Category Archives: stress

Could probiotics improve gut health?

yogurt, probiotics, fermented, gut health, fruit, fiberDo you get cramps in your side after eating certain foods? Do you feel bloated, gassy, or suffer from constipation?  If so, then you may have an imbalance in your gut bacteria.  Probiotics may be able to help you improve your digestive health.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria strains found in fermented foods or in supplement form. They help to balance levels of good as well as bad bacteria in the gut.  Examples of fermented foods and drinks include:

  • yogurt (fermented milk)
  • sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
  • kefir (fermented cow’s milk normally consumed as a beverage)
  • kombucha (fermented black or green tea)
  • miso (paste made from fermented soybeans)
  • tempeh (fermented soybeans)

A diverse ecosystem of bacteria in the gut may reduce inflammation in the body. In fact, animal studies show that probiotics could lower levels of inflammation in the body related to such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.  However, you should take probiotics on a regular basis for the most health benefit.

If taken in a supplement form, try to get a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria since each strain provides different benefits.  Also, those found in a refrigerated form, such as those found in health food stores, may provide a more potent formula. For example, there is a quality probiotic called Biovia 30X made by Vita Sciences. Biovia 30X  contains 30 billion colony forming units (CFUs) in 10 different strains of probiotics.

Other ways to improve gut health

Besides probiotics, there are other ways you can help improve your digestive health with just a few tweaks in your healthy lifestyle.

  • Avoid foods that can cause inflammation. Examples of foods to limit in your diet include red meat, high-fat dairy, fried foods, and foods high in additives.  Also, processed foods such as sausage and candy that contain advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs should be limited since they can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in the gut.
  • Eat more fiber since it helps to feed the healthy bacteria. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as oats, quinoa, brown and wild rice, and bran, to name a few.
  • Live a balanced lifestyle.  Getting enough sleep, staying active, and staying hydrated is important to keep your gut happy.  Most adults should get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to help regulate a healthy blood pressure and healthy blood glucose levels.  Also, exercise at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. This is because studies show that exercise can help enrich the growth of a diverse population of bacteria in the gut. Finally, when you add in more fiber to your diet, drinking enough water each day is important to lower risk of constipation. Aim for about half of your body weight in ounces. If you are 200 pounds, then this means you should drink about 100 ounces, or 12.5 cups of unsweetened fluid each day.
  • Manage stress.  Meditation, yoga, relaxation breathing, talking to a counselor, or just finding time each day to relax and do something you enjoy can help lower stress.  It is important to manage stress not just to sleep better, but for gut health as well.  For example, studies have shown a potential link between the brain and gut health. For example, if you get stressed or depressed, studies show that this could trigger gut health issues.

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

Sources:

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

Harvard Health Publishing- Harvard Medical School (accessed April 3, 2018) “The gut-brain connection.”

Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., … Messina, G. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity2017, 3831972. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3831972

Mayo Clinic (August 20, 2016) “How much should the average adult exercise each day?”

National Sleep Foundation (accessed April 2, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

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

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (accessed April 3, 2018) “Healthy Gut: Prebiotics and Probiotics.”


  • Seven ways to improve long term weight loss and management

    weight loss, weight, health, diet, nutritionWith the summer months approaching and weather warming, weight loss may be on your mind.  With every click of the remote, there are commercials advertising weight loss plans, exercise equipment, and fat burning supplements claiming to help you manage your weight. However, a recent study has shown that regular eating versus dieting may be the answer to long term weight loss and management.

    Dieting Versus Regular Eating

    A study at the University of Helsinki looked at the factors of weight and weight change in 4900 young men and women. The study involved the participants taking surveys at age 24 and 34, and weight measurements at the time the surveys were conducted. Study results show that most people gained weight in the decade in between. The factors that affected such weight gain include:

    • dieting and irregular eating habits
    • giving birth to two or more children
    • regular intake of sweetened beverages
    • poor contentment with life
    • smoking

    The results show that those who were protected from weight gain and had weight maintenance or weight loss had similar characteristics such as:

    • physical activity in women
    • higher level of education in men
    • greater weight at the start of the study in men

    Therefore, the study suggests that eating healthy foods on a regular basis and avoiding dieting is the first step to long term weight management.

    Seven Ways to Manage Your Weight Long Term

    The findings of this recent study show that the following five ways are the cornerstone to managing your weight for the long term.

    • Eating on a regular basis such as every 3 to 4 hours can help prevent overeating. You should consume a balanced diet of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables as well as adequate lean proteins each day. Such proteins may include animal products such as eggs, poultry, fish, seafood, and lean beef. However, if you are vegetarian, you can get plenty of protein from low fat dairy, soybeans and soy based products such as tofu, nuts, and seeds. Furthermore, you should limit your intake of processed products to reduce your total daily intake of sodium and sugar.
    • Reducing intake of sugary beverages is the logical next step to help manage your weight.  This means limiting sugary colas, juices, and pretty much any processed foods with added sugars. You can find the amount of added sugar on the nutrition label of most products. Stick to water, unsweetened tea and lemonade, or other low-calories beverages for your fluid intake. You should drink about half of your body weight in pounds in fluid each day. Therefore, if you weigh 200 lbs, then you should drink about 100 ounces of low-to no calorie fluid each day, or about 12.5 cups of fluid each day.
    • Staying active is vital for managing weight. You should engage in at least 30 minutes total of moderate activity daily such as walking, gardening, light biking, or other activities that increase heart rate to a point where you can still hold a conversation, but not sing. This 30 minutes does not have to be all at once, but can be in 5 to 10 minute intervals throughout the day. Exercise is important for providing a calorie deficit to help lose weight and is also important for heart health.
    • Not smoking and limiting other unhealthy lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol is important for managing weight since these factors affect heart health and overall health status. Smoking can narrow blood vessels and increase blood pressure. It can also sap your energy since it makes it harder for your heart to get oxygen to your body’s tissues and affects lung health. Drinking alcohol is full of unnecessary calories and if consumed in excess can affect liver health. Your liver is in charge of breaking down fat and getting toxins out of the body. If your liver will rid of toxins before anything, so if you drink too much, your liver will not have much time for fat metabolism. This can lead to fat storage and weight gain, especially in the abdominal area.
    • Managing stress can help you manage weight and gain a more positive perspective on your life. Relaxation breathing, yoga, or talking with a counselor can help you better manage stress and in turn lower your risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

    Two other important factors that can affect weight management are:

    • Sleep. Most adults are recommended to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Lack of sleep can increase risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  Also,  lack of sleep can make it difficult to manage stress and stick to a healthy eating and exercise plan.
    • Nutrient status.  Vitamin deficiencies, such as iron, vitamin D, or B12, can impact health by reducing energy. In fact, obese patients commonly have these vitamin deficiencies before weight loss intervention.  You should get a lab test for these vitamins and nutrients at your annual doctor visit. Also, if you are low in such nutrients, you should start on a regular vitamin regimen. One supplement that may be helpful in getting your weight back on track is Kolonex by Vita Sciences. Kolonex is an advanced colon cleanser and detox supplement that contains psyllium husk and probiotics to help promote weight loss, less bloating, and more energy.

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

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control (September 8, 2016) “Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight.”

    Johns Hopkins Medicine (September 14, 2015) “Nutritional Deficiencies Common Before Weight Loss Surgery.”

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed March 26, 2018) “Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency.” 

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (accessed by March 26, 2018) “Some Myths about Nutrition and Physical Activity.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed March 26, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    Science Daily (March 23, 2018) “Searching for long-term success in weight management? Forget dieting and eat regularly.”


  • Could a walk in the park lower stress levels?

    walk, park, exercise, stress, relaxStaying active has many benefits. In particular, you may have been told by a healthcare provider to move more to help manage weight or improve heart health. However, a recent study has found that a walk in the park may also reduce stress levels in the body.

    How Much Exercise Do I Need?

    The Department of Helath and Human Services recommends that most adults exercise 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. In particular, it is suggested that most adults should engage in:

    • 150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week, or a combination of both levels of activity.
    • 2 days each week of resistance or strength training that involves a single set of exercises that includes 12 to 15 repetitions at a weight that will tire the muscles by the end of the set.

    This thirty minutes does not have to be all at once. Five minutes here and ten minutes there is enough as long as it adds up to 30 minutes by the end of the day. Also, you may be wondering what moderate activity is. Moderate activity is any exercise that allows you to hold a conversation, but does not allow you enough breath to sing. In addition, you should break a light sweat within 10 minutes of a moderate activity, while vigorous activity will have you breaking a sweat in a few minutes or less. Moderate activities include:

    • walking
    • water aerobics
    • gardening
    • light dancing
    • slow bicycling

    Walking to Lower Stress

    A study by researchers at the Center for Nature and Health at the University of California San Francisco looked at the effects of exercise on a group of 78 parents and children.  This group of parents and children were encouraged to visit local parks as often as possible over the course of the study period. They were either provided maps to local parks and bus schedules or invited to group outings at local parks.

    Follow-ups were done at one month and three months after the start of the study. During these follow-ups, self reports, journalling, and salivary cortisol levels were used to measure stress levels.  It was found that every increase in park visits each week was linked to decreases in stress.  In addition, it was found that those who visited the parks often saw:

    • increased physical activity
    • decreased loneliness
    • increased interest in nature

    Other Ways to Lower Stress

    Besides getting fresh air and exercising, there are many ways you can try to lower your stress levels.

    • Deep breathing can help relax the mind during stressful times and can also help improve sleep. This type of breathing involves breathing from the diaphragm, which means your stomach should inflate as you inhale and deflate as you exhale. Inhale for several seconds, hold your breath for several seconds, and exhale for several seconds. You may feel a bit lightheaded when starting this practice, so do not perform deep breathing when driving a car or operating machinery.
    • Simplifying your life by donating items in your home that you do not use such as clothes, excess furniture, or decorative items. Also, delegate tasks when possible at both home and work if possible to lighten your load. Finally, write upcoming events on a calendar and keep a running shopping list so you can lighten the burden on your mind.
    • Getting enough sleep is important not only for lowering stress, but for overall health. The average adult should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
    • Eating a balanced diet that is low in sugar, high in fiber, and high in other nutrients such as iron, B12, and vitamin C will help your body perform better in many ways. Some benefits of a healthy, balanced diet include improved cognitive function, better heart health, and an enhanced ability to handle stress. This balanced diet also includes lowering caffeine, increasing water intake, and reducing alcohol intake as well as eating a minimally processed diet. 
    • Spending more time with others in your family, circle of friends, and/or community since social engagement can help boost “feel good” serotonin levels in the body.
    • Taking mood-boosting supplements like Elevia by Vita Sciences. Elevia contains GABA, chamomile, and 5-HTP. These compounds can calm the mind and boost serotonin levels.

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

    Sources:

    Burton, M.D., N. (February 11, 2017) “How to Reduce Stress.” 

    Healthline (accessed March 5, 2018) “Parl Prescriptions Can Help Lower Stress Levels.”

    Laskowski, M.D., E.R. (August 20, 2016) “How much should the average adult exercise each day?” Mayo Clinic.com 

    Mayo Clinic (May 19, 2017) “Exercise intensity: how to measure it.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed March 5, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    Razani, N., et al (2018) “Effect of park prescriptions with and without group visits to parks on stress reduction in low-income parents: SHINE randomized trial.”

    Watson, S. (June 18, 2014) “Caffiene and a healthy diet may boost memory, thinking skills; alcohol’s effect uncertain.”


  • Could an earlier diabetes diagnosis lower your heart disease risk?

    heart disease, heart health, heart, cardiovascularHeart disease is the number one cause of death for both mean and women in the United States. Therefore, it is no surprise that researchers are looking endlessly for ways to reduce risk of this condition. A recent study has found that for those with diabetes, the earlier diagnosis, the lower the heart disease risk later on in life.

    Heart disease risk factors

    Heart disease involves conditions such as coronary heart disease (CHD), which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Those with the following risk factors have a higher chance of developing heart disease:

    • high blood pressure
    • high cholesterol
    • smoking
    • overweight and obesity
    • being inactive
    • excessive alcohol intake
    • diabetes

    Diabetes and heart disease risk 

    A 2017 report from the New England Journal of Medicine states that around 208,000 people under the age of 20 years old has a diabetes diagnosis. Furthermore, a recent study in Diabetologia looked at the age of diabetes diagnosis and risk of chronic disease conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

    The study looked at data on over 700,000 people from Australia with a diabetes diagnosis between 1997 and 2011. The average age of diagnosis was 59 years old. However, researchers state that the earlier the diagnosis, the higher the risk of all-cause mortality. In particular, being a diagnosis 10 years earlier tha average showed a 20-30 percent increase in all-cause mortality, with a 60-percent higher risk of developing heart disease.

    Researchers suggest living with the disease longer increases complication risk. In turn, people with diabetes have a greater chance of diabetes-related health issues. Therefore, it is important to educate those with diabetes on healthy lifestyle practices. Teaching those with diabetes how to control their condition will help lower risk of complications. In addition, it is important to help prevent new cases of diabetes in younger adults.

    How to reduce your risk of heart disease 

    From this study it is clear that the following steps should be followed to reduce your risk of developing not just heart disease, but diabetes as well.

    • Eat a heart healthy diet full of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Also, be sure to limit your intake of fatty meats and stick to lean proteins. Examples of lean proteins include skinless chicken and turkey, lean beef, fish and other seafood, eggs, and low-fat dairy products. If you are vegetarian, some heart healthy plant-based proteins include nuts, nut butters, seeds, legumes, and soy-based products.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start since smoking constricts blood vessels and increases risk of high blood pressure.
    • Stay active at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week. No boot camp exercise is required. However, just be sure to engage in moderate  exercise such as walking, swimming, light aerobics, gardening, dancing, or biking.
    • Manage your weight by engaging in healthy eating and exercising as well as getting plenty of sleep and staying hydrated with at least half of your body weight in ounces of water or unsweetened beverages each day.
    •  Visit your doctor and track your numbers on a regular basis. See your doctor at least once a year if you have no heart disease or diabetes diagnosis. However, if you have a family history of either condition or have a diagnosis of diabetes or heart disease, then you should visit more often. It is important to know your numbers such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood glucose levels. If you have diabetes or are at risk, then you will want to keep track of your A1C, which is a number that tells the 3-month average of your blood glucose level health. An A1C of less than 7-percent is healthy for those with diabetes, while an A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 indicates prediabetes, and an A1C below 5.7% is healthy.
    • Take a heart healthy supplement such as Alestra by Vita SciencesAlestra contains niacin and plant sterols which provide advanced cholesterol support. Please contact your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement and do not use this supplement as a replacement to your prescribed medications.

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

    Sources:

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

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (February 2017) “Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke.”

    Sandoiu, A. (February 26, 2018) “Earlier diabetes diagnosis linked to heart disease, stroke.”


  • Could Having a Pet Improve Your Anxiety?

    dog, cat, pet, mental health, anxiety, depression, ptsd, bipolar, healthThere’s nothing better than coming home after a long and stressful day of work or school, and having a happy wagging tail waiting at the door for you.  Owning a pet involves a lot of work and cost. However, studies show that a pet may be worth the time and money for the good of your health. A recent study review has shown that having a pet can decrease anxiety and provide overall benefits to anyone suffering from mental health issues.

    About Mental Health and Anxiety

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is a “state of well being” in which a person can lead a productive life while being able to deal with the normal daily stresses of life.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that mental illnesses are not just the result of one event. However, such a state of being  involves multiple factors such as genetics, environment, and lifestyle.

    Examples of mental health conditions include:

    • Anxiety Disorders
    • Bipolar Disorder
    • Depression
    • Eating Disorders
    • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
    • Schizoaffective Disorder
    • Schizophrenia

    According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders. In particular, about 30-percent of adults deal with such a disorder at some point in their life.  Anxiety disorders are not just everyday stress or worry. On the contrary, those with such disorders worry or fear that may be seen as “abnormal” in certain situations. This fear or worry can result in disruption of their daily life.

    For example, it may be “normal” to worry about taking a test. However, someone with anxiety disorder may have a similar level of worry and stress when having to talk with someone at the store.  On the other hand, a person with the disorder may lose sleep because they worry that if they leave the house tomorrow that something bad may happen to them. These are just some examples of how anxiety disorder can manifest. However, this condition can come in many forms such as:

    • generalized anxiety disorder
    • panic disorder
    • phobias, or fears, such as agoraphobia (fear of public places)
    • social anxiety disorder
    • separation anxiety disorder

    Pets and Mental Health Benefits

    An analysis of 17 studies reported in BMC Psychiatry found that having a pet may help those with mental health disorders. Results of this study review found that pets had the following positive impacts on mental health:

    • One study interviewed some people who had depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.  Subjects reported feeling more secure and stable with a pet in their lives.
    • Another study reported that those with a pet had lower levels of anxiety and a lower average body mass index.
    • Pets can provide unconditional love as well as support without judgment. In turn, this can help those with mental health issues cope if they are not getting such support from their family and friends.
    • Pets forced their owners to stay connected with the outside world and be more active.  Besides helping those with mental health issues to connect with others, the act of going outside is also very helpful to overall health.  For one thing, getting outside can help people get sunlight that helps make sure they get enough vitamin D, which can affect mental health. Also, mental health may benefit from the act of exercise.

    Researchers suggest that mental health care plans should include asking patients with mental health issues to get a pet. However, more studies need to be done to figure out how pets could play in the lives of patients and in treatment plans.

    Other ways to help improve your mental health

    Besides having a pet, there are some other things you can do to help your mental health.

    • Be mindful by living in the present moment. Talk with a counselor if you have troubles in your past that are stopping you from living in the moment. Also, take a yoga class, learn relaxing breathing techniques, or get a wellness app to help you find ways to stay calm each day and night.
    • Eat balanced meals since sometimes low levels of certain vitamins or nutrients can make you feel more tired or nervous. Eat plenty of fiber-rich fruits and veggies to help keep your gut healthy. Also, make sure to eat enough protein each day such as meats, beans, low fat dairy products, nuts, and seeds. Low protein intake can cause you to feel tired. This is because protein-rich foods contain dopamine and tyrosine which keep you alert. Finally, make sure to eat some carbohydrate foods such as whole grains and cereals. This is because such foods increase “feel-good” serotonin in the body.
    • Volunteer or help out a friend or loved one since such acts can help you feel better about yourself. Also, such acts can help you connect with others and perhaps help you to see how much you have to be grateful for.
    • Get plenty of sleep since lack of sleep can greatly impact your mood. Set a bed time each night, avoid caffeine in the latter half of the day, and limit screen time at night to help you get more sleep. 
    • Visit your doctor to make sure your vitals are healthy and to get help for any symptoms that may be bothering you or affecting your daily life.
    • Take a supplement such as Sereneo by Vita Sciences. Sereneo contains ingredients such as magnesium, chamomile, and valerian that promotes a boost in serotonin and supports stress and anxiety relief.

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

    Sources:

    American Psychiatric Association (January 2017) “What are anxiety disorders?”

    Greenblatt, M.D., J.M. (November 14, 2011) “Psychological Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency.”  

    Medical News Today (February 19, 2018) “It’s official: Pets benefit our mental health.”

    National Alliance on Mental Illness (accessed February 20, 2018) ” Mental Health Conditions.”

    Psychology Today (October 27, 2015) “9 Ways You Can Improve Your Mental Health Today.”  

    Weir, K. (December 2011) “The exercise effect.”

    World Health Organization (August 2014) “Mental health: a state of well-being.”


  • Could a To-Do List Help You Get More Sleep?

    sleep, anxiety, stress, list, to-do, alarmSleep is a precious commodity in your busy life. Between work, taking care of loved ones, and running errands, it is a wonder you find time to sleep at all. However, it is important to make time for sleep because of all of the health benefits adequate sleep can provide. A recent study suggests that making a to-do list may help ease your mind so you can capture more sleep.

    Why Is Sleep Important?

    When you sleep, your body helps to regulate many processes in the body. Blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and bodily fluids are just a few of the processes regulated during sleep. When you do not get enough sleep, you can increase your risk of high blood pressure and elevated blood glucose levels. In addition, research has found that those who consistently received less than six hours of sleep each night were more likely to have a higher body mass index than those who received at least eight hours of sleep each night. Therefore, long term lack of sleep can not only increase risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, but also increased obesity risk.

    How Much Sleep Is Enough?

    The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least seven hours of sleep each night for most adults.  Children two years of age or less require around 14 hours of sleep each day, including naps. Those between the ages of three and eighteen require around 10 hours of sleep each night. Children require more sleep to support their body’s growth and development.

    Quality of sleep is just as important as quantity of sleep. Sleep quality may be low if you do not feel rested upon waking, wake up during the night, snore, or gasp for air during sleep. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea may affect your body’s ability to get oxygen during sleep. This can impact safety during sleep and can make you feel fatigued upon waking.  If you experience interrupted sleep or wake up tired, you should see your healthcare provider for further assessment.  Pain, frequent urination, or breathing problems could prevent you from getting more sleep.

    To-Do List and Sleep Research

    A study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology looked at 57 Baylor University students and the effects of writing down unfinished tasks on sleep.  One group of students wrote down unfinished tasks, while the other group wrote down tasks previously completed.  All students were in a controlled environment and told to go to sleep at a set time. They were prohibited from staying up to look at phones or complete any other tasks.  Those who wrote down unfinished tasks were found to have improved sleep by use of an overnight polysomnography test.  Larger studies and observation of other age groups and individuals with sleep disorders such as insomnia will need to be done to confirm the effectiveness of such strategies.

    Other Ways to Help Improve Sleep

    Besides making to-do lists, here are some other ways to help you get more sleep and improve quality of sleep each night.

    • Stay on a sleep schedule each night to help your body’s clock regulate itself. It may take some time to adjust to an earlier bedtime or earlier wake time. However, over time your sleep patterns will enhance quality and quantity of sleep.
    • Exercise each day to help your body exert some energy.  Not only will exercise help improve your sleep, but it can also help manage your weight, which can in turn help you reduce risk of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
    • Take time to relax before sleep by engaging in meditation, relaxation breathing, and reducing screen time. The light from the screens on phones, computers, and television can interrupt the sleep-wake cycle. Adding in essential oil diffusion such as with lavender can help induce relaxation. In addition, drinking herbal teas with chamomile can help induce sleep.
    • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, or heavy meals before bedtime since such things can cause interrupted sleep. Caffeine and alcohol can act as a diuretic, which may cause frequent urination that can interrupt sleep. On the other hand, the nicotine from cigarettes act as a stimulant and can in turn disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.  Finally, heavy meals less than two hours before bedtime can cause indigestion and increase risk of heartburn, which can interrupt sleep.
    • Ensure your sleep environment is conducive to sleep. Every ten years, you should replace your mattresses. Every few years or so, you should also replace your pillows  to prevent exposure to allergens such as dust mites. In addition, reduced exposure to light sources in the evening can help keep your body’s rhythms in check.  You can use blackout curtains to help reduce the amount of natural light in your bedroom.
    • Add a supplement to your bedtime regimen to help you get more sleep.  Somnova by Vita Sciences contains ingredients such as melatonin and L-theanine to help promote restful sleep.

    If none of these strategies are helping, then be sure to visit your healthcare provider for more sleep guidance.

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

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (March 2, 2017) “How Much Sleep Do I Need?”

    Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (December 18, 2007) “Sleep and Disease Risk”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed January 15, 2018) “Healthy Sleep Tips.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed January 15, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need?”

    Science Daily (January 11, 2018) “Can Writing Your To-Do’s Help You To Doze? Study Suggests Jotting Down Tasks Can”


  • Could the DASH Diet be the Answer to Your Weight Loss Goals?

    balanced diet, diet, healthy, haert health, fruits, veggies, proteinLike millions of other people, you may be hoping to lose some weight in this new year. However, the confusing part may be what eating plan, or shall I say “diet,” should you choose to follow?  There is so much information in the media today making all sorts of weight loss claims.  They may all seem promising, but not all may provide you the nutrients you need to succeed long-term.  However, a recent report found that the DASH diet may be the answer to get you to your weight loss goal.

    What is the DASH Diet?

    The DASH, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet regimen, is a eating regimen promoted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It involves a flexible and balanced diet that focuses on using whole foods to meet daily and weekly nutritional goals. Basic tenets of the DASH diet include:

    • Eating plenty of fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
    • Consuming adequate protein daily from minimally processed sources such as fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils
    • Limiting foods high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and certain oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils
    • Reducing consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets

    Calorie and activity goals recommended will be a little different for each individual based upon your energy needs. Energy needs can be calculated using your BMR, or basal metabolic rate, multiplied by an activity factor.  A good BMR calculator is provided online by MyFitnessPal. To calculate your activity factor, multiply your BMR by the following activity factor based on your activity level. Exercises considered moderate versus active can be found in a variety of sources such as the American Heart Association website.

    • 1.0 if you are sedentary, or do little to no activity
    • 1.1-1.2 if you engage in light activity 1-3 times a week
    • 1.2-1.3 if you are active, or engage in moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week or vigorous activity 75 minutes a week
    • 1.4-1.5 if you are very active, or engage in moderate exercise  closer to 300 minutes per week , and vigorous activity closer to 150 minutes per week

    For example, of your BMR is 1500 and you work out for 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week, then you would multiply 1500 by 1.2-1.3. Therefore, you would need to consume about 1800 to 1950 calories each day to maintain your current weight. As an estimate, subtract 500 calories for every pound you wish to lose per week.

    Based on the example provided, if you wanted to lose one pound per week, then you would need to consume between 1300 to 1450 calories each day.  Be sure though, that within those calories that you are eating enough protein and fiber daily for optimal health.  Such specific nutrient goals can be found on the NIH website. You can visit your healthcare provider such as your doctor or dietitian for more specific macronutrient goals that are appropriate for you.

    Diet Research

    Studies such as the DASH-Sodium and PREMIER trials looked at the effects of the DASH diet on blood pressure. Both of these studies found decreases in blood pressure with either a low sodium diet or established treatment plan that included nutrition counseling, respectively. However, those who followed a DASH diet in addition to these factors had even greater reductions in blood pressure.

    A recent study of 38 different diets by the U.S. News and World Report ranked the DASH diet the top diet for the eighth year in a row. The Mediterranean diet, which includes plenty of heart-healthy fruits and vegetables as well as healthy fats in the diet, was ranked second. Diets were scored according to:

    • How easy is the diet to follow
    • the nutritional quality of the diet
    • the safety of the diet long-term
    • the effectiveness of the diet for weight loss
    • the protective quality of the diet against diabetes and heart disease

    The DASH diet was found to be rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, protein, and fiber. Also, this plan was found to adapt to any healthy lifestyle without deprivation or restriction of important nutrients.

    Ways to Make Your New Year’s Goal Become a Reality

    Finding a diet that you want to follow is one thing, but sticking to it is a whole other ballgame. Therefore, use the following tips to help you make your new year’s health goal a reality.

    • Make it a family affair: If you have others in your household that eat with you at meal time, include them in your healthy eating efforts.  This does not mean that everyone has to go on a diet with you. However, you can help instill healthy habits at meal time to benefit everyone. For example, you can include more vegetables at meals, limit the sugary and salty foods purchased, and reduce meals eaten out.
    • Get a healthy “buddy” for accountability: Since you are likely to have a co-worker, neighbor, or friend that also vows to be healthier in the new year, designate each other as your “buddy.” Basically, this means that you can help each other be accountable for your food choices and exercise.  You can do this by:
      • taking walks together during the week
      • attending exercise classes together
      • batch cooking or prepping healthy meals together on the weekend

    In regards to exercise, studies have shown that those who have an exercise partner can have about twice the overall increased intensity and duration of exercise than those who work out alone.

    • Track your eating and exercise regularly: Food tracking can get cumbersome over time. However it can be really useful in the early stages of a healthy eating regimen to make sure you are meeting your nutrient needs.  Once you feel comfortable with your eating plan you can get away with tracking less frequently. However, it is useful to track every few weeks for the long term to make sure you are eating enough of important nutrients like protein and fiber. Some great examples of tracker apps include MyFitnessPal, LoseIt!, and MyPlate.
    • Don’t get caught up in the numbers:  Weighing yourself everyday or tracking every macro can get overwhelming. Such excessive tracking can cause you to lose sight of important non-scale goals. Focus more on losing weight to feel more energy, feeling less pain in your joints, or being able to be active in ways you have not been able to  because of your current health status. This is not to say that tracking such numbers is not important. However, these numbers are just one small part of the healthy lifestyle equation.
    • Add in vitamins and supplements to fill in any nutrition gaps: A balanced diet ideally should give you all of the vitamins and nutrients you need daily. However, no regimen is perfect. There may be days where you do not consume enough of certain vitamins or minerals due to sickness, travel, or other reasons. Therefore, it is important to have a multivitamin in your regimen to help fill in any nutrient gaps.  An example is Zestia by Vita Sciences, which contains Super Food compounds, probiotics, and 100% or more of 19 vitamins and minerals.
    • Take it one step at a time: A long-term goal is great, but can be daunting to accomplish. For example, saying you want to lose 50lbs this year may seem like an impossible task. However, if you break your long-term goal into shorter pieces then it becomes more practical. In this case, setting a goal of one pound each week seems more possible and allows you to celebrate each small progression towards your ultimate goal. Therefore, take your new year’s health goals one day at a time.  Each small success should be celebrated. For example, when you reach eight cups of water consumed each day or reach 5000 steps a day, you should be proud and treat yourself to a non-food reward. Examples of such rewards include a movie night at home, a relaxing bubble bath, or a massage. Before you know it, your new year’s goal will be accomplished and you can start off the next year with confidence and better health.

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

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (March 2014) “Moderate to Vigorous – What is your level of intensity?”

    American Heart Association (February 2014) “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults.”

    MedlinePlus (January 3, 2018) “What’s Your Best Diet for 2018? Experts Rate Them.”

    MedlinePlus (January 1, 2018) “For a Healthier New Year, Try Making It a Family Affair.”

    MedlinePlus (January 4, 2018) “Need Motivation to Exercise? Try the Buddy System.”

    MyFitness Pal BMR calculator

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed January 7, 2018) “DASH Eating Plan.”

    National Institutes of Health (January 3, 2018) “DASH ranked Best Diet Overall for eighth year in a row by U.S. News and World Report.”

    National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements (accessed January 8, 2018) “Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs).” 

     

     


  • Seven Simple Ways to Keep Your Weight Loss Resolutions This New Year

    exercise, goal, weight loss, new year resolutionEvery new year, many of us make resolutions to be healthier. Whether it be weight loss, exercising more, eating healthier, or managing stress better, such resolutions usually start off strong. However, by early spring, such goals usually lose steam and get pushed off until the next new year. That is why it is important to plan ahead before making any goals so you can make sure they are realistic and backed up with a lasting motivating factor. With such planning, you can make your new year’s goals come true this year and maintain such healthy habits for the long-term.

    What is a SMART goal?

    SMART goals provide a formula for the greatest success in goal-setting and achieving. SMART stands for:

    • Specific: Being specific requires you to be clear about the goal you want to set. For example, “I want to exercise 30 minutes a day for at least 3 days a week,” or “I want to lose 1 pound a week for the next 12 weeks.” Being specific is more helpful than just saying “I want to lose weight” or “I want to eat healthier.” Such general statements do not provide any concise marker to work towards, therefore they allow for a greater likelihood of non-compliance.
    • Measurable: The marker that a specific goal contains allows your progress to be measured. When you can measure how many days you have been able to exercise each week, or how many cups of water you drink each day, you can have a better idea of what areas of your healthy regimen are doing well, and which need more work. Tracking through an app or food journal can help with keeping track of such progress.
    • Attainable: Perhaps one of the most important parts of a goal is to make sure it is attainable. For example, if you currently consider yourself a couch potato, it would be a stretch to make a goal to run a marathon by the springtime.  A more attainable goal would be “I will train for a summertime 5K race.”
    • Relevant: Another important part of your goal is that it must be relevant to your life. You should never set a goal that someone else may have for you. This type of goal-setting is setting you up for disappointment, especially if you are only working towards that goal to gain approval from others. Set your goals for YOU and YOU only, and you will be sure to be successful.
    • Time-bound: Finally, it is important that your goals include a start and end time. Timing your goal makes it easier to keep track of your progress. For example, “In the next three months, I want to be able to work out for at least three times a week.” In addition, breaking these timed goals into small pieces, like a week or a month at a time, will make them more approachable. So instead of saying, “I want to lose 50 pounds this year,” saying “I want to lose 5 pounds this month” will make this large goal seem more possible.

    What are good motivating factors?

    To keep your motivation level strong, it is important to have some non-scale goals, or goals that have no number attached to them. For example, some non-scale goals may include:

    • Having more energy to play with your kids or grand kids.
    • Moving around with less pain.
    • Being on a reduced number of medications.
    • Fitting in an airplane seat or amusement park ride seat comfortably.

    What is a Realistic Weight Loss Goal?

    If you are one of the many people who wish to lose weight for the new year, it is important  to set healthy expectations. Fad diets may promise 20 pounds lost in 20 days, which may seem great. However, these quick results usually only end up with quick weight regain. This is because such plans end up depriving you of nutrients, make eating healthy feel miserable, and are hard to stick to long-term. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 1 to 2 pounds a week is a healthy rate of weight loss.

    More Simple Steps to Getting Healthy This New Year

    • Simplify healthy eating. Instead of getting obsessed with counting every calorie and macronutrient, stick to the basics.  Get out your measuring cups and smaller dinner plates (about 9-inches in diameter) and follow these simple tips:
      • Have at least 2 cups of non-starchy vegetables each day, which do not include corn, peas, and potatoes. With the plate method, fill half of your plate with the non-starchy vegetables at meal time.
      • Limit starchy, refined foods such as rice, potatoes, and pasta. Stick to 1/2 cup at each meal, or with the plate method, 1/4 of your plate. Choose high-fiber starches such as brown rice, quinoa, beans, or sweet potato.
      • Make sure you eat enough protein. Although this may seem easy enough, I find a lot of my patients do not eat enough healthy proteins. To determine your protein needs each day, you can multiply your weight in pounds times 0.3 to give you an estimate in grams.  You may need more protein daily if you workout frequently.
    • Be more mindful. Mindfulness is important for all aspects of life. In eating, mindfulness may include:
      • meal planning and prepping
      • asking yourself if you are eating for hunger or emotions
      • chewing more per bite to really savor and enjoy your food

    Mindfulness in exercise may be choosing exercises you enjoy or listening to your                        body to find ways to move without causing pain. Everyday you can be mindful by                       being present in each moment. You can do this by listening actively to others and using relaxation breathing and meditation to manage stress.

    • Track your progress. Download an app like MyFitnessPal or MyPlate to help you track what you consume and the calories you burn. Some apps, such as Apple Health or Calm, can help you keep track of the number of mindfulness minutes you engage in daily.
    • Fill in the gaps with vitamins and supplements. Even the healthiest diets may be lacking some vitamins. In addition, some climates that may have less days of sunshine may make individuals prone to vitamin D deficiency.  It never hurts to have your healthcare provider check for your levels of vitamin D, vitamin B12, magnesium, and iron. Low levels of these nutrients may result in such symptoms as low energy, depressed mood, or trouble sleeping.  Zestia by Vita Sciences contains several of these nutrients in addition to probiotics and a SuperFood complex to help promote optimal health inside and out.
    • Reward yourself. Every small goal you achieve should be celebrated. If you went a whole week without any drinking any sugary drinks, then reward yourself with a relaxing hot bath, or by enjoying a relaxing movie night at home.

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

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (May 15, 2015) “Losing Weight.”

    Medline Plus (December 28, 2017) “8 Small Changes for a Slimmer You in 2018.” 

    Richardson, H. (December 29, 2017) “Holly Richardson: Resolutions, SMART goals, CLEAR goals and BHAGs.”

    Rossy, L. (April 29, 2016) “How Mindfulness Can Help You Stay Motivated to Exercise.” 

     


  • Could Women’s Hearts be More Sensitive to Stress?

    heart, mind, health, stress

    Stress of the mind can hurt your heart.

    Your heart is racing. Your palms are sweaty. Sometimes you may feel dizzy, disoriented, or nauseous. These are all potential symptoms when you are faced with a stressful situation. However, one of the most dangerous symptoms of stress is constriction of blood vessels. A recent study has found that women may be more at risk for heart-related health problems in response to stress.

    What is stress?

    Stress is a normal reaction to the demands of life that can affect both the body and mind. A little bit can be healthy to remind you to be more alert or more motivated. However, too much can contribute to a variety of health conditions such as:

    • ulcers
    • digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome
    • asthma
    • headaches
    • back pain

    In addition to such conditions, stress can also increase blood pressure, which can in turn increase risk of heart disease. This is due to the body’s response to a perceived threat. The body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode in which the body constricts blood vessels to provide more blood flow to the major organs. Also, digestion slows to keep the body focused on providing blood to the brain and the heart.  However, if anxiety or chronic exposure to the perceived threat(s) occurs, then this response can negatively impact health.

    Women, Stress, and the Heart

    A recent study in the journal Arteriosclerosis looked at 678 people with coronary artery disease, or plaques in the major arteries that affects blood flow. Each person was asked to engage in public speaking, a commonly known fear of many, to see if it triggered myocardial ischemia, or a reduction of blood flow in the heart.

    About 15-percent of study subjects triggered myocardial ischemia. Men and women were affected by this condition at a similar rate, but the cause was different.  In men, blood flow was mostly affected by high blood pressure and increased heart rate. On the other hand, in women it was caused by a constriction of blood vessels, also known as microvascular dysfunction. The difference between the two reactions is that in men, the perceived fear increased workload on the heart. However, in women, the dysfunction of vessels impaired blood flow.  It is not known whether this increased incidence of myocardial ischemia can increase risk of heart disease, but such studies are being planned.

    Healthy Ways to Deal With Stress

    You can help decrease stress, and in turn, lower risk of heart disease in a variety of ways.  The following list includes way you can lower stress on both your body and mind.

    • Limit coffee and caffeine since such constrict blood vessels, thus impacting blood flow. Two to three cups a day is suggested for adequate health benefit.
    • Quit or don’t smoke since smoking can also constrict blood vessels, and in turn blood flow, this increasing heart disease risk.
    • Live a balanced life. It is important to make sure that as hard as you work in your job and in exercising, you should also rest your body just as readily. A good balance of rest and activity is around 30 minutes a day of moderate activity such as walking combined with about 7 hours of sleep each night.  Being both active and resting well each night are important for the regulation of body fluids, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels in the body, among other things.
    • Be mindful in everything you do. When you are more mindful and aware of the choices you make each day, it can eliminate a lot of stress on the body.  The following are a list of small things you can do each day to be more mindful and in turn reduce stress on your body inside and out.
      • Plan and prep meals and snacks ahead of time.
      • Make healthy choices at meal and snack time such as less processed food and more fresh foods.
      • Portion out food choices to prevent excess intake.
      • Set a designated bedtime to help your body get more rest.
      • Make a to-do list to keep track of your weekly tasks and delegate any tasks that you can to others.
      • When you get stressed, give yourself a time-out with relaxation breathing to help you better face the situation at hand.
      • Make time for yourself in your schedule by setting aside 15 minutes a day to meditate, read, or do something your enjoy to give your body and mind a break.
    • Take supplements to help with sleep and managing stress. There are many herbal supplements on the market that claim to help with sleep and stress. However, it is important to do your research. Perhaps the supplement most well-known for its sleep-inducing properties is melatonin. It is actually a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland that affects the sleep/wake cycle and produces drowsiness. Those that may be deficient in this hormone may experience trouble sleeping or insomnia. However, it is important to remember that since it is a hormone, it may not be suitable for everyone, so be sure to check with your doctor first before starting a melatonin regimen.

    Another supplement to try is Sereneo by Vita Sciences. Sereneo contains a combination of magnesium, chamomile, and valerian to help promote a feeling of calm by working to help reduce stress and anxiety. Valerian and chamomile have been found to be safe, natural herbal remedies to help induce sleep, while magnesium has been found to help promote reduced anxiety and irritability. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know before starting any new supplement regimen to be sure it does not interact with any of your currently prescribed medications.

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

    Sources:

    American Heart Association (June 2014) “Fight Stress with Healthy Habits”

    American Heart Association (June 2014) “Stress and Heart Health”

    Berkeley Wellness (October 1, 2013) “Can Supplements Help You Sleep?”

    Centers for Disease Control (March 2, 2017) “How Much Sleep Do I Need?”

    Deans, M.D., E. (June 12, 2011) “Magnesium and the Brain: The Original Chill Pill.” Psychology Today.

    Harvard Medical School: Division of Sleep Medicine (December 18, 2007) “The Characteristics of Sleep”

    Mayo Clinic (March 31, 2017) “Stress Management”

    Medline Plus (December 21, 2017) “Are Women’s Hearts More Vulnerable to Stress?”

    Rodale Wellness (August 25, 2017) “4 Sleep Supplements That Actually Work”

     


  • Can One Day of Exercise Protect Your Heart for Days?

    heart, heart health, exercise, cardiovascular, workout

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

    What is moderate exercise?

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

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

    Exercise and Heart Health Research

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

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

    Other Heart Healthy Things You Can Do Each Week

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

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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