There is no magic bullet when it comes to health or weight loss or your energy levels or to fighting inflammation in your body. The keys to being healthy, having energy and fighting inflammation are to eat a well-balanced diet and take supplements to assure you’re getting the nutrients you need for the stage of life you’re in.
But all too often people fall for the latest new trend? Remember the low fat-high carb, Atkins, cabbage and grapefruit diet.
And be especially careful when you hear the words, “fad” and “weight loss miracle diet” and ask yourself, is this ‘diet’ truly something that will help me with:
1. Maintain lean body mass
2. Optimal blood sugar control
3. Healthy brain function
4. Strong immunity
5. Endless energy
While more radical changes in food intake can have short-term guided benefits, the most important question to ask when evaluating any “diet” or “lifestyle change” you need to ask yourself, “Is this something I can stick with for a lifetime?” And if not, why not, and what can I stick with.
One of the hottest new diet is the keto diet. Let’s take a deeper look into the good, bad and impractical aspects of this eating regimen.
What is the keto diet?
A ketogenic (keto) diet that consists of up to 85% fat, with moderate amounts fo protein and very low amounts of carbohydrates (less than 20 grams a day). When following a ketogenic diet you shift your primary metabolic fuel source from carbs to fats to ketones by altering fat metabolism so your body produces compounds known as ketones in the liver. While following this diet, ketones in the blood will elevate beyond the normal ranges and when this happens your body is in a “metabolic state of ketosis.”
“Ketosis is a state in which your body burns fat, not carbs, for fuel.” To trigger this, eating a low carbohydrate diet coupled with high fat intake induces ketosis.
Many people have jumped on the ketogenic diet bandwagon as the newest way in which they can “get healthy and lose weight.” This diet, along with other low-carb diets continue to be popular among those looking for a way to quickly drop a few pounds.
Interestingly, one of the original intention of the keto diet was to induce ketosis – to prevent epileptic seizures.
The advantages of the ketogenic diet
1. You’ll burn fat. If you follow a keto diet you “improve” your body’s ability to use stored fat. Your body is unable to convert fat into fuel if you consume meals rich in carbs, but when your body is in the state of ketosis it has no choice but to turn to fat for its fuel.
2. Lower insulin levels. Your body will experience a decrease in insulin levels; in contrast to eating a “normal diet” which causes insulin levels to peak. Low insulin levels also release hormones such as the growth hormone.
3. Decreased appetite. When your body is in a state of ketosis, you will feel less hungry. This will make it easier for you to thrive on a low calorie diet without feeling hungry.
4. Increased mental and physical energy: Fueled by slow burning ketones your focus and energy through out the day increase for most people.
Here are more commonly reported benefits:
1. Improved brain function. Oxidative stress, created by excess free radicals, have been shown to play a role in neurological damage. Ketones have been shown to protect neurons and this may improve outcomes of neurodegenerative conditions.
2. Enhanced mood because you’re not eating a carb-filled diet that leads to crashes and spikes in blood sugar. These highs and lows in blood sugar can cause mood swings.
3. Slowing aging by steadying insulin levels and improved lipid profile.
4. Improved skin and reduction of acne, which is shown to have been trigged by high-sugar in the diet, can be mitigated because of this low sugar, low carbohydrate diet.
Disadvantages of a keto diet
While the consensus it that the ketogenic diet is safe and very beneficial for some or for some issues at least in the short-term, here are somethings to know.
1. Lipid profiles are altered. These commonly occurs in people who overload on certain types of fats and don’t have the genetic ability to handle this load. The diet can feature health fats rather than adding bacon, butter and eggs as the fats. In some individuals, altered lipid profiles can lead to higher cholesterol levels, but in others it causes lower cholesterol levels.
2. Fatigue is inherent for the first few weeks. Eating a ketogenic diet has led to brain fog and fatigue – something you may face for the first few weeks. At some point, though your body will gain more energy as it accustoms itself to manufacturing ketones as its main source of energy and your blood sugar levels are moderated.
3. Micronutrient deficiencies occur. Because the diet restricts the intake of carbs, your body will experience micronutrient deficiencies. Supplements and multivitamins are necessary when on this “diet.” Fiber supplements are also required to ensure your digestive system remains healthy. You will experience deficiencies in Vitamin D and selenium which must be addressed through supplements.
4. Hormonal imbalances can occur in some. Our body can exist on many energy sources including glucose, fats and ketones. For many people who are under stress, have adrenal, thyroid or testosterone issues or in younger, active menstruating woman, the elimination of glucose as a primary energy is too great a stress on their body and they can worsen their condition and find the “keto” diet worsening how they feel and perform.
While you certainly stay “keto” for a lifetime, almost everyone finds it too restrictive and return to their pre-ketogenic eating patterns. If you’ve realized the results you were seeking on the keto diet, or have decided you simply don’t want to continue, you can stop, but you want to avoid returning to the dietary habits that drove you to the keto diet.
A longer-term commitment to a “keto” diet should be considered for those with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, seizures and/or hard to control blood sugar issues.
But if fat loss is really your ultimate goal, move away from a diet high in processed foods, sugars and fats. Fad diets are not sustainable, while a switch to a healthful, whole food, lean proteins, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetable and diet with healthy fats is. Mindset matters and if you’re seeking weight loss as a reason for a diet, stop looking at fads and commit to an everyday healthy lifestyle and “diet.” A long-term sustainable diet and lifestyle are what help you live a long, healthy and active life.
Be cautious in adding carbs back into your diet in addition to the high-fat intake you’d indulged in during the keto phase. Focus on a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, nuts and supplements to assure you’re receiving all of the nutrients and vitamins necessary for a healthy body and mind.
As I have discussed in the past, almost all of the benefits you’re seeking in the restrictive keto diet – or any of the myriad other diets on the market today – can be obtained by lowering your carbohydrate intake, intermittent fasting or a lifestyle change in which you employ carb cycling as a health and diet methodology.
Remember those days when you’d slather yourself in baby oil, put lemon juice in your hair and spend your afternoons baking your skin to a golden glow under the heat of the sun? Many people still say they want to get a “base tan” before they go on vacation. When you look at a suntanned individual do you think: “Wow, that person looks so healthy?” or do you think, “I hope they don’t get skin cancer?” The sun conjures many thoughts – both good and bad – and brings with it health benefits and drawbacks.
Those who live in the northeastern part of the country who dwell in gray, gloomy skies and a dearth of sun for many months of the year, suffer Vitamin D deficiency and other ailments due to lack of sunlight. Supplements and vitamins are necessary to boost Vitamin D during the winter months or if you simply avoid the sun.
Does that mean we should spend hours under the sun in the hottest part of the day in order to get our Vitamin D from it? As with everything, the answer is “Yes. In moderation.”
What are benefits of time spent in the sun?
Treat SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Lack of sunlight can trigger SAD and depression. The symptoms manifest as tiredness, bad moods, overeating and more. SAD impacts those individuals who live in areas of the country where gray days dominate many months of the year. Seasonal depression is rare in the summer when the sun is at its peak.
Mood lightens. Sunlight is a natural mood enhancer. When there are days of full sunlight, you have more energy and feel better. Sunlight also increases serotonin levels in the brain.
Better sleep. Exposure to the sun impacts your body’s melatonin levels; melatonin tells your brain “it’s time to sleep.” When the sun goes down, your body begins producing melatonin and that makes you ready to sleep about two hours after production begins. Unfortunately, modern technology and the artificial “blue” lighting from televisions, computer screens, tablets and smart phones disrupts our ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Stress reliever. Stress, for most everyone, is a fact of modern life. Exercising, hobbies, walking the dog, getting out and enjoying the fresh air and the sunshine are all drug-free ways to alleviate stress.
Vitamin D levels rise. Exposure to the ultra violet rays of the sun helps our bodies produce Vitamin D; this is important to maintaining healthy bone strength and density. Fifteen minutes of exposure to the sun will provide your body the Vitamin D it needs; in other words, you don’t need to slather yourself in baby oil and lie out in the sun for hours.
What are drawbacks of time spent in the sun?
Sun damage. The ultra violet rays of the sun can damage your retina. That sun exposure can lead to cornea damage and UV light exposure can lead to cataract development.
Heat stroke/exhaustion. Spending too much time in the sun and getting dehydrated can lead to these ailments. People who work out-of-doors are at risk for heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Symptoms include: nausea, headache, dizziness, weakness, heavy sweating, elevated body temperature and others. Heat stroke can also cause seizures, confusion, loss of consciousness, profuse sweating and death.
Sunburn. This is painful and comes from too much sun exposure. The symptoms of sunburn may not manifest for up to four hours after sun exposure. Symptoms include: pain, swelling, tenderness, blisters, flu-like symptoms, fever, chills or headache.
Excess exposure to sun can also lead to wrinkles because UV light damages collagen and the elastic tissue of the skin.
Heat rash. This occurs when sweat ducts trap perspiration and leads to a rash that looks like clusters or blisters. It can be treated by keeping the affected area dry.
Cancer. The biggest potential consequence of long-term exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun is skin cancer. Sun damage to the skin develops over years of exposure; the older you are, the greater your risk of skin cancer. There are three common types of skin cancer, they include:
1. Basal cell carcinoma: This almost always occurs on skin damaged by the sun. You’ll notice pink, shiny, raised skin and that area may be easily injured. This is the most common and the easiest to treat if caught early.
2. Squamous cell: Again, this is caused by sun exposure, but it can also occur in individuals with burn scars caused by heat or radiation treatment. This may require surgical treatment for removal.
3. Malignant Melanoma. This is the least common occurrence of skin cancer, but has been increasing annually – especially in women aged 18-29, most likely because of the high incidence of tanning bed use in that age group. Melanoma is the most dangerous and can spread to lymph nodes and to other organs.
But is the sun the real culprit?
While over exposure to UVB rays may trigger the cancer, we are now learning that people who have optimal amounts of omega 3, avoid processed fats and eat a colorful nutrient rich diet are much less likely to get cancer even when exposed to the sun. In addition, skin cancer is much less likely to occur in those who have maintained longer telomeres and more youthful stem cell count. And lastly, malignant melanoma is frequently found in areas of the body that never get exposed to the sun.
How can you benefit from the sun, but not suffer damages and disease it can lead to?
You only need to spend fifteen minutes in the sun, daily, to reap the benefits of its rays and to replenish your body’s Vitamin D. Wearing sun screen may lead to a Vitamin D deficiency. Unprotected exposure to the sun for up to thirty-minutes per day, twice a week can help maintain and boost Vitamin D levels.
Wear UV filtering sunglasses to protect your delicate eyes.
How important is Vitamin D to your health?
Studies have shown increased levels of Vitamin D lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Dietary supplements of Vitamin D, in conjunction with sun exposure, provide heart health benefits.
Sun exposure helps the body produce Vitamin D and that is necessary to help your body absorb calcium and promote bone growth and density and keep the heart healthy.
Consider this statistic: More than 4,000 people perish from tuberculosis (TB) daily around the globe and some studies believe sun exposure could lower that mortality rate. TB rates are unusually high among prisoners and miners – two groups that are exposed to less sunlight than average. TB doesn’t typically come up in conversation because it’s a disease that has been around for hundreds of years and doesn’t evoke as much fear, but it should. No one is immune to this airborne, and with TB’s rising antibiotic-resistance, there may come a time when TB can no longer be treated with a round of antibiotics and the death toll will spike; this may be especially true of the avoidance of sun exposure continues to be touted.
Supplementing with Vitamin D will prevent rickets – a disease not commonly seen in modern times, but one caused by a Vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D also treats osteoporosis and other bone loss conditions.
What dermatologists say:
Dermatologists have long promoted the message you should not expose yourself and your skin to direct sunlight. The risk for damage and the potential for skin cancer, dermatologists believe don’t always outweigh the benefit of Vitamin D. Taking a Vitamin D supplement, dermatologists say, will address the deficiency in one’s body.
To be sure, dermatologists focus on preventing skin damage and cancers, but they sometimes ignore the benefits of sun exposure. Recent research shows, ironically, that higher levels of Vitamin D in a melanoma patient could improve his or her survival outcome.
Research also shows when you’re exposed to sunlight, nitric oxide is released into your bloodstream; this is a powerful blood-pressure lowering compound. High blood pressure sufferers could benefit from increased sun exposure.
So avoiding the sun may decrease your risk of skin cancers but it also will increase “all-cause” mortality; this makes it an important mineral to add to your daily diet.
How can I get more Vitamin D?
You can get trace amounts of Vitamin D in foods including: sardines, tuna, mackerel, dairy products, juices and others that are purported as being “fortified with Vitamin D.”
Close to 90% of your Vitamin D can be obtained through pure sun exposure. Vitamin D regulates mineral levels, phosphorous and calcium. The time you’d need to spend in the sun to boost your Vitamin D is roughly a quarter of the time it would take for you to suffer skin damage from sun exposure. The benefits outweigh the risk.
Supplements with Vitamin D are crucial for optimal health, especially for those who live in areas where the sun doesn’t shine or who aren’t out in the sun long enough to reap its benefits. It’s virtually impossible to get enough Vitamin D in your diet without the use of supplements so they should be a part of your daily health routine.
Get in the sun. Enjoy it safely. Get your Vitamin D and live healthy! You know I am a proponent of exercise, eating right and living a longer healthier life. When you’re out of doors, in the sunshine you are benefitting your life and getting your Vitamin D. It’s a win-win.
More than twenty million Americans suffer from nerve pain, also called neuropathic pain or neuropathy. The pain can range from uncomfortable to unbearable. And to make matters worse, it is one of the more difficult types of pain for doctors to uncover the cause and treat because of its varying locations in the body, causes and symptoms.
Regardless of whether the pain stems from shingles, fibromyalgia, diabetes, neuropathy caused by chemotherapy or any number of other causes, it is something with which many individuals suffer – sometimes unnecessarily. Nerve pain leaves people miserable and unable to participate in life.
So what is neuropathy?
Neuropathic pain stems from a malfunction of nerves in the brain associated with an infection, illness, injury, nutritional deficiency or side effects of treatments or drugs. Nerve pain or “pain central sensitization” means the nerves and the brains’ wires that carry information are over-stimulated and chronic pain ensues.
In some instances, the term neuropathy is a “catch-all” term employed to cover many types of peripheral nerve damage and pain.
The pain presents as:
3. Localized or large area nerve pain
4. Sharp, burning electrical shocking pain
Most Common Causes of nerve pain
There is no one all-encompassing solution because there is no one all-encompassing cause for nerve pain and the way in which it presents.
1. Diabetes: Inflammation caused by high blood sugar can lead to neuropathy in diabetics. This nerve damage typically occurs in the feet of diabetics and can make walking problematic. The gruesome facts are that more than 60% of all diabetics will suffer neuropathy – generally in their feet. It’s believed that prolonged imbalances in blood sugar leads to nerve damage, likely because of inflammation sugar causes in the body.
2. Nutritional deficiency: Eating a diet that is out of balance, is high in sugar and carbohydrates and processed foods can lead to nerve damage. Nutritional supplements may help repair nerve damage and alleviate pain as part of an overall lifestyle and diet change.
3. Structural Imbalances: Malignment or damage to the vertebral bodies in your back can cause impingement and result in mild to severe pain. Another common causes of nerve pain is caused by carpal tunnel syndrome where they nerves leading to the fingers become entrapped and inflamed.
4. Chemotherapy: Many cancer medications are neurotoxic and can damage the myelin sheath and nerve conduction as well as deplete key nutritional factors leading to long-term and even severe pain.
5. Anxiety. While anxiety doesn’t cause neuropathy it can cause symptoms that resemble nerve pain or worsen active pain. Anxiety can cause tingling, burning, numbness or mobility issues.
You want your pain to stop, but how?
The current medical treatments range from OTC anti-inflammatory treatments like Motrin, to CNS inhibitors such as gabapentin all the way to prescription and addictive narcotics. Physical therapy and biofeedback are also commonly used to address this problem.
Fortunately, natural supplements along with dietary and lifestyle changes may also offer relief to the millions who suffer nerve pain. As with so many other degenerative ailments, so many of lifes’ ills can be eliminated or eradicated if individuals made wiser choices in the foods they eat, the exercise they undertake and the supplements they add to their diets.
Nutritional and supplement solutions to alleviate nerve pain
Here are supplements to consider if you’re suffering nerve pain.
1. GLA, gamma-linolenic acid. This supplement is known for its ability to assist with nerve function as it promotes better brain function, normal nerve growth and regulates metabolism. GLA reduces nerve pain especially in those suffering neuropathy because of diabetes.
2. Lipoic Acid. Studies have shown that using R-Lipoic acid a form of B vitamin 300-600 mg two times a day can help heal nerves and decrease or eliminate the pain.
3. B Vitamins. Add 100 mg a day of a complete activated co-enzyme B vitamin complex along with 50mg of B6 can be very helpful over time to help heal damaged nerves and eliminate pain. You should also consider bi weekly subcutaneous injections of vitamin B12 of 2 to 5mg using the methylcobalamin form.
4. Benfotiamine is a derivative of vitamin B1 that has powerful properties to support healing of nerves and improved regulation of glucose reducing nerve damage. Effective dosing is 600mg taken twice daily.
5. St. John’s wort. This is deemed effective in dealing with polyneuropathy, neuropathy that affects a large number area of the body rather than an isolated area.
6. Turmeric is a root that’s part of the ginger family. It curbs inflammation and can be taken in capsule form or used in recipes.
7. White willow bark. This is considered “nature’s aspirin” and can reduce pain and inflammation without any gastrointestinal ills.
8. Vitamin D. Making sure you have optimal levels of vitamin D can raise your pain threshold significantly. Add daily time in the sun as a key lifestyle habit.
9. Vitamin E. Taking 1,600 units of Vitamin E, in its natural form, daily before a meal has been shown to alleviate and eliminate pain in those with shingles pain.
Healing nerve pain will not happen overnight
In addition, make significant changes in your diet to eliminate sugar and reduce carbohydrate intake to less than 100 grams daily.
Nerve damage takes time to heal. When following this route, be prepared to be in it for the long haul as it can take from three to twelve months to undo years of damage and to allow the supplements time to do their job. But know not only will you be supporting nerve health but the health of your body!
Heart disease kills more Americans than any other medical condition. Scary statistic. And while high cholesterol has long been blamed as the major factor for heart disease, I want to continue to remind you that the real culprit along with the process of aging itself is inflammation.
As I have discussed before, inflammation is the root cause of many ills, ailments and diseases many Americans are faced with. Let’s take another look at why this is so important for heart disease.
What is inflammation and its impact on the heart
Here’s an analogy about inflammation and your body, “If you have a splinter in your finger or an abscessed tooth your body launches an attack with its white blood cells. This leads to redness and swelling in the afflicted area and works to kill bacteria or rid the body of the intruder.”
There is a similar response in our cardiovascular system, when the interior lining or intima of the artery become irritated due to a number of factors, the body responds by protecting it by producing a fatty deposit, made up of cholesterol to protect the inner walls, Over time, as the irritation continues, this fatty deposit build-up narrows the arteries. At some point this plaque can rupture and trigger the formation of a blood clot that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
So what causes it?
Inflammation occurs following an injury or irritation – it’s the body’s response to that injury. In fact, inflammation is a long-term, slow burn, reaction within the body. High blood pressure, physical and mental stress, low nitric oxide and antioxidant levels, medications, alcohol, diabetes, refined sugar and excess carbohydrates, lack of omega 3 fats, processed fats, toxins such as smoking all lead to inflammation. For some this will effect their heart, for others their brain and for others their joints. Get the point.
How can you lower inflammation and the risk of heart disease?
The problem faced with inflammation in the Western Medical Paradigm is it is not a “disease” but a process. And since it isn’t a diagnosable disease, that has a “medication” to address the symptoms and the real answer is lifestyle and diet, this core issue is overlooked by almost all Western Medical physicians.
Ironically though, the medications, statins, that are most commonly used to address the misdirected cause of heart disease, actually has its primary benefits not due by reducing cholesterol levels but it acts to lessen inflammation!
Unfortunately, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs can be expensive and cause a number of unwanted effects such as liver damage, muscle pain, fatigue and even glucose imbalance.
Clearly, for almost all people the there is a better way!
These include lifestyle changes, physical activity and a return to whole foods including elimination of sugar and processed foods and the addition of supplements to round out the vitamins and minerals we’re lacking in our diets.
Magnesium: The king of minerals
The most important nutrient to optimize is magnesium. Sufficient levels of magnesium in the blood, which can be raised by taking supplements, can help lower inflammation, protect the arteries and strengthen your heart.
Magnesium deficiency plays a key role in the loss of elasticity of the arteries – which is a key first step to arteriosclerosis.
The connection between sugar and inflammation
Sugar, not cholesterol, is the real enemy that feeds inflammation:
Sugar comes in many forms in addition to the granulated form you use in your coffee. High fructose corn syrup, used in many processed foods, is sugar. Sugar is the main ingredient in candy, bread, pasta sauce and other foods you might not even expect. “White” foods, aka refined carbohydrates, include bagels, hot dog and hamburger buns, white rice, white tortillas… the list goes on.
The more we consume processed foods the more out of balance our diets remain and the more we cause inflammation in our bodies. Our bodies were not designed to consume the foods we currently eat – processed, high in sugars, lower in fiber.
Do you have inflammation?
There is a blood test for C-Reactive Protein that shows inflammation markers. C-Reactive protein is made by the liver and high levels can increase the risk of obesity, infection diabetes and cancer. A high sensitivity C-reactive protein can identify those who at increased risk of heart disease because of high levels of this protein in the blood. Losing belly fat can lower the C-Reactive protein levels in our body and help to reduce inflammation.
What else can you do to protect yourself and lower your body’s inflammation?
1. Regular physical activity
2. 8 hours of sleep nightly
3. Exposure to sun
4. Get outside in nature!
Here are examples of a diet that can help lower inflammation:
1. Healthy Fats: Olive oil is one of the most beneficial oils we can consume for reducing inflammation.
2. Nuts: A handful of nuts a day can stop inflammation. Stick to a handful or you will be getting additional fat and calories and defeat the purpose of this diet.
3. Reduce Excess Carbohydrates: Reducing spikes in blood sugar is one of the most powerful ways to reduce inflammation. Consume a diet rich in a variety of colored vegetables and some beans.
4. Spices and herbs: We’ve talked about the benefits of turmeric and black pepper to add antioxidants and fight inflammation.
5. Fish: Tuna, sardines and salmon have omega-3, fatty acids and that helps fight inflammation. Eat fish at least two times per week.
Foods to avoid include:
1. Sugar and refined starches. “White” foods like bread, bagels, rice. Soda, candy, high fructose corn syrup.
2. Processed and high fat meats. Hot dogs and processed lunch meats have fats which cause inflammation.
3. Fried foods. Cooking foods in vegetable oil is not a healthy alternative. When you consume fried foods you are causing inflammation.
4. Trans fats. Coffee creamers, margarine and foods with trans fats as an ingredient will raise LDL cholesterol and that leads to inflammation.
5. Gluten. This may be a controversial food group – barley, rye and wheat. People diagnosed with celiac disease need to avoid gluten. For others, whole grains are beneficial.
Low-grade, chronic inflammation is linked to all stages of atherosclerosis, the disease that underlies stroke, peripheral artery disease and heart attack. Attacking inflammation at its root source – diet, exercise and weight loss — is a powerful step toward a healthier life.
Living longer, means living healthier. Supplements, a healthy diet and an active lifestyle are within reach. Lower the inflammation in your body and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
A Hidden Benefit of Regular Sex: A Healthier Prostate
If it feels good, do it. That may have been a mantra from your youth, but even as men age they still benefit from regular and frequent sex – not just because “it feels good.”
Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, show men who have regular sex, or ejaculate, more than twenty times a month, can ward off prostate cancer.
While the study doesn’t clearly pinpoint that frequent sex was the only factor in the lowered risk of prostate cancer, but sex certainly can’t hurt! A healthy, active sex life coincides with other healthy habits we should be cultivating as we age. The more we slow down, the more we slow down, right? If it’s possible to have a healthy habit that offers rewards, like sex does, then why not make that part of your healthy lifestyle routine?
How Can Sex Lead To A Healthy Prostate?
First, a primer on what the prostate is: It’s a “small satsuma-sized gland located between a man’s penis and bladder.” The prostate’s function is to produce “a thick, white fluid that is mixed with sperm the testicles produce to create semen.”
Harvard Medical School researchers noted they still can’t quite explain the connection between orgasms and a lower risk of prostate cancer and that further study is necessary. One belief, though is regular orgasms and ejaculation may flush out cancer-causing chemicals in the prostate.
A second theory is if a man ejaculates, he is regularly “cleaning out” the sperm and that allows for the development of new cells and stops the build-up of old cells that are more likely to become cancerous.
The Harvard study, one of the most comprehensive thus far, showed that men aged 40-49 who ejaculated more than twenty times a month reduced their risk of prostate cancer by close to 25 percent as compared to men who ejaculated four to seven times per month. Researchers followed more than 30,000 healthy men for eighteen years; 3,839 were later diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The connection between ejaculation and a lowered risk of prostate cancer remain unclear, but the results were considered “particularly encouraging.”
The Many Benefits Of Sex
Having sex equates to a moderate intensity exercise. In addition to its physical benefits sex boosts mental and emotional health. The caveat: engage in safe-sex practices; if you’re doing that then increase your sexual activity to enhance your overall health.
In addition to the possible benefits of warding off prostate cancer, here are more benefits of having a sexually active lifestyle.
1. Boost immunity. Having sex one or two times a week significantly boosts immunoglobulin A and that improves your body’s immune system.
2. Reduce stress. As an activity, sex relieves stress and helps you to relax and sleep better.
3. It enhances the bond with your partner. Intimacy is an important component of a healthy relationship and having regular sex keeps you and your partner connected.
4. Heart health. Men who have sex at least twice a week are 45% less likely to develop heart disease than those who have sex one time a month or less.
5. It’s exercise. When you have sex you boost your heart rate, strengthen your muscles and burn calories; that’s not bad! Studies show that a man can burn four calories a minute during intercourse.
6. Pain reliever. If you have aches and pains, having sex will release pain-reducing hormones and those might block leg or back pain or pain from arthritis.
7. Your libido gets a boost. The more you have sex, the more you will want to have sex. There is both a mental and a physical connection in having an active sex life.
Don’t Be A Prostate Cancer Statistic
In 2012, the World Cancer Research Fund International recorded more than one million cases of prostate cancer. The causes of prostate cancer remain unknown, but the chance of developing it increase as men age.
Improve The Health Of Your Prostate
As your prostate health declines, (known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)), the prostate swells and presses against the urethra – it’s akin to pinching a straw – and reduces the flow of urine.
Some culprits include:
1. DHT, which plays a role in the development and growth of the prostate. Men’s bodies continually convert testosterone to DHT and the prostate continues to grow.
2. Inflammation. In the body, inflammation is a normal, healthy response to health issues and injures. In other cases though, inflammation is caused by stress, diet and elevated blood sugar and this may mean our bodies are in a constant state of inflammation.
3. Hormonal imbalances. The levels of testosterone slowly drop as men age and an enzyme called aromatase converts the testosterone into estrogen. Studies have shown that high levels of estrogen-related enzymes lead to prostate decline.
Depending on the severity of prostate health, options include:
1. Lifestyle and Diet changes. Limiting alcohol, sugar, caffeine and overall fluid intake.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is high in fiber, incorporates healthy oils and nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables and low in sugars and low in processed foods is wise for health in general and in turn, for your prostate.
2. Nutritional Supplements. The use of saw palmetto, zinc, nettle root, pygeum, flax and Norway Spruce lignans, Pumpkin oil and a few others can be very effective for many men, especially in earlier stages.
3. Medication. You may be prescribed alpha blockers to relax the muscle of the prostate to allow it to release more urine. These medications may be expensive and produce other side effects.
4. Surgery. This is the most invasive and drastic option – having the enlarged prostate tissue removed. It almost always can be avoided when you act early.
As with all lifestyle benefits we gain in life, it’s best to have been healthy from your early years, however that isn’t to say that you can’t embrace a healthier lifestyle and turn around years of bad habits. Commit to your health and to a healthier prostate today.
As I have written so many times. You can’t underestimate the power of whole foods. Today let’s take a deep dive into turmeric.
Turmeric is a root herb with a tough brown skin and deep orange flesh. Its fragrance mimics orange and ginger and has been given the nickname, “The spice of life.” A cousin to the ginger root, it is also called “Indian Saffron” due to its bright, golden color. The active compound in turmeric is curcumin which has been studied and used for its preventive health and disease-fighting properties.
Turmeric, a common culinary spice, is used in many cuisines around the world for its flavor, color and its healthful benefits. Turmeric’s appeal goes far beyond its taste and appearance. Its healthful profile has been documented by scientific research. This colorful spice is known for its antioxidant qualities and its ability to alleviate inflammation in the body and has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of ailments.
Maybe there is a reason that turmeric is “all the rage.” It might have become more mainstream in recent years, but those who have made a commitment to their health and to longevity have long known the benefits of this powerful spice and its benefits.
Why should you care about turmeric?
First a little background. Turmeric is a dried and ground portion of the turmeric root. Turmeric is native to southwest Asia and India and has been prized in culinary circles because of its intense yellow color and earthy flavor. Even before modern medicine recognized its health benefits turmeric was used in folk medicine and natural medicine for centuries.
What makes turmeric so powerful?
The compound that gives turmeric its “power” is the compound, curcumin. Turmeric’s benefits are attributed to the common curcuminoid – curcumin and that is available in supplement form.
An issue with curcumin is that it isn’t easily absorbed into our bloodstream. To help with absorption and reap its healthful properties, one needs to mix it with black pepper; when that is done the absorption of curcumin is enhanced by 2000%.
The health benefits of curcumin suggest it can halt enzymes responsible for turning environmental toxins into carcinogens within the body. Curcumin improves digestion of fats and sugars and alleviates inflammation in the digestive system. It can also be used to alleviate gum problems and mouth sores.
How are turmeric and curcumin related?
All turmeric contains curcumin, but less than five percent of the weight of turmeric is made up of curcumin, even though the rest of the turmeric root contain myriad beneficial compounds.
When people take nutritional supplements they are typically taking curcumin supplements or turmeric extracts because they are more concentrated in its antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory effects than is turmeric powder.
What are health benefits of turmeric?
Studies on turmeric and curcumin, its active ingredient, have been found to address many health issues including:
1. Combating free radicals in the body
2. Fighting inflammation
3. Helping alleviate symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis because of its anti-inflammatory properties
4. Protecting against heart disease
5. Helping to fight the effects of diabetes and cancer
6. Helping prevent Alzheimer’s Disease by boosting brain function
7. Remove harmful toxins from the body
8. Protecting the liver
9. Preventing, or lowering, high blood pressure
How can you use turmeric?
You can find many books and websites on how to use turmeric and curcumin whether in whole form, powered form in your cooking or in a supplement form.
Here are some ways to use this superfood.
1. Golden milk. Uses milk – dairy, almond, coconut – mixed with spices including turmeric and a pinch of black pepper. The golden milk can also be added to a cup of herbal tea or warmed and enjoyed. 2. Broth. Add turmeric to soups or stews or in an egg drop soup. 3. Face mask. Add a half teaspoon of turmeric powder to your favorite face mask recipe. Remember, turmeric can stain your skin and clothing. 4. Poultice. If you have redness or inflammation on your skin, or are treating eczema or psoriasis can mix a thick paste of turmeric, castor oil, a pinch of black pepper and rub onto the inflamed area. You can wrap the area and reduce the inflammation. 5. Itch remedy. Just as the turmeric poultice can help with inflammation it can also calm burned or itching skin. It can be messy, so keep a wash cloth handy. 6. Weight management. The curcumin in turmeric is said to help with weight loss. Curcumin is known to prevent the growth of fat in the body.
Turmeric as a spice – plain and simple. You can add this spice to eggs, meats, soups or roasted veggies for a bright pop of color and a delicious and healthy flavorful punch.
If you don’t enjoy the taste of turmeric, but want its health benefits, take it in supplement form. Whether you’re a chef who uses this root herb liberally or whether you’re an individual who wants to reap the benefits of turmeric without using it in your cooking, add a turmeric or curcumin supplement to those you take daily.
Either way they do have their place to support, optimize and motivate you to get up off the couch and get moving. But just like any other item that’s purported to “help you get in shape” the fitness tracker is only as good as the motivation of the person wearing it.
A fitness tracker is a tool by which you can measure the results of that motivation. In addition, a fitness tracker is a tool to use to “remind” you to get up and get moving. Americans are sitting for longer periods – sometimes up to eight hours at a stretch without moving and that can literally be deadly!
Competitive athletes use many monitoring devices to track heart rates, recovery and performance but they don’t need to be reminded to get moving as fitness is part of their routine and their daily lives.
So while a fitness tracker can help you refine your activity, it’s only your will, motivation and desire to become fit and live a longer, healthier life that will “get you in shape.”
So why is this all important?
There are many dangers surrounding inactivity, including:
1. Organ damage. When you sit for extended periods of time – even if you are a relatively active person, otherwise – studies show there is decreased blood flow and fat burning associated when you sit. These factors lead to increased risk of high blood pressure, digestive issues, heightened cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease.
2. Chronic disease. Prolonged periods of sitting reduces the production of your body’s protective antioxidants. When you’re sedentary your cells are more exposed to potentially cancer-causing free radicals. Sitting leads to drastic declines in insulin response and puts you at a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes.
3. Blood clots. Some individuals fret about sitting on an airplane and developing blood clots while others sit at their desks at work, on the couch watching television or playing video games without giving a thought to what prolonged sitting can do. When you sit for a long time you can develop deep vein thrombosis, the risk is escalated if you are obese. A blood clot can form and could be potentially fatal if it dislodges and enters the longs of brain. Deep vein thrombosis happens when your blood circulation slows and fluids are allowed to pool in one area of the body.
Fitness Trackers and Habit Changes
Put your fitness tracker on, decide what you want your step goal to be and get moving. Remember, though even if you’re moving more frequently and getting in your allotted number of steps per day, if you’re not making any other changes to your habits and your lifestyle you are like Sysphus, continually pushing a rock up a hill only to have it slide back down; you won’t be making progress toward health.
Running a mile, then coming home and eating a donut or drinking a beer and having pizza is not amping up the health benefits you imagined you’d reap by wearing a fitness tracker. Sure, it’s “healthier” to be more active than you were before, but if you’re not changing your diet and other habits you’re fighting a losing health battle.
I’d love to see someone who is committed to wearing a fitness tracker be as committed to eating a whole food, plant-based diet or at least a diet that is low in processed foods and sugars and high in protein and fiber and that is minimally processed. Making a commitment to yourself to not only wear a tracker but to make changes in your lifestyle is the best marriage of a fitness tracker to a more fit lifestyle.
Embrace your fitness tracker as more than a status symbol or a piece of jewelry. It’s great to point out, “I’m wearing my fitness tracker and am getting in 10,000 steps a day,” when you talk with your friends… as long as that’s true. If however you point out, “I just got the latest and greatest fitness tracker and I can take phone calls and read my emails on it…” Are you wearing it to get fit or are you wearing it so you can do more work, and move less?
Understand why you’re investing in a fitness tracker – status symbol or health tracker.
Will A Fitness Tracker Motivate You?
This isn’t a question I can answer for you. I know some people who didn’t realize just how long they were sitting at a stretch and just how few steps they got in a day. They started wearing fitness trackers and set it to notify them to walk X number of steps an hour. The notification prompted them to stop what they were doing, get on a treadmill or get out-of-doors and move; they were using their fitness tracker for its intended purpose.
Did they change other habits in their lives? That I don’t know, but they were more motivated to move once they received a physical reminder to do so. It’s a step (no pun intended) in the right direction.
Just as you need to commit to better health habits, so too do you need to commit to your step count or to being active enough to raise your heart rate.
You need to know WHY you want to get fit.
1. Have you had a health scare?
2. Are your clothes not fitting properly? Do you have a family member who is having health issues that you want to avoid? Do you simply want to feel better in your own skin? Understand your motivations for getting fit and for wearing a fitness tracker and keep that front of mind.
3. Have you lost loved ones at an early age and are motivated to gain control of your health so you can live not only a long life, but a healthy and vibrant one.
It’s been reported more than 25 million fitness trackers have been sold worldwide! Does this mean you’re going to see 25 million more people living longer, healthier lives? Not necessarily. This could simply mean that many of these people have purchased a fitness tracker to show it off to their friends and family.
Do I sound jaded? Yes, because I have seen too many people who tout the benefits of what their fitness tracker does rather than how their fitness tracker has motivated them to move.
Who Can Benefit From a Fitness Tracker?
If you’ve never given your resting heart rate a thought, seeing what that is could be eye opening. Getting up and moving to watch your heart rate increase can be oddly gripping. Your fitness tracker can provide you with detailed and novel information about you and your body.
It can track your steps, measure your heartrate and let you know how many hours a night you’re sleeping and give you insight as to whether your sleep is restful or whether you toss and turn. If you need to drink more water, there is likely a setting on your fitness tracker where you can track that as well.
A fitness tracker is certainly motivational if you need to be more aware of your actual activity level. You may be surprised at how little you move and this eye-opening fact could motivate you to move more.
Don’t Let Your Fitness Tracker De-motivate You
Many fitness trackers come pre-set with the “recommended” daily number of steps set at 10,000 per day. If you’re just starting out and going from sedentary to moving more, a 10,000 step per day may not be doable. Seeing that you cannot meet that level of activity could potentially de-motivate you and you’ll give up.
Set the fitness tracker with the number of steps per day that you think you can achieve. Why not start out with at least 5,000 steps per day? Set the fitness tracker to give you an alert at the top of every hour and prompt you to get up and move 250 to 500 steps per hour. Take a walk before breakfast, after lunch and after dinner; you don’t have to walk for hours, unless you want to.
After you’ve met your self-selected step goals for a week or two, then add on another 1,000 steps. Keep adding until you’re at 10,000 steps.
Celebrate your wins.
Quality Over Quantity
When you’re sufficiently motivated this will play a pivotal role in whether you will increase and more importantly, maintain, physical activity levels. Once the novelty of the fitness tracker and your getting in the pre-set number of steps wears off you may “forget” to put the fitness tracker on and you will slide back into bad habits.
To get your physical fitness goals to “stick” you need to be committed to it willingly and positively. It’s not enough for your doctor to say, “You need to stop eating sugar!” You need to want to stop eating sugar and you need to want to do it for a positive reason. Pressure and competition will lower your level of motivation toward meeting any fitness goal.
Motivation, it’s been said, depends on three basic needs/wants:
You need to feel adequately challenged, feel a sense of ownership over your actions and need to feel connected to others who support your efforts.
If you’re committed to wearing a fitness tracker, here are some ways to make it more beneficial:
1. Set your own daily goals. You know your lifestyle and work and family life better than a pre-set step goal. Don’t give yourself permission to not be active simply because “life is busy.” That’s an excuse.
2. Set micro-challenges. If you’ve walked 5,000 steps per day for a week, challenge yourself one or two days a week to exceed that goal by 1,000 (or more steps) a day. Challenge yourself to walk at least 150 steps per hour.
3. Focus on movement in general, not just steps. We’ve written before about various types of workout routines that are beneficial – weight training, for example – to longevity.
4. Change your eating habits. If you’re committing to a fitness tracker, commit to making changes in your diet. Many people fail if they completely give up specific foods or try to make sweeping changes. Commit to giving up white bread one week, then the next week delete a favorite processed food from your diet, the following week move away from added sugar in your foods. When you make small steps you are more likely to adapt to this habit change than making a statement, “I will never eat sugar, processed foods or white bread again!”
5. Keep the fitness tracker on. We know this sounds ridiculous, but many people are committed to wearing their tracker every moment of every day when they first get it. The first time it needs to be charged, though, it gets easier to keep it off than to put it back on. If the tracker has kept you active, don’t slide back down the hill of inactivity.
Is a fitness tracker ideal for you? I can’t say. If you need a device to motivate you to a better, healthier lifestyle then I say, get one and wear it diligently. I also urge you to eat healthier, do weight training, add supplements to your daily routine and here’s to living a longer, healthier life!
Whole foods first. If I could impress one healthy diet lifestyle upon anyone, and everyone, it would be that. The more processed a food is, the fewer nutrients your body reaps from it.
In a perfect world, we would get the nutrients we need to live long, healthy lives from our diets; we wouldn’t need dietary supplements. Today, though our diets aren’t balanced enough to give our bodies the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need. We need to rely upon dietary supplements to take up the slack.
Even those individuals who focus their diets on one that is based on whole foods, low in refined and added sugars, high fiber, high protein and are minimally processed are still unable to get all of the nutrients they need from their diets.
The foods we eat are no longer grown in mineral rich soils, the fruits and vegetables are picked before they’re ripe so they arrive in our grocery stores “ready to eat.” Many fruits and vegetables – unless you’re buying certified organic – are grown in toxic soils and are sprayed with pesticides.
Can you be healthy without taking dietary supplements?
In a word: No.
Too many of us rely on processed foods and ingest too many refined sugars to be healthy. If we ate healthier, cooked at home, ate whole foods and knew where our foods came from, we could be healthier and live longer. We can blame our unhealthy lifestyles on being too “busy” to cook. The proliferation of fast food restaurants and that we are “lazy” in our self-care leads to a reliance on dietary supplements to pick up the slack.
In the past we relied on Mother Nature to help keep us healthy and supply us with nutrient-rich whole foods.
Changes in food quality, additives, preservatives and toxins in our environment have created a perfect storm of unhealthy lifestyle options. These changes make it almost impossible to be optimally healthy without taking dietary supplements.
Lack of local, sustainably grown foods wreak havoc on our health
We live in a world where foods that aren’t “in season” are available in the grocery store year-round. This means, at a minimum, these fruits and vegetables are grown in “warehouses” and greenhouses rather than in nature, as was intended. We love eating out-of-season fruits and vegetables year-round, but at what cost to our health?
This is why we rely on supplements. We eat fruits, vegetables, meats and other foods that are no longer rich in nutrients because they’ve been bred out of them or covered in pesticides or languish in a warehouse until they make their way into a truck to be shipped to your grocery store.
The need for supplements is an issue that has no clear answer.
The Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans urges us to “get our nutrients primarily from food” yet the foods we are presented with are no longer as nutrient dense as they once were.
The FDA also urges us to eat foods that are “nutrient-dense and minimally processed” as those foods contain “essential vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that will offer positive health effects.”
We agree with a “food first” approach, but based on what we’ve seen, many Americans don’t eat enough unprocessed foods to obtain the nutrients their bodies need therefore, we supplement.
Are supplements helpful?
Taking dietary supplements are beneficial. Knowing what supplements your body requires is based partially on where you are in life and your activity level.
For example: Are you an athlete? Elderly? A child? A woman of child-bearing age? The stage of your life, and your diet, dictates the supplements you require.
How to choose the correct supplements for you?
With some many options available how do you know what ingredients to take and which to avoid? The market for nutritional supplements is ever-expanding and there are many companies touting their supplements offer the recommended daily allowance of whatever supplement they’re pushing. Many of these supplement companies, however, add potential toxins and “fillers” to the supplements – items your body does not need – and you may not even be getting enough of the nutrient you’re paying for.
How do you assure you’re getting what you need – at a minimum in your dietary supplements?
There are three main types of multivitamins.
1. Isolated and combination supplements. These contain synthetically produced ingredients – are not plant or food-sourced. They also may contain ingredients you don’t want to ingest – ever – like petrochemicals or vitamins imported from China.
Read the label. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) you read on the label levels are those sufficient to prevent rickets (caused by a Vitamin D deficiency), for example, but won’t truly address nutritional deficiencies.
2. Whole food supplements. These contain 100 percent raw, whole foods. The supplements contain individual vitamins and minerals and also vital phytochemicals to enhance your body’s ability to utilize the nutrients in the supplement. On a whole food supplement you will see words you recognize: oranges, beets, broccoli, carrots, etc. Our bodies recognize the ingredients in whole food supplements and are easily absorbed.
3. Food-based supplements. These contain isolated synthetic nutrients and also ingredients derived from food extracts or botanicals. The label on a food-based supplement will also contain recognizable names: orange extract, rice bran and spinach powder.
High quality supplements are worth it
You have options: Take an inexpensive multivitamin or nutritional supplement that is a chemical soup of ingredients – many of them potentially toxic – that have limited, isolated ingredients…
Or invest in supplements crafted from high-quality whole food formula crafted exclusively from real fruits, vegetables and botanicals—blueberries, apples, oranges, and cranberries; carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and kale, ginger, garlic and turmeric with thousands of studies backing the proven long-term benefits?
What are you going to choose? What is your health worth to you?
At a minimum, here are dietary supplements to consider:
Folate: For women of child-bearing age. This nutrient can be found in: beans, dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, oranges and peas. Folate and folic acid help prevent neural tube defects in infants. Women should have 400 micrograms of folic acid and pregnant women should have 600 micrograms of this nutrient daily.
Iron: Child-bearing age women or those trying to conceive need more iron, mainly heme iron because our bodies absorb that more readily. Heme iron can be found in lean meats; non heme iron is found in lentils, spinach, white beans, enriched cereals and breads. Adult males need 8 mg of iron a day; women need 18 mg a day; pregnant women need 27 mg daily.
Vitamin B12: People fifty-years-old or older have difficulty absorbing Vitamin B12 from food. People in this age group, need to increase consumption of foods – like fortified cereals – to get the nutrient. B12 occurs naturally in animal-based proteins and this makes it difficult for vegetarians to get the daily required amount without taking supplements. Adults need about 2 mcg of Vitamin B12 a day.
Multivitamin. Many individuals take a multivitamin to supplement their diets. Depending on your health, age and other factors, a multivitamin might be just what you need. For others, you may need a boost of other essential nutrients from a supplement that provides a specific nutrient.
When you take an individual nutrient supplement you’re getting that nutrient in a larger amount than what you will in your multivitamin. If you have an iron deficiency, for example, you may need more iron than can be found in your multivitamin.
Probiotics. These are live microorganisms believed to have health benefits that help populate our guts with beneficial flora and microbes. You can find probiotics in several forms and in fermented or unpasteurized foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi and supplements.
How to get nutrients from your diet
When you add foods high in nutrients your body may be lacking, you are also providing your body with fiber, protein and other nutrients; you don’t get protein or fiber from supplements.
What are some foods that are nutrient dense?
1. Blueberries. They are considered a superfood and are loaded with antioxidants, are rich in Vitamin C, potassium and phytonutrients. They can lower your risk of heart disease and reduce inflammation.
2. Sweet potatoes. They are rich in Vitamins A, B, C and are full of fiber, potassium and carotene.
3. Fish. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids – salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines can lower the risk of heart disease and help with arthritis pain.
4. Avocados. Rich in vitamins B, E and K. Regular avocado consumption can reduce blood cholesterol levels. They contain good (monosaturated fats).
5. Oats. They are rich in vitamin B, folate, fiber, potassium and complex carbohydrates.
Here’s my supplement program.
1. Organic Wholefood Fruit and Vegetable Powder
2. Organic Beet Juice powder and Beet-Infused Chocolate Chew for nitric oxide
3. Vitamin D3 and K2 supplement
4. Omegas 3 EPA/DHA blend
5. Pure Multivitamin/Mineral tablets rich in magnesium enhanced with botanical extracts
6. Highly-Absorbable Curcumin supplement
7. Essential Amino Acid powder with Ribose
8. Collagen Protein powder
9. Prostate formula that blocks extra estrogen and DHT
10. Pine Pollen powder blend to support and nourish hormonal pathways
But most importantly, I eat a whole food, minimally processed diet devoid of refined sugars. Taking the additional supplements allows me to protect and prevent and even slow down the aging-process.
Your life, your health, your choice, but don’t you want to live a long, healthy vital life? I know do.
Have you ever had “butterflies” in your stomach? Do you ever have a “gut feeling” about something? When is the last time you had a “gut-wrenching” experience? These expressions aren’t just used for dramatic effect; our gastrointestinal tracts are sensitive to emotions.
Our “guts” can react to and be impacted by:
5. Fear, and more
Any of the feelings mentioned above can trigger a reaction and elicit symptoms in your stomach.
Why do our guts react to our brains and vice versa?
Were you aware the brain has a direct effect on your stomach? Imagine this: when you smell food, the thought of a meal releases your stomach’s juices before the food arrives. This brain-belly connection is a two-way street. If your intestines are “troubled” they will send a signal to the brain that “something’s just not right.”
Your stomach or intestinal distress can either be the cause of, or the product of, your stress, depression or anxiety. The reason is scientifically clear – our brain and our gastrointestinal systems are intimately and uniquely interconnected.
If you’ve experienced a gastrointestinal issue or stomach upset and can’t pinpoint a physical cause, the likely connection is your brain. If you have a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, it can be difficult for your physician to help heal your distressed stomach without having considered the level of stress and emotion in your life.
What do you know about your enteric nervous system?
It is another connection from brain to belly. The enteric nervous system is sometimes called the “second brain” or your enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS comprises two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells that line your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum.
What does the “brain” in your gut control?
The role the ENS has in your body is to control digestion. This includes swallowing to releasing the enzymes that break down your food to controlling the blood flow to help with nutrient elimination or absorption. Your enteric nervous system isn’t capable of “thought” but it certainly communicates with your brain – and with amazing results!
Researchers and doctors have also come to understand anxiety and depression are contributing factors to IBS or other issues like diarrhea or constipation, but now they believe gastrointestinal irritations could send signals to your nervous system and trigger mood changes. This discovery could explain why a “higher than normal percentage of people with IBS develop anxiety and depression.”
New understandings of the connection between belly and brain could open the doors to new treatment opportunities for sufferers of gastrointestinal health issues and/or emotional health issues like depression or anxiety.
Gastrointestinal disorders/distress and the stress connection
Now that you know how closely your stomach and your brain interact, it should be easier to understand why you feel nausea before you get on stage or why you feel a stomach ache when you’re experiencing stress. Keep in mind that not all stomach distress is “in your head” as there can be myriad underlying physical ailments that lead to GI issues.
Your physician will tell you psychology works with physical factors that can lead to pain and intestinal symptoms. Psychosocial factors impact physiology of your gut as well as symptoms you’re dealing with. What this means is stress or another psychological factor impact the moment and contractions of your gastrointestinal tract and can make inflammation worse.
If you suffer a functional GI disorder, chances are you feel pain more acutely than others and this means that stress can make your existing pain feel worse. This can mean if you are a patient with a functional GI condition, you may be able to alleviate pain if through therapy aimed at reducing stress or treating your depression or anxiety. It’s worth a shot, right?
Is stress causing your GI symptoms or are your GI symptoms being magnified by your stress? It’s a chicken and egg syndrome
What are your stomach problems?
Are they related to stress you’re experiencing? How can you determine that? Look for common stress symptoms – write them down and talk with your doctor. Work with your doctor to come up with strategies to deal with triggers for your stress and ways to ease digestive issues because of the stress triggers.
Here are some physical stress symptoms that can impact your stomach, to look for:
2. Problems sleeping
3. Stiff muscles in your neck and shoulders
4. Unexplained weight loss
5. Unexplained weight gain
6. Loss of interest in sex or other activities you once enjoyed
7. Tremors or shakiness
Here are some behavioral and emotional symptoms of stress
1. Teeth grinding
3. Drinking or smoking more than typical
4. Withdrawing from friends and family
5. Being unable to make a decision
7. Trouble concentrating
8. Quick to temper
9. Being unable to relax
10. Being unable to remember things
Anxiety and depression, a Johns Hopkins expert explains, have been thought to contribute to gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Promote good gut health
Here are some of the ways in which your lifestyle negatively influences gut health and gut flora:
1. Taking antibiotics
2. Drinking chlorinated water
3. Using antibacterial soaps
These are some of the items we are exposed to that can wreak havoc on our gut bacteria and this can lead to a cascade of illnesses.
Probiotics and supplements can help
Proper nutrition can be found through a healthy diet and exercise, but you still need to enhance your body and its function and that can be done through the use of probiotics.
Probiotics feed the healthful bacteria that live in our gut and our GI tract. Probiotics are food for your gut to support the growth and activity of friendly gut-living bacteria. Fermented vegetables are also believed to be a conduit to gut health and healthy gut bacteria.
Keep your guts and your brain healthy
Eat well. Be active. Take supplements to assure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to help you function at your peak. Don’t forget the probiotics and supplements to enhance the all-important gut flora and bacteria. Here’s to your gut – and your mental – health!
Strength training isn’t just for those who want to become body builders. Strength training is for anyone, at any age, who wants to live a longer, healthier life.
We’re living longer, but who wants to live to be one-hundred if they aren’t living a functional, enjoyable lifestyle? I wouldn’t. I want to be vibrant, healthy and active for as long as possible.
You’ve heard the saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”? That is especially true with our bodies and with its potential deterioration if you live a sedentary lifestyle.
The commonly known benefits of strength training to ward off aging include improving muscle mass, enhancing functional living, improved hormone health and diabetes improvement.
In addition, you can “offset aging” when you do strength training exercises. You lose weight and strengthen your bones and if you’re more muscular you can improve your balance and your stability.
Remember, you don’t have to go from couch potato to lifting weights. As with any form of exercise, ease into it to prevent injuries. Slow and steady wins the fitness race.
Lifting weights or doing any form of bodyweight exercise will make you fitter and stronger in both mind and body. And interval training is one of the best ways to “use it so you don’t lose it” as it focuses upon different types of exercises and different areas of your body.
The benefits of strength training go beyond your getting stronger and here are some reasons why.
Protect your bones. As we age our bones become more brittle. When you’re strengthen your muscles you also strengthen your bones. And by doing so you will prevent one of the most common causes of functional aging and age-related death, broken bones due to osteoporosis.
Boost metabolism. When you have more muscle your body burns more fat. Muscle will even work to burn fat while you sleep! Developing muscle mass through weight lifting exercises and resistance workouts will help you burn calories at rest; burning calories in this way is referred to as “basal metabolic rate” or BMR).
Better sleep. Who doesn’t want to get a better nights’ sleep? We don’t know of anyone who would. You can certainly take a dietary supplement like melatonin, but wouldn’t it be great if you could sleep better without supplements or with fewer supplements?
When you lift weights, a study found that people who did moderate-intensity resistance training for ten weeks had a better quality of sleep than those who were sedentary.
NOTE: Don’t do a workout right before bedtime, though as that will wake you up because of the endorphins racing through your body. Work out early in the day – you will still benefit at bedtime.
Mental acuity benefits. We mentioned that lifting weights would help your mental abilities. Research has shown that resistance training helps adults who have mild cognitive impairment to improve their cognitive function over time; it’s not a one-and-done. The benefits of weight lifting are cumulative.
It’s been shown that individuals who build their bodies perform better on cognitive tests than those who are sedentary. We’re not saying you can avoid Alzheimer’s disease, but if you can ward off any form of dementia, isn’t time in the gym worth it?
Stress reliever. Stress is all around us. Whether we listen to the news and get stressed, or we have stress in our family and in our daily work and personal lives, a workout can relieve some of that daily stress.
Studies show that with resistance training an individual can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and lower their stress levels. Stress takes its toll on both our physical and emotional health; if gym time can help alleviate it, you reap multiple benefits.
Better sex. Okay, we can’t guarantee you’ll have better sex, but your sex life just might improve through strength training. Not only will your confidence improve but your partner may enjoy your new found energy and looks. Or even better, share the active experience. If your libido is lacking,
We’ve shared the benefits, but you’re probably wondering, “How do I get started?”
As I mentioned in previous posts, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the best ways to get the most out of a short burst of exercise. The benefits of HIIT go beyond the work out because your body continues to burn calories for up to forty-eight hours after a HIIT routine.
What is high-intensity interval training (HIIT)?
This is a training technique in which you work “all out” put in 100% effort into quick, intense bursts of exercise. After the intense burst you have “active” recovery periods.
The benefit of HIIT is that you get your heart rate up and burn more fat in a shorter exercise period. When you undertake a high-intensity workout you increase your body’s oxygen requirement during the intense burst, this leads to a shortage of oxygen and that leads to your body craving oxygen during the short recovery period. The recovery period is referred to as the “afterburn effect” and as an excess post-exercise consumption period. HIIT burns more fat and calories than regular exercise and more than steady-state workout routines.
If you have told yourself you “don’t have time to exercise” I am here to tell you to kick that excuse to the curb and to look at HIIT exercise if you want to strengthen your body.
Here are some of the benefits of high-intensity interval training
1. It’s quick. You can’t use the “no time” excuse now that you know about HIIT. We’ll bet you can find thirty minutes a day to get healthy and strengthen your body, can’t you?
2. It’s portable. You can’t use “traveling” as an excuse not to work out. You can do HIIT in a hotel room, the park, the beach or the comfort of your own home.
3. It’s convenient. A HIIT workout uses your own body weight as its “equipment.” With high-intensity interval training the focus is on getting your heart rate up and keeping it up.
4. It has long term benefits. When you combine the effects of HIIT with the post-exercise consumption period you can get a metabolism boost for up to forty-eight hours after you’ve finished your workout routine. Your body will continue to burn fat long after you’ve finished the workout.
What are some HIIT exercises you can try?
When you’re looking for a do-it-anywhere, just get started HIIT workout, look for an effective and efficient routine that you will stick with. While running, swimming, stationary cycling, elliptical trainers all allow for HIIT trainers, take it up a notch and use bodyweight activities to improve strength as well.
Ready, set, let’s go!
To reap the big rewards you need to put 90-100% effort for 20-30 seconds during the high-intensity portion and then allow yourself to heart rate to recover to 75% of its maximum rate. Remember, the training is actually in the ability of your heart to recovery. Repeat each cycle 6 to 8 times. And then perform the HIIT every 5 to 7 days.
1. Jump squats. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides. Bend your knees, keeping them over your feet. Sit back into a quarter-squat. Jump. Return to the squat position.
2. Push ups. Get into the plank position. Put your hands on the ground under your shoulders. Lets should be hip width apart. Keep your elbows tucked to your sides and your body in a straight line. Bend your elbows, lower your body until it almost touches the ground, return to the beginning position.
3. Burpee. With this exercise you begin standing, then place your hand on the ground, kick your legs backward until they’re fully extended. It will look like you’re in a push up position. Now quickly jump your legs back toward your hands, stand up quickly with your hands raised to the ceiling. Repeat immediately.
4. Jumping lunge. Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Perform a small jump while simultaneously moving your right leg forward, your left leg backward. You will land in a lunge with your right knee bent over your toes, left knee bent in line with your hip. Jump up and at the same time reverse your legs.
The goal is for the intervals to be hard. It is Ok to take the first few a bit easier to make sure you are warm up and then ramp up the effort so the last 3 to 4 reps are close to all out. Your ability to perform and recover will improve over time.
Consider that strength training will improve your sex life, your self-confidence, make you more desirable and simply make you feel better and age better and healthier and you will be thanking me for introducing you to them.
Now that you’re aware of the myriad benefits of a strength training workout on your mental and physical (and yes, sexual) health. What are you waiting for? Get up. Get moving. Live a longer, healthier life!