help them see if there is a medical condition that is causing you to wake up tired or have trouble falling asleep at all.  Treatment, such as a CPAP machine, could help improve your breathing, and in turn help improve your sleep.
    • Manage stress: Regardless of your situation, it is important to manage stress during the day so you can rest better at night. If you have a stressful day, then your blood pressure may increase and your mind may be racing. This can make it very hard to rest. Therefore, try relaxation breathing exercises, meditation (as mentioned above), diffuse essential oils like lavender or frankincense in your home, or talk to someone that can help calm your mind.  Acupuncture, massages, or counseling sessions with a therapist are other ways you can help manage stress in your health routine, and in turn improve your sleep patterns.

    References:

    Hardeland, R. (2012) “Neurobiology, Pathophysiology, and Treatment of Melatonin Deficiency and Dysfunction.” Scientific World Journal, 2012: 640389.

    Hirshkowitz, Ph.D., M., et al. (March 2015) “National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary.” Sleep Health: Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, 9(1): 40-43.

    King, G.F. (June 10, 2018) “Why eight hours a night isn’t enough, according to a leading sleep scientist.” Quartz. 

    National Institute of General Medicine Sciences (May 30, 2018) “Circadian Rhythms.”

    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (May 22, 2017) “Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed June 13, 2018) “Melatonin and Sleep.”

    Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (December 18, 2007) “Why Do We Sleep, Anyway?”


  • A lonely mood could be worse for your health than obesity

    depression, lonely, mental health, healthSo much focus is placed on diet and exercise to stay healthy, that sometimes mental health care can be forgotten. However, the health of both mind and body is important to be in your best state of health. In fact, a recent report has found that being lonely may be a greater hazard to public health than obesity.

    What is mental health?

    Mental health considers the well-being of the emotional, social, and psychological parts of one’s life.  Although mental health issues can affect the mood of a person, it can also impact important life factors.  The way we feel can affect the way we think, act, make decisions, and how we handle relationships with others, among other things.  Therefore, it mental health should be taken just as seriously as physical health.

    How can being lonely affect your health?

    A recent report has found that being lonely is a serious public health issue. The health insurance company Cigna reports that most American adults consider themselves lonely, or feel disconnected from the world and people around them.  Younger American, such as those in Generation Z and millennials, report being the most lonely.

    Since loneliness is not necessarily a condition on your diagnosis sheet, health care providers may overlook it. However, left untreated, loneliness can lead to more serious mental health conditions such as depression. Experts suggest “social cognitive retraining”  to combat loneliness. This is because the brains of lonely people can make the negative feelings worse if left untreated.  A qualified psychologist or psychiatrist can perform this type of brain retraining.

    Ways to help improve your mood

    If you feel that your lonely mood is starting to affect your daily life and relationships, then you should contact a health care provider or counselor to get proper treatment. However, if you feel that your lonely feeling is in its early stages, then you may be able to take steps to improve this feeling on your own.

    • Extend yourself in the community: By volunteering or attending social events, you can feel more engaged in your community. This can help you feel less lonely and perhaps make some new friends and contacts.
    • Find groups to join that involve your hobbies: Whether you like to read, run, or play music, find local groups in your community to join. These groups can help you meet like-minded people that like the same things that you do. This can help you get out of your comfort zone at home a little and find others to talk with that you have something in common with. One app to help with this is Meetup, which provides you access to local clubs and events in your community.
    • Take a mood lifter supplement: Elevia by Vita Sciences is a mood lifting supplement. It contains compounds such as GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) and 5-HTP that research shows to calm the mind and body, while boosting levels of the feel good hormone serotonin.
    • Stay positive: As the saying goes, energy creates energy. If you exude negative energy, then that negative energy will likely remain within you. However, if you go into life and situations with a positive attitude, then it is likely that before long, that positive energy will become a part of you. Certain mental health issues may make staying positive nearly impossible. However, with the help of a mental health professional, counselor, and a network of family and friends to reach out to, you can start to create more positive energy in your life and mind.

    Be sure to call the following hotlines if you are experiencing a mental health crisis or have questions about getting started on treatment for your mental health condition.

    Sources:

    Loria, K. ( June 3, 2018) “Loneliness may be a greater public health hazard than obesity- here are 4 psychology-backed tips to combat it.” Business Insider,  http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-feel-less-lonely-2018-5

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (August 29, 2017) “What is Mental Health?”


  • Could your sleep patterns affect your mental health?

    sleep, mental health, stress, anxiety, depressionSleep. Work. Eat. Repeat. Does that sound like your day, or something like it?  Sleep is often set aside as just something that a person does at the end of the day. It is often overlooked as a very important part of optimal health. A recent study found that it is so important in fact, that not getting enough sleep may increase your risk for mental health disorders.

    The Importance of Sleep

    The average adult needs at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.  This may seem like a lot if you live a busy life which many of us do. And you may shrug it off and say, “Who needs sleep. I don’t need sleep.” The fact is that sleep is more important than you think, and without it your health could suffer.

    So many things happen while you sleep. For example, at rest your body conserves energy, regulates blood pressure, and restores tissues and muscles.  Furthermore, your body regulates fluids and controls hormone levels in the body while you sleep.  Without enough sleep, your circadian rhythm can go off course. In turn, this can lead you to eat when you’re not hungry, which can lead to weight gain and increased chronic disease risk over time.

    And if these weren’t enough reasons to hit the snooze button, sleep also has an impact on the immune system.  Lack of sleep can cause yo to get sick more often, which in turn could put more stress on your body and mind.

    Sleep and Mental Health

    A recent study looked at about 90,000 residents from the United Kingdom in regards to sleep patterns.  Study subjects between the age of 37 and 73 years wore accelerometers for 24 hours a day for 7 days.  In other words, these devices measured the rest and activity levels of participants. Those with reduced activity during the day or increased activity at night were described as having a disrupted circadian rhythm, or lower amplitude.  Comparing these patterns with questionnaires filled out by participants found links between lower amplitudes and health measures such as:

    • higher risk of unstable moods
    • lower levels of unhappiness
    • lower health satisfaction
    • greater reported loneliness

    Among other findings, it is clear that this study shows that lack of sleep can greatly impact mental health measures, and in turn quality of life.

    Ways to Help You Get More Sleep

    There may not be enough hours in the day to get everything done.  However, it is really important to make sure sleep gets a priority on your to-do list. Therefore, if you have trouble sleeping, try some of the methods below to help.

    • Stick to a sleep schedule: Just like your other daily tasks, put sleep on your daily planner. Although it can be hard to do sometimes, setting a time to prepare for bed each night can help you develop a new healthy sleeping pattern over time.
    • Start a bedtime ritual: When it is coming close to that time of night, start a bedtime ritual that will help your body prepare for bed. Whether it is drinking a cup of herbal tea after dinner, or diffusing some lavender essential oils to relax your body, this type of ritual can reduce your risk of tossing and turning into the night. It is also helpful to reduce caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake in the latter part of the day as well as turning off any screens during your bedtime ritual to help your eyes and mind rest.
    • Exercise each day: Any type of movement for at least 30 minutes each day can tire your body out a bit, so you can rest better in the evening. Otherwise, your body will have energy to expend with no outlet to provide it with. In turn, you will likely stay up late and have trouble sleeping. Besides that, exercise is good for keeping your body and mind healthy.
    • Take a supplement for sleep like Somnova by Vita Sciences. Somnova contains melatonin and l-theanine to help relax your mind, feel refreshed, and get more peaceful sleep. Add a sleep supplement to your bedtime routine about 30 minutes before you plan on going to sleep.
    • Visit your healthcare provider: If you have tried all of the above, or feel particularly tired upon waking, you may need to see your healthcare provider. This is because your sleep problems may be related to other conditions such as pain issues, sleep apnea, or other health conditions and should be treated under medical supervision.

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

    Sources:

    Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (December 18, 2007) “Why Do We Sleep, Anyway?”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed May 16, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    NIH News in Health (April 2018) “Tick Tock: Your Body Clocks.”

    Paddock, Ph.D., C. (May 16, 2018) “Sleep-wake disruption strongly linked to mood disorders.”