Category Archives: alternative medicine

Can cardio exercise boost metabolism better than strength training?

exercise, healthAny kind of movement is good for health. Studies have shown time and again that sitting is bad for health. But, is one kind of exercise better than the other when it comes to weight loss? This is a controversial topic since some studies show that strength training can keep calories burning long after your workout. However, a recent study has shown that cardio exercise may actually be better than strength training in boosting metabolism.

Cardio exercise versus strength training

Cardio exercise, or aerobic activity, is a type of exercise that gets your heart rate up. It gets you to breathe faster and deeper, in turn getting more oxygen in your blood. Cardio exercise is best known for improving the overall health of your heart and lungs. Experts recommend that you engage in some cardio exercise for at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week.

Types of cardio exercises include walking, running, cycling, swimming, team sports, and dancing, to name a few. Cardio exercises are known for burning more calories per minute than strength training and is also great for stress management. Not to mention that cardio training can help reduce risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

On the other hand, strength training exercises aim to increase your bone and muscle strength. Examples of such exercises include free weight exercises or resistance training like push-ups, to name a few.

Research has found that strength training can help you burn an additional 25-percent of calories you burned during your workout even after you have finished your workout. Therefore, if you burn 100 calories during your strength training workout, then you will burn an additional 25 calories in the hours after your workout for a total of 125 calories burned.

Typically, it is recommended to balance out your fitness routine with both cardio and strength training exercises. This will ensure you can reap the benefits of both types of exercises.

Cardio for faster metabolism

Recent research looked at the effects of cardio and strength training exercises on certain health markers. Two groups of people had either a 60-minute cardio or 60-minute strength training workout to complete. After the workout, their blood was tested for lactic acid, blood sugar, bile, and hormone levels.  Study results show that those who did the cardio exercise had higher levels of the hormone FGF21. This hormone plays a role in boosting metabolism. Those who did the cardio workout had tripled their FGF21 level from baseline, while those who did strength training saw no increase.

Other ways to boost metabolism

Besides boosting your cardio routine, there are other small changes you can make to your lifestyle to speed up your metabolism.

  • Spice up your diet: Research shows that capsaicin, the active  component of chili peppers, can increase calorie burning by 50 calories a day.
  • Take a metabolism boosting supplement:  Sometimes a supplement that supports the thyroid may help boost metabolism. An example of this is Thyradol by Vita Sciences. Thyradol contains ashwagandha that helps enhance levels of the thyroid hormone T4. You should contact your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.
  • Eat more harder to digest foods: Foods that are more complex in their structure can help the body burn more calories during digestion. This is called diet-induced thermogenesis.  Foods higher in fiber and protein are examples of such foods. Foods that are more refined, like processed carbohydrates, will not have this same effect. Therefore, aim for eating lots of complex carbohydrates like high fiber fruits and vegetables that have a 20-percent thermic effect.  This means that for every 100 calories of these foods you eat, your body will use 20 calories to break down and digest these foods. Aim for at least 2 cups of fruits and vegetables each day. Also, be sure to consume plenty of protein from animal and/or plant-based sources., which have a 30-percent thermic effect.

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

References:

Healthline (accessed August 29, 2018) “Metabolism Boosters: Weight Loss Fact or Fiction?”

Mayo Clinic (August 10, 2017) “Fitness training: elements of a well-rounded routine.” 

Petter, O. (August 25, 2018) “Cardio Boosts Metabolism More Than Strength Training , Study Claims.” 

Plosser, L. (accessed August 29, 2018) “Cardio vs. Strength Training: Which One is Most Effective?”

Williams, J. (October 3, 2017) “How Many Calories Does Digestion Use Up?” 


  • 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.”


  • 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?”


  • Besides tasting good, dark chocolate could help vision and memory health

    chocolate, health, dark chocolate, cocoaYet another reason to eat chocolate, as if you needed one. Besides tasting delicious, chocolate has many health benefits. Recent studies show that eating a bit of dark chocolate each day may help to improve vision, memory, and lower stress.

    About Chocolate

    Chocolate, derived from the Theobroma cacao tree, has been used as a medicinal food for thousands of years.  It can stimulate the nervous system as well as improve digestion and elimination. This is because there are healing properties of chocolate in its rich concentration of antioxidants. The antioxidants in dark chocolate, such as the cocoa polyphenols, provide anti-inflammatory and heart health effects. Therefore, research shows that chocolate, in moderation, can improve health.

    Chocolate Research

    • The Kuna Indians of Panama have been drinking chocolate for many years, around 30 ounces a day.  Likely due to this, they have some of the lowest rates of hypertension, or high blood pressure in the world, at 2.2-percent. A study at Harvard Medical School found that those people who drank two cups of hot chocolate a day may have improved blood flow to the brain. This may help improve brain function, such as memory.
    • A small study of 30 people looked at the health effects of dark versus milk chocolate. The study results show that those who ate dark chocolate versus milk chocolate had improved vision. They had small improvements in visual sharpness and large letter contrast two hours after eating the chocolate.  Researchers suggest these results may be due to improved blood flow to the retina or the brain’s cerebral cortex, or visual pathways. However, more studies should be done to confirm chocolate’s visual health potential.
    • More recent studies looked at the effects of 70-percent cacao dark chocolate on health.  These study results show that gamma frequencies were stimulated after 30 minutes and two hours. Since gamma waves are in charge of learning and memory function, chocolate may help brain health. However, more studies need to be done to confirm the cacao’s potential brain health benefits.

    Besides chocolate, a healthy balanced diet rich in antioxidant fruits and vegetables can help improve health. To further enhance these health effects, you can also take supplements. Examples of a supplement that may improve blood flow include Circova by Vita SciencesCircova contains L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne that support improved blood flow and blood pressure. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider before you start any new supplement regimen.

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

    Sources:

    Cone, A. (April 25, 2018) “Studies: Dark chocolate can lower stress and inflammation, improve memory.” UPI

    Katz, D. L., Doughty, K., & Ali, A. (2011). Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling15(10), 2779–2811.

    Mental Health Daily (accessed May 1, 2018) “5 Types of Brain Waves: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta.”

    Mundell, E.J. (April 26, 2018) “A Bit of Dark Chocolate Might Sweeten Your Vision.” HealthDay

    Nordqvist, J. (February 12, 2018) “Health benefits and risks of chocolate.” Medical News Today


  • Could low vitamin D increase your diabetes risk?

    It’s that time of year when the sun is shining more during the day and people are outdoors more often.  This fresh air and sunshine is not just good for your well being, but a study has also shown that without enough of the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D, you may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.

    What is vitamin D?

    vitamin D, egg, fish, cheese, cod liver oil, sun, health, dairy, milk, yogurtVitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is best know for its role in keeping bones healthy.  This vitamin helps improve calcium absorption in the gut, which helps with bone growth and bone remodeling. Without vitamin D, you may be at risk for weak bones, and in turn increase your risk of fractures.

    The recommended intake of vitamin D is 600-800 IUs, or International Units, for most adults. You can find vitamin D in such foods as:

    • Fortified dairy products, orange juice, or cereal.
    • Eggs (vitamin D is in the yolk).
    • Fatty fish like salmon, tuna fish, swordfish, and cod liver oil.

    You can also get your recommended vitamin D intake from getting about 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure in the day time between 10 AM and 3 PM.  You should do this at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen.

    Those at risk for low vitamin D include those who do not go outdoors often such as the elderly, immobile, or disabled.  Breastfed infants, those with fat or vitamin absorption issues, and those with dark skin are also at risk for low vitamin D. Although sunlight exposure can be absorbed in cloudy weather, people living in these climates may be at greater risk for low vitamin D than those who live in sunny regions since they may not be outdoors as often due to the weather.

    A normal vitamin D level is around 50 nmol/L.  If you are vitamin D-deficient, then your healthcare provider may give you a vitamin D supplement to take daily. The vitamin D lab may not be a standard lab taken at your physical, so you may have to ask your doctor to perform this lab separately.

    Low vitamin D and diabetes risk

    A study of people with diabetes and pre diabetes looked at the link between vitamin D and diabetes risk. Study results show that as vitamin D levels increased, the lower the risk of diabetes. In fact, those people with a vitamin D level less than or equal to 30 nmol/L were about three times more likely to have diabetes than those with a level higher than 30nmol/L.  Those people with a vitamin D level greater than 50nmol/L had the lowest risk of getting diabetes.

    Other ways to lower your diabetes risk

    Besides getting your vitamin D within normal levels, use the following tips to lower your risk of diabetes:

    • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Even a 5-10-percent weight loss can help lower your diabetes risk.
    • Eat fewer calories each day. This does not mean starve or deprive yourself, since this will wreak havoc on your metabolism over time. Just control your portions each day by following the guidelines on the MyPlate website.  You can ask a registered dietitian or your healthcare provider for more information on how many calories you should be eating each day for optimal health.
    • Be more active each day. Walk whenever you can since every step counts. Staying active helps to keep your blood glucose levels more stable and keeps your heart strong. Staying active can surprisingly help you feel more energy and in turn, can help you manage your weight better.
    • Take a supplement to help lower your sugar.  Your healthcare provider can prescribe a medicine for your blood glucose levels if they feel it is needed to prevent diabetes. However, you can also try a supplement like Glucarex by Vita Sciences. Glucarex contains ingredients like cinnamon, chromium, and alpha lipoic acid that can naturally support weight loss, healthy metabolism, and healthy blood glucose levels.

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

    Sources:

    National Institutes of Health (March 2, 2018) “Vitamin D- Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.”

    National Institutes of Health (November 2016) “Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes.”

    Park, S.K., et al. (April 19, 2018) “Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration and risk of type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes: 12-year cohort study.” https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193070