Category Archives: supplements

Could Vitamin D3 Help Repair Blood Vessels?

vitamin d, fish, fish oil, dairy, milk, orange juice, heart healthVitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, is a very important nutrient for overall health. Best known for its work in helping strengthen bones and teeth, vitamin D is starting to get more attention for other benefits it could provide.  A recent study reports that cells damaged by heart attack or stroke may be repaired by vitamin D3.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that you can not find in many foods. However, vitamin D is important for many functions such as bone health.  It is called the ‘sunshine vitamin” by some because it can be absorbed into the body through sunlight exposure. Because of this, those who live in cloudy climates or do not leave the house often may be low in vitamin D.  You can find Vitamin D in such foods as fortified milk, yogurt, or orange juice, as well as fatty fish such as salmon or trout.  Cod liver oil is also a good source of vitamin D.

Most adults should get at least 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D each day. Vitamin D is not a standard lab you will get at your annual visit. Therefore, you may have to ask for the vitamin D lab.  You will be prescribed a vitamin D supplement if labs find you to be low.  Research shows that vitamin D3 is absorbed better than vitamin D2, so it is the preferred choice for a supplement. You can find Vitamin D3 in a variety of forms such as:

Maxasorb comes in 1000 IU and 2000 IU formulas and can be conveniently rubbed on the skin like a lotion.

Endothelial cells and vitamin D3

An innovative study tracked single endothelial cells, or blood vessel cells, to see the impact of vitamin D3 on their health status.  Heart health events such as heart attack or stroke as well as conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure can damage such cells.  The study showed that vitamin D3 helped such cells repair themselves from such damage. Also, the study found that the vitamin lowers oxidative stress in the cardiovascular system by stimulating nitric oxide (NO) levels.  This turn of events increases blood flow and protects the blood vessels from damage. Recent findings also show that a deficiency of vitamin may increase risk of a heart attack and may reveal a link to depression. Therefore, taking a vitamin D3 supplement may greatly benefit many aspects of health.

Other ways to improve your heart health

Although vitamin D is important, there are many other ways you can improve your heart health.

  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables since such foods are rich in fiber. A fiber-filled diet is good for digestive health, keeps you fuller longer, and in turn can help you maintain a healthy weight. A fiber rich diet can also help you control blood glucose levels and keep cholesterol at healthy levels.
  • Stay active often at least 15 to 30 minutes a day most days of the week. No need to be in a boot camp exercise program.  Engage in simple exercises such as walking, water aerobics, gardening, dancing, to name a few to help keep your heart healthy.
  • Drink more water and less alcohol to not only help manage your weight, but also to stay hydrated and keep your liver healthy as well.
  • Don’t smoke or quit smoking since this unhealthy behavior can constrict blood vessels and in turn increase blood pressure levels.
  • Maintain a healthy weight by performing all of the healthy lifestyle behaviors mentioned above since less body weight places less pressure on your heart, and in turn can help lower your risk of heart disease and related conditions.

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

Sources:

DiSalvo, D. (January 31, 2018) “Study Examines Vitamin D3’s Potential Effects On Blood Vessels.”  Forbes.com

Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (accessed February 5, 2018) ” These five habits can save your heart- here’s how.” 

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements (February 11, 2016) “Vitamin D”

Tripkovic, Laura et al. (June 2012) “Comparison of Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3Supplementation in Raising Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Status: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 95.6 (2012): 1357–1364. PMC. Web. 5 Feb. 2018.

 


  • Could Vitamin D Help IBS Symptoms?

    constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps, stomachache, irritable bowel syndrome, healthDo you get stabbing abdominal cramps after eating a fatty meal?  Does dairy or gluten cause uncomfortable gas and bloating?  Are doctors unsure of the origin of your chronic constipation or diarrhea? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may have what is called Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Although changes in the diet may be helpful in many cases of IBS, research shows that vitamin D may also help those with this condition.

    What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the large intestine.  If someone is suffering from the following symptoms, then they may have IBS.

    • abdominal pain, cramping, or bloating
    • less pain after bowel movement
    • excess gas
    • diarrhea or constipation, or a little of both
    • mucus in the stool

    A diagnosis of IBS is usually given after testing has found that such symptoms are not related to another condition. Other conditions where such symptoms may be present include:

    • inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
    • celiac disease
    • malabsorption
    • colon cancer

    What is Vitamin D?

    Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is well-known for its link to bone health.  D rich foods include:

    • vitamin D-fortified milk, orange juice, and yogurt
    • fatty fish like tuna and salmon.
    • cod liver oil

    However, sunlight exposure can also provide vitamin D. Those who live in cloudy climates may have trouble doing this though. Therefore, vitamin D-rich foods and supplements may be needed for some to meet their vitamin D needs.  Research suggests that just 5 to 30 minutes of sunlight twice a week can help a person meet their vitamin D needs.

    Ostoeporosis is a common condition linked to vitamin D deficiency. However preliminary evidence has also linked low vitamin D to diabetes, hypertension, and glucose intolerance.  Recent recommendations suggest that most adults should consume at least 600IU a day. Although, those with a low vitamin D level may require up to 4000 IU/day to help them normalize their levels.

    It is important to ask your doctor for a vitamin D test at your annual visit. This is because vitamin D is not a typical test that healthcare providers include in your common annual visit lab panel. If you fail to get a vitamin D level test, then you may never know if symptoms such as weakness or bone pain could be helped with vitamin D treatment.

    Vitamin D and IBS Research

    A study in the European Journal of Clinical Medicine has found a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and IBS. An analysis of four observational studies and three randomized controlled trials found a link between vitamin D deficiency in IBS patients. Furthermore, high dose vitamin D supplements were found to help ease IBS symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.

    Even though evidence is limited, researchers suggest that anyone with IBS symptoms should get tested for vitamin D.  If you have low vitamin D, you may be prescribed a Vitamin D supplement, or asked to purchase an over-the-counter softgel or liquid supplement. You can also purchase vitamin D in an absorbable cream like Maxasorb by Vita Sciences. Maxasorb comes in 1000IU or 2000IU and provides a convenient way to take your vitamin D daily.

    Other Ways to Help Your IBS

    In addition to keeping an eye on your vitamin D levels, there are other ways to help control your IBS symptoms.

    • Increase fiber intake by adding in more whole grains like oats and quinoa, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fiber can help bulk stool and make it easier to pass.
    • Drink plenty of water each day to help flush waste out of your body, along with water’s other very important functions.  It is especially important to increase water intake as you increase fiber intake. If you increase fiber intake without drinking enough water, this could worsen constipation symptoms in some people. An easy rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs, you should drink 100 ounces, or about 12 cups of fluid each day. This fluid could include:
      • water or low-calorie flavored water
      • unsweetened tea, hot tea, or herbal tea
      • broth or boullion
      • decaf coffee
      • other low-calorie, low sugar drinks that do not contain caffeine or alcohol
    • Exercise on a regular basis. Exercise can help promote healthy bowel movements in those who have constipation.  Any movement counts, so get outside and take a walk, dance in your living room to a workout tape or to the radio, or go to the gym and join a group class. Whatever movement is fun to you, is movement that you will stick with for the long run.
    • Get plenty of sleep. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep each day for good health. Sleep helps your body regulate fluids, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, as well as digestion. Therefore, not enough sleep could be affecting your gut health.
    • Start on a probiotic since the gut may be lacking the good bacteria it needs for healthy digestion. Ask your healthcare provider for specific brands of probiotics they may recommend. You can also check out Vita Sciences for gut health aids such as Biovia 30.
    • Eliminate certain foods from your diet. These foods may vary from person to person, depending on your specific allergies or intolerances. However, some common food triggers of IBS include:
      • FODMAPs, or fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols found in certain fruits, vegetables, grains, or dairy products
      • gluten-containing foods such as breads, pastas, and baked goods
      • gassy foods such as alcohol, carbonated beverages, or certain vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage

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

    Sources:

    Mayo Clinic (November 18. 2017) “Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”

    Medline Plus (accessed January 29, 2018) “Digestive Diseases.”

    National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements (February 11, 2016) “Vitamin D- Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” 

    Williams CE, et al. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018;doi:10.1038/s41430-017-0064-z.


  • 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).” 

     

     


  • 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”

     


  • Could a Cup of Tea a Day Lower Your Glaucoma Risk?

    tea, antioxidant, healthOn a cold winter’s day there is nothing better than a hot cup of tea to warm you up.  Depending upon the type of tea you consume, this warm beverage could provide you with a variety of different antioxidants to help benefit your health. In fact, a recent study has shown that a cup of hot tea every day may help reduce glaucoma risk.

    What is Glaucoma?

    Glaucoma is the name for a variety of different eye conditions that involve damage to the optic nerve. Usually caused by an extreme amount of pressure in the eye, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. The most common form of this condition may not present any symptoms until it is too late. Therefore, it is very important to get regular eye check-ups to reduce your risk of eye health issues.

    About Tea

    Tea is a low-calorie beverage that can have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  These benefits stem from the presence of the polyphenols epicatechin and catechin in tea. In particular, drinking green tea was shown to help lower LDL cholesterol, higher HDL cholesterol, and lower triglyceride levels.

    Tea and Glaucoma Risk

    A recent study looked at the results of a eye exam and nutrition survey of 1700 participants.  Those people that drank tea every day had about a 75-percent less chance of having glaucoma than those who did not.  It is not certain what about tea drinkers makes them at lower risk. However,  this lower risk was only seen in those that drank hot, caffeinated tea.  Consuming decaf tea, cold tea, or either decaf or caffeinated coffee did not show any benefit. It is thought that lower glaucoma risk may be due to the lifestyle factors in those that drank hot tea six times or more per week. More studies will need to be done to identify the direct link.

    Other Ways to Lower Glaucoma Risk

    Besides drinking hot tea, there are several other ways to lower your glaucoma risk.  The researchers suggest that prevention through regular eye exams is key, along with the following lifestyle behaviors.

    • Get your heart health under control. By getting your blood pressure and diabetes under control, you can help decrease your risk of glaucoma.
    • Use treatments as prescribed. Prescribed eye drops or other glaucoma medications can help reduce the risk of complications associated with the condition. In turn, treating such symptoms can prevent or delay the onset of vision problems associated with this condition.
    • Exercise regularly. Walking or engaging in some sort of moderate exercise each day could help reduce the eye pressure related to glaucoma.  Moderate exercise may include swimming, biking, aerobics, dancing, or anything that quickens your breathing without getting you out of breath.
    • Wear eye protection. Be sure to wear sunglasses or goggles in the sunlight or when  using any power tools or engaging in any high-speed racket sports. This is because when you reduce your risk of eye injuries, you also help reduce glaucoma risk.
    • Take eye-healthy supplements.  Ocutain by Vita Sciences contains a combination of eye-healthy compounds such as lutein and beta carotene, which promote healthy vision. Such supplements, along with a heart healthy diet may help lower your risk of eye conditions such as glaucoma.

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

    Sources:

    Cochran, N. (January 12, 2017) “The Health Benefits of Tea”

    Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School (August 2014) “Tea: A Cup of Good Health?”

    Mayo Clinic (September 15, 2015) “Glaucoma”

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

    Medline Plus (December 15, 2017) “Could a Hot Cup of Tea Preserve Your Vision?”

     

     


  • 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”


  • Could Coffee Help You Live Longer?

    coffee, lengthen life, health

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

    Coffee and Health

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

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

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

    Coffee and Longer Life

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

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

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

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

    Other ways to Improve Length of Life

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

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

     


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

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

    What are is a calorie?

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

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

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

    Are some calories healthier than others?

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

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

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

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

    How to Work on Weight Loss

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

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     


  • Could Antioxidant Treatment Reduce Arthritis Pain?

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

    What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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

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

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

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

    Current RA Treatments

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

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

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

    Antioxidants and RA Pain

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

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

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

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

    Other Ways to Reduce Inflammation

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

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

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

    Sources:

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

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

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

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

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