Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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This Little-Known Supplement Improves Sleep

Supplement found to buffer the body against stress and improve sleep.

For a long time probiotics — the so-called ‘good bacteria’ in fermented foods and elsewhere — have been linked to all sorts of physical and psychological benefits.

Now the lesser-known prebiotics are getting in on the act.

Prebiotics are dietary fibres found in foods such as:

  • Onions,
  • leeks,
  • artichokes,
  • and chicory.

Prebiotic fibre — also available as dietary supplements — can improve the health of your gut by helping beneficial bacteria to multiply.

New research has found that prebiotics can help improve sleep and protect the body against stress.

Dr Agnieszka Mika, one of the study’s authors, explained:

“Acute stress can disrupt the gut microbiome, and we wanted to test if a diet rich in prebiotics would increase beneficial bacteria as well as protect gut microbes from stress-induced disruptions.
We also wanted to look at the effects of prebiotics on the recovery of normal sleep patterns, since they tend to be disrupted after stressful events.”

The study, carried out on rats, found that prebiotics increased both major types of sleep (REM and NREM).

The study’s authors write:

“Given that sufficient NREM sleep and proper nutrition can impact brain development and function and that sleep problems are common in early life, it is possible that a diet rich in prebiotics started in early life could help improve sleep, support the gut microbiota and promote optimal brain/psychological health.”

Dr Robert S. Thompson, the lead author of the research, explained that the rats were also stressed:

“The stressor the rats received was the equivalent of a single intense acute stressful episode for humans, such as a car accident or the death of a loved one.
A next set of studies will be looking exactly at that question – can prebiotics help humans to protect and restore their gut microflora and recover normal sleep patterns after a traumatic event?”

Professor Monika Fleshner, another study author, thinks it is too early to recommend prebiotic supplements for sleep problems.

However, Dr Mika said:

“So far no adverse effects from prebiotics have been reported, and they are found widely in many plants, even present in breast milk, and are already commercially available.”

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience (Thompson et al., 2017).

source:  PsyBlog     MARCH 8, 2017


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An ‘Epidemic’ of Fragranced Products is Affecting Our Health, New Research Suggests

The recent trend for “cleaner,” more natural, unprocessed foods for improved health and well-being has also led to a shift towards household and beauty products that are also more natural and without preservatives, and possibly for good reason.

According to recent research, consumers’ extra attention to what they are putting on their bodies and in their homes could be beneficial for health, with a new study finding that one in three Australians report health problems related to fragranced products.

Professor Anne Steinemann from the University of Melbourne School of Engineering led a survey of a random sample of 1,098 people taken from a large, web-based panel held by Survey Sampling International (SSI).

She found that when exposed to fragranced products, 33 per cent of Australians suffer a variety of adverse health effects, including breathing difficulties, headaches, dizziness, rashes, congestion, seizures, nausea, and a range of other physical problems.

In addition, the results also showed that 7.7 per cent of Australians have lost workdays or a job in the past year due to illnesses caused by exposure to fragranced products in their workplace, and 16.7 per cent want to leave a shop or business as quickly as possible if they smell air fresheners or other fragranced products.

A survey in Australia found that as many as
one in three consumers experience health problems from fragrance.

“This is an epidemic,” said Professor Steinemann commenting on the findings, “Fragranced products are creating health problems across Australia. The effects can be immediate, severe and potentially disabling. But they can also be subtle, and people may not realize they’re being affected.”

Professor Steinemann’s previous research in the U.S. found similar results, revealing that 34.7 per cent of people experience health problems when exposed to fragranced products.

Fragranced products – which can include air fresheners, cleaning products, laundry supplies, and personal care products – give off a range of chemicals including hazardous air pollutants, with Professor Steinemann adding that, “All types of fragranced products tested – even those with claims of ‘green,’ ‘organic,’ and ‘all-natural’-emitted hazardous air pollutants.”

According to Greenbiz, half of all consumer products contain fragrance, and more than 3,000 chemicals can add fragrance to consumer goods worldwide.

Although what product information is required to be disclosed to consumers varies in each country, fragrance ingredients are exempt from full disclosure in any product, not only in the U.S. but also internationally. Often, labeling is vague, with many ingredients just coming under the umbrella of fragrance.

Professor Steinemann’s research will now continue to investigate why fragrance chemicals are causing health problems, and what their effect may be in indoor environments.

The findings can be found published online in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports with more information also available on Professor Steinemann’s own website.

Information for consumers about products can also be found on www.ewg.org

Relaxnews   Tuesday, March 7, 2017
 


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Strawberries Remain at Top of Pesticide List, Report Says

An annual report by the Environmental Working Group found that nearly 70% of samples of 48 types of conventionally grown produce were contaminated with pesticide residues. That’s down 6.6 percentage points from last year.

The EWG Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, released Wednesday, ranks pesticide contamination of popular fruits and vegetables based on more than 36,000 samples of produce tested by the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

This year, strawberries remained at the top of the list of produce with the highest concentration of pesticides, while sweet corn and avocados were ranked as having the lowest concentration.

What are pesticides?

Pesticides are widely used in producing food to control pests such as insects, rodents, weeds, bacteria, mold and fungus. In addition to their uses in agriculture, pesticides are used to protect public health by controlling organisms that carry tropical diseases, such as mosquitoes.

Pesticides are potentially toxic to humans, according to the World Health Organization. They may have negative effects on reproduction, immune or nervous systems, cause cancer and lead to other problems.

Pesticide residue can remain on fruits and vegetables even after they are washed and, in some cases, peeled, according to the report.

However, a report by the USDA in 2014 found that “overall pesticide chemical residues on foods tested were at levels below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency” and were not a safety concern to consumers.

The Dirty Dozen

Produce that tested positive for various pesticides and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce is featured on the list, known as the “Dirty Dozen.”

Starting with the highest amounts of pesticide residue, the list features strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes.
Strawberries remained at the top of the list with at least 20 pesticides, while spinach jumped into the second spot with twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop.

Americans eat nearly 8 pounds of fresh strawberries per person each year, and even when they are rinsed in the field and washed before eating, they are still most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residue, according to the Environmental Working Group.

In 2016, spinach was ranked eighth, but the latest numbers from the USDA showed a sharp increase in pesticide residues on non-organic spinach since the crop was last tested eight years ago.

The pesticides responsible for the residues included three fungicides and one insecticide called permethrin, which has been linked to tremors and seizures in the nervous systems of animals and insects.

The newest additions to the list were pears and potatoes, which replaced cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from last year.

The Clean Fifteen

Produce that had relatively fewer pesticides and lower total concentrations of pesticide residues was placed on the group’s “Clean Fifteen” list.

This list included, in order, sweet corn (including corn on the cob and frozen corn), avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papaya, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwis, cantaloupe, cauliflower and grapefruit.

Only 1% of samples showed any detectable pesticides in avocados and sweet corn, which were deemed the cleanest produce.

More than 80% of pineapples, papaya, asparagus, onions and cabbage that were sampled showed no pesticide residue.

Methodology

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group, analyzed more than 36,000 samples taken by personnel at the USDA and the FDA who mimicked consumer practices by first washing or peeling the produce.

To compare the fruits and vegetables, the group came up with a composite score for each type of produce based on six measures of contamination. Some of the measures include the percent of the sample tested with detectable pesticides and the average number of pesticides found on a single sample.

Shopping smart

Nutrition experts support the findings and even use the list to make recommendations to their own patients.

“I believe that this is an important source of information,” said Corinne Bush, a clinical nutritionist who was not part of the research.

Bush warns that some pesticides that do not exceed thresholds established by the EPA can still be very harmful, since low-level exposure over time can have extremely damaging effects.

The Environmental Working Group recommends buying organic produce whenever possible to reduce exposure to pesticides.

“If you don’t want to feed your family food contaminated with pesticides, the EWG Shopper’s Guide helps you make smart choices, whether you’re buying conventional or organic produce,” Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the group, said in a news release.

“Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is essential no matter how they’re grown, but for the items with the heaviest pesticide loads, we urge shoppers to buy organic. If you can’t buy organic, the Shopper’s Guide will steer you to conventionally grown produce that is the lowest in pesticides.”

By Johanzynn Gatewood  (CNN)      Wed March 8, 2017
 


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10 Hidden Anxiety Triggers You Need to Avoid

Anxiety seems to be a near-universal condition. In the United States alone, approximately 40 million adults – or 18 percent of the population – suffer from an anxiety disorder.

And these numbers represent only the diagnosed (i.e. reported). The actual number is likely to be significantly higher.

The truth is that society is somewhat to blame (not to negate our own sense of responsibility.) We’ve managed to build a 24/7 “constantly connected” infrastructure that has permeated into schools, businesses and elsewhere. Many people are under constant pressure to succeed; most ironically by leveraging this very infrastructure. This only exacerbates the problem.

“Prevention is the best cure” is a universal axiom within the medical community, including within the mental health sphere. Understanding what “triggers” certain symptoms or condition can – in some instances – drastically reduce the likelihood of a symptom or episode.

Here, we focus on ten established “triggers” that are known to induce anxiety symptoms and anxiety conditions. It is our hope that, by understanding what provokes anxiety, each one of us can better mitigate any adverse consequences.

HERE ARE TEN COMMON TRIGGERS OF ANXIETY THAT WE NEED TO AVOID:

1. ALCOHOL

Consumption of alcohol, as it relates to the onset of anxiety, is a “Catch-22.” After a Always period of dealing with anxiety and its related stressors, some will turn to booze in order to calm themselves down.

As a depressant, alcohol can “accomplish” this task – but only temporarily. After this initial period, alcohol becomes the catalyst for anxiety – and this is the true danger in relying upon the substance to ease anxious thoughts and feelings.

Finding a more constructive and sustainable outlet is strongly recommended by medical professionals.

2. INADEQUATE NUTRITION/DIET

Our brain is a “hungry” organ in that it requires certain nutritional components – at adequate levels – in order to properly function. Further, as the brain uses up much of our body’s resources (i.e., energy), it’s critical that our gray matter receives said nutritional components, and in the right amounts.

A typical “Western Diet” is one that is heavily processed; lacking in nutritional value to sufficiently provide for the brain and body. According to Dr. Eva Selhub, Contributing Editor at Harvard University’s Health Publications:

“…studies have compared “traditional” diets, like the Mediterranean diet and the traditional Japanese diet, to the typical “Western diet,” and have shown that the risk of (mental illness) is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a traditional diet.”

Nutritionists, dietitians, and other health professionals recommend minimizing the consumption of processed foods and increasing the amount of whole, natural foods we eat.

3. ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR

Depending on one’s personality, the desire to engage with fellow human beings can fittingly range on a scale of 1 to 10. Introverts, for example, require sparse social interaction, while extroverts require social interaction as a means of energy and motivation.

Secluding oneself to the extreme, however, can cause some unintended consequences. Too much solitude, particularly for introverts, can result in some serious overthinking – a prelude to an anxiety episode.

This is a highly individualistic and subjective recommendation, but we should seek some type of social outlet for the betterment of our mental health.

4. CERTAIN SENSORY INPUTS

Certain lights, smells or sounds can (sometimes, inexplicably) negatively affect our state of mind. In addition to being an annoyance, they cause a stress reaction – and, more specifically, an anxiety reaction.

Noise, especially loud or blaring sounds, can activate and height the activity within the amygdala – a part of the brain responsible for the “fight or flight” response. Smells and sounds are much more nuanced but are nonetheless a trigger of anxiety in some.

In understanding and accepting the notion that certain stimuli can provoke an anxiety response, we are better equipped to manage our environment.

5. OVERWORKING

The determination to push ourselves and create a better life is a respectable trait. However, some individuals possess a drive that – at a certain point – becomes more of a liability than an asset. Such folks do not “live in the moment” of any marked success, but instead, succumb to the “next big thing.”

Constantly working to achieve this “next big thing” can alter brain chemistry to where any perceived “setback” can ignite a sense of anxiety.

Practicing mindfulness, meditation or gratitude can help keep things in perspective.

6. LACK OF SLEEP

Sleep is essential to normal functioning of the brain. When we deprive ourselves of this vitally-important state, any number of unintended consequences can surface. This includes, of course, adverse psychological consequences.

Lack of sleep often leads to an inability to sleep, aka insomnia. Ultimately, our mental and physical health suffers as a result.

If getting a good night’s rest becomes a consistent problem, it is recommended to seek medical advice.

7. LOW BLOOD SUGAR

As mentioned, the brain is a hungry organ; it requires a steady supply of glucose and other nutrients in order to function properly. Without these nutritional components, we’re susceptible to diabetes-like symptoms – shakiness, dizziness, weakness, etc.

Furthermore, low blood sugar creates unnecessary stress for the brain. As a result, the brain will perceive this inadequacy as a threat, which can trigger an anxiety episode.

The solution is to consult a physician, nutritionist or other expert who can recommend a dietary regimen that benefits your unique needs.

8. POOR STRESS MANAGEMENT

Without a proper ability to manage stress, we’ll easily succumb to anxiety triggers – both internal and external. Stress both creates and exacerbates thoughts and feelings of anxiety; making stress management a priority for those who desire to alleviate anxiety and its associated symptoms.

Practicing mindfulness and deep breathing can help in dealing with these triggers.

9. NEGATIVE THOUGHT PATTERNS

Negative thoughts breed negative thoughts, the consequences of which can be devastating in nature. As important, negative thought patterns have a tendency to worsen in degree over time, resulting in a negative spiral that some cannot manage to get out of.

Positive activities can counteract some or all of the anxiety experienced as a result of such thought patterns. Sports, meditation, or yoga are all activities that can reduce negative and anxious thought patterns.

10. LOSS OF DIRECTION

For those that once had “a vision” for their life – and (realistically or perceivably) saw this vision crumble – they are prone to experiencing high levels of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

These folks tend to be extremely competitive and goal-oriented individuals. Therefore, losing one’s sense of purpose is devastating. Similarly, others that “lose their way” tend to experience bouts of anxiety to some degree.

Again, mindfulness, meditation, and practicing gratitude can help put things in perspective. Practice sitting in silence on a consistent basis, and you may just find the ever-elusive answer to this complicated problem.


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The Surprising Food that Aids Allergy Sufferers

When I ask “what surprising food aids allergy sufferers?” you may think of green tea or some other food that is well-known for its immune-balancing effects, but you probably don’t think of sauerkraut when the runny nose and itchy eyes of allergy season strike. But a growing body of shows that maybe you should enjoy naturally-fermented sauerkraut on a regular basis, particularly before and during allergy season.

Research in the journal Current Sports Medicine Reports found that probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut can reduce allergic conditions and balance immune function. In this study at the Division of Sports Medicine at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu, researchers found that fermented foods like sauerkraut reduced allergy symptoms while also enhancing athletic performance. That’s a nice bonus: I’m not aware of any allergy medications that also boost athletic ability.

Other research in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that fermented cabbage regulated the immune systems of animals and even reduced or prevented allergic reactions altogether. In this study at the National Teipei University of Education researchers concluded that fermented cabbage offers promise for the treatment of allergic diseases.

The researchers still aren’t clear on the mechanism involved in preventing or reducing allergic reactions but it is likely a couple of things at work:

1) Many probiotics have a natural gut-healing and anti-inflammatory effect, and we now know that many diseases begin with gut inflammation and damage to the delicate mucosal lining in the gut.

2) As probiotics are being discovered and categorized, we are learning that many offer specific health benefits. So it is possible that there are specific probiotics that simply help to reduce allergy symptoms or allergies altogether. The research is still in the early stages, so perhaps over time and as more studies are carried out we’ll better understand how the probiotics in sauerkraut can help us deal with allergy season.

But not just any sauerkraut will do. Most commercial varieties are actually made with white vinegar instead of the natural fermentation process needed to encourage probiotic development. And, it’s the probiotics that offer the therapeutic allergy-reducing benefits.

Additionally, most store-bought sauerkraut has been pasteurized, a process of using excessive heat to bottle sauerkraut to increase shelf-life, but one that also kills all of the probiotics linked to allergy-reduction. The best way to ensure that the sauerkraut you eat is full of beneficial microbes is to make it yourself, which is much easier than most people think. Check out my blog Make Your Own Probiotic-Rich Sauerkraut to learn how. Alternatively, purchase sauerkraut in the refrigerator section of your health food or grocery store, making sure that the label indicates “unpasteurized” or “live cultures.”

While little research has been done on other fermented foods to see if they offer anti-allergy effects, preliminary studies also indicate that kefir (a beverage that is similar to yogurt, only a thinner consistency), miso and yogurt also offer immune-regulating, anti-histamine and respiratory-boosting effects. Ideally, eat at least one fermented food, but preferably more, each day. Be sure to choose only unsweetened options that contain live cultures.

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook                 March 4, 2017
About Michelle          Follow Michelle at @mschoffrocook

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-news World’s Healthiest News, president of PureFood BC, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Probiotic Promise: Simple Steps to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out.

source: www.care2.com


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Eating More of This Will Make You Live Longer

By now we know that eating more fruits and vegetables is good for our health, but a new study suggests that eating even more produce can prevent millions of deaths each year.

In the report, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from Imperial College London conducted a meta-analysis of 95 studies looking at fruit and vegetable intake. They estimated that 7.8 million premature global deaths could be avoided yearly if people ate 10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day.

The researchers characterize 10 portions as 800 grams of fruits and vegetables a day. For context, one medium apple is around 182 grams.

Already eating plenty of fruits and vegetables cut people’s risk of early death from heart disease and cancer. But the researchers estimated that if people ate up to 10 portions a day, there would be a 24% lower risk of heart disease, 33% lower risk of stroke, 28% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, 13% lower risk of cancer, and a 31% lower risk of dying early when compared to not eating any fruit or vegetables.

fruits-veggies

The fruits and vegetables that were linked to lower risk of heart problems included the usual suspects like apples, citrus, and leafy veggies like spinach. Other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts as well as peppers and green beans were linked to potentially lower cancer risk.

The researchers didn’t show why higher portions of fruits and vegetables can led to fewer deaths, but some of the basic nutrients in the produce can improve health. “Fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system,” said study author Dagfinn Aune of the Imperial College London School of Public Health in a statement. “This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold. For instance they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage, and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.”But how realistic is it to ask people to eat up to 10 portions of produce? Considering fewer than 18% of Americans eat the recommended amount of fruit and less than 14% eat the recommended amount of vegetables, that will be a challenge.

Alexandra Sifferlin   Feb 23, 2017
source: TIME Health


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Fun Fact Friday

    • Washing your hands makes you more optimistic.

    • 11% of the world is left-handed.

    • It takes 5 different parts of your brain for you to understand and laugh at a joke.

    • Our brains have a negativity bias and will remember negative memories more than good ones. This helps us to better protect ourselves.

  • It’s ok and “I’m fine” are the two most common lies spoken in the world.

  • A protein in human saliva called histatin can help wounds heal faster.

  • A beautiful face attracts more partners than a beautiful body, according to a scientific survey.

  • Single people tend to be less selfish than married people, according to new research.



Happy Friday  🙂
 
source:       factualfacts.com       https://twitter.com/Fact       @Fact