Blog posts tagged with 'fitness'

by Mark J. Kaylor

Let’s get right to it — heart disease is largely preventable and reversible. Heart disease is the number one killer in America, for both men and women, and has been for some time. While the stats have improved some recently, almost 400,000 people die every year from coronary heart disease (CHD). The creation of arterial lesions and plaque buildup occurs over decades* and is a fundamental contributor to an array of cardiovascular issues. The good news is that “heart disease is largely preventable and reversible.” Here are suggestions from four key categories that are likely to have the biggest, quickest and, hopefully, best impact.

In the Beginning — Diet

There are thousands of diets out there, but there is one that stands out in the research that is actually quite simple, a plant-based diet. It’s as simple as that; eat a whole food, plant-based diet. Numerous studies confirm that this simple yet effective approach can not only prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD), but reverse and repair the damage from it. A whole foods plant-based diet reduces our risk for CVD, reduces inflammatory markers and free radicals, improves endothelial (lining of the arteries) dysfunction and probably most importantly of all — reduces our risk of dying from CVD. One food group of special note is nuts (especially walnuts). Nuts are research supported to reduce risk for CVD, improve endothelial function and lower cholesterol.

One big step is to eliminate, as much as possible, all the refined carbohydrates and sugars that make their way into our diet. How impactful is eating refined sugars? Consuming 25% of your calories from sugar almost triples your chance of developing CVD. While we are cutting back on our sugar intake, we can use things like the Maitake SX-Fraction  (to lower blood sugar and insulin levels), chromium and PGX fiber.

All-Star Heart Health Tonics

There are two natural remedies that stand out for supporting overall cardiovascular health in what I consider a holistic manner, the traditional heart herbal Hawthorn and Reishi.

Hawthorn - long used in Europe for all things cardiovascular, it has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, increase oxygen and blood supply to the heart, improve heart energy production and strengthen the contraction of the heart muscle.

Reishi - shown to lower blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol, while reducing systemic inflammation and free radical damage (preventing oxidation by macrophage — a key step in the build up of plaque), lessen myocardial collagen cross-linking and enhance heart mitochondrial activity. It has also demonstrated heart-protecting actions against several toxins including alcohol and Adriamycin. On the holistic side, it supports liver health and function. The liver is where cholesterol is synthesized and is responsible for filtering and replenishing the blood, all the while helping the body to respond to stress in a healthier manner.

Key Remedies for Heart Health

If there was a germ that was killing one American every 83 seconds, we would undoubtedly have declared war on the bug and eliminated it. However, this is precisely what is happening with the highly preventable coronary heart disease and yet the deaths continue to accrue. The difficulty is that the primary answer to this epidemic requires us to change our diet and we all know how resistant we can be to that. On top of this, you have huge financially-vested interests that want to keep you eating the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) way. Let’s change this today and make this the beginning of the end for CHD by changing our eating habits.

Ensuring that our cardiovascular system is receiving all the nourishment it needs is obviously a starting point, but there are a few nutrients that are especially impactful.

Magnesium - diets deficient in Magnesium are associated with atherosclerosis, heart attacks and CVD. Unfortunately, it is a nutrient most of us are deficient in. Magnesium is useful for prevention and treating CVD and plays a key role in myocardial energy production. It also inhibits platelet aggregation and promotes vasodilation, while supporting endothelial function.

CoQ10 and Carnitine - These two synergistic nutrients are essential. CoQ10 deficiency is associated with CVD and plays a key role in the mitochondrial production of energy. Keep in mind the heart is a muscle and is absolutely dependent upon this process. It has shown promise for cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, angina, arrhythmias and hypertension. Carnitine also plays a key role in myocardial metabolism. It is important in energy production by transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria to be burned as fuel. Studies suggest potential use in benefiting lack of blood flow, decreasing mortal-ity for heart attack sufferers, heart failure and angina.

Let it Shine 

Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to our emotional/spiritual center of the body as Shen, located, of course, in the heart. Healthy Shen is related to not just emotional health, but radiant health. My top Shen tonic is the aforementioned Reishi mushroom. Not only does Reishi benefit your physical heart, it also benefits your emotional one as well, bringing balance to the mind-body-spirit.

Here is an effective, yet simple Shen breathing technique to support your heart and overall health. Begin by breathing from your diaphragm saying the word “peace” in your head, pausing for a moment to let your heart fill with the peace energy, then exhale slowly thinking “love” allowing this energy to radiate throughout your whole body. Shen health is not to be overlooked. It has become very clear in recent research that our emotions are intimately tied and connected to our health, especially our heart health.

Romantic Heart Help

One “heart” area we seem to need help with today is in the romance and ‘bedroom’ areas. Thankfully, there is a long-used ‘aphrodisiac’ tonic to help, Cordyceps. It is one of the few clinically-confirmed natural aids for libido and hypo-sexuality for both men and women. Cordyceps has been shown to improve sex drive, virility and sexual function. It also brings a myriad of heart benefits as well, including improving blood flow to the heart, preventing platelet aggregation, anti-atherosclerotic and vasodilation. Clinically, it has been used for maintaining oxygen levels in stroke victims and improving overall quality of life in patients suffering from chronic heart failure. Studies show promise for arrhythmias as well.

The Time is Now

It would be wise for us to continue to lay claim to the old adage that “love is the best medicine.” Not only is it healing in and of itself, we can take it a step further and expand it to caring and loving ourselves enough that we make the necessary changes to our diets and routines to prevent and reverse the scourge of cardiovascular disease. As I wrote in the opening paragraph, this is a condition that we can do much to prevent and reverse. All it takes is to start making the changes today, right now.

[article reposted with permission from developinghealthyhabits.com]

by Suzy Cohen, RPh

Many of you are taking thyroid supplements or medications already, but you might consider adding one more thing into your thyroid health regimen: Essential oils. The medical community dismisses essential oils (EOs) because after all, how powerful can it be to inhale a flower extract? Once you inhale, this “medicine” goes right into your bloodstream, through tiny capillaries directly into the bloodstream where it then shoots all over your body and activates many biochemical pathways.

It’s a fact that inhaling the aroma of lavender can cause relaxation and sleep. We also know peppermint can sometimes help improve a migraine. As for thyroid loving essential oils, there are plenty.

When your thyroid is LOW…

The essential oils that I recommend when you have low thyroid, are specifically devoted to stimulating or producing the secretion of thyroid hormones, activating your metabolism, or improving symptoms of the disease itself. I can touch on a few here in this limited space, but if you’re really interested, go to my website and read the longer version of this article. Try these quick essential oil health hacks for low thyroid disease:

Gut problems: People with hypothyroidism are often overweight and commonly experience frequent stomachache or gas. A few gut-soothing essential oils that can bring you relief include peppermint, fennel, ginger and chamomile. You can make teas, apply to your skin or inhale, depending on the EO.

Muscle aches and pain: People with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism often hurt more than regular folks, especially after exercising. I will help you “create” your own soothing balm: Pour 30 drops of lemongrass and 15 drops of marjoram into your favorite bottle of body lotion. Make sure it’s paraben-free. Pick any basic unscented lotion that you like. Then you can rub it onto your sore muscles and body aches.

Fatigue and Exhaustion: My own go-to is a smoked butterscotch latte, double shot – LOL! But we are talking about essential oils today, so try dabbing one drop each of eucalyptus and rose-mary to the base of your neck (right onto your thyroid) and it will wake you up. You should also take a quick whiff.

When your thyroid is HIGH…

It would be unfair if I did not share my knowledge about hyperthyroidism, or Graves’ disease (an auto-immune thyroid condition), so here’s what I suggest from an EO standpoint. Mix 15 drops of lemongrass with 15 drops of frankincense, two drops of myrrh (warning: myrrh smells awful), into a container, with a tablespoon of apricot or almond oil. This can be sniffed or applied topically to your throat area a few times daily. Don’t ingest that, it’s topical. Dilute as you desire, leave out the myrrh or replace with sandalwood. This EO blend should help you deal with anxiety, stress, anger, agitation, tremors and insomnia. You don’t have to have hyperthyroidism to use this. In fact, everyone dealing with stress could try it.

[article reposted with permission from developinghealthyhabits.com]

health , fitness

by Natasha Trenev

The idea that the bacteria that live in the warm, dark recesses of your gut have health benefits is an intriguing one. After all, most people think bacteria are the “bad guys.” These days, it’s clear that not all bacteria cause illness and some types of bacteria you might actually want to have around. The “good” bacteria you want to cultivate help support the health of your gut and your gut associated lymphoid tissue — the portion of your immune system that lies in your intestinal tract. After hearing so much about the health benefits of gut-friendly bacteria, called probiotics, you’re probably convinced you need more of the beneficial ones — but why? How do probiotic bacteria exert their benefits?

Probiotic Bacteria Aid Digestion

As you know, your intestinal tract is where the nutrients you take in through diet are absorbed. However, only some of the food components that enter your digestive tract can be broken down and absorbed by your body. Humans lack the enzymes to break down some types of plant material. Some of the fiber and resistant starch you can’t digest conveniently becomes lunch or dinner for bacteria that live in your gut.

When these hungry gut bacteria break down the fiber for you, they produce compounds called short-chain fatty acids, two of the most common of which are butyrate and acetate. These compounds help keep the lining of your colon healthy. The cells in your colon use these short-chain fatty acids to produce the energy they need to fuel the functions necessary to keep your colon healthy. Some preliminary studies suggest short-chain fatty acids made by good gut bacteria might lower the risk of colon cancer. Production of short-chain fatty acids by gut bacteria may partially explain why high-fiber diets seem to offer some protection against this.

Probiotic Bacteria Help Balance the Gut

When probiotic bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids, it also lowers the pH or acid-base balance of the lining of your intestinal tract. That’s beneficial, since disease-causing bacteria typically don’t grow well in an acidic environment. Therefore, probiotic bacteria create a hostile environment that discourages the growth of bacteria that cause illness. Probiotic bacteria can also block the growth of sinister bacteria by competing for the resources they need to survive. When good bacteria are around they use up vital nutrients, making it harder for bad bacteria to get the nutritional components they require to stay alive. Some probiotic bacteria produce substances called bacteriocins that directly block the growth of harmful bacteria, as well as chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, that stymie the development of bad bacteria and yeast.

Probiotic Bacteria and Absorption

Probiotic bacteria also produce beneficial substances. These organisms release enzymes that break down components from the foods you eat so you can absorb them more easily. In addition, the acidic environment probiotic bacteria create, increases the absorption of minerals, including calcium, magnesium and zinc. Having a healthy population of gut bacteria helps you maximize absorption of these essential minerals.

Probiotic Bacteria and Immunity

Another way probiotic bacteria exert their benefits is by their effects on immune function. Your immune system is your first line of defense against viruses, bacteria and fungi and plays a protective role in many diseases. As researchers point out, one of the reasons older people have a harder time fighting off infection is that their immune system doesn’t function the same as that of a younger person. We know that a huge portion of your immune system, between 70% and 80%, is in your gut, making it the largest immune organ in your body. Gut bacteria have the ability to communicate with immune cells and influence their function, giving them the capacity to subtly alter immune function.

Research suggests probiotic bacteria help maintain immune balance as well. Your immune system is designed to launch an organized attack against foreign invaders, but an overly zealous attack can harm normal tissues, leading to inflammation. Probiotic bacteria help preserve immune system balance.

Because some food allergies involve an overreaction by the immune system, there’s thought that probiotic bacteria could help children avoid food allergies. More recently, some experts point out that some food intolerances, which are different from a food allergy, may be due to a damaged gut lining, also known as a “leaky gut.” The lining of your gut is very thin, only a single cell layer thick and is held together by connections called tight junctions, which are easily damaged. When the gut lining and its tight junctions are injured, which can happen when you take certain medications or due to stress, it allows food components and even bacteria to enter your bloodstream. These proteins, once in the bloodstream, can theoretically activate the immune system and lead to inflammation and tissue damage. By helping maintain a healthy gut lining, probiotic gut bacteria could be beneficial for people with food sensitivities, intolerances and for leaky gut. The lining of your digestive tract serves as a barrier that protects you against bacteria and other harmful components in the food you eat and probiotic bacteria help to strengthen this barrier function.

Bacteria “Talk” to Each Other

Another interesting way probiotic bacteria may benefit your intestinal health is by the messages they send to bad bacteria. Infection-causing bacteria communicate with each other through a process called “quorum sensing.” Through this form of communication, bacteria get a better idea of what’s going on around them. For example, the bacteria in your gut want to know whether there are enough nutrients to support their growth. If there’s a lack of nutrients, they slow their replication to ensure their survival.

Research suggests some types of probiotic bacteria have the ability to block communication pathways bad bacteria use to “talk” to each other. When infection-causing bacteria can no longer communicate with each other, their chances for survival drops because they’re less aware of what’s going on around them. Blocking communication pathways between bad bacteria is a way to limit their growth and survival.

In addition, communication between good bacteria can be beneficial. For example, probiotic bacteria have the ability to enhance the growth of other good bacteria within the ecosystem. One species of gut-friendly bacteria might send a message to another species of probiotic bacteria, letting it know conditions are favorable and to reproduce more. As a result, your gut becomes healthier.

The Bottom Line

Despite the fact that the research explaining how probiotics work is still in its infancy, their health-related benefits have been noted for hundreds of years. Research continues to uncover the characteristics and habits of the probiotic bacteria that live in our gut and it’s exciting to better understand exactly how they are benefiting us and how we can supplement this unique eco-system within our bodies. Having a healthy population of gut bacteria is essential for optimizing your health. Don’t underestimate the potential of your gut bacteria.

[article reposted with permission from developinghealthyhabits.com]