Getting Enough Minerals in Your Diet?

Insufficient Nutrition Can Be Robbing Your Optimal Health

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Forms of Nutraceuticals
Forms of Nutraceuticals
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So what exactly are nutraceuticals? According to Dictionary.com, they are, “a bioactive compound occurring as a food component, additive, or product, including vitamins, dietary fiber, herbal extracts, carotenoids, and probiotics: nutraceuticals are said to promote health and well-being, allegedly helping in the prevention and treatment of disease.”1

So basically, these include dietary supplements as well as basic foods. Ideally, we would get all necessary minerals and nutrients via the food groups but this is rarely the case due to lifestyle. You may have assumed that since minerals are in so many foods you are in the safe zone. Not so; in many cases strict vegans and even borderline vegetarians may be missing out on important trace minerals and the ones in your multi-vitamin may not be as high-quality as you suppose.

Calcium for Strong Bones, Teeth, and Heart

Calcium is one of the most important and abundant minerals in our bodies. WebMD.com says, “Calcium is a mineral that is an essential part of bones and teeth. The heart, nerves, and blood-clotting systems also need calcium to work. Calcium-rich foods include milk and dairy products, kale and broccoli, as well as the calcium-enriched citrus juices, mineral water, canned fish with bones, and soy products processed with calcium. Calcium is also taken as a supplement.”2 Which foods are calcium-rich? According to Kidshealth.org,3

  • Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Calcium-fortified foods such as orange juice, cereals and, crackers
  • Canned salmon, anchovies, and sardines with bones
  • Green leafy vegetables like kale, Swiss chard, and broccoli

Potassium for Your Nervous System

Potassium keeps your muscles and your nervous system working properly and minimizes the possibility of cramps. Your blood and bodily tissues, including muscles, contain water. Potassium helps ensure that the quantity of water is optimized between cells and body fluids; it performs a balancing act. You can find it in:

  • Legumes, such as beans, split peas, lentils
  • Bananas, tomatoes
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes, with skin intact
  • Green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli

Zinc for Your Immune System

We all know the importance of our immune systems during the COVID-19 pandemic. Well, this mineral gives a powerful boost to your immune system. This system fights off common illnesses and infections. It is also involved cellular growth and assists in healing wounds, such as cuts. It is found in:

  • A variety of nuts including cashews, pecans, walnuts, and almonds
  • Legumes, such as peanuts, split peas, and lentils
  • Cuts of meats such as beef, pork, and chicken

The Strength of Iron

Our bodies utilize the mineral iron to transport oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our bodies. This is a critical function because our bodies depend on oxygen to maintain life. Iron also assists in the production of hemoglobin. This is the component in our red blood cells that moves oxygen throughout our bodies. Get your iron in:

  • Eggs
  • By cooking in cast iron cookware
  • Dried fruits like apricots and raisins
  • Whole and enriched grains like quinoa, wheat, and oats
  • Various cuts of meat, particularly red meat like liver or beef

Steps for Good Health

All the minerals listed above originated in the earth and seas and got into the food chain that way. Research shows that the mineral depletion in the soil was about 85% during the years from 1900 to 1940.

Adding specific soil amendments in organic farming programs has made a measure of progress in bringing soil health back from the brink. Unfortunately, chemical techniques are still applied to most crops and meats found in your local grocery store. To maximize your health goals:

  • Take your supplements daily.
  • Purchase organic produce and free range meat whenever possible. Yes, you’ll pay a bit more but mineral and nutrient deficiencies cost even more in the long run.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity puts stress and strain on your body and impacts your overall health. Intermittent fasting for weight loss and maintenance is a great strategy for most people.
  • Consume fresh, local fruits and produce. They generally taste better and as a bonus they support your local economy which impacts you directly.

Getting enough minerals in your diet with healthy foods and supplements is not difficult. It might take a slight alteration in your lifestyle but you’ll be happier in the long run.

References

  1. Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/nutraceutical?s=t
  2. WebMD.com, Calcium, https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-781/calcium
  3. Mary l. Gavin M.D., Kidshealth.org, Minerals, https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/minerals.html

Further Reading and Relevant Recipes


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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

5 Foods Dietitians Recommend

For Successful Weight Loss, Focus on Healthy Eating, not Limitation

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Foods that fight nutrient deficiencies
Foods that fight nutrient deficiencies
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Too many so-called weight loss diets focus on limiting what allow ourselves to eat, which sets us up for either failure at worst or a bad experience at best. Another popular approach is intermittent fasting. This helps by focusing on when we eat rather than what we eat. In this article we will take a look at specific foods that we should eat that most of us enjoy and are very versatile.

  • Basil seeds. These might be a little-known member of the culinary landscape (bet you don’t have any in your pantry), but basil seeds offer double the digestion-regulating fiber as chia seeds. Not only that, basil seeds are nutrient-packed. They contain lots of calcium for bone-building, magnesium, and iron, and plenty of inflammation-fighting antioxidant properties. If you can’t find them locally (the kind packaged for food not planting), I get mine on Amazon.com. Nutrineat.com says, “They help maintain the arteries clean and clear. They do not allow cholesterol to stick on the walls of the arteries. Thus, they help lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. As the soaked seeds form a thick mass, they make a filling drink. When taken before meals, it can curb overeating. Thus, it can help maintain weight.”1
  • Barley. If you are into grains, barley is a great choice. Similar to oats, bike oats, barley contains soluble beta-glucan fiber that is fantastic for regulating digestion and supporting a healthy gut microbiota. Nutritiondata.self.com says that a one cup serving contains 193 calories, 44.3g carbohydrates, 6.0g dietary fiber, and a low 0.7g total fat.2
  • Eggplant. This vegetable is not only very affordable and available, it lends itself to dishes such as no-fry eggplant Parmesan, a personal favorite. One cup of raw eggplant has just 20.5 calories and 4.8 grams of carbohydrate, about half of which comes from fiber (2.4 grams). There are about 3 grams of naturally occurring sugars in eggplant. Eggplant is a low-glycemic food coming in at a “1” for a single serving. This makes it a great food before a long workout.
No-fry eggplant Parmesan recipe, breading
No-fry eggplant Parmesan recipe, preparation (recipe listed below)
  • Spaghetti squash. This one is also very affordable and easy to find in most grocery stores. Spaghetti squash is an easy-to-prepare, plant-based, low-carb veggie option. It’s high in vitamins B6 and C and fills you up with high-fiber content. And who couldn’t get a bit more fiber in their diet? One cup (150g) of spaghetti squash comes in at just 42 calories and 10 grams of carbs as compared to 220 calories and 43 grams of carbs in standard pasta. All this makes it a great diet choice. Don’t forget to compost those hulls; your ornamental or vegetable garden will thank you.
  • Black beans. Black beans are a gut health superfood because they’re super high in fiber at only 15g per cup. They offer a fermentable resistant starch that helps foster a healthy gut microbiota. The right combo of fiber, protein, and slow-digesting carbs keep your blood sugar stable yielding longer-lasting energy levels. Black beans also contain a number of critical minerals such as zinc, iron and energizing copper.

Adding these 7 foods dietitians recommend for your diet will result in successful weight loss and a more varied diet.

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References

  1. Nutrineat.com, Basil Seeds Vs. Chia Seeds – A Complete and Detailed Comparison, https://nutrineat.com/basil-seeds-vs-chia-seeds
  2. Nutritiondata.self.com, Barley, pearled, cooked Nutrition Facts & Calories, https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5680/2


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Insomnia – Symptoms, Causes, Myths

Sleep Depredation Adversely Affects Your Body, Brain, Mood, Cognitive Function

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Sleep deprivation -- asleep at the wheel
Sleep deprivation — asleep at the wheel
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What is insomnia? Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder. It makes it hard to drift off to sleep, difficult to stay asleep, or lead you to waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep. It is not uncommon to still feel tired after you wake up. Insomnia can diminish not only your energy level and your mood but also your health, work performance, and your quality of life.

How many people suffer and what is the probable cause? The Mayo Clinic says, “At some point, many adults experience short-term (acute) insomnia, which lasts for days or weeks. It’s usually the result of stress or a traumatic event. But some people have long-term (chronic) insomnia that lasts for a month or more. Insomnia may be the primary problem, or it may be associated with other medical conditions or medications.”1 Some cases may be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic isolation.

What causes insomnia?

Symptoms of Insomnia

  • Waking up too early
  • Increased errors or accidents at work and at home
  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Waking up in the night
  • Not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep
  • Difficulty paying attention consistently, focusing on tasks, or remembering things
  • Ongoing worries and concerns about your sleep
  • Daytime tiredness or sleepiness (nodding off at your desk, or worse, in your car)
  • Irritability, depression, confusion, or anxiety


Causes of Insomnia

This is not a one-size-fits-all ailment. It may just be happening on its own, other conditions can contribute to it, or be the primary cause. Medical treatment can be elusive as well. Melatonin can help. Treating the underlying cause may resolve your insomnia, but on the other hand, it can last for years. Possible causes include:

  • Travel or work schedule. Circadian rhythms function as an internal clock, managing such things as your sleep-wake cycle, metabolism, and your core body temperature. Disrupting these circadian rhythms can well result in a case of insomnia. Causes include jet lag from traveling across multiple time zones, exposure to too much blue light, working a late or early shift, or often changing shifts.
  • Eating too much too late. Having a light snack before bedtime is just fine, but compulsive overeating may cause you to feel physically uncomfortable while lying down. You might also experience heartburn, a nauseating backflow of acid and food from your stomach into your esophagus following eating, which can leave you wide awake.
  • And of course, Stress. Concerns about your work, grades at school, health, financial situation, or family circumstances can keep your mind alert during the night, making it difficult to sleep. Stressful life events or trauma like the death or illness of someone close to you, a pending divorce, or a job issues are recognized causes of insomnia.


Myths Regarding Insomnia

Like other medical conditions, there are pervasive myths about this one. WebMD2 has put together a list of the more common ones.

  • A drink will help you sleep. This myth probably persists because drinking alcohol can help you fall asleep. But as it moves through your body it may lead to disturbed, restless sleep, or it may make you wake earlier.
  • Insomnia Is strictly mental. It’s true that psychological issues can cause insomnia. As a matter of fact, stress is the No. 1 reason people report a lack of sleep. But it’s not the only insomnia trigger. Many things can cause insomnia, including poor sleep hygiene, illness, drug side effects, chronic pain, restless legs syndrome, or sleep apnea.
  • Screen time winds you down. You might want to try to wind down by reading on the computer or perusing TV before retiring, but that can actually stimulate you. The blue light and noise of TVs and computers can be overwhelming at a low level and can reduce brain melatonin levels. You want your melatonin levels to increase around bedtime to help you fall asleep. Need just a little noise to help you drift off? Try listening to relaxing music or download a relaxing, sleep app.
  • Sleep aids = risk-free. Yes, today’s sleeping pills are safer and much more effective than the older variety. But all meds have potential downsides, including dependency. Always talk to your primary care doctor before you reach for sleeping pills. Some help relieve insomnia symptoms temporarily but by themselves they can’t banish insomnia permanently. Fixing underlying health problems and fixing your sleep environment is usually the surest approach to insomnia.
  • I’ll just make up for lost sleep. Nope, it’s unlikely that you can really catch up on sleep you’ve mislaid. In fact, sleeping in one or two days per week or during the weekend may upset your natural body clock. The disruption may make it harder to get to sleep the next time. The only sure method to make up on your lost sleep is to get right back into a consistent sleeping schedule.
  • A nap will help offset insomnia. Naps are lovely, aren’t they? They affect everyone differently. For some, a short 10- to 20-minute cat nap siesta can be refreshing and put fuel in the old metaphorical tank. For people with insomnia, however, an afternoon snooze will decrease the brain’s sleep drive.
  • You can teach yourself to need less sleep. Believing this hocus-pocus can end you up with some serious consequences. We are all born with a fixed sleep need. Most adults fall into the 7-8 hour category. While you can learn to get by on less, you can’t teach your body to need less sleep. If you find yourself sleep deprived, it’s much more difficult to pay attention and remember things both important and trivial. Being consistently tired has some serious consequences. These include lowered work performance, a higher risk of mishaps, and of course, poor health.

If you have insomnia (as I occasionally do, by the way), don’t worry; you are not alone. Just knowing and understanding these insomnia symptoms, causes, and myths will go a long way towards understanding your condition and finding a solution that works for you. Me? I do just fine with late night melatonin and using blue light blocking glasses as I labor at my computer screen all day.

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References

  1. The Mayo Clinic, Insomnia, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167
  2. WebMD, Insomnia Myths and Facts, https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/ss/slideshow-insomnia


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

8 Benefits of Hibiscus Tea

And How to Grow Hibiscus for Tea at Home

by Kelly R. Smith

Dried hibiscus flowers for healthy tea
Dried hibiscus flowers for healthy tea
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Hibiscus tea (sometimes called “sour tea”) might not be so well known in the USA but it certainly is in other parts of the world. I’ve been drinking it for a few years now, both for the taste and the health benefits; it’s another item in my toolbox to keep my blood pressure in a reasonable range.. I add it to the grounds of my cold brew coffee maker, sometimes with fresh mint from my garden. Yeah, I know; wild, living on the edge. There are several hundred species of hibiscus plants that vary by the location and climate they are grown in, but Hibiscus sabdariffa or roselles is most commonly used to make hibiscus tea. As a bonus, they are stunning in tropical landscape plantings. But we are here to talk about the health benefits of hibiscus tea.

Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea

  • It lowers blood pressure. This is a big one for me. All blood pressure medications have side effects. For me, I take lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor. It causes coughing and the feeling of being lethargic. Rebekah Edwards says, “A 2013 review by the University of Arizona discovered that hibiscus tea is used in 10 or more countries as a normal hypertension treatment without any reported adverse events or side effects — except in extremely high doses.”1
  • It’s packed with antioxidants. What are antioxidants? They are molecules that help fight compounds we call free radicals, which inflict damage to your cells. The National Library of medicine noting their study says, “Hibiscus anthocyanin extract has reducing power that is approximately 2-fold that of the synthetic antioxidant, butylated hydroanisole.”2 Other than hibiscus, many other foods contain them; tart cherries are a good example.


  • It supports healthy cholesterol and triglycerides. Dyslipidemia is a type of disorder that is characterized by noticeable changes in plasma lipids or lipoproteins, including two you are probably familiar with: cholesterol and triglycerides. As with blood pressure, hibiscus tea’s ability to reduce high “blood lipids” also extends to those with diabetes. A 2009 study had diabetes patients drink hibiscus tea two times a day for a full month and they found a significant increase in HDL (good) cholesterol and a marked decrease in total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • It may help to lower blood fat levels. The National Library of medicine citing a study of sour tea (ST) and black tea (BT) says, “The results of the present study showed that ST has a significant effect on blood lipid profile in patients with diabetes.”3 Many studies have shown that hibiscus tea reduces blood cholesterol and triglycerides in people suffering from diabetes and metabolic syndrome. That said, other studies have shown conflicting results. Obviously, more research is needed in the general population.
  • It prevents oxidative stress. Like most healthy teas on the market, hibiscus is chock full of antioxidants that combat free radical damage caused by substandard nutrient diets and frequent exposure to dangerous chemicals. These antioxidants are found primarily in the anthocyanins of the plant, the natural pigments that give this flower its brilliant red color.
  • It may boost liver health. Your liver is essential to your overall health. Some of its jobs include producing proteins, secreting bile, and breaking down fat. One small human research study found that supplementing with hibiscus tea raised the antioxidant load in the bloodstream as well as reducing compounds that contribute to oxidative stress that damages cells.
  • It shows promise in fighting certain cancers. Although this idea is only starting to gain traction, there is already some evidence to support hibiscus tea’s anticancer power. It has been shown that hibiscus extracts cause apoptosis, or cell death, in leukemia cells. Although the exact mechanisms behind this aren’t clear as of yet, this could be a promising step in the ever-going fight against leukemia, which affects about a quarter of the children and adolescents currently struggling with cancer.
  • It reduces obesity and related risks. How? Human and animal studies have found a link between hibiscus tea and an elevated metabolism. Hibiscus extract may even inhibit you from absorbing as much starch and sucrose as you might from a typical meal. One study in particular gave 36 overweight participants either hibiscus extract or a placebo. After 12 weeks, hibiscus extract reduced body weight, body fat, body mass index and hip-to-waist ratio


Growing and Preparing Hibiscus for Tea at Home

Test your soil pH in a well-draining area that receives full sun at least six months before planting if possible, and, if needed, amend it using elemental sulfur or dolomitic lime to adjust the pH to between 6.1 and 7.8. The do best in humus-rich soil and full sunlight.

Harvest your flowers after they have bloomed. You want the calyxes (the main body of the flower). They should snap right off. Once you have your harvest, complete the steps to prepare and dry them. This video explains it in detail.

How to process hibiscus flowers for tea

Can you benefit from hibiscus tea? Of course! There’s something for everybody and if you grow your own supply you will save money and be certain it is organic.

Others are Reading

Reference

  1. .Rachael Link, Dr. Axe, Hibiscus Tea: The Antioxidant ‘Therapeutic Agent’ You Should Be Drinking, https://draxe.com/nutrition/hibiscus-tea/
  2. Taofeek O Ajiboye, et al, National Library of medicine, Antioxidant and drug detoxification potentials of Hibiscus sabdariffa anthocyanin extract, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21314460/
  3. Hassan Mozaffari-Khosravi, et al., National Library of medicine, Effects of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) on lipid profile and lipoproteins in patients with type II diabetes, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19678781/


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

What Happens When You Quit Alcohol

Lower Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol, Boost Your Immune System

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
You are now entering the alcohol free zone
You are now entering the alcohol free zone
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This article was updated on 01/09/21.

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Were you one of the ones that woke up on the first morning of the new year and made a New Years resolution to quit drinking alcohol? You’re not alone. It is most likely the one day of the year that the greatest number of people pledge to embrace sobriety. Now you’re wondering what changes you will go through along your new lifestyle path. As with any habit or addiction, it varies from person to person but there are some concepts that are generally accepted.

How Sobriety Changes Your Body

WebMD.com says that if you are used to drinking anything more than one drink per day, “cutting back or quitting may lower your blood pressure, levels of fat called triglycerides, and chances of heart failure. Heavy drinking — at least 15 drinks for men and eight or more for women a week — can take a toll on the organ [liver] and lead to fatty liver, cirrhosis, and other problems. The good news: your liver can repair itself and even regenerate.”1

Whether losing weight was part of your impetus or not, that’s another nice side effect for a variety of reasons. Ditching alcohol means ditching empty calories. Also, since alcohol ramps up your ravenous appetite, you can easier resist impulsive overeating. Liquor also makes you more impulsive, and makes you lose your inhibitions so you are less able to resist the extra fries.



Alcohol and Your Immune System

Any alcohol consumption affects your immune system negatively, and the more you drink, the worse it gets. The US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health Search says, “Clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia. This issue of Alcohol Research: Current Reviews (ARCR) summarizes the evidence that alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex and seemingly paradoxical ways. These disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contribute to organ damage associated with alcohol consumption, and impede recovery from tissue injury.”2 And as we now know, many COVID-19 deaths are related to or precipitated by pneumonia.

Alcohol also alters the numbers of microbes in your microbiome and the structure and integrity of your gut are altered with alcohol intake. This is comprised mainly of your prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics.

When you stop consuming alcohol, you start rebuilding your microbiome. There’s no way to know how much time is needed to rebuild your gut, of course, since each person’s microbiome is unique — but eating a diet that is high in fiber (such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains) along with probiotic foods (yogurt and kimchi) can help you on your path to getting your gut healthy again.

Changes to Your Brain

There are known physical consequences resulting from heavy alcohol use. Two examples are liver damage and high blood pressure. Alcohol use at any level, however, also has its down side for your brain. It causes mental fog, anxiety, loneliness, and mood changes. Once you wean yourself off the bottle, your brain can begin the healing process and restore your brain’s natural function.

Your brain’s frontal lobe is responsible for a number of critical functions including reasoning, behavior control, memory, and motor function. The lobe takes a heavy hit when you drink to excess. Renewal Lodge has some good news though. They say, “Rational decision making and impulse control are crucial in fighting addiction, and luckily these powerful functions of the brain will return as you begin to heal.”3

Another thing that indulgence in spirits does is to create a complex imbalance of dopamine in your brain. A release of dopamine happens when you are involved in activities that you find pleasurable, such as eating candy, drinking coffee, or playing sports, and it teaches your brain what actions to repeat, and eventually, to crave. Insidious, yes?

Alcohol use overwhelms your brain with dopamine but it also reduces your brain’s dopamine receptors at the same time. When at first you stop drinking, the absence of dopamine along with diminished receptors may lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. The good news is that over time your brain will begin to normalize the dopamine levels as well as your brain’s response to it without the presence of alcohol.

An Experiment of One

Doing the research for this article, it all sounded fascinating. The fact that we are all so different means that these effects of going sober should be highly individualized. I decided to throw my hat into the arena as a test subject. I will be reporting on a weekly basis.

A couple of things to mention here; whether they matter or not I do not know but I’ll throw them out there. I am taking Lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor, and a diuretic, to control high blood pressure. Also, I have been doing intermittent fasting for about three months now

  • Week One. The first thing I noticed was having a hard time getting sleepy in the evenings. Even after a couple servings of camomile tea and a melatonin supplement, I didn’t feel ready to go to bed until midnight. Even at that, it took an hour or so to drift off. My dreams were very vivid and indulging in a bit of lucid dreaming way fun. In the mornings I was very groggy. Where’s my espresso?
  • Week Two. I’m still having a hard time getting to that sleepy state in the evenings. The good thing is that when I do lay down, I fall asleep very quickly, not so much “chattering monkey” in my head keeping me awake. I have more energy during the day.
  • Week Three. I’m getting sleepy earlier, going to bed earlier, and falling asleep faster. My Garmin GPS watch also monitors my sleep. I used to always register more “light sleep” than “deep sleep” but now that has reversed. Dreams are still fun. In addition to no alcohol, I’m using my blue-light blocking glasses at the computer consistently (Blue-light messes with your natural melatonin, and so, your sleep cycle).
Garmin GPS watch sleep analysis
Garmin GPS watch sleep analysis
  • Week Four. Sleep is now stabilized and I have more energy during the day. I’ve lost 5 pounds, a bit more than 1 per week! My energy level has been increasing steadily. I’m back to my stretching routine twice a day and I’m averaging 22,000 steps per day. 4 to 7 miles of that is walking my black-mouth cur, Frankie. That’s him in my author bio below. My average resting heart rate is 70. My VO2 Max has gone from 27 ml/kg/min to 28 ml/kg/min. This is the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize during exercise. It’s commonly used to test aerobic endurance or cardiovascular fitness. So, an upward trend. That’s a good thing. All this is just more data I’m getting from my Garmin GPS watch. For anyone who likes to track and analyze dieting or fitness progress, an instrument like this is essential to gain an insight on what is working and what areas you need to work on.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens during week five after I quit drinking alcohol. Check back.

You Will Also be Interested In


References

  1. WebMD.com, What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking Alcohol, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/ss/slideshow-quit-alcohol-effects
  2. Dipak Sarkar, M. Katherine Jung, H. Joe Wang, Alcohol and the Immune System, The US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health Search, Alcohol and the Immune System, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/
  3. Renewal Lodge, 5 Ways Quitting Drinking Affects Your Brain, https://www.renewallodge.com/5-ways-quitting-drinking-affects-your-brain/


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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Benefits, Side Effects of L-Arginine

A Dietary Nutraceutical Supplement for Better Health

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Nutraceuticals--ways to get your dietary supplements
Nutraceuticals–ways to get your dietary supplements
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This article was edited on 02/22/21.

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What are Dietary nutraceutical forms of consumables? From Dictionary.com, “a bioactive compound occurring as a food component, additive, or product, including vitamins, dietary fiber, herbal extracts, carotenoids, and probiotics: nutraceuticals are said to promote health and well-being, allegedly helping in the prevention and treatment of disease.”1

Well now, that’s a mouthful. The particular supplement we are interested in this article is L-Arginine. It may not be as commonplace as vitamin C or CoQ102 but the list of health benefits is impressive.

What is L-Arginine?

Under normal circumstances your body naturally produces L-arginine. You can also acquire additional L-arginine as part of your regular diet. But at times, your need for L-arginine may exceed your body’s ability to produce and/or consume it naturally. This nutrient deficiency is often the case for older adults or people with some medical conditions. This is when supplements are helpful, either prescribed or purchased over the counter.

In these cases, you might be prescribed artificial (lab-produced) L-arginine in the form of an oral medication, injections, or skin creams. A number of potential health conditions may benefit from a supplemental intake of L-arginine. It is generally considered safe in moderate and recommended doses, however too much L-arginine carries the potential for severe side effects, up to and including death. Therefore, it is key to consider how the supplement can interact with your body and with other medications prior to taking it. Always consult with your doctor before beginning a regimen.



The Benefits of L-Arginine

It offers two primary effects; First, it turns into nitric oxide and secondly it aids the body in building protein. According to Medical News Today, “These effects give L-Arginine an array of potential benefits that range from heart health and chest pain to helping to build muscles, repair wounds, and improve male fertility. Although there are many claims about the benefits of L-Arginine, not all of them are supported by scientific research studies.”3

However, the following benefits and uses of L-Arginine have been researched:

  • Growth hormone reserve test (a test used if a growth hormone deficiency is suspected.)
  • Correcting inborn errors of urea synthesis
  • Reducing high blood pressure
  • Treating erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Treating heart disease
  • Easing inflammation of the digestive tract in premature infants
  • Controlling blood sugar in people with diabetes

The Side Effects of L-Arginine

  • Gout
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood abnormalities
  • Worsening of existing asthma condition
  • Bloating
  • Airway inflammation
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Allergies

As with any drug or supplement, L-Arginine has its own benefits and side effects. It always pays to be in the know about what to expect. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not, nor does it claim to, monitor the safety or effectiveness of any supplements, so it is important to choose a reputable brand that you know and trust.

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Resources

  1. Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/nutraceutical?s=t
  2. Kelly R. Smith, I Can Fix Up My Home Blog, Should Runners and Others Supplement with CoQ10?, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2018/12/05/should-runners-and-others-supplement-with-coq10/
  3. Jenna Fletcher, Medical News Today, The benefits and side effects of L-arginine, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318174#_noHeaderPrefixedContent



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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome

A Debilitating Disease that Might be Transmitted by a Virus

by Kelly R. Smith

A woman suffering in pain
A woman suffering in pain
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Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome (CFIDS) is believed to be not just one but a collection of diseases that together manifest the primary symptom of persistent, overwhelming, and debilitating fatigue. Of course it is tightly-bound to chronic fatigue syndrome and is also associated with the Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus Syndrome. A newer term is Myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). Confused yet?

There is an organization known as the National CFIDS Foundation1 has proposed criteria to be used in establishing a positive diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Deficiency Syndrome. The two major criteria must be satisfied and a number of minor criteria. The two majors are:

  1. New onset of persistent or relapsing, debilitating fatigue or easy fatigability in a person who has no previous history of similar symptoms, that does not resolve with bedrest, and that is severe enough to reduce or impair average daily activity below 50% of the patient’s premorbid activity level for a period of at least 6 months.
  2. Other clinical conditions that may produce similar symptoms must be excluded by thorough evaluation, based on history, physical examination, and appropriate laboratory findings. These conditions include malignancy; autoimmune disease; localized infection (such as occult abscess); chronic or subacute bacterial disease (such as endocarditis, Lyme disease, or tuberculosis), fungal disease (such as histoplasmosis, blastomycosis, or cocci-dioidomycosis), and parasitic disease (such as toxoplas-mosis, amebiasis, giardiasis, or helminthic infestation); disease related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection; chronic psychiatric disease, either newly diagnosed or by history (such as endogenous depression; hysterical personality disorder; anxiety neurosis; schizophrenia; or chronic use of major tranquilizers, lithium, or antidepressive medications); chronic inflammatory dis-ease (such as sarcoidosis, Wegener granulomatosis, or chronic hepatitis); neuromuscular disease (such as multiple sclerosis or myasthenia gravis); endocrine disease (such as hypothyroidism, Addison disease, Cushing syndrome, or diabetes mellitus); drug dependency or abuse (such as alcohol, controlled prescription drugs, or illicit drugs); side effects of a chronic medication or other toxic agent (such as a chemical solvent, pesticide, or heavy metal); or other known or defined chronic pulmonary, cardiac, gastrointestinal, hepatic, renal, or hematologic disease.


CFIDS Symptoms a Patient Might Experience

Finding a doctor who is well-versed in this condition and understands the diagnosis protocol can be difficult. How can a prospective patient justify her suspicions that she might be afflicted? According to Solve M.E., simply confirm these symptoms:

  • Post Exertional Malaise (PEM). PEM is a prime indicator of ME/CFS. PEM manifests following mental and/or physical exertion. It is described as steadily worsening symptoms that last 24 hours or even longer. Malaise is defined as a condition of overall bodily weakness and/or discomfort, which often marks the onset of a disease and a vague and/or unfocused feeling of mental uneasiness, lethargy, or discomfort.
  • Un-refreshing Sleep. Sleep that is disrupted as well as un-refreshing is another common indication of ME/CFS which is indicated by patients awakening with a tired feeling even following substantial periods of rest, to experience more than usual drowsiness during the daytime, and to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.
  • Concentration Problems. Many ME/CFS patients find concentration issues to be the most serious and debilitating indicator, making things like driving a car problematic. They live with difficulties with attention, concentration, and memory. These symptoms have been linked to problems in ways the brain handles information—in particular the processing speed and complex information processing.
  • Pain. In the past, pain was not thought to be a prime indicator of ME/CFS, but muscle pain, joint pain, and headache are now recognized as common in ME/CFS patients.

It’s very likely that these four major symptoms of ME/CFS are interwoven, each one building on the other and undoubtedly exacerbating the overall illness. This is why doctors who are well-versed in ME/CFS focus on treating pain and sleep disturbances with medicine, in an attempt to give some degree of solace to the severity of the overall ME/CFS symptom complex.



History, Causes, and Methods of Coping with CFIDS

No one is positive exactly when Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome (or Myalgic encephalomyelitis) first began but it became defined late in the 1970s. This was also about the time when AIDS began its spread. It is not clear precisely what triggers CFIDS. It seems highly likely that it may be caused by a virus, but mysteriously enough, it has yet to be determined how it spreads from individual to individual.

This condition afflicts women in the majority of cases, estimated at 75% to 80% of total cases, so males are in the mix as well. The age range in which it most commonly strikes is 25 to 50. Some of the triggers for CFIDS are thought to be digestive system stress, depression or emotional stress, exposure of the immune system to some toxicity, and an over-work/under-exercise situation. It certainly describes our modern world.

Even though there has been no cure discovered at this point, a point of light is that there are a number of things that are beneficial in the coping process. For example, mild exercise is of great help in most cases. Why? because it allows the blood flow to increase and gives a boost to the the immune system.

The elimination of certain things from your diet may minimize the symptoms. The list includes includes caffeine, alcohol, and highly refined flour and sugar. The last thing to be is a compulsive over-eater.

Another technique to cope with this disease is counseling. Having solid, reliable moral support is a huge asset when one is coping with depression and stress. Using these techniques and working for solutions under a doctor’s care and supervision will keep the patient on the road to good health and reduce the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

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Resources

  1. GARY P. HOLMES, M.D., et al., National CFIDS Foundation, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Working Case Definition, https://www.ncf-net.org/patents/pdf/Holmes_Definition.pdf
  2. Solve M.E., About the Disease, https://solvecfs.org/about-the-disease/

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Delicious Foods To Eat For Weight Loss

by Kelly R. Smith

Eat a healthy, balanced diet
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
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You might think, like many people, that losing fat weight is always about specific food deprivation and sticking to a banned list. Generally, the list consists of foods that you love the most. Strategies like intermittent fasting really do work; I’ve been doing it for a couple of months and have lost over 10 pounds. But frankly, it’s just not for everyone. But what if I told you about some delicious foods that are assumed by some to be on the banned list but shouldn’t be? Well, it’s true.

Make the Switch Back to Whole Milk

Dairy fat bad; 2% good. Right? So everyone says. In a study by the American Journal of Nutrition, they concluded that, “We observed that higher intakes of high-fat dairy products but not of low-fat dairy products were associated with less weight gain,which seemed to be driven by intakes of whole-fat milk and butter.”1 Why is that? Essential fatty acids are removed when the milk is skimmed. This is the component that can help you feel fuller more rapidly and stay full longer with full fat products, which cuts down on habitual, excessive overeating. Also, when individuals reduce the fat in their diets, they tend to replace it with sugary beverages and other refined carbohydrates.

Spreads Made From Nuts

Peanut butter, Nutella (chocolate hazelnut), and other nut-based favorites deliver healthy fats and an impressive amount of protein and fiber, as well. Peanut butter offers a blend of 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons along with 2 grams of fiber. The Harvard Gazette reported regarding a study, “The regular nut-eaters were found to be more slender than those who didn’t eat nuts, a finding that should alleviate fears that eating a lot of nuts will lead to overweight.”2 The best way to get nuts into your diet other than toast spreads for breakfast is snacking on a couple spoonfuls of nut butters in between meals to control your appetite. That’s good news for me!

Pasta Is Your Friend

Low-carb diets like the Atkins and Ketogenic diets will help you lose weight lightning-fast, but they have their own issues. They are not really “lifestyle” diets; they are restrictive and what about when you eat out? They rely on ketosis, a normal metabolic process that will cause even teetotalers to blow positive on a breathalyzer test. But whole grain pasta takes a long time to digest, leaving you with a steadier source of fuel to support energy levels.

Get Cracking With Eggs

They are high up there in high-quality protein, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals. They are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense food when it comes to both snacks and meals, such as a big omelet. They come in at just 70 calories each so there’s no reason not to enjoy the whole egg, yolk and white combined (shell excluded of course). Yes, egg yolks are a significant source of your dietary cholesterol, but recent studies have now proven that dietary cholesterol has less of an effect on blood cholesterol than was once thought. The most recent evidence suggests that eating whole eggs (in moderation) is safe, and some studies even demonstrate that they may assist in your weight loss when they are eaten in lieu of refined carbohydrates.

Chicken on the Dark Side

You should remove the skin but dark meat poultry (leg and thigh) tends to be more tender, juicy, and rich in flavor than its white meat counterparts. This requires not only less butter or oil to cook it up with, but also less of your favorite sauce or creamy condiments that your breast meat requires. To make things even better, it’s a great source of lean protein that will leave you more satisfied at meal time, so you will be less likely to overeat later. Chicken also makes great jerky if you have a food dehydrator.

The Decadence of Dark Chocolate

One or two squares of this rich, satisfying chocolate will reduce your stress levels and help to curb cravings for other sugar-loaded treats as well. High stress levels has been known lead to cortisol hormone spikes. These increase your appetite and emotional eating behaviors. The desirable benefits of dark chocolate (not regular candy bars) are specific to the concentration of cocoa flavonoids. These have been shown in studies to have multiple health benefits, such as improving blood flow to the brain and reducing the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood pressure. The higher the percentage of cacao, the greater the benefits.



References

  1. Susanne Rautiainen, Lu Wang, I-Min Lee, JoAnn E Manson, Julie E Buring, Howard D Sesso, American Journal of Nutrition, Dairy consumption in association with weight change and risk ofbecoming overweight or obese in middle-aged and older women:a prospective cohort study, https://watermark.silverchair.com/ajcn118406.pdf
  2. The Harvard Gazette, Research also shows people who eat nuts weigh less, https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/11/eating-nuts-reduces-risk-of-death/

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

How to Stop Overeating

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Everyday Feasting to Excess

The results of chronic overeating
The results of chronic overeating
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This post was updated on 11/28/20.

It may seem odd — many of us eat way too much at Thanksgiving dinner. And then again on December 25th as if it was a Christmas tradition. And then what? According to the site Wild Simple Joy, the number 1 New Years resolution is to practice intuitive eating. This means, “Make a resolution to sit down and focus on your eating instead of multitasking. Practice listening to your body when you are thirsty, ACTUALLY hungry, and full (or something else, like just tired!)”1 Basically, pay attention and stop overeating!

Strategies to Stop Overeating

  • Don’t wait until you are starving. Many of us are not very good at knowing when we’re hungry until it’s too late. This leads to overeating by over-filling the feed bag and then scarfing it down, going past our fullness level before we realize it.
  • Pose the question — am I hungry enough for an apple? Why? Most of us can always find room for more desert but a piece of fruit? Not so much.
  • Drink a glass of water, ice tea, or cold brew coffee. This will partially fill your gut and trigger the “full” signal sooner. It will also begin to kick in your digestion process.
  • Enjoy your first few bites of your meal. Really tune in to the first few mouthfuls. “Your taste buds desensitize to food within the first few minutes, which make food not taste as good after that last bite threshold,” explains Stephanie Grasso, RDN. “Chewing slowly during those first few bites will not only delay overeating, but also allow you to appreciate the flavor of food at its peak.”
  • Remember that your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Swedish researchers found that, “When blindfolded, subjects ate 22% less food (p < 0.05), had shorter meal durations (p < 0.05), and had less decelerated eating curves (p < 0.05). Despite a smaller amount of food consumed when blindfolded, the reported feeling of fullness was identical to that reported after the larger meal consumed without blindfold.”2 This is most likely because when blindfolded, eaters relied more on internal satiety signals.
  • Eliminate distractions. Turn off your TV, get away from your computer, put your cell phone on silent. It’s difficult to tune into your body’s quiet taste and satiety cues when digital distractions take our focus off of the task at hand: simply eating. It’s easy; just sit at your table with a chair and a plate. This will ground you in a good environment and mind-set for eating intuitively.


  • Balance your meal. The ideal meal includes a mix of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. This is more likely to satiate you more rapidly and keep you feeling full longer. When meals are balanced, we get shorter-term energy from starchy veggies and grains and longer-term energy from healthy fat and protein. Furthermore, healthy fats (olive oil, avocados) and proteins slow your digestion process, giving your satiety hormones a chance to multiply, signaling that you are getting full. As far as carbohydrates go, shoot for a mixture of whole grains, starchy vegetables, and non-starchy vegetables.
  • Take your time already. As you eat your meal, take time to pause and put your fork down. This will give you an opportunity to pace yourself and determine how full you are. Engage in conversation if you’re dining with someone. Take deep breaths, and have a sip of water or wine. Repeat this process as you eat. Allow yourself visual reminders; after you’ve finished a quarter of your food, to set the fork down and so forth.
  • Manage your stress in other ways. Many of us eat as a reaction to stress as much as we do when we are hungry. The solution? Siphon off that stress at regular intervals. Take myself for example. Here I sit all day long producing hopefully interesting content for you, esteemed reader. My Garmin 235 watch sends me a “move” signal when I’ve had too much butt-time. So I go for a stroll and listen to Audible.com audio books on my iPhone. Sometimes a quarter mile, sometimes a mile and a half. When I get back, bingo! Stress gone, the well of creativity duly refreshed.


  • Avoid “The Last Supper Effect.” Whenever we put a particular food on the banned list, the desire for it goes up. That’s just human nature. If you forbid yourself from eating certain things, you are very likely to overindulge in them while you still can, a phenomenon also known as the “last supper effect.” This can also carry over after you stop eating a given food, during those furtive sneaking episodes.
  • Be aware of and manage trigger foods. We all have foods that trigger overeating and avoiding them can help minimize your chances of overeating. For example, if you know ice cream is likely to trigger a late-night binge or a ravenous episode of overeating, it’s not a good idea to keep it stocked in your freezer. The more difficult it is to get at something, the less likely you will be be to overeat that particular item.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you to stop overeating, during the holiday season and beyond. Get a head start on those New Years resolutions and get a handle on that weight management program you keep telling yourself about.

You Might Also Enjoy:

References

  1. Dawn Perez, Wild Simple Joy, New Year’s Resolution Ideas for Your Best Life in 2021!, https://wildsimplejoy.com/new-years-resolution-ideas-for-personal-development/
  2. Dr. Yvonne Linné, Britta Barkeling, Stephan Rössner, Pål Rooth, Wiley Online Library, Vision and Eating Behavior, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1038/oby.2002.15

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Running Improves Memory, Grows Brain Cells

Aerobic Exercise Produces the Cathepsin B Protein


by Kelly R. Smith

Running and brain functionality
Running and brain functionality
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Runners might not all consider themselves to be superior to sedentary people but in all fairness, in our heart of hearts we might suspect it. As it turns out, running and other aerobic exercise does elevate us above the masses, at least with respect to health and mental functionality, all other things being equal. Let’s see how that works exactly.

Scientists now believe that running may help boost memory. This is because the aerobic activity produces a protein which boosts brain cell growth. Researchers at the National Institute on Ageing discovered that when our muscles are exercised they produce a protein called cathepsin B. This makes its way to the brain and triggers neuron growth.

Dr. Henriette van Praag, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging says “Overall, the message is that a consistently healthy lifestyle pays off.” The key word to focus on here is consistently. It should come as no surprise that one of the fundamental aspects of this healthy lifestyle is what we eat and drink. It is therefore important to follow a diet for body and brain.

Initial Findings on the Cathepsin B Protein

Praag explains the research this way, “We did a screen for proteins that could be secreted by muscle tissue and transported to the brain, and among the most interesting candidates was cathepsin B. Moreover, in humans who exercise consistently for four months, better performance on complex recall tasks, such as drawing from memory, is correlated with increased cathepsin B levels.”

Of Mice and Men

Praag’s team initially found that the protein increased when they were studying mice that exercised regularly on wheels. The protein level increased in the blood and muscle tissue the more the mice ran. They next found that when cathepsin B was applied to brain cells in their lab it initiated the production of molecules related to neurogenesis, meaning the growth of neurons.

Additionally, they found that the mice that were genetically modified so that they no longer produced the protein performed less well in memory tests. Dr. van Praag concluded, “We also have evidence from our study that cathepsin B is upregulated in blood by exercise for three species—mice, Rhesus monkeys, and humans.”

How can we as runners reap these benefits? Dr van Praag says, “People often ask us, how long do you have to exercise, how many hours? The study supports that the more substantial changes occur with the maintenance of a long-term exercise regimen.”

Exercising on a Regular Basis Helps Reduces Memory Loss

A Number of health experts have believed in the benefits of running or involved in some other fitness regimen for a quite some time now. Elisa Zied, a member of the American Dietetic Association says, “It’s a no brainer, we know that exercise is something everyone should try to incorporate.”

Another study was undertaken at Columbia University Medical Center that also suggested that exercise may elevate a person’s memory capacity. Researchers in that study were the first to track brain cells in a living brain in an attempt to find the exact area that is the most affected by exercise. What they found is that exercise targets the very region that is associated with the unfortunate age-related memory decline that usually starts around the age of 30.

Participants in this study who were consistently physically active performed better on memory tests than were the participants who neglected exercise. Many health and nutrition experts propose that it’s just one more reason to get active. Zied said, “We’ve known for a long time you get this burst of energy and feel-good chemicals when you exercise, so its not that much of a stretch that it is actually going to preserve your mental function as you get older.”

Increased Blood Flow is an Essential Part of the Process

Webmd.com says, “Researchers found that exercise boosts blood flow to a brain area involved in memory—even in people who aren’t in top shape.” This study shows that just three months of physical exercise was all that was needed for people starting with low levels of aerobic fitness to build up the blood flow to that specific part of their brains and increase scores on memory tests.

In yet another study performed at the University of British Columbia researchers found that consistent aerobic exercise seems to increase the size of the hippocampus. This is the region of the brain that is involved in verbal memory as well as learning.

Running Improves Memory Both Directly and Indirectly

From a direct point of view, some of the primary benefits of running come from its capacity to lower insulin resistance, lower inflammation, and stimulate the production and release of growth factors. These chemicals in the brain are at least in part responsible for the healthy maintenance and operation of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels internally in the brain as well as regulating the number of, and survival of, new brain cells.

But from an indirect point of view, a regular fitness routine has been shown to improve your mood and regenerative, restful sleep as well as reducing your levels of stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas often cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.

A number of other studies suggest that the regions of the brain that are responsible for controlling thinking and memory (specifically the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have a larger volume in individuals that are runners as opposed to those who are not.

In a nutshell, if you are a runner, you are doing a lot more for yourself than just keeping the weight off. If you are not a runner, why not start? We can all use an improved memory, and more brain cells as we age.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.