The Joy, Comfort, and Heart-Healthy Power of Dark Chocolate

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With Christmas around the corner, we are all looking forward to spending time with friends and family.  We often think of it as a tradition or perhaps a must-do.  But we should be reminding ourselves that connecting at the heart level with loved ones is good for the mind and body and now more then ever, we need to make connections and re-establish old ones. Christmas is also traditionally a time of year for lots of goodies!  And one favorite is CHOCOLATE! But can we still indulge and be healthy? Yes, we can, because dark chocolate does have some health benefits, especially for the heart.

The History of Chocolate

Dark chocolate has been around for over 3,000 years. Around 1900 B.C in Central and South America it was consumed as a drink. Later, it was also made into a drink for the Aztecs and Mayans for ceremonial purposes. The Spanish encountered chocolate in the early 1500s and brought it back to Europe.

Where Does Chocolate Come From?

Chocolate is made from the fruit of cacao trees, which are native to Central and South America. The fruits are called pods and each pod contains around 40 cacao beans. The beans are dried and roasted to create cocoa beans.

Most dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, particularly a subtype called flavanols that is associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Some studies suggest chocolate or cocoa consumption is associated with a lower risk of insulin resistance and high blood pressure in adults.

What are Flavanoids and Flavanols?

Flavonoids are various compounds found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. They’re also in plant products like wine, tea, and chocolate. There are six different types of flavonoids found in food, and each kind is broken down by your body in a different way.

What do Flavanoids do?

Flavonoids are rich in antioxidant activity and can help your body ward off everyday toxins. Including more flavonoids in your diet is a great way to help your body stay healthy and potentially decrease your risk of some chronic health conditions.

Different flavonoids can help the body in different ways. For one, including foods with flavonoids in your diet may be an effective way to help manage high blood pressure. At least five subtypes of flavonoids have a demonstrable effect on lowering high blood pressure, according to a reviewTrusted Source published in 2015.

Also, the flavonoids found in tea, coffee, and soy may help lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. One study published in the Journal of Translational MedicineTrusted Source found that people who consumed higher levels of flavonoids as part of their diet had a lower risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event. However, more research is needed to prove the cardiovascular benefits of flavonoids.

When we look at cardiovascular health and the connection to dark chocolate there are 2 factors to consider – blood pressure and cholesterol.

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How Does Dark Chocolate Affect Blood pressure?

The flavanols in dark chocolate stimulate nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate, or widen, which improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure.

2015 studyTrusted Source investigated the effects of chocolate consumption in 60 people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The researchers found that participants who ate 25 grams (g) of dark chocolate daily for 8 weeks had significantly lower blood pressure than those who ate the same quantity of white chocolate.

The findings of a 2017 reviewTrusted Source showed that the beneficial effects of dark chocolate on blood pressure might be more significant in older people and those with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, as opposed to younger, healthy individuals.

How Does Dark Chocolate Affect Cholesterol?

Dark chocolate also contains certain compounds, such as polyphenols and theobromine, that may lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the body and increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Doctors often refer to LDL cholesterol as “bad cholesterol” and HDL cholesterol as “good cholesterol.”

2017 study reported that eating dark chocolate for 15 days raised HDL cholesterol levels in people living with HIV. However, dark chocolate consumption did not affect LDL cholesterol levels in the study participants.

Shopping for Dark Chocolate

  • Fair trade sourcing means not only are workers paid fairly but also, they have safe and environmentally friendly working conditions.
  • Dig dark chocolate. Grab a bar with 70% cocoa or higher (more cocoa equals more flavonoids). If dark chocolate tastes too bitter for you, dark milk chocolate is a pretty sweet compromise—it has less sugar and more cocoa than traditional milk chocolate, which may have as little as 10%. If it says “milk chocolate” but has a cocoa percentage of 38% or higher, you’ll know it’s dark milk.
  • Read the ingredients. Chocolate, cocoa, or cacao should appear first in the ingredient list, meaning there’s more of it by weight. If sugar is firs on the list or you see unfamiliar ingredients, steer clear, says Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D.N., an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University and the author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.
  • Know your source. Dutch-processed cocoa tends to have a reduced flavonoid content because of how the chocolate is processed, while one recent study found that cocoa beans from Colombia had the highest flavonoid content, likely because of things like plant variety and geography.

 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/dark-chocolate#anti-inflammatory-effects

https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/02/12/are-there-health-benefits-from-chocolate#:~:text=Most%20dark%20chocolate%20is%20high,high%20blood%20pressure%20in%20adults.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_chocolate#:~:text=Dark%20chocolate%20has%20been%20around,brought%20it%20back%20to%20Europe.

https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-americas/history-of-chocolate

https://www.healthline.com/health/what-are-flavonoids-everything-you-need-to-know

https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/fair-trade-chocolate

The Stress-Reducing Power of Adaptogens

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It seems that these days, given the state of our world, people are naturally searching for ways cope with all the stressors surrounding them.  So how can we do this naturally?   Well, we all know that eating well, moving our bodies and sleeping are top priority.  But sometimes we could use a little more help and that’s where Adaptogens come into play. Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that help the body resist stressors of all kinds, whether physical, chemical, or biological. These herbs and roots have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions.

Some adaptogenic herbs are too bitter, so they are made into powdered supplements (and taken as a capsule), smoothies, teas, or herbal drinks or integrated into tinctures (herbal supplements dissolved in alcohol and ingested in a liquid form). A person can still experience a stressful events, but adaptogens are said to improve the way the body responds physically to stress.

Stress is considered a physiological condition, associated with the nervous, endocrine (hormones), and immune systems. Stress can be brought on by an external event, environmental condition, or a chemical or biological agent that triggers the body to release stress hormones which result in physiological changes.

Examples of changes that occur due to the release of stress hormones include an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. This sudden flood of hormonal changes is called the fight-or-flight response.

The fight-or-flight response in the body include can be brought on by:

  • Environmental factors, such as extremely high or low temperatures
  • Biological factors, such as an illness or injury
  • Chemical agents, such as tobacco, alcohol, or drugs
  • Mental issues (such as focusing on negative events [like the loss of a job or a divorce] or perceived threats)
  • Physical events, such as chronic loss of sleep
  • Day-to-day stressful events, like driving in heavy traffic

When stress is too overwhelming or prolonged, it can contribute to disease and may even reduce life expectancy. This is referred to as maladaptive stress, and it’s what adaptogens are said to help the body overcome.

Examples of Adaptogenic Herbs

There are many different adaptogens, each said to have its own specific action. But keep in mind that there are still only limited clinical research studies supporting the safety and effectiveness of these natural supplements.

Examples of common adaptogens and the action they are said to produce in the body include:

  • Astragalus root: to help reduce stress and aging by protecting the telomeres (structures linked with aging, located at the end of each chromosome)
  • Ashwagandha: to help the body cope with daily stress, and as a general tonic
  • Siberian ginseng: to provide energy and help overcome exhaustion
  • Holy basil: to promote relaxation, relieve stress and anxiety
  • Rhodiola rosea: to lower anxiety, fatigue, and depression
  • Cordycepsa specific type of mushroom which is said to fight stress and help balance hormones
  • Reishia specific type of mushroom which is said to help the body adapt to stress and promote a healthy sleep pattern
  • Maca: to improve mood and increase energy
  • Wild yamto regulate female hormone levels
  • Licorice: to increase energy and endurance and help boost the immune system, stimulate the adrenal glands and promote healthy cortisol levels
  • Bacopa Monnieri: to protect the brain and improve memory and improve other aspects of cognitive function

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Potential Risks and Side Effects of Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogenic herbs are nontoxic plants with gentle effects. However, some factors should be taken into consideration before you start consuming them.

  • They may react with other medications.If you’re taking prescribed medication, integrative health experts suggest talking with your doctor or consulting a naturopath or herbalist before adding any adaptogens into your routine. Your adaptogen of choice may react with the effects of your other medications.
  • They aren’t universally applicable.Don’t take an adaptogen just because your best friend took it—adaptogens can react differently from person to person, so research which one(s) could work best for your health. Further, consult your doctor or a knowledgeable health care professional if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or immunocompromised and considering taking adaptogenic herbs.
  • They are better in lower doses.Experts recommend ingesting adaptogenic herbs in small doses each day over the course of six to 12 weeks (unless you’re directed otherwise by your doctor). Taking larger doses in a single sitting may result in adverse effects, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness or headaches.

How to Add Adaptogens to Your Diet Safely

If you make most of your own meals, you can add adaptogens in their raw forms or as powders to your favorite recipes. You can also find adaptogens in the form of teas, tinctures and supplements.

Whichever route you go, always do your research before buying so you know you’re ingesting a safe product. Learn about each brand, such as where they source their herbs, whether they are GMP (good manufacturing practices) certified and if they use third-party testing. ConsumerLab.com can be a great resource of information for a fee, but you can also call a company directly to ask questions. Natural supplement store staff members might also provide helpful information.

Start slowly and stick to one herb at a time instead of trying several all at once. This way you can determine how each one does or doesn’t affect you before deciding whether to try another one.

Remember, adaptogens aren’t meant to be a quick antidote to anxiety or fatigue. Rather, they help your body build resilience over time.

“Adaptogens are meant to be taken consistently for several weeks at a time,” says Dr. Fossati. “They are also meant to be stopped for a week or so, so you can stop and reacclimate.”

Adaptogen Supplements

Supplement capsules may be one of the easiest ways to integrate adaptogens into your diet. However, the dietary supplement industry is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means the quality of what you find on shelves can vary dramatically. Some may consist of a mix of several herbs, which may not produce an optimal effect.

When researching supplement companies, also be sure to check for any heavy metals in their products, which you definitely don’t want to ingest. Researchers have found certain dietary supplements contaminated with heavy metals like cadmium, lead and arsenic beyond daily intake recommendations, which can accumulate in the human body to a level of toxic exposure.

Sources used:

https://time.com/5025278/adaptogens-herbs-stress-anxiety/#:~:text=Adaptogens%20are%20non%2Dtoxic%20plants,re%20having%20a%20renaissance%20today.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991026/

https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-are-adaptogens-4685073

https://www.forbes.com/health/body/what-are-adaptogens/

Let’s Be Honest: Menopause Sucks

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First off, it is important to establish that menopause is not a disease or a disorder. In fact, menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life that is filled with emotional transitions, in addition to physical ones too.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life that is experienced differently for each woman. For some, menopause can bring hot flashes, trouble sleeping (from hot flashes), pain during sexual intercourse, bladder control issues, sudden mood changes and irritability and even depression, in more severe instances.  For others, symptoms can be mild and they can be experienced to varying degrees.

Menopause generally occurs in the 12 months after a woman’s final period. In the years leading up to this point, women commonly experience shifts in their menstrual cycles, have hot flashes and other symptoms (as previously mentioned). This period of a woman’s life is called a menopausal transition or perimenopause and usually happens from ages 45 to 55. About seven years of this time (but it can be up to 14) is spent in perimenopause. Its duration depends on a number of lifestyle factors including (but not restricted to) smoking, age it starts, genetics, ethnicity and stress. During perimenopause, a woman’s production of estrogen and progesterone (two hormones made by the ovaries) fluctuates greatly.

What are the Symptoms of Menopause?

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It is important to understand that no menopausal transition is the same. Each woman is unique and experiences it in differing ways. The body starts to burn energy differently too. Fat cells change and women may see more weight fluctuations, usually in gaining weight.

Hot flashes are a common culprit for women experiencing menopause and these can last for years. They are often linked to fluctuating estrogen levels and are a sudden feeling of rushing heat in the body. The face and neck are particularly prone to this, with red blotches on the chest, back, and arms. Heavier perspiration, followed by cold shivering can also occur. Hot flashes can be strong enough to wake someone up. Most hot flashes periods only last between 30 seconds and 10 minutes. They can happen several times an hour or only a few times in a week. As mentioned, everyone is different so their menopausal experience with hot flashes varies greatly.

When symptoms of menopause are experienced, a doctor will further determine if it is occurring by asking questions about a woman’s health and familial history. In some cases a doctor may suggest having a blood test to check for follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estradiol (E2) levels to rule out any other causes for the changes experienced.

How to Relieve Menopause Symptoms

Estrogen is used in a variety of places in a woman’s body and as estrogen levels decrease, the likelihood of menopause symptoms occurring increases. Many women experience only mild symptoms and these can be easily treated with minor lifestyle changes. Decreasing caffeine consumption is a common remedy, so is wearing looser and cooler clothing for hot flashes.

Despite all these life-changing factors, there are plenty of natural and non-invasive remedies available to help any woman significantly during menopause. Seeing a doctor to confirm menopause has started is crucial, but there’s not a significant medical treatment or prevention available to totally side step menopause. Instead lifestyle changes and natural remedies are here to see women through this time of their lives.

Because your bones can weaken during menopause (which increases the risk of osteoporosis later) eating foods high in calcium and vitamin D are important to add to or increase in a woman’s diet. The good news is that there are many foods high in calcium, especially dairy products like yogurt, milk and cheese. Leafy green vegetables such as kale, chard and spinach contain high levels of calcium also. Tofu, beans and sardines also contain loads of calcium.

Getting more vitamin D is easy to add too. Just get out in the sun! Our skin naturally produces it when exposed to the sun. However, as we get older, our skin produces less of it. If being in the sun is difficult, taking a supplement or increasing food with vitamin D will help. Oily fish, eggs and cod liver oil supplements are just a few ways to achieve this.

Due to the possibility of gaining more weight with the onset of menopause, achieving or maintaining a healthy weight is another natural remedy you can use. Excess weight will also increase the severity of any hot flashes.

There are a number of herbal remedies that may help alleviate menopause symptoms. Keep in mind, those herbal remedies have varying effects on people and a health care practitioner should be consulted.  Here are just some examples of herbal remedies:

Black Cohosh: Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa) This herb has received quite a bit of scientific attention for its possible effects on hot flashes. Black cohosh may act as a hormone imitator, binding to opioid receptors in the brain, and possibly influencing serotonin levels.

Red Clover: (Trifolium pratense), By weakly binding to estrogen receptors in the body, red clover’s phytoestrogens help normalize estrogen action. Its phytoestrogens include lignin’s, coumestans, and isoflavones.

Dong Quai: (Angelica sinensis) Dong quai has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat gynecologic conditions for more than 1,200 years.

Soy: according to some research, is said to beneficial in reducing the severity of hot flashes too. It is said to have a similar physiologic effect to estrogen.

There are a number of ways women can lessen the severity of their menopause symptoms and they should be explored with the help of a healthcare practitioner who specializes in the area of interest you are pursuing.  But most importantly, maintaining a healthy balanced diet, exercising, getting plenty of sleep and of course taking care of your mental and emotional well being are always key to maintaining a healthy, balanced, abundant life.

SOURCES USED :

https://www.verywellhealth.com/natural-remedies-for-menopause-that-actually-work-2322658

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-menopause

https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/menopause-symptoms-and-treatments/natural-remedies-for-hot-flashes

https://www.womenshealthnetwork.com/menopause-and-perimenopause/herbal-remedies-for-menopause-symptom-relief/

What Is Frozen Shoulder, Anyway?

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Adhesive capsulitis, more commonly known as a frozen shoulder, is a common shoulder complaint that causes a limited range of motion in a person’s shoulder in addition to pain and discomfort.

How it Frozen Shoulder Starts

Over time, frozen shoulder can cause problems with movement such as shoulder tightness, stiffness, or pain. Most people start noticing symptoms when they experience generalized pain in their shoulder and have difficulty performing basic activities and daily tasks. Typically, a frozen shoulder does not start suddenly, rather it is a gradual onset that you might begin to notice over the course of some time. This could be months or even years where it begins to show symptoms. A sudden, acute shoulder injury is usually not related to the  condition.

Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

The primary symptom  is marked by limited range of motion. Patients will typically describe pain, discomfort, and tightness, especially when performing daily tasks. Patients may have trouble reaching or grabbing things above them, or issues when getting dressed.

Causes & Risk Factors

A frozen shoulder can be caused by many different potential risk factors or causes. It could be caused by what is considered normal usage and wear and tear. With normal usage, the tissues in your shoulder can become thicker over time, ultimately leading to scar tissue developing in the shoulder region. When tissues thicken, it can cause the shoulder to restrict, which causes the pain and restricted movement that people with a frozen shoulder experience.

There are also other causes that are not considered within normal limits. For example, having certain medical conditions can make you predisposed or at a higher risk of developing frozen shoulder. These conditions include things like diabetes, hormonal disorders and imbalances, or a weak immune system, all of which put you at an increased risk for inflammation in the body. Another common way that frozen shoulder arises is after prolonged bed rest or long periods of inactivity in a person’s life. For example, if you’ve had recent surgery, injury, or illness, and have not been very active. This inactivity can lead to inflammation, and scar tissue build-up, which in turn can lead to frozen shoulder.

This condition is more commonly seen in women who are middle-aged, although this condition affects any person at any point in their life. It is most commonly seen in people ages 40 through 70. As previously mentioned, people who have been inactive for a large period of time or are recovering from a major surgery or illness are at greater risk for a frozen shoulder. Diabetes puts you at three times more likely chance of developing a frozen shoulder.

Diagnosis

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your shoulder, or difficulty performing certain tasks, we recommend seeking care from a medical provider. A medical professional will perform an exam and ask you questions about what you are experiencing. The physical examination can tell the doctor how much range of motion you have in your shoulder. Typically, doctors will ask you to perform a series of tasks or movements, so they can understand the symptoms you are experiencing.
X-rays or MRIs may be used to help confirm a diagnosis of a frozen shoulder, as well as to rule out other possible differential diagnoses. These x-rays can help a doctor determine if there’s another underlying cause, such as arthritis, that is causing your shoulder pain, or properly diagnose the frozen shoulder.

Treatment of Frozen Shoulder

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There are several different treatment options available to treat a frozen shoulder. Some types of anti-inflammatory medications can be used to manage inflammation and discomfort. Other mild treatment options include things like applying ice to decrease pain. Some other types of frozen shoulder treatments include:

  1. Physical Therapy- Physical Therapy is a common treatment for people with this condition. This is because physical therapy can help stretch out the shoulder and regain some range of motion. Physical therapy could include in-office sessions or an at-home program, or a mixture of both.
  2. Chiropractic Care- Seeking chiropractic care is a great option for treatment. Chiropractic care can be a great option to help reduce pain and improve the range of motion in your shoulder. It also can help speed up your recovery process. One technique used by chiropractors is known as the Niel Asher Technique. This technique involves manipulating the joints and muscles which can stretch it out, reduce your shoulder pain, and help improve the condition overall. There have been several studies that have shown positive results in patients with diagnosed frozen shoulders.
  3. Surgical Options- Surgery is generally reserved when all other treatment options have been unsuccessful. Your doctor should be able to advise if he or she feels you will benefit from surgical interventions.

The Fascinating Science of How Pumpkin Seeds Help Brain Function

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Pumpkin seeds are a fall snack favorite adored by many. But, did you know that pumpkin seeds also have powerful brain health benefits and are integral in healthy brain function? They are rich in many micronutrients that are essential for healthy brain function, including copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Their magnesium content provides a calming effect on the brain — an amazing and all-natural option for stress relief.

Keep reading to learn more about how pumpkin seeds help brain function.

Key Minerals and Nutrients in Pumpkin Seeds

A quarter cup of raw pumpkin seeds contains about 150 calories, 15 grams of healthy fat, a few grams of carbs, and 8-10 grams of plant protein. They are also packed with nutrients.

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Pumpkin seeds, which are also called pepitas, are an excellent source of manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper. Magnesium is key to helping improve mood and sleep. Manganese plays a key role in collagen production — promoting bone and skin health. Iron and Cooper found in pumpkin seeds are involved with energy production, whereas iron helps transport oxygen to the cells in the body. Zinc is key for immunity, vision, and skin health.

Eating just one serving of raw pumpkin seeds can supply between 14-42% of the daily target for these essential nutrients.

Pumpkin seeds contain the following key brain health minerals:

  • Magnesium: This mineral is essential for a well-functioning nervous system, and it also supports brain development, memory, and learning. Research has shown that low levels of magnesium may increase neurological health issues and conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and the risk of stroke, migraines, epilepsy, and anxiety and depression.
  • Zinc: Zinc plays a key role in the regulation of communication between the brain cells that impact brain development, memory, and learning. Zinc deficiency is linked to a number of neurological conditions, including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and depression.
  • Iron: Iron is another mineral that plays an integral role in the day-to-day functions of the brain and development. Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue, headaches, and anxiety. Iron deficiency is a widely known cause of impaired cognitive, language, and motor development.
  • Cooper: Cooper plays a key role in brain function and development and is required for essential enzymes that supply the brain with energy. A proper balance of copper is key because too little or too much can cause brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Menkes, and Wilson’s diseases.

Brain Benefits

Some of the most significant brain benefits that pumpkin seeds pack include:

  • Feelings of calm — The high magnesium content of pumpkin seeds can lead to stress and anxiety relief and an overall sense of calm. Over the past 50 years, as magnesium consumption has plummeted, anxiety rates have gone up drastically. A calm and controlled mind increases your decision-making power and brings you a better sense of clarity.
  • Feelings of happiness — Pumpkin seeds can also help produce serotonin — the incredible neurotransmitter that helps us feel happy. According to the NCBI, Serotonin is one of the most important neurotransmitters that influence mental health.

How to Eat Pumpkin Seeds

You can buy pumpkin seeds at most grocery stores and health food stores. Or, you can make your own! Simply take the seeds from a pumpkin and bake them at 350 for 30-40 minutes. Here are some simple and delicious ways to incorporate more pumpkin seeds into your diet:

  • Eat them alone as a snack
  • Sprinkle them on top of salads for some crunch
  • Mix them into yogurt and smoothies
  • Blend them in with protein balls
  • Sprinkle them on whatever you want for added flavour, crunch, and a brain boost, from oatmeal to cereal and stir-fries and tacos.

Pumpkin seeds are an extremely versatile and delicious snack that packs a serious brain-boosting punch. Try adding them to your meals or snacking on them to harness the brain-boosting powers and ensure healthy and optimal brain function.

I Changed My Mind About Human Growth Hormone. Here’s Why

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Recently, in my never-ending quest for natural health and physical fitness, I accidentally (or maybe by divine intervention as I like to believe) came across some information about human growth hormone and how it can potentially increase longevity and youthfulness.  So naturally I dug in and began my journey to find the natural fountain of youth.

Human growth hormone is produced in the pituitary gland which is found in the brain and it plays a role in longevity, looks and physique.

What does human growth hormone do?

  • Works with testosterone for muscle growth.
  • Promotes fat loss.
  • Increases longevity.
  • Regenerates cells in the body and brain.
  • Strengthens bones. Also, when you break a bone, it works to heal that bone and make it even stronger than it was before making it difficult to break that bone again.
  • Improves memory, focus, concentration, and mood.
  • Involved in the healing, growth, and repair of cells. The ultimate hormone when it comes to anti-aging as it regenerates and preserves proteins. Proteins are not only found in muscle but also is hair, skin, nails, tendons and ligaments. Hence the Natural Fountain of Youth Hormone

Let’s go a little in depth the topic of longevity because I’m sure most people are wondering how human growth hormone is involved. The process of natural aging is called Somatopause and as we age there is an increase in body fat, and a decrease in lean body mass.  What happens as we age?  In our cells we have DNA and at the end of each strand of DNA we have telomeres which protect the DNA.  These telomeres are constantly getting shorter as we age. By naturally increasing growth hormone you reduce telomere shortening which will help you live longer and look younger.

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How to increase human growth hormone naturally?

  • Get more sleep- we naturally secrete more when we sleep.
  • Intermittent fasting and/or skipping breakfast. Breaking the fast as soon as you get up instantly stops secretion. The journal of clinical investigation states that levels can increase 2000% for men, and 1300% for women during sleep. Secretion stops as soon as we eat our first meal.
  • Consume melatonin before going to sleep – 0.5-5mg, enhances quality and duration of sleep which in turn increases secretion. Some studies show consuming melatonin before bed can increase it by 150%
  • Intense exercise or HIITS (high intensity interval training)—to recruit fast twitch muscle fibres that you can’t recruit with low intensity, moderate exercise. You don’t have to workout for long but by doing intense exercise for short periods of time it is said to boost human growth hormone by 450-770%.
  • GABA— an amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in the brain known for calming the nervous system and aiding sleep- it is said to increase human growth hormone by 400% at rest and 200% post exercise. GABA also reduces feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. It should be consumed before working out or before going to bed.

Other Amino Acids

  • L-Arginine, L-Ornithine, Glycine. These can be supplemented or found animal protein. Turkey breast has high amount of L-Ornithine.

Things to Avoid

  • Human growth hormone and insulin are indirectly related so when insulin is high human growth hormone is low. So, avoid sugar and processed foods because these can spike your insulin levels.
  • Too much body fat- body fat triggers cortisol which will inhibit human growth hormone. Low body fat increases human growth hormone which will in turn promote low body fat.

Well, there you have it folks, natural ways to boost human growth hormone- the natural fountain of youth.  I’ve started my journey and I’m hoping I’ve unlocked the secret to longevity.  I’m excited to see where this journey takes me!

Pets and People: Benefits of Having a Pet

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It goes without saying that 2020 and so far, 2021 has been exceedingly difficult and challenging to say the least, for many people.  Statistics show an increase in anxiety and depression in adults and children, suicides, drug, and alcohol abuse, as well as domestic abuse.  As we move through this unique time in our lives our goal should be to find ways to thrive, to be the best we can be both physically and mentally.  I want to explore the amazing health benefits of having a pet .  Moreover, people are exploring and utilizing the extraordinary healing powers that pets possess through therapy programs.  You see them in senior’s homes, hospitals, and schools. Not to mention their invaluable help as assistants for those with health challenges.

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Health Benefits

According to PIHHEALTH.ORG pets not only offer unconditional love and companionship but they also suggest:

Decrease stress – A study from the State University of New York noted that people experienced less stress when performing a task in the company of their pet than when a spouse, family or friend was close by.

Lower blood pressure – Owning a pet has the potential to lower blood pressure. This finding is associated with the decreased level of stress people experience while being around their pet.

Ease Pain – According to Mayo Clinic, pets have the power to help heal patients experiencing emotional or physical pain. Pet therapy or animal-assisted therapy is a growing field that uses dogs or other animals to help people recover and better cope with health problems.

Improve mood – People who own a pet tend to be happier, more trusting and less lonely than those who do not. Pet owners are also less likely to visit the doctor for minor issues.

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Social magnets – Pets attract people which can help you make connections more easily. If you are not the best at socializing, take your pet such as a dog to a nearby park and see how others naturally become drawn to your furry friend.

Prevent allergies and improve immunity – Pets spend much of their time outside and bring in all sorts of germs into the home, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The outside germs can help boost your immunity which will help prevent colds and other mild illnesses.

Improve fitness – All dogs need regular exercise to stay happy and healthy and coincidentally, we need exercise too! Dogs can give you that extra motivation to take a walk around your neighborhood or play Frisbee at a nearby park.

Long Term Health Benefits

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More recently, says Rebecca Johnson, a nurse who heads the Research Center for Human/Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, studies have been focusing on the fact that interacting with animals can increase people’s level of the hormone oxytocin.

“That is very beneficial for us,” says Johnson. “Oxytocin helps us feel happy and trusting.” Which, Johnson says, may be one of the ways that humans bond with their animals over time.

But Johnson says it may also have longer-term human health benefits. “Oxytocin has some powerful effects for us in the body’s ability to be in a state of readiness to heal, and also to grow new cells, so it predisposes us to an environment in our own bodies where we can be healthier.”

Alternatives

If you already have a pet give them an extra hug or treat in gratitude for how they’ve added to your life.  If you don’t have a pet but are considering it, keep in mind it is a big responsibility that must not be taken lightly because they need a lot of love and care and they need to thrive just as much as humans do.  But once you take that leap it is well worth it.  If you can’t have a pet, you can also explore some volunteer work.  Volunteers are always needed and much appreciated in any capacity when it comes to animals.  You will not only be helping people and animals, but you will gain all the benefits of being around animals too.

Essential Oils: Benefits and What to look for

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What is all the fuss about?

There are entire stores dedicated to scent whether it’s a candle, diffuser, skin lotion, body spray, massage oils etc, you name it, and chances are you’ll find it.  I think we can all agree that, at the very least, scents have an affect on us, good or bad.  You walk into a bakery and smell freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and you can’t wait to take that first bite.  Or your partner puts on their favourite scent and if you smell that scent somewhere you think of them.  How many times have you smelled something and said to yourself “that reminds me of….”  That is the power of aroma so let’s take a look a deeper look at it.  Aromatherapy can be defined as the use of essential oils for the purpose of holistic therapeutic healing and essential oils are derived from plants.  There are different ways to use essential oils and you can visit aromadina.com to find out more.

What you need to know

Whether you just like the scent or you’re looking at it as additional support for conditions, it’s important to know a few things before you buy essential oils.

 

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  • Remember to always consult your healthcare provider first before using essential oils.
  • Ingesting, or swallowing, essential oils is not recommended. Taken by mouth, the oils can damage the liver or kidneys. They can also lead to interactions with other drugs, and they can undergo unexpected changes while in the gut.
  • They should never be used directly on the skin but instead mixed with a carrier oil or lotion.
  • Make sure to do your research when shopping for essential oils. Watch out for the quality of the product. There are EO’s out there that are not pure.  They should be tightly sealed in dark glass bottles.  Read the label to make sure it doesn’t say “fragrance” oil.  Fragrance oils will have synthetic ingredients or extenders.  It won’t contain the essential parts of real plants.
  • The quality also depends on the plants that were used which can be affected by weather, growing conditions and whether pesticides or other chemicals were used. Processing and packaging are also factors.
  • Read the label to check that the Latin name of the plant being used is clearly stated, which part(s) of the plant was used, how it was extracted and how it was grown.

Some Common Essential Oils and their Uses:

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  • Basil essential oil is used to sharpen concentration and alleviate some of the symptoms of depression. It may relieve headaches and migraines. It should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • Bergamot essential oil is said to be useful for the urinary tract and digestive tract. When combined with eucalyptus oil it may help relieve skin problems, including those caused by stress and chicken pox.
  • Black pepper essential oil is commonly used for stimulating the circulation, muscular aches and pains, and bruises. Combined with ginger essential oil, it is used to reduce arthritis pain and improve flexibility.
  • Chamomile essential oil can treat eczema.
  • Citronella essential oil is a relative of lemongrass and acts as an insect repellent.
  • Clove essential oil is a topical analgesic, or painkiller, that is commonly used for toothache. It is also used as an antispasmodic antiemetic, for preventing vomiting and nausea, and as a carminative, preventing gas in the gut. It has antimicrobial, antioxidant and antifungal properties.
  • Eucalyptus essential oil can help relieve the airways during a cold or flu. It is often combined with peppermint. Many people are allergic to eucalyptus, so care should be taken.
  • Geranium essential oil can be use for skin problems, to reduce stress, and as a mosquito repellant.
  • Jasmine essential oil has been described as an aphrodisiac. While scientific evidence is lacking, research has shown that the odor of jasmine increases beta waves, which are linked to alertness.
  • Lavender essential oil is used as an antiseptic for minor cuts and burns and to enhance relaxation and sleep. It is said to relieve headache and migraine symptoms.
  • Lemon essential oil is said to improve mood, and to help relieve the symptoms of stress and depression.
  • Rosemary essential oil may promote hair growth, boost memory, prevent muscle spasms, and support the circulatory and nervous systems.
  • Sandalwood essential oil is believed by some to have aphrodisiac qualities.
  • Tea tree essential oil is said to have antimicrobial, antiseptic, and disinfectant qualities. It is commonly used in shampoos and skin care products, to treat acne, burns, and bites. It features in mouth rinses, but it should never be swallowed, as it is toxic.
  • Thyme essential oil is said to help reduce fatigue, nervousness, and stress.
  • Yarrow essential oil is used to treat symptoms of cold and flu, and to help reduce joint inflammation.

At Home Fitness: Expectations vs. Reality

At Home Fitness

Why do we want to get fit at home?

Everyday we are challenged with the busyness of life: taking care of our families, going to work or school, taking care of our home, making time for friends, the list goes on. But how do we take care of ourselves? One vital component is physical exercise. The list of benefits is endless but, in a nutshell, it promotes strong muscles and bones. It improves respiratory and cardiovascular health. Staying active can also help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and reduce your risk for some cancers. Exercise can help with your mental well being too. So now, how do we achieve these goals with at-home fitness?

What are your at-home fitness goals?

For those who have already begun the journey, the challenge right now may be how to get fit at home. For those just getting started, the additional challenge may be what to do, how to get started. For everyone, I think it’s important to remember the why behind what you’re doing. Setting goals- a vision for yourself will keep you on track.

 

How to get fit at home?

Everyone’s goals are different and most importantly we must remember to not compare ourselves to anyone else. The only comparisons we should be making is between workouts or within the goals you set out for yourself. We are all unique and therefore to compare yourself to someone else will be fruitless and frustrating. Write down your goals to help keep you on track and stay focused on your vision for yourself. In these times, when you’re trying to get fit at home, perhaps a different set of goals is needed because the challenge will be- how do I achieve my goals without the resources I had before the lockdown? Changing your goals, even if it’s temporary, is okay. If you’re used to working out at a gym where you had all the resources and equipment at your disposal, your challenge may be to let go of the goals you had set out for yourself pre-pandemic and setting new goals for your fitness at home.

How do I achieve at-home fitness?

If you already have equipment, great! But for some, the option of equipment may be out of the question because of lack of space or because buying equipment is too expensive. So, for cardiovascular fitness, walking, running or biking outdoors is a great way to work towards your goal. If can’t do any of these there are options like walking or running up and down a staircase (tip: gradually add weight to make it more challenging), or dancing to your favorite tunes. And, since you are at home you can check out the enormous library of online workouts that are geared to suit your needs and your goals without the use of equipment.

 

Fitness At Home

Strength training at home is achievable you just have to get creative if you want to use equipment. Ever thought of things like jugs of water, bags of rice, cans of food, or even kitty litter? Yes!! All these things can be used for weight training. I bet your wondering “I don’t have a cat so why would I buy kitty litter?” Well, along with doing yourself some good you can do your local animal shelter some good too! When you are back to your normal routine at the gym you can donate anything you don’t need.  Click here if you’re interested in building strength

But remember it’s not always the amount of weight that makes an exercise challenging or stimulates muscle growth. Using lighter weight correctly will cause that muscle to burn!! Try this, take a weight (whatever it may be) and really slow down the movement. There are a couple of ways to do this. If an average count for a bench press (for example) is 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down, then try a 4 second count up and 2 seconds down. Try the opposite or slow down the count for both up and down. The idea here is, to use a variety of counts to challenge your muscles AND always change it up. Your muscles have a memory so they will adapt quickly to an exercise. So, the goal is to change the way a muscle is challenged and if you can’t do it by increasing the weight you use because you don’t have that option then change the intensity of the exercise by changing the speed with which you do it.

There are a variety of strengthening exercises that just require your own bodyweight. And, believe me, when done correctly they are incredibly challenging. You can checkout examples of exercises online.

Fitness at Home – How do I get started?

If you are just starting on your  at-home fitness journey, the important thing to remember is to start out slow and build up. If you start out too aggressively chances are you will quit because you will be sore and feel horrible. Keep a journal so you can track your progress, be accountable and stay focused. Always start by a warming up. This could be a light walk or even dancing. A warmup will allow the blood to start flowing to the muscles and lubricate the joints in preparation for the demands you will be placing on your body. It is also a good idea to do some stretching before and after.