Get Moving Monday: 5 Cold-Weather Workout Tips

If cold weather is derailing your fitness activities, personal trainer Kevin Gianni, author of The Busy Person’s Fitness Solution, offers these 5 winter weather workout tips:

  • Lace up your skates. During the winter it’s often too cold, too dark, or too slippery to walk or run outside. To get in a great workout, try ice skating — whether you go to a local pond for a pickup game of hockey, or to the local ice rink (which also offers the advantage of no wind chill).
  • Don’t push it. On days when the air feels too cold to even breathe in, heed your body’s signals and stay indoors. Cold air can trigger exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
  • Try a new home routine. Bodyweight routines are exercises that need no equipment and can be done in your own home. There are many types of bodyweight routines, such as yoga, Pilates, and aerobics. Pop in a fitness DVD or download a workout on your MP3 player to get you going.
  • Set up your own gym. Now’s the time to think about getting a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike. Having your own equipment and knowing how to use it will keep you motivated and help you stay on track.

When all’s said and done, says Tom Weede, a certified health and fitness instructor and author of the forthcoming book, The Entrepreneur Diet, it’s important to be realistic.

“Give yourself a little slack during the holidays,” he advises. “After all, it’s a time to have fun and be with family and friends, and if you have a rigid attitude toward your diet and exercise, you may end up just giving up because you’ve set the standard too high.”

So allow yourself some “cheat” days, Weede suggests. “In reality, what matters is the overall total calories you consume and the overall total you expend through physical activity over the entire holiday period. One or two splurges aren’t going to derail your efforts,” he says.

Remember, though, even if you find yourself simply too bogged down to exercise at all during the holidays, that’s no excuse to stay inactive once the season is over, Ray says.

“If you do fall off the exercise wagon, there’s no reason not to climb back aboard once your post-holiday routine is established,” Ray says. “You’ll find your stride again before you know it.”

Source: http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-holidays-8/holiday-fitness?page=4

Wellness Wednesday: Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday!

The holidays are a great opportunity to enjoy time with family and friends, celebrate life, to be grateful, and reflect on what’s important. They are also a time to appreciate the gift of health. Here are some holiday tips to support your efforts for health and safety this season.

Wash your hands often.

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water, and rub them together for at least 20 seconds. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.

Stay warm.

Cold temperatures can cause serious health problems, especially in infants and older adults. Stay dry, and dress warmly in several layers.

Manage stress.

The holidays don’t need to take a toll on your health and pocketbook. Keep your commitments and spending in check. Balance work, home, and play. Get support from family and friends. Keep a relaxed and positive outlook. Make sure to get proper sleep.

Travel safely.

Whether you’re traveling across town or around the world, help ensure your trip is safe. Don’t drink and drive, and don’t let someone else drink and drive. Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle. Always buckle your child in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt appropriate for his/her height, weight, and age.

Be smoke-free.

Avoid smoking and breathing other people’s smoke. If you smoke, quit today! Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or talk to your health care provider for help.

Get check-ups and vaccinations.

Exams and screenings can help find potential problems early, when the chances for treatment and cure are often better. Vaccinations help prevent diseases and save lives. Schedule a visit with your health care provider for needed exams and screenings. Ask what vaccinations and tests you should get based on your age, lifestyle, travel plans, medical history, and family health history.

Watch the kids.

Children are at high risk for injuries. Keep a watchful eye on your kids when they’re eating and playing. Keep potentially dangerous toys, food, drinks, household items, choking hazards (like coins and hard candy), and other objects out of kids’ reach. Learn how to provide early treatment for children who are choking. Make sure toys are used properly. Develop rules about acceptable and safe behaviors, including using electronic media.

Prevent injuries.

Injuries can happen anywhere, and some often occur around the holidays. Use step stools instead of climbing on furniture when hanging decorations. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or skateboarding to help prevent head injuries. Keep vaccinations up to date.

Most residential fires occur during the winter months. Keep candles away from children, pets, walkways, trees, and curtains. Never leave fireplaces, stoves, or candles unattended. Don’t use generators, grills, or other gasoline- or charcoal-burning devices inside your home or garage. Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home. Test them once a month, and replace batteries twice a year.

Handle and prepare food safely.

 As you prepare holiday meals, keep yourself and your family safe from food-related illness. Wash hands and surfaces often. Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs (including their juices) away from ready-to-eat foods and eating surfaces. Cook foods to the proper temperature. Refrigerate promptly. Do not leave perishable foods out for more than two hours.

Eat healthy, and be active.

 With balance and moderation, you can enjoy the holidays the healthy way. Choose With balance and moderation, you can enjoy the holidays the healthy way. Choose fresh fruit as a festive and sweet substitute for candy. Limit fats, salt, and sugary foods. Find fun ways to stay active, such as dancing to your favorite holiday music. Be active for at least 2½ hours a week. Help kids and teens be active for at least 1 hour a day.

 

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/family/holiday/

Wellness Wednesday: Simple Ways to Beat Holiday Stress

Do you get stressed-out around the holidays? These  expert approved tips will help you relax and actually enjoy the holidays.

The shopping and crowds. The back-to-back diet-busting parties. The interminable chats with the in-laws. We understand how easy it is to feel not so wonderful at this most wonderful time of the year. That’s why we’ve rounded up these  expert-endorsed ways to help you dodge the seasonal blues and stay happy, healthy, and energized.

Hike your mood with sunlight – It stimulates the production of feel-good serotonin and also helps relieve seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which impacts millions of Americans every year, says Judith Orloff, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. To ease SAD symptoms, spend time outdoors or near a window on sunny days, or ask your doc about photo-therapy (a treatment using a box that emits full-spectrum light).

Take a whiff of citrus – Researchers studying depression have found that certain citrus fragrances boost feelings of well-being and alleviate stress by upping levels of nor-epinephrine, a hormone that affects mood. For an all-day pick-me-up, dab a little lemon or orange essential oil on a handkerchief to tuck in your pocket.

Walk away from worries – “The rhythm and repetition of walking has a tranquilizing effect on your brain, and it decreases anxiety and improves sleep,” says nutrition-and-wellness expert Ann Kulze, MD. Aim for a brisk, half-hour walk every day.

Squeeze here – The fleshy place between your index finger and thumb is called the hoku spot in traditional Chinese medicine. Applying firm pressure there for just 30 seconds can reduce stress and tension in your upper body. So if you start to feel overwhelmed by the holiday chaos, give your hand a squeeze and take a deep breathe.

Do less, enjoy more – “We go overboard to please others during the holidays: shopping, cooking, sending cards, and attending every event,” says George Pratt, PhD, a psychologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla in California. “Instead, take care of yourself by saying no at least once—and maybe more.”

Stick with your daily routine – Prioritize your workouts, book club, etc., and don’t try to squeeze in more holiday than you can handle, says Katherine Muller, PsyD, an assistant professor of psychology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

Don’t neglect whatever cracks you up – Laughing like crazy reduces stress hormones. That, in turn, helps immune cells function better, says psychologist Steve Wilson, founder of the World Laughter Tour, an organization that offers therapeutic-laughter training.

Forget perfection – Stop obsessing over doing it all. The world is not going to end if the house is a little cluttered or dinner is on the table a few minutes late. “Focus your energy on enjoying the people in your life,” says Donna Schempp, the program director for the Family Caregiver Alliance. Don’t sweat the small stuff and your holiday will be much more enjoyable!

Get out of the house – If your family members often pick on one another at the holiday table, taking the fun out of meals, consider eating family brunches or dinners in restaurants. “Being in public discourages loud voices and bad behavior,” says Muller.

Go tech-free – Constant cell phone buzzes and email alerts keep us in a perpetual fight-or-flight mode due to bursts of adrenaline. Not only is this exhausting, but it contributes to mounting stress levels, especially in women. What better time to turn your gadgets off than during a holiday get-together? Enjoy spending time with your family and friends without worry.

Savor a spicy meal – Hot foods trigger the release of endorphins—the natural chemicals that trigger feelings of euphoria and well-being, Dr. Kulze says. Also, it will clear sinuses, increasing oxygen intake and flow.

Dip into some honey – You’ll get an instant kick and energy for the long haul. Plus, research shows that its antioxidant and antibacterial properties may improve your immunity. Here’s a tip: The darker the honey, the more powerful the antioxidant punch.

Eat breakfast before you tank up on coffee – Caffeine on an empty stomach can cause blood sugar levels to spike, which can cause attention problems and irritability, says New York City–based clinical psychologist Joe Cilona, PsyD.

Turn up the tunes – Anxious? Listen to your favorite music, whether it’s Jingle Bell Rock or the latest from Jay-Z. Research from the University of Maryland shows that hearing music you love can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow. That not only calms you down but is good for your heart, too.

Your recipe for relaxation – Craving something sweet? Ditch the holiday cheesecake and try a delicious mango instead. The sweet, tangy scent of mangoes—whether they’re fresh or jarred—may alter your blood chemistry and send a wave of calm over your body, research from Japan shows.

Fit in exercise – It may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re stressed out, but going for a run or hitting the gym can actually make you feel better. Research has found that workouts can boost your mood for up to 12 hours.

Don’t over-schedule – If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed by your holiday agenda, don’t over schedule your time and take on more than you can manage. Remember: It’s OK to slow down a bit.

Think positive – The holidays may drive you to your breaking point, but don’t focus on the bad. Negative thinking can trigger the your body’s stress response, just as a real threat does. Remember, it’s time to celebrate with your family and friends (even if they do stress you out!). An optimistic outlook will help you cope with challenges that come your way.

 

Source: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20306655_26,00.html

Wellness Wednesday: Healthy Snacking

Americans love to snack almost as much as we want to lose weight. But according to recent research by the USDA, our snacking habits are adding too many calories and too few nutrients to our diets. It doesn’t have to be this way, says Susan Bowerman, RD, assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. “When done right, (snacking) keeps your energy levels up and gives you more opportunities to get in all your nutritional needs.”

Eating snacks with the right ratio of nutrients, with the right calories, will help keep you body energized and help you lose weight. Protein (plus exercise) fuels the growth of lean muscle mass, which boosts metabolic rate and increases calorie burn. Fiber, meanwhile, helps improve digestion and keeps you from binging on fats and sugars. So while there’s no food that will literally “burn fat” while you eat it, smart choices with these ingredients will help your body operate at maximum efficiency. Bowerman suggests snacks under 200 calories, with 10 grams of protein and close to 5 grams of fiber.

“Almost any fruit is going to make a great snack, but you usually want to pair it with a bit of protein to make it more satisfying,” says Bowerman; “unlike carbohydrates, which get used up relatively quickly, protein will help sustain your energy and hunger levels for a couple of hours.”

Our pick for a protein-fruit pairing: one large apple and one cup of skim milk. This duo will give you 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber for just over 200 calories. Another low calorie fruit and dairy combo is an avocado half filled with half a cup of low fat cottage cheese.

If you don’t want to incorporate dairy into every snack, a can of tuna (packaged in water) is another great source of lean protein plus healthy Omega-3s. For about 200 calories, you can enjoy 3 ounces of light tuna and 6 whole-wheat crackers—complete with 3 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein.

You may not think of shellfish as a grab-and-go snack food, but you can put a tasty treat together in a flash if you keep pre-cooked shrimp on hand. With Greek yogurt and avocado, it’s a protein powerhouse with 9 grams per serving (and 4 g fiber), for only 129 calories.

There’s no reason you can’t have smaller portions of “real” food as snacks, says Bowerman. “Oftentimes, the healthiest and most balanced snacks are the ones that start as full meals—like a half a sandwich, or a plate of leftovers put together from dinner the night before,” she adds.

The same can be said about salads. They aren’t just for mealtime—when they’re about 200 calories per cup, they make a great afternoon snack, as well. Be careful with the dressings and topics, though. This is where most of us go wrong with our “healthy” salad. Keep the dressing to one serving, or two tablespoons. Forgo the cheese and croutons, as these will be more calories than the salad and dressing together. Opt instead for unsalted sunflower seeds to add a little crunch.

When choosing an energy bar as a snack, the rules are the same: Look for bars with 200 calories or less, 10 grams of protein and close to 5 grams of fiber. The Luna Protein bar certainly comes close (190 calories, 12 g protein, 3 g fiber), and tastes “almost like candy,” Health.com testers said.

A calorie-free beverage doesn’t qualify as a real snack, but if you find yourself scouting the kitchen just because you’re bored, rather than hungry, a tasty drink, like green tea infused with herbs or fruit, may just hit the spot. Green tea has been shown to help dieters lose more weight, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, thanks to its metabolism-boosting antioxidant compound called EGCG.

Bowerman says that most research on green tea for weight loss has been inconclusive, but that either way it’s a healthy, tasty way to stay hydrated throughout the day. “Drinking water and tea is a good way to keep all of your body’s processes, including your metabolism, running smoothly and efficiently,” she adds.

Another way to sip your way to healthy is a smoothie. Packed with nutrient dense foods, a small serving of a smoothie can give you the energy to face the rest of your day. Look for ones with no added sugar or make your own to keep from ingesting empty calories.

Source: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20682477_last,00.html

 

TGIF: Going Beyond Iron Supplements for Anemia

Anemia is broadly understood as a deficiency of red blood cells. The chief role of red blood cells is to grab oxygen from the lungs and deliver it to every nook and cranny in the body. This ensures the survival of our cells.

Anemia is complex, and there is no one mechanism behind it.

 

When the body is anemic, we feel tired and lethargic. Every tissue in the body needs a steady supply of oxygen in order to have fuel and to function properly. Oxygen is one of the ways that we produce energy.

When we talk about anemia, we are really talking about oxygen not getting to where it needs to be.

Because iron supplements are routinely given to those with anemia, many people believe that anemia translates into iron deficiency.

Iron is found in hemoglobin, a transport system within each red blood cell. Oxygen binds to the iron in red blood cells. This is why many of us take iron when we find out that we are anemic. However, taking an iron supplement or even eating extra iron-rich foods assumes that anemia is the result of low iron levels.

Anemia and Its Relationship with the Gut

Anemia is the result of a deficiency in red blood cells and can lead to exhaustion. To get to the root cause of anemia, it’s critical to focus on stomach and gut health to naturally support healthy red blood cell levels.

 

Anemia is complex, and there is no one mechanism behind it. In order to properly address anemia, it’s essential to understand what is causing it in the first place. The multiple reasons behind anemia can be divided into 4 categories:

  1. The body fails to produce enough red blood cells or hemoglobin.
  2. The body destroys too many red blood cells.
  3. Loss of blood from trauma, menstrual disorders like heavy bleeding or endometriosis, and chronic inflammatory disorders.
  4. Fluid overload from excessive sodium intake or pregnancy.

When the body fails to produce fully mature red blood cells, this can be due to a number of reasons, including nutrient deficiency. And we are not only talking about iron!

When the body does not have enough vitamin B12, it’s unable to manufacture healthy red blood cells.

And while it’s not often talked about, B12 deficiency is fairly common. For example, one study found that 40% of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have low levels of B12. (1)

When we look at the possible underlying causes of a B12 deficiency, this percentage is a little less surprising.

You may be deficient in B12 if you:

  • Are vegan or vegetarian
  • Suffer from low stomach acid
  • Take an antacid medication
  • Drink alcohol regularly
  • Suffer from “leaky gut”
  • Are prone to gut infections, cramping, and bloating
  • Struggle with irritable bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease

One of the main factors contributing to B12 deficiency is poor gut health.

This means that even if you eat meat, which contains B12, several times a day, you may not be digesting it well enough to absorb the B12 that your body needs to produce red blood cells.

B12 is important for other reasons besides the production of red blood cells. For example, it also helps to make the myelin sheath that surrounds portions of the nerve cells. This is one reason why B12 deficiency is associated with memory loss and psychiatric disorders.

Anemia of Chronic Disease

Sometimes we have plenty of iron, but we still do not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. This is the case in anemia of chronic disease.

Anemia of chronic disease is sometimes easy for a physician to miss. This is because on a lab panel, all the classic markers indicating iron-deficiency anemia are there: low red blood cells (RBCs), low hemoglobin, and low iron.

This is why it’s essential to check ferritin levels if you know that you are anemic. Especially if you are fighting an infection, or if you have an immune system disorder.

Ferritin is a storage form of iron. This means that oxygen cannot bind to it. When ferritin levels are elevated, the body may in fact have enough iron – only the iron is inactive and unavailable.

More importantly, ferritin is involved in the inflammatory response. This means that when ferritin levels are elevated, it indicates that there is inflammation occurring somewhere in the body. Elevated ferritin tells us that the body is storing iron in order to protect and limit infection. Like us, infectious bugs, bacteria, and parasites need iron to proliferate and grow!

Anemia of chronic disease can often happen in those with an autoimmune condition or with a low-grade gut infection. If you are anemic with high levels of ferritin, an iron supplement can simply make matters worse.

If Iron Supplements Aren’t Working for You…

In the case of anemia from vitamin B12 deficiency or anemia of chronic disease, gut health is the top priority.

If lab tests confirm that levels of vitamin B12 are low or that ferritin levels are askew, iron supplements may not necessarily improve anemia. Worse, they may even feed an infection in the body.

1. If you have anemia, focus on the stomach:

When correcting digestion and its relationship to anemia, it’s critical to begin in the stomach.

Remember, anemia from vitamin B12 deficiency is commonly found in those with too little stomach acid, heartburn, and those who are on antacid medication.

An HCl (hydrochloric acid) supplement that is equipped with enzymes to break down protein can ease the digestive burden on the stomach and help to restore the proper pH of gastric juices. This is an important first step in correcting poor absorption of vitamin B12.

2. If you have anemia, focus on the gut:

If ferritin levels are high, this means that the body is stockpiling inactive iron as a protective mechanism. While elevated ferritin indicates that the body has plenty of iron, it also tells us that the body is inflamed and that it may be fighting off an infection.

Meanwhile, when levels of both iron and ferritin are low, this may indicate poor absorption and possibly an imbalanced inner ecosystem. This is why those with gut disorders are also frequently anemic.

Whether ferritin levels are elevated or low, cover your bases and make sure that your gut is in a state of perfect health. By introducing fermented foods into the diet on a daily basis, you can gently heal the gut and promote a beneficial inner ecosystem. Fermented foods and probiotic beverages are predigested, full of enzymes, and brimming with friendly bacteria.

When anemia follows poor absorption or inflammation, this is a significant first step in supporting optimal levels of red blood cells.

 

Source: http://bodyecology.com/articles/are-you-anemic-going-beyond-iron-supplements#.UvYPvbROKbg

Wellness Wednesday: The Low-Down on Probiotics

When venturing down the rabbit hole that is health and nutrition education, oftentimes it’s difficult to know exactly where you’re heading. There are countless signs claiming to be the way to go – offering a cure-all to your every ailment – and guaranteeing your success if you just follow along. Among these many signs and signals is a message to take probiotics – to load up on yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha – but is taking probiotics really the way to go? And if so, how do you know if it is the right path for you?

To start, we know that probiotics are good for us, and that they are a natural part of the body’s environment. Probiotics are microorganisms (micro flora) that reside in our intestine. They are good bacteria that keep pathogens (harmful micro-organisms or bacteria) in check, aid in proper digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function. Probiotics have been researched extensively, showing positive results for an array of conditions ranging from asthma and allergies, to skin disorders and vaginal and urinary infections. They crowd out bad bacteria, preventing the bacteria’s ability to host in the body, which inhibits infection, inflammation and disease.

Another way in which probiotics impact the health of the body is by improving digestion. Proper levels of probiotics in the gut have been shown to be effective in combating diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, they help the body to absorb nutrients, making sure your body receives the vitamins, minerals, fats and amino acids from the foods that you are consuming. In fact, probiotics are needed for the generation of certain B vitamins, vitamin K, folate, and some short-chain fatty acids.

Finally, we know that probiotics are the foundation of a concept called the “gut-brain” connection. This is the idea that micro flora (probiotics) directly impact your brain behavior. Proven by researchers at UCLA, the correction of healthy bacteria in the gut can optimize neurotransmitter function, leading to a reduction in anxiety, depression, and stress, and may even improve learning and sharpen focus and memory.

Now that we see how probiotics help the body, how do we know if our body needs them? Probiotics exist naturally in your gut, so we really only need to supplement with them if they have been depleted. And how do we know if they have been depleted? Take a look at this list of the top signs that indicate deficiency, and see if a probiotic supplement needs to be added to your shopping list.

 Antibiotic Use:

Antibiotic means anti-life, which is the exact opposite of probiotic, which means pro-life. Antibiotics are designed to kill bacteria in the body, and they do not discriminate between the bad and the good. So if you have ever taken a round of antibiotics, consider taking a probiotic to reintroduce the healthy flora back into the body.

Tip: Start a round of probiotics after you finish your antibiotics. Antibiotics prevent the probiotics from living in the body, so do not waste your money by taking them concurrently.

Food Poisoning:

If you recently have had food poisoning or have eaten something that just didn’t sit right, there is a good chance bad bacteria has made a home in your body. Taking a probiotic will fight off these bad guys and get your digestion and bowel movements back to normal.

Tip: When traveling in a foreign country, take probiotics as a preventative measure both before and during the trip. The more healthy bacteria you have in the gut, the better defense your body has against potential invaders.

Digestive Disturbances:

If your gut has not been functioning correctly and you are suffering from a condition of the digestive tract, consider using a probiotic supplement. Oftentimes the simple addition of these healthy bacteria can quell symptoms, and no further treatment is needed. Research has shown probiotics to be helpful for diarrhea, gas, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s and H. pylori infection.

Tip: Always improve the diet first, eliminating hard-to-digest foods such as processed, packaged, and fried foods, dairy, gluten and soy. If your condition is still occurring, then you know it is time to bring in probiotics.

Skin Conditions:

If you suffer from acne, eczema, rashes, hives, or psoriasis, it’s most likely due to poor digestion and an imbalance in gut bacteria. Start using probiotics while also cleaning up your diet.

Mood Disorders:

If your daily life is riddled with stress, anxiety, irritability and depression, it could be because your intestinal flora is out of whack. Start using probiotics to normalize the flora, which will improve the functioning of your neurotransmitters and therefore your mood.

Tip: If your mood does not improve with the use of probiotics, consider taking a phyto-nutirent multivitamin with live source B vitamins as well.

Weak Immunity:

If you get sick from the flu every year, have maxed out your work sick days and seem to catch everything that goes around, then try probiotics. Probiotics have been clinically found to boost the immune system and strengthen the body’s defenses against illness. Healthy bacteria can train your immune system to distinguish between “foreign” microbes and those originating in your body, making probiotics the best front line against infection.

Asthma and Allergies:

Research has shown promise in the effects of probiotics in reducing symptom severity and medication use for asthma. Probiotics may also be helpful in reducing allergies, especially food allergies. Most often the root cause of food allergies is leaky gut, which can be improved by proper flora levels in the gut. Studies indicate that children with healthier gut flora have a reduced risk of developing allergies and asthma.

Autism:

New research suggests that probiotics may have therapeutic potential in autism spectrum disorder. They believe that gut bacteria may contribute to symptoms of Autism. By balancing the gut bacteria – reintroducing healthy probiotics – communicative, stereotypic, anxiety-like and sensorimotor behaviors were shown to decrease. While more research has to be done on the topic, probiotic supplementation for autism appears hopeful.

Yeast Infections:

If you suffer from recurring yeast infections or Candida, then this is a good indicator that there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the body. The best way to bring it back into balance is with probiotics. Probiotics, or good bacteria, crowd out the bad bacteria, helping to relieve the body of the symptoms attributed to the overgrowth.

Tip: Eliminate white sugar and significantly reduce natural sugars, and sugary carbohydrates. These foods are what bad bacteria feed on, so in order to expedite their elimination from the body, it is best to cut off their food source.

Insider’s Info: Probiotics are abundant in fermented foods, but most often their probiotic concentration is not enough to be used therapeutically when the gut flora has been drastically depleted. Therefore, use fermented probiotic-rich foods as an ongoing part of the diet to keep your levels up as a form of prevention. Then choose a high-quality probiotic as a form of nutrition therapy.

Source: http://thechalkboardmag.com/9-signs-you-need-probiotics

Wellness Wednesday: Rethink What You Drink!

When it comes to weight loss, there’s no lack of diets promising fast results. There are low-carb diets, high-carb diets, low-fat diets, grapefruit diets, cabbage soup diets, and blood type diets, to name a few. But no matter what diet you may try, to lose weight, you must take in fewer calories than your body uses. Most people try to reduce their calorie intake by focusing on food, but another way to cut calories may be to think about what you drink.

What Do You Drink? It Makes More Difference Than You Think!

Calories in drinks are not hidden (they’re listed right on the Nutrition Facts label), but many people don’t realize just how many calories beverages can contribute to their daily intake. As you can see in the example below, calories from drinks can really add up. But there is good news: you have plenty of options for reducing the number of calories in what you drink.

Occasion Instead of… Calories Try… Calories
Morning coffee shop run Medium café latte (16 ounces) made with whole milk 265 Small café latte (12 ounces) made with fat-free milk 125
Lunchtime combo meal 20-oz. bottle of nondiet cola with your lunch 227 Bottle of water 0
Afternoon break Sweetened lemon iced tea from the vending machine (16 ounces) 180 Sparkling water with natural lemon flavor (not sweetened) 0
Dinnertime A glass of nondiet ginger ale with your meal (12 ounces) 124 Water with a slice of lemon or lime, or seltzer water with a splash of 100% fruit juice 0 calories for the water with fruit slice, or about 30 calories for seltzer water with 2 ounces of 100% orange juice.
Total beverage calories: 796 125-155
(USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)

Substituting no- or low-calorie drinks for sugar-sweetened beverages cuts about 650 calories in the example above.

Of course, not everyone drinks the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages shown above. Check the list below to estimate how many calories you typically take in from beverages.

Type of Beverage
Calories in 12 ounces
Calories in 20 ounces
Fruit punch
192
320
100% apple juice
192
300
100% orange juice
168
280
Lemonade
168
280
Regular lemon/lime soda
148
247
Regular cola
136
227
Sweetened lemon iced tea (bottled, not homemade)
135
225
Tonic water
124
207
Regular ginger ale
124
207
Sports drink
99
165
Fitness water
18
36
Unsweetened iced tea
2
3
Diet soda (with aspartame)
0*
0*
Carbonated water (unsweetened)
0
0
Water
0
0
*Some diet soft drinks can contain a small number of calories that are not listed on the nutrition facts label.
( USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)

Milk contains vitamins and other nutrients that contribute to good health, but it also contains calories. Choosing low-fat or fat-free milk is a good way to reduce your calorie intake and still get the nutrients that milk contains.

Type of Milk
Calories per cup (8 ounces)
Chocolate milk (whole)
208
Chocolate milk (2% reduced-fat)
190
Chocolate milk (1% low-fat)
158
Whole Milk (unflavored)
150
2% reduced-fat milk (unflavored)
120
1% low-fat milk (unflavored)
105
Fat-free milk (unflavored)
90
*Some diet soft drinks can contain a small number of calories that are not listed on the nutrition facts label.
( USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference)

Be aware that the Nutrition Facts label on beverage containers may give the calories for only part of the contents. The example below shows the label on a 20-oz. bottle. As you can see, it lists the number of calories in an 8-oz. serving (100) even though the bottle contains 20 oz. or 2.5 servings. To figure out how many calories are in the whole bottle, you need to multiply the number of calories in one serving by the number of servings in the bottle (100 x 2.5). You can see that the contents of the entire bottle actually contain 250 calories even though what the label calls a “serving” only contains 100. This shows that you need to look closely at the serving size when comparing the calorie content of different beverages.

NUTRITION FACTS LABEL
Serving Size 8 fl. oz.
Servings Per Container 2.5
Amount per serving
Calories 100

Sweeteners that add calories to a beverage go by many different names and are not always obvious to anyone looking at the ingredients list. Some common caloric sweeteners are listed below. If these appear in the ingredients list of your favorite beverage, you are drinking a sugar-sweetened beverage.

  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Honey
  • Sugar
  • Syrup
  • Corn syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose

High-Calorie Culprits in Unexpected Places

Coffee drinks and blended fruit smoothies sound innocent enough, but the calories in some of your favorite coffee-shop or smoothie-stand items may surprise you. Check the Web site or in-store nutrition information of your favorite coffee or smoothie shop to find out how many calories are in different menu items. And when a smoothie or coffee craving kicks in, here are some tips to help minimize the caloric damage:

At the coffee shop:

  • Request that your drink be made with fat-free or low-fat milk instead of whole milk
  • Order the smallest size available.
  • Forgo the extra flavoring – the flavor syrups used in coffee shops, like vanilla or hazelnut, are sugar-sweetened and will add calories to your drink.
  • Skip the Whip. The whipped cream on top of coffee drinks adds calories and fat.
  • Get back to basics. Order a plain cup of coffee with fat-free milk and artificial sweetener, or drink it black.

At the smoothie stand:

  • Order a child’s size if available.
  • Ask to see the nutrition information for each type of smoothie and pick the smoothie with the fewest calories.
  • Hold the sugar. Many smoothies contain added sugar in addition to the sugar naturally in fruit, juice, or yogurt. Ask that your smoothie be prepared without added sugar: the fruit is naturally sweet.

Better Beverage Choices Made Easy

Now that you know how much difference a drink can make, here are some ways to make smart beverage choices:

  • Choose water or low-calorie beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • For a quick, easy, and inexpensive thirst-quencher, carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day.
  • Don’t “stock the fridge” with sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead, keep a jug or bottles of cold water in the fridge.
  • Serve water with meals.
  • Make water more exciting by adding slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon, or drink sparkling water.
  • Add a splash of 100% juice to plain sparkling water for a refreshing, low-calorie drink.
  • When you do opt for a sugar-sweetened beverage, go for the small size. Some companies are now selling 8-oz. cans and bottles of soda, which contain about 100 calories.
  • Be a role model for your friends and family by choosing healthy, low-calorie beverages

Sources: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/drinks.html

Wellness Wednesday: Laughter IS the Cure!

 Whether you’re guiltily guffawing at an episode of “South Park” or quietly giggling at the latest New Yorker cartoon, laughing does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that’s no joke. A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but data are mounting about the positive things laughter can do.

Short-term benefits
A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:

  • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Long-term effects
Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long haul. Laughter may:

  • Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
  • Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders.
  • Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
  • Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and make you feel happier.

Are you afraid you have an underdeveloped — or nonexistent — funny bone? No problem. Humor can be learned. In fact, developing or refining your sense of humor may be easier than you think.

  • Put humor on your horizon. Find a few simple items, such as photos or comic strips that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office. Keep funny movies or comedy albums on hand for when you need an added humor boost.
  • Laugh and the world laughs with you. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.
  • Share a laugh. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. And then return the favor by sharing funny stories or jokes with those around you.
  • Knock-knock. Browse through your local bookstore or library’s selection of joke books and get a few rib ticklers in your repertoire that you can share with friends.
  • Know what isn’t funny. Don’t laugh at the expense of others. Some forms of humor aren’t appropriate. Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad, or hurtful, one.
 Go ahead and give it a try. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Once you’ve had your chuckle, take stock of how you’re feeling. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed or buoyant? That’s the natural wonder of laughing at work.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456

Wellness Wedneday: You are What You Eat!

EAT WELL, LIVE WELL!

Replacing unhealthy eating habits with healthier ones can be difficult, especially if unhealthy habits are all you’ve ever known. One key to making lasting improvements in your diet is to make changes in stages. Start with a small, simple change and stick to it for a week or two. After one change has been mastered, add another.

Some Ideas to Get You Started:

• Eat breakfast.

• Replace one sugary drink per day with a glass of water.

• Eat one to two more fruits or vegetables each day.

• Plan a healthy snack for each day of the week.

• Switch to a low-fat version of one of your favorite foods.

• Plan three meals and two snacks every day.

Set an Example! Parents play a big role in guiding their children’s eating habits with the examples they set, the foods they make available in the home and the mealtime experiences that they create for their families. Offer healthy snacks such as fruit, low-fat cottage cheese or yogurt, frozen juice bars, applesauce, celery, apples with peanut butter, raw vegetables, graham crackers, fig bars or whole wheat crackers with low-fat cheese. Large portions contain too many calories. A good-sized snack for a typical adult may be a single-serving container of yogurt, but for a preschooler, two or three tablespoons of yogurt is enough.

Make Eating an Enjoyable Activity for the Whole Family! Family meals can be a time to monitor what children are eating and to reconnect with each other. Involve children in food preparation and clean-up, and sit down with them when they eat. The idea is to build healthy lifelong eating habits.

Some healthy eating tips include the following:

• Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables—half your plate at each meal should be vegetables or fruit.

• Beware of sweetened drinks—sodas and sports drinks are high in calories. Keep in mind that the calories in juice can also quickly add up.

• Choose food sensibly when eating out. Restaurants are often required to make nutrition information readily available—if you don’t see brochures sitting out, or nutrition information listed on the menu, ask.

Plan as many home-cooked meals as you can, as they usually have fewer calories, more reasonable portions and cost less than typical meals eaten at restaurants. Since eating out isn’t always avoidable, follow these rules when in a restaurant:

• Ask if you don’t know what is in a dish or the serving size.

• Eat the same portion size you would at home.

• Ask for sauces, gravy and dressings on the side—or avoid them altogether.

• Order foods that are not breaded or fried.

• Order fruit for dessert.

• Ask for substitutions, such as a vegetable instead of fries.

• Ask for low-calorie versions of food. Vinegar and oil or a squeeze of lemon are both better than high-fat dressings.

Sources: http://www.bsi-ins.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/EAT-WELL.pdf

Wellness Wednesday: Eat Organic

According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), eating organic foods is not only healthier for your body, it is also better for society and less expensive in the long run.

What Is Organic Food? Organic foods are farmed or processed in an earth-friendly manner. Organic applies to agricultural products, meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. Instead of traditional farming techniques, farmers control weeds and pests using environmentally safe practices that not only benefit the earth but also consumers’ health. Foods can bear varying organic labels depending on their makeup. Regulations The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the use, definition and meaning of the word “organic” on food labels. Organic food was the only option for thousands of years.  Now, with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and genetically-modified foods, organic is still the best option.  Here are 17 reasons to eat organic food:

1.  Genetically-modified foods were unleashed on the environment and the public by corporations like Monsanto without prior testing to determine their safety.  In other words, eating genetically-modified foods (which most people in in large amounts) is participating in a long-term, uncontrolled experiment. Choose organic to avoid participating in this experiment.

2.  More and more research is coming in about the health threat of genetically-modified food.  The results range from intestinal damage, allergies, liver or pancreatic problems, testicular cellular changes, tumors, and even death in the experimental animals. Eating third-party certified organic foods or those that are guaranteed to be grown from organic seed helps protect you from the health consequences of GMOs.

3.  Fruits and vegetables are real food, not pesticide factories. Eighteen percent of all genetically-modified seeds (and therefore foods that grow from them) are engineered to produce their own pesticides.  Research shows that these seeds continue producing pesticides inside your body once you’ve eaten the food grown from them. Foods that are actually pesticide factories…no thanks.

4.  They’re free of neurotoxins—toxins that are damaging to brain and nerve cells. A commonly-used class of pesticides called organophosphates was originally developed as a toxic nerve agent during World War I. When there was no longer a need for them in warfare, industry adapted them to kill pests on foods. Many pesticides are still considered neurotoxins.

5.  They’re supportive of growing children’s brains and bodies.  Children’s growing brains and bodies are far more susceptible to toxins than adults.  Choosing organic helps feed their bodies without the exposure to pesticides and genetically-modified organisms, both of which have a relatively short history of use (and therefore safety).

6.  In study after study, research from independent organizations consistently shows organic food is higher in nutrients than traditional foods.  Research shows that organic produce is higher in vitamin C, antioxidants, and the minerals calcium, iron, chromium, and magnesium.

7.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that pesticides pollute the primary drinking source for half the American population. Organic farming is the best solution to the problem. Buying organic helps reduce pollution in our drinking water.

8.  Organic food is earth-supportive. Organic food production has been around for thousands of years and is the sustainable choice for the future.  Compare that to modern agricultural practices that are destructive of the environment through widespread use of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers and have resulted in drastic environmental damage in many parts of the world.

9.  Organic food choices grown on small-scale organic farms help ensure independent family farmers can create a livelihood. Consider it the domestic version of fair trade.

10. Most organic food simply tastes better than the pesticide-grown counterparts.

11. Organic food is not exposed to gas-ripening like some non-organic fruits and vegetables (like bananas).

12.  Organic farms are safer for farm workers. Research at the Harvard School of Public Health found a 70% increase in Parkinson’s disease among people exposed to pesticides. Choosing organic foods means that more people will be able to work on farms without incurring the higher potential health risk of Parkinson’s or other illnesses.

13.  Organic food supports wildlife habitats. Even with commonly used amounts of pesticides, wildlife is being harmed by exposure to pesticides.

14.  Eating organic may reduce your cancer risk.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60% of herbicides, 90% of fungicides, and 30% of insecticides potentially cancer-causing.  It is reasonable to think that the rapidly increasing rates of cancer are at least partly linked to the use of these carcinogenic pesticides.

15.  Choosing organic meat lessens your exposure to antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and drugs that find their way into the animals and ultimately into you.

16.  Organic food is tried and tested. By some estimates genetically-modified food makes up 80% of the average person’s food consumption. Genetic modification of food is still experimental. Avoid being part of this wide scale and uncontrolled experiment.

17.  Organic food supports greater biodiversity.  Diversity is fundamental to life on this planet. Genetically-modified and non-organic food is focused on high yield monoculture and is destroying biodiversity.

Organic foods are typically priced higher when compared to traditional foods due to stricter handling and production standards that organic farmers must adhere to. Want to buy organic but can’t afford the price tag? Here are some tried and true tips to save more while shopping organic:

1. Stay organized. Plan out your meals for the week according to organic foods that are on sale and/or ones that which you have coupons.

2. Do it yourself, rather than buy it. Make your own organic granola bars, kale chips, smoothies, juices to replaced store-bought with more overhead.

3. The organic frozen produce at the store is cheaper than fresh, especially if the fruit or vegetable is out of season. Also, buy local produce when in season and freeze to save for out of season.

4. Buy a whole organic chicken for less per pound, vs. just the breast, legs or wings which are more expensive per pound. You can use the carcass to make your own chicken broth.

5. Do not buy pre-washed and ready to eat fruits and veggies, as they can cost twice as much.

6. Local food can be significantly cheaper than food shipped from miles away. Find a farmer’s market near you. Get to know your local farmers, create a personal relationship and negotiate prices.

Sources: http://www.bsi-ins.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Eating-Organic.pdf

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/17-essential-reasons-to-eat-organic-food.html/2

http://foodbabe.com/2013/05/20/how-to-eat-organic-on-a-budget/