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Seven Antioxidant Vegetables for an Arthritis Diet

by Institute for Vibrant Living

There is currently no cure for arthritis, but scientists, doctors and sufferers have found that what you eat can greatly affect joint pain. Certain foods are known to curb inflammation, which is what causes arthritis. Put the arthritis diet to the test for yourself by trying these seven antioxidant-rich vegetables for one month, and monitor the improvement in your arthritis pain.

Vegetables are an important part of the arthritis diet

1.      Tomatoes

Filled with the antioxidant lycopene, tomatoes are an excellent aid to countering inflammation in the arthritis diet. Eaten raw in salads or as a side vegetable, or cooked in tomato sauce and ketchup, tomatoes are a powerful way to counter free radical damage and oxidation, suppressing pain-causing inflammation.

2.      Avocados

Avocados for arthritis! Foods high in unsaturated fats, such as avocados, are often high in antioxidants too. Full of heart-healthy polyphenols, avocados should be eaten as part of a balanced diet for arthritis pain management

3.      Kale

Kale is growing in popularity as its antioxidant benefits are widely recognized. Tackle your arthritis pain by adding chopped kale leaves to salad for an appetizing mix of green leaves filled with carotenoids, lutein and beta-carotene antioxidants.

Related: Why is Kale So Healthy?

4.      Bell Peppers

This colorful low-calorie vegetable adds a rainbow of color to your arthritis diet with their green, yellow, orange and red colors. Red peppers, also known as sweet peppers, have the highest content of beta-carotene, quercetin, capsanthin and luteolin, making them the best choice for lowering arthritis inflammation.

5.      Brussels Sprouts

As well as lowering cholesterol, Brussels sprouts contain a variety of antioxidant phytonutrients along with protein, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. If you don’t like the smell of boiled sprouts, lightly stir-fry them with bacon pieces and onions for a crunchy side dish.

6.      Cauliflower

Packed with vitamin C, cauliflower is one of the world’s healthiest foods. It contains folate, vitamins C, K, B2, B1 and B6 and is a good source of choline and biotin. Eat raw as a dip or cook and mash for a creamy side dish to accompany any main meal.

7.      Zucchini

Zucchini is a versatile vegetable; it is an important part of any arthritis diet. It is a good source of those all-important antioxidants with high levels of vitamins C and A as well as lutein and zeaxanthin.

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Cataract Surgery Reduces Fracture Risks

by Cindy Gray

Recent studies indicate that having cataract surgery to fix blurry vision significantly reduces the risk for fracture in patients who are 65 years old or older. The bottom line is that visual impairment such as blurry vision is a major factor in falls, which are the leading cause of fractures in the elderly. Vision plays a key role in providing a reference frame for balance and stability and cataracts impair the ability to focus.

Blurry Vision? Cataract Surgery Reduces Fracture RiskCataracts affect more than 20 million Americans. More than half of all adults will develop them by age 80, according to the National Eye Institute. Cataracts cause clouding in the lens of the eye, resulting in blurred vision. Surgery corrects the cataracts by replacing the cloudy lens with a clear artificial one.  About 3 million cataract surgeries are performed in this country each year. 

Risk factors for cataracts include heredity, advancing age, excessive exposure to ultraviolet light and cigarette smoking. People with high blood pressure and diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts and women are at higher risk than men.

While there are some factors, such as heredity, gender and age, that you can’t control, there are some proactive steps you can take to reduce your risk for developing cataracts:

Don’t smoke: Many studies have confirmed a direct link between cigarette smoking and vision problems, including cataracts. Government-sponsored studies have shown that smoking doubles your risk for cataracts and it significantly increases your chances for developing macular degeneration.

Wear sunglasses: Always wear sunglasses and a hat when you are in the sun. Prolonged UV exposure can increase your chances of developing cataracts because light that enters the eye is mainly absorbed by the cornea and the lens. Make sure the glasses you wear have lenses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays. 

Related: Top 6 Supplements for Improving Your Eyesight

Get adequate nutrition: Your daily diet should include plenty of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids as they have been shown to lower the risk for cataracts. Millions of Americans take nutritional supplements to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need to maintain vision health.

It is also important to have regular eye check-ups. While eye exams won’t prevent cataracts, they will diagnose them in their earlier, more treatable stages. Diagnostic tools include an eye chart test and eye pressure measurements which are performed by administering a small puff of air into the eye.

An overall healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, adequate rest, proper nutrition and frequent social interaction can help protect you from age-related health maladies. Make the healthy choices that protect both your health and your vision.   

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Risk+of+Fractures+Following+Cataract+Surgery+in+Medicare+Beneficiaries

http://www.nei.nih.gov

http://www.visionfoundation.org

 

 

 

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Avoid Computer Eye Strain: Healthy Decisions Protect your Vision

by Cindy Gray

According to a recent study conducted by the American Vision Council, 30 percent of adults spend more than nine hours a day on a computer or other digital device. Those who spend excessive time in front of computers are all too familiar with vision problems such as eye strain, itchy eyes, dry eyes, blurred vision and headaches. Over time, repeated eye strain can cause permanent damage to your eyes.

How to Avoid Vision Problems Caused by Computer UseIt’s difficult to avoid computer eye issues when your job requires you to be in front of a screen all day.   Fortunately, there are proactive steps you can take to help protect your eyes from computer eye strain. Some of them include:

Remember to blink: The natural impulse to blink slows down when we perform tasks that are visually intense. When you fail to blink, the tears that coat the eye evaporate more quickly leading to dry eyes that become painful and sore. Unfortunately, the air in many offices is dry and that can also irritate your eyes. Keep a bottle of natural saline eye drops nearby and use them every two to three hours.

Use proper lighting: Eye strain can be triggered by poor lighting. Keep overhead light to a minimum and make sure the lamps on your desk are focused on your work area, not on you. Try to put your computer in a position that minimizes reflections from the window to prevent vision problems.

Related: Exploring Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Eye Health

Get regular check-ups: Our eyes change as we age and it is important to have your eyes regularly checked by an ophthalmologist. If your prescription is correct you are less likely to strain your eyes. So request eyeglasses with an anti-reflective coating. You can also talk to your doctor about glasses that are specifically designed for people who must spend prolonged periods of time at computers.   

Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Eye health professionals recommend that every 20 minutes you spend 20 seconds looking at something that is at least 20 feet away. This allows the muscles in your eyes to use the full range of their focus instead of the fixed difference between you and your screen. 

Make adjustments: Experiment with different background colors and levels of brightness. Increase font size so you don’t have to squint. Keep your monitor surface clean so it can be easily read. A simple tilt of your computer screen may help minimize glare.

While computer use on the job may be unavoidable, do yourself a favor and minimize the time you spend on digital devices during your “off” hours. Resist the urge to check your smart phone every few minutes. Remember how much fun it used to be have dinner without the interruptions of email and text alerts? Rediscover the magic of a family evening during which you have actual conversations, not virtual ones.

 

References:

http://www.doctoroz.com/article/keep-computers-wrecking-your-eyes

http://www.osha.com

http://www.nei.nih.gov

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Delicious Detox: Foods that Nourish and Cleanse

by Cindy Gray

Toxins are an unfortunate, inevitable fact of life. We are exposed to toxins through the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and the chemicals we use to print copies, wash our cars and disinfect our homes. Over time, toxic substances take a toll on our overall health and make us vulnerable to illFoods that Help to Nourish and Detox the Systemness and serious diseases.

To help mitigate some of the dangerous effects of toxins, it’s important to regularly consume foods that help cleanse your body. Fortunately many of the foods you need to detox your body are as near as your refrigerator or pantry.  Here are just a few of the best detox foods:

Beets: Packed with antioxidants and fiber, beets top the list of the best detox foods. They contain betaine, a compound that protects against liver damage and helps the liver process fats. Add thinly sliced beets to a sandwich, serve them as a side dish, or use them to add flavor, color and texture to salads.

Garlic: The sulfur-rich compounds in garlic fight harmful bacteria and boost the body’s ability to detox by increasing the production of glutathione, which is needed to eliminate toxins. Garlic should be eaten raw and must be chopped or crushed in order to release the beneficial compounds.

Artichokes: This spiky green staple has been used in many cultures for hundreds of years to cleanse the liver and purify the blood. Artichokes contain two key phytonutrients (cynarin and silymarin) which are among nature’s best detoxifying agents.

Related: 6 Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones from Forming

Apples: Known for their ability to “keep the doctor away” apples contain glucaric acid, which helps rid the body of chemicals and heavy metals. They are high in fiber which soaks up toxins and waste so they can be eliminated through the digestive process. Keep an apple handy at your desk for a health-boosting, nutritious snack. 

Olive oil: Hippocrates was the first healer to recognize the health benefits associated with olive oil. It is an effective tool for flushing out the liver and is particularly helpful in the prevention of gall stones. Make it go-to cooking oil and savor the fact that it’s on the list of the best detox foods.    

Broccoli: Cruciferous vegetables are nutritional powerhouses and broccoli is particularly potent.  Broccoli sprouts are especially important because they contain glucoraphanin which accelerates the body’s ability to detox from environmental pollutants.

Choose locally grown organic vegetables and products when possible. Certified organic vegetables are grown in chemical-free environments that support sustainable farming initiatives. Locally grown produce is healthier because vegetables and fruits lose much of their nutritional value when they are transported hundreds of miles. Opt for natural cleaning products and use air purifiers to mitigate pollutants in the air in your home and office.  Good luck, good health!

 

 

 

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Could Stress Cause My Digestion Problems?

by Cindy Gray

Did you know - stress has a major impact on how your gut functions, and may even influence if you’re affected by digestion problems and gut-related disorders?

When you’re healthy, ‘good’ bacteria in your gut live in a mutually beneficial relationship with your body, known as symbiosis.

However, when you’re stressed out - because of overwork, lack of sleep, an infection or illness, improper or insufficient diet or any number of other reasons - the levels of harmful bacteria relative to good bacteria in your gut go up significantly, leading to harmful health consequences.

In other words, stress can lead to digestion problems as a result of a condition known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Harmful bacteria successfully compete with good bacteria for nutrients, produce toxic metabolites, and cause direct injury to the small intestine.

As a result, food passage through the small intestine slows down and fewer nutrients are absorbed, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, B vitamins and other micronutrients.

A study from China looked at the effects of psychological stress on small intestinal mobility and gut bacteria in mice - and how stress affected the relationship between them.

Sixty mice were randomly divided into two groups. One group was housed in close proximity to a hungry cat, to cause them psychological stress while the other group became the control group.

Speed of passage of food through the small intestine was monitored in both groups. At the same time, their small intestines were tested for the presence of lactic acid bacteria (beneficial) and E. coli bacteria (harmful).

The study showed that passage of food through the small intestine was slower in mice that were subjected to psychological stress, compared with controls. Psychological stress also increased the relative ratio of harmful E. coli relative to lactic acid bacteria in the small intestines of these mice.  

In other words - psychological stress slowed the transit time of food, encouraged overgrowth of harmful bacteria and may damage the small intestine, ultimately causing serious digestion problems.

Based on studies such as these, health experts believe that digestion problems caused by stress are connected to relative levels of harmful vs. beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Probiotics such as lactic acid bacteria have been shown to counteract stress-induced changes including reversing damage to intestinal barrier function and impaired gut mobility.

Probiotics are ‘live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’. They do this by competing with harmful bacteria for essential nutrients and by interfering with biochemical and genetic pathways they trigger.

Millions of Americans suffer from various digestion problems including irregularity, constipation, bloating, embarrassing gas, stomach pain, acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Probiotics have been shown to be an effective therapy for many stress-related digestion problems.

If you suffer from any of them, probiotics taken daily can infuse your small intestine with beneficial bacteria. Once in your intestines, they deliver the living probiotics necessary to balance your gut’s balance of ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ bacteria, helping to fix any stress-related digestion problem you may have.Are you ready to eat the foods you love without pain and discomfort?

 

Source: Stress and Digestive Problems.

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Yoga and Natural Supplements for Back Pain Relief

by Cindy Gray

What if back pain relief was as near as your yoga mat? That may well be the case, according to several recently released studies. A study conducted at the University of Geneva in Switzerland found that the stretches and poses used in yoga can provide effective relief for chronic spinal pain. An article in the journal Spine cited other studies with similar conclusions.

Yoga and Natural Relief from Back PainChronic back pain is one of the most commonly reported medical problems in this country, and unfortunately it is also one of the most difficult conditions to treat. Symptoms range from moderate to severe, and in some cases the pain is so horrific that it interferes with the ability to function normally. The growing body of scientific evidence linking yoga to pain relief has prompted many medical doctors and physical therapists to recommend it as a key component of treatment plans.

Some of the pain-relieving benefits of yoga include:

Strength: Many of the postures in yoga are designed to gently strengthen muscles in the back as well as the abdomen. These core muscle groups help the body maintain good posture which results in back pain relief.  

Stretching: Yoga involves stretching and encourages relaxation, both of which reduce tension in muscles. For people with back pain, stretching is essential, especially if the pain is in the lower back. Stretching also increases blood flow which allows healing nutrients to flow in and toxins to be removed from the muscles and soft tissues.  

Stress Relief: Stress can create tightness in the neck and shoulders and eventually affects muscle groups along the spine. Yoga requires strict focus on breathing, which encourages relaxation and allows you to “live in the moment” so that you let go of pain and stress-inducing factors in your life.

Nutritional supplements are another natural way to manage chronic pain and inflammation and millions of Americans use them every day. Supplements are a safe alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) which are often prescribed to help with back pain relief. While NSAIDS may provide some pain relief, they have unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects including gastrointestinal problems.

Related: Prescription Drugs that Cause Depression  

One of the most effective pain-fighting natural supplements contains concentrated amounts of boswellia, white willow bark, hyaluronic acid and other natural ingredients that fight pain and inflammation.

Don’t let chronic back pain keep you from enjoying your favorite activities. Talk to your holistic practitioner about incorporating yoga and natural anti-inflammatory supplements into your pain management plan

 

 

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High-Tech Treatment for Chronic Constipation

by Health News

Overindulging and high stress levels can often lead to digestive problems. Fortunately, biofeedback can help you control your GI tract and keep you on the right path.

Biofeedback operates on the idea that you have an innate ability to control physical functions in your body. Biofeedback techniques vary, but they all require the use of devices that measure particular bodily functions—muscle tension, skin temperature, sweat gland activity, brain waves, or heart rate. Once you know the rate of these functions in your body, you can train yourself to manipulate them to achieve the result you want—including healthy digestion.

According to Dr. Satish S.C. Rao and colleagues at the University of Iowa, biofeedback is particularly effective as a long-term therapy for the most common cause of chronic constipation. They tested 52 patients, 47 of whom were women, on the effectiveness of a three-month biofeedback program versus standard therapy (diet, exercise, and laxatives). Twelve months later, those using biofeedback had significant improvement in bowel movements and reported greater satisfaction with bowel function than those using the standard therapy.

If you would like to find a qualified biofeedback therapist in your area, contact the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America (www.bcia.org). You may also be able to get a referral through your doctor.

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Low and Slow Early in Life Means Better Outcomes

by Cindy Gray

The way children are fed in the early years of their lives is important for many reasons.  After all, good nutrition leads to proper brain development, a healthy body and strong bones.  New research has found that a low glycemic diet for kids has many benefits. 

Low Glycemic Diet for Kids Has BenefitsA study from the Department of Psychology at University of Swansea has revealed a variety of suggestions for achieving optimal nutrition in kids.  One factor that they have pointed out is that a low glycemic diet for kids is ideal.  They also made other points as well including the fact that if sufficient levels of iron, iodine and vitamin A are not received, it can ultimately damage vision.  They also point out that if not enough iodine and iron is eaten in the first two years of life, the problems that can be caused in general will be irreversible later in life.  But what is a low glycemic diet and how exactly can it help children?  Let’s take a closer look.

What is a Low Glycemic Diet?

The glycemic index was initially established to help those with diabetes, as it can control blood sugar levels.  The general principle is that foods like white bread, cookies and potatoes make blood sugar levels rise.  The goal of a low glycemic diet is to select foods that produce a steady rise in blood sugar levels.  The end result is that people feel more satisfied.

Related: Foods the Health-Conscious Will Want to Avoid

Benefits of a Low GI Diet for Children

One of the major benefits of a low glycemic index diet for children is that it will help control obesity.   Children will feel fuller and will eat more reasonably portioned sizes.  Obviously childhood obesity is a major problem and encouraging eating styles that can tackle it head-on are a major plus.  Further, children will not experience a spike in their blood sugar levels when they eat low GI foods.  

Research from The British Journal of Nutrition also reveals that when children eat low glycemic index foods it can actually assist with learning outcomes.  Their research even shows it can help build confidence levels that are so essential when children head into their teen and adult years.

Protecting Vision through Diet

As the University of Swansea researchers concluded, a low glycemic index diet can help children’s vision.  Part of the reason that this is the case is that low GI foods tend to be rich in antioxidants like vitamin C, E and zinc.  Further, when children are consuming a lot of vegetables instead of white breads and flours, they tend to ingest a great deal of carotenoids.  For example, spinach, kale and broccoli are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin.  How can you start incorporating low glycemic foods into your child’s diet?  Here are some general pointers on what to eat and what to avoid.

Some High Glycemic Index Foods to Avoid:

-White rice

-White bread

-Pretzels

-White potatoes

-Sugary drinks

Some Low Glycemic Index Foods to Encourage Include:

-Peanuts

-Beans

-Carrots

-Fruit (with the exception of bananas, watermelon and grapes)

-Hummus

-Skim milk

-Vegetables (with the exception of pumpkin and parsnips)

As you can see in the above list, the low GI diet includes many foods that children love.  Creating snacks and meals that are low on the glycemic index should be fairly easy for most parents.  At the same time, when you discourage foods like white bread, cakes and cookies, you are also discouraging sugar, empty calories and foods that often contain artificial ingredients.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20077417

http://www.webmd.com/diet/glycemic-index-diet

http://www.kidseatgreat.com/understanding-glycemic-index.htm

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Five Foods for Boosting Immunity

by Cindy Gray

Do you feel like you have a weakened immune system? Our immune systems are constantly under attack from the endless bacteria, toxins and viruses we are exposed to as part of daily life.  This amazing system must remain hyper-vigilant at all times and be ready to strike at the first sign of an invading bacteria or virus.

Booste Immunity with these Five FoodsLack of sleep, stress and poor diet weaken your immune system making it tough to do its job.  Hitting a yoga class or meditating, calling it a night 30 minutes earlier and incorporating these five foods into your diet can help you keep your immune system in tip-top shape.

The Fabulous Five

Lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy products can have a beneficial effect on a weakened immune system.  However, five foods in particular have shown to be especially beneficial in keeping your flu-fighters lean and mean.

Avocados

Also known as a butter pear, this creamy, green, nutty flavored fruit (yes, fruit) provides a lot of immunity-boosting nutrients.  The amino acids, antioxidants and healthy omega-3 fats are good for the entire body. Avocados are rich in glutathione and phytonutrients that kill off free radicals. 

Current research is studying the effects of those phytonutrients on cells, telling them whether to grow, live or die.  These guacamole super-stars also help reduce inflammation, which lessens cold and flu symptoms.  They are packed with B-6 vitamins, vitamins A, C and E, minerals like zinc, iron and selenium, which are crucial to the formation of healthy immune system cells that attack invading pathogens.

Related: Boost Your Immune System With Garlic’s Healthy Benefits

Ginger

This spicy, flavorful root has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It is known to help break down toxins in organs, and contribute to a clean lymphatic system, the one that disposes of cellular wastes.  Ginger also helps regulate your immune system to keep it from over-reacting (allergy attack) and helps to activate T-cells. Those are the white blood cells that are virus and tumor-killing ninjas.

Graviola

Gravi what!?  Graviola is a fruit that grows best in a rainforest climate and can be found abundantly in South America and many tropical islands.  This heart-shaped green fruit is also known as a Brazilian paw paw, soursop or guanaba and has been used by ancient peoples to modern times for a variety of health reasons. Graviola has been used to keep the liver healthy, reduce swelling in the mucus membranes, and reduce cold and flu symptoms.  Modern researchers are studying a substance in them called annonaceous acetogenins that tend to attack cancer cells. Graviola supports a healthy immune system by killing off parasites and reducing inflammation in the body.

Mushrooms

These weird looking, chewy fungi are immune-boosting powerhouses, thanks to being loaded with the powerful antioxidant ergothioneine.  It survives cooking and quickly enters the blood stream to shore up your immunity by helping remove heavy metal toxins from your tissues and destroy free radicals that harm healthy cells.

Mushrooms are also a rich source of selenium—low levels have been linked to more severe flu symptoms.  They also provide the B-vitamins riboflavin and niacin and have antibacterial and antiviral properties, and may be effective in killing tumors.

Oatmeal

There are just so many good things to say about eating oatmeal regularly.  For your immune system, oatmeal provides a healthy dose of three minerals critical to keeping it functioning at optimum levels.

  • Zinc- essential for the growth and function of the immunity cells that recognize and destroy invading pathogens.

  • Selenium – which we already discussed as an essential component to a healthy immune system, and it’s nice to know you can get it in a variety of foods. Its ability to bind with proteins to form seleno-proteins help regulate the immune system so it responds quickly to invaders but does not go overboard when it senses a harmless pollen (i.e. an allergy attack).

  • Iron – those with low levels of this mineral often have a weak immune system. It is a critical nutrient in the formation of healthy immune system red and white blood cells that eradicate invading pathogens.

Oatmeal also contains a soluble fiber called beta glucan that supports immune function and reduces susceptibility to infection.

Eating a diverse diet rich in all kinds of fruits and vegetables will help keep your immune system strong.  Be sure to add in the fabulous five to help you survive and thrive during dreaded cold and flu season and generally stay healthy year-round for life.

 

Sources:

http://www.doctoroz.com/slideshow/boost-your-im...

http://www.livescience.com/45209-avocado-nutrition-facts.html

http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-graviola.htm

http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ss/slideshow-immune-foods

http://woman.thenest.com/health-benefits-oatmeal-immune-system-21954.html

http://functionalmushrooms.com/?p=302

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Smart Phones Linked To Eyestrain and Headaches

by Cindy Gray

In this age of digital delights, we have the world at our fingertips 24/7 in the form of laptops, tablets and smart phones.  Americans can be online anytime, yet it’s becoming a real pain.  Pain in the neck, head and eyes, that is.

Smart Phones Linked to Vision ProblemsThe American Optometric Association reports that 70-75% of computer workers report eye and vision problems.  That’s not all.  More and more of those who are experiencing eye pain are also complaining of headaches, too. What doctors and researchers are discovering is that it’s not the computer in your cubicle that’s the problem.  It’s your smart phone.

Not-So-Smart Phone Use

In a study by the Journal of Vision, widely republished in several magazines and newspapers, a group of researchers tested over 124 people to determine if their smart phone screens could be the cause of an increasing numbers of patients complaining of vision problems, neck pain and headaches.

What they found was that while text on tablets and computers is comparable to newspaper print, the text on smart phones is about 30% smaller and, as a result, most of the study participants were observed holding their smart phone closer to their face to read.

From this data they reported that the demand on eyes was increased as they were constantly being taxed by what they called vergence-accommodation, the need for the eyes to constant focus and refocus on the smaller text of smart phone screens held very close to the face.  This leads to visual discomfort, fatigue and even headaches, according to the study.

Related: Cell Phone Is Teeming with Germs

One of the negative side effects of constantly having a smart phone to surf the net, browse websites, or look up nearby restaurants is that we are on them many more hours per day than we would be if they were merely phones.  Constantly staring down at your smart phone screen held close to your face in order to read the tiny font on websites is causing us to do the following:

  • Blink less. Our eyes start to dry out and becoming irritated

  • Strain our necks constantly looking down leading to headaches

  • Squinting and tensing facial muscles to read the small phone screen as our eyes begin to fatigue, which is also headache inducing

  • Experience disconnect between our eyes and our body. Your eyes see moving icons on the smart phone screen and tell the brain we are in motion. The body begs to differ. The result can be nausea and dizziness.

  • Sleep less. Blue light from electronic devices like tablets, computers, televisions, and yes, smart phones, emit this light, which disrupts the release of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep.

Smart-Smart Phone Use

The good news about viewing the screens of electronic devices is that it does not cause permanent eye damage. However, it can lead to blurred vision and red, dry, irritated eyes.

The better news is with a few simple steps you can avoid digital eyestrain and the other problems associated with it like headaches, sore neck muscles or dizziness.

  • Every hour you are using an electronic device, take a 15-minute break from it. Look about 20 feet in front of you, the distance that eyes start to relax, for a minute.

  • Stretch your neck, back and shoulders to relieve tight sore muscles.

  • Try palming. To do this simple exercise, (remove glasses if wearing them) close your eyes, place the center of your palms over your eyes, and take a few deep, slow breaths to relax your eye muscles.(Do not press on your eyeballs; avoid this if wearing contact lens.)

  • When you do look at your smart phone again, be conscientious about blinking regularly to keep your eyes from becoming dry.

  • Keep the screen as bright as possible.

  • Don’t look at electronic devices like a smart phone in pitch dark. Turn on a little light so your eyes don’t have to work as hard to see.

  • Enlarge the font on the screen whenever you can and hold the phone farther away from your face, about the length of your arm between the elbow and wrist.

If possible, use your smart phone primarily for talking, texting and listening to music.  Spend the hours scrolling down Facebook or Twitter and surfing the web on a tablet or computer with larger fonts farther away from your face.   Achieve this goal and you can avoid digital eyestrain and headaches.

Sources:

http://www.pharmacytimes.com/news/Smartphones-Linked-to-Visual-Fatigue-and-Headache

http://fyiliving.com/research/smaller-font-size-on-smartphones-may-cause-eye-strain-headaches/

http://www.ibtimes.com/smartphones-causing-tiredness-eyestrain-headache-study-300917

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The ABCs of Eye Floaters

by Cindy Gray

They come out of nowhere, those little dots, squiggly lines or strands in your field of vision.  They appear suddenly if you gaze at a bright white piece of paper or look up to admire a cloud-free, brilliant blue sky, then they vanish just as quickly as they appeared.  What are these pesky little eye floaters anyway?

The Ins and Outs of Eye FloatersThe good news is that eye floaters are generally harmless and only mildly annoying.  They are composed of clumps and strands of collagen, a substance produced naturally by the body.  They are a part of the natural aging process and usually appear more often between the ages of 50 and 75 years old.  They are most likely to appear to those who are very nearsighted or have had cataract surgery.

Over time, the millions of collagen fibers your body has produced can accumulate in the region of the eye known as the vitreous.  This is a thick transparent substance in the middle of the eye that makes up two-thirds of its volume.  They can alter the amount of light that gets through to your retina (the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye) and appear as floaters.  In extreme cases, a doctor can replace your natural vitreous with a gel-like substance; but that is very rarely needed or recommended.

The best news is that floaters do not harm your vision or interfere with your ability to see clearly.  However, they can be annoying; and if you are near-sighted or have a family history of cataract surgery, you might want to take a few preventive steps to keep floaters at bay.

Related: Fruit May Help Reduce Vision Disabilities

Vitamins and Supplements

There are several dietary supplements you can use that have shown to help keep eyes healthy and lessen your risk of developing eye floaters as you age, such as:

Vitamin C – this essential nutrient plays a key role in eye health by encouraging healthy collagen production, which supports the connective tissue in the cornea.  It also keeps the delicate capillaries in the retina healthy.  Finally, this vital nutrient may help reduce your risk of forming cataracts or experiencing a loss of vision due to macular degeneration.

Vitamin A – is another crucial nutrient that keeps your eyes healthy.  It helps protect them from infection and eye disease, distinguish between a wide-array of colors and helps prevents night blindness.

Taurine – is an antioxidant that supports your body’s efficiency in getting rid of waste products and can help keep eye floaters from forming.

Bilberry – is a supplement, not a vitamin, which mimics vitamin C in supporting collagen production and strong blood vessels for good circulation to your eyes.

L-Methione – is an amino acid that assists the body in removing heavy metal toxins, which are especially damaging to delicate eye tissue.

Inositol – plays a vital role in maintaining cell membranes.  A low level of this substance in the body is linked to several health problems like eczema, constipation and eye issues. 

Minerals – magnesium, selenium, calcium, copper, chromium and zinc are all essential minerals that play important roles in keeping your eyes healthy.

Other Causes of Eye Floaters:

There are several things that contribute to increased eye floaters, such as:

  • Being severely nearsighted

  • Eye trauma

  • Stress (it causes problems for all parts of the body!)

  • Some liver or kidney medications

  • Pre-birth (you can be born with them)

Eye Floater 911

If you get a sudden increase in eye floaters that are accompanied by flashes of light, or you experience a sudden loss in your peripheral vision, get medical help immediately!  These are signs of a detached retina, retinal tear or internal bleeding in the eye.  All of these issues can lead to permanent vision loss so seek medical help immediately if you experience those symptoms.

Float Away

While you may not be able to completely avoid experiencing eye floaters, you can take preventive steps to keep them at a minimum with a few dietary enhancements. Adding some of the above supplements into your diet will probably help you “see” some great health benefits.

 

 

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A Fishy Solution to Smoking Cessation

by Cindy Gray

According to the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of disability, disease and death in the United States.  Every year 480,000 Americans die premature deaths from smoking.  Despite these grim statistics, most smokers find it difficult to quit. However, if you’re looking for some natural ways to quit smoking, you’re in luck. New research out of Israel shows consumption of omega-3 fatty acids could significantly reduce cravings and provide a safe and natural way to help smokers kick the habit.

Natural Ways To Quit Smoking with Omega-3 Fatty AcidsMoth to the Flame

Why is it so hard to quit smoking? Tobacco use is a chronic disease and smokers quickly become addicted due the nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products. When they inhale or ingest the nicotine, in some way it causes the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, which stimulates the body’s central nervous system.  Just like cocaine and heroin, nicotine increases levels of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that controls the pathways to the reward and pleasure centers in the brain. 

Many smokers long to quit permanently, but most fail after repeated attempts. The withdrawal symptoms are terrible and are often a combination of the following:

  • Intense cravings for nicotine

  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems

  • An inability to focus or concentrate

  • Increased appetite 

Those who seek treatment to stop smoking may have some initial success, but often relapse after a stressful event, or they dislike the side effects of anti-smoking medications and stop using them. 

The Study

In a strictly controlled study conducted in Israel, the test subjects were 48 smokers between the ages of 18 and 45 who smoked a daily average of 14 cigarettes.  All the participants had been smoking an average of 11 years and were diagnosed with a moderate dependency on nicotine.  The test participants were divided into two groups: one that received omega-3 capsules and one that received a placebo.

The study was conducted as a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled research project, meaning neither the participants nor the researchers knew who received the omega-3 capsules and who received a placebo.  None of the participants were asked to change their smoking habits in any way.

Throughout the 30-day study, levels of nicotine cravings and the number of cigarettes smoked per day were recorded by the participants.  At the beginning of the study neither group showed any difference in smoking habits.  However, after 30 days the omega-3 supplement takers had reduced their average cigarettes smoked per day by two.  They also recorded greatly reduced nicotine cravings.  Even another 30 days after they stopped taking the omega-3 supplements, those participants reported less intense cravings.

The group taking the placebo showed no measurable decrease in nicotine cravings nor did they reduce the average number of cigarettes smoked per day.

How Omega-3 Fatty Acids Can Help

Levels of essential fatty acids like omega-3s are reduced in the brain by smoking.  Being deficient in these levels appears to cause damage to the nerve cells, interrupting the transmission of feelings of pleasure and satisfaction in the brain.  Smokers often having difficulty making decisions and experience reduced feelings of satisfaction by their accomplishments or efforts because of a lack of this vital nutrient.

Related: The Dangers of Krill Oil

What’s worse, not only is tobacco oppressing good feelings in the brain, it also interferes with your flight-or-fight response.  Just one stressful event can lead to a relapse for smokers trying to quit because of their reduced ability to handle stress.

Omega-3 fatty acids seem to reduce cravings for nicotine and help the brain cope better with pressure and stress.  Smoking has already been linked to depression and other mental disorders, so it’s not surprising that regular tobacco users experience less satisfaction and have more difficulty dealing with pressure, rejection or stress.

Safe, Natural and Healthy

Using omega-3 fatty acid supplements is one of the best natural ways to quit smoking because it is inexpensive and easy to obtain.  Plus, omega-3s have a long list of other health benefits besides helping you to quit smoking, such as reducing your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and some cancers.  It also helps keep your skin clear and supple and your hair shiny and strong; two things that also are greatly damaged by smoking.

Great food sources of omega-3 fatty acids are:

  • Fish (especially salmon and trout)

  • Flax, Olive, Canola, Coconut and Hemp Seed Oils

  • Avocados

  • Eggs

  • Walnuts

Since the study participants were taking larger doses than is generally recommended, it would be virtually impossible to get enough omega-3 fatty acids through food alone to help with smoking cessation.  A supplement combined with adding foods rich in the essential acid is the best way to keep those levels high in the brain and help stave off nicotine cravings.

 

 

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The Key to Healthy Aging: Can White Tea Prevent Cancer?

by Cindy Gray

Many people take low-dose aspirin, ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to promote healthy aging, as well as prevent cancer and heart disease. However, new research shows that white tea may have just as many cancer-prevention benefits without the harmful side effects of these over-the-counter drugs.

Is white tea the key to healthy aging?Green tea has been widely hailed as an excellent health drink due to its high levels of polyphenol antioxidants. It is even more beneficial than black tea because white tea undergoes less processing, keeping more of those important catechins and nutrients intact from tea bush to teacup.

Scientists followed the logic of this process and decided to investigate the less well-known white tea which has the least processing of all teas.

Differences Between Black Tea, Green Tea, White Tea and Herbal Tea

All teas begin as leaves on the tea bushes of the camellia sinensis family. Once picked, the leaves quickly begin to wilt and oxidize as the leaves dry and are broken down by natural enzymes. Once the leaves are fully oxidized and sufficiently dark for black tea, heating is applied to stop the enzyme process.

Green tea is made much faster from non-wilted green tea leaves which are processed before they have time to oxidize and ferment. 

White tea is made from the youngest leaves and buds of the tea bush which are covered in fine silvery down, giving the leaves a white appearance. These buds are subjected to dry heat or steam to quickly halt oxidation and then dried and made into white tea.

Herbal teas are infusions of fruit, herbs and flowers and do not have the antioxidant properties or catechins found in traditional tea.

All tea leaves must be brewed in water that has reached the boiling point in order to release the flavor along with the polyphenols, alkaloids, caffeine, amino acids, proteins and trace elements contained in a teaspoonful of leaves. Black tea has lower levels of these than green tea, but white tea has the highest concentrations of all.

Polyphenols in Tea

The main polyphenols in tea are known as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). These plant-sourced antioxidants have powerful free-radical scavenging activity, protect cells from free-radical damage and have cancer-fighting properties.

In addition, green teas have a detoxifying effect, cleansing the body of harmful toxins while protecting against tumor development and colon cancer.

Related: Beware of Foods that Accelerate Aging

Research has shown that tea catechins inhibit tumor cell proliferation and encourage natural cell death through a process called apoptosis. They slow angiogenesis of cells and reduce tumor cell invasiveness. Polyphenols in tea also strengthen the immune system and protect against UVB radiation from the sun.

Comparative Studies on White Tea

A Study at the University of Malaya looked at the effects of white tea on all types of cells. It was found to inhibit to spread of colorectal cancer cells (HT-29) and increased caspase-3, -8, and -9 activity in the cells. The white tea extract also protected normal cells from DNA damage making it a powerful yet inexpensive way to protect the body.

Laboratory tests on bacteria at Oregon State University (OSU) showed that white tea inhibited cancer cell mutations even more efficiently than green tea. This suggests that white tea is even more effective in fighting cancer cells than green tea.

A further study by an OSU researcher used tea on mice that were genetically predisposed to developing intestinal tumors. Results showed that mice receiving no tea treatment developed 30 tumors over a 12 week study compared to 17 tumors in mice consuming green tea and 13 tumors in mice given white tea. However, by combining white tea and the NSAID sulindac, the tumor rate dropped to just six. The study concluded that tea, particularly white tea, can potentially block some cancers and help prevent intestinal cancer with just three mugs of tea a day.

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Natural Relief for Lactose Intolerance

by Health News

Natural Relief for Lactose IntoleranceWhat is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the lactose sugar that comes from dairy products. When lactose intolerant individuals consume milk or milk products, they often feel gassy, bloated and the need to run to the restroom. It is estimated that in the United States, 15% of Caucasians over 50% of Mexican Americans and over 80% of African Americans suffer from lactose intolerance.

What causes lactose intolerance?

Normally, your stomach lining produces an enzyme called lactase which is used to break down lactose, the major sugar in milk. When we are babies, our lactase levels are highest but as we grow older, they get less and less. The less they are, the likely you are to suffer from lactose intolerance. When you drink milk or eat milk products and you don’t produce enough lactase, the lactose is not broken down into absorbable form (sugar, glucose and galactose). The milk passes through your stomach and through to your small intestine undigested, causing bloating, cramps, nausea and diarrhea.

If I am lactose intolerant, do I just have to avoid milk products?

While many people feel this is the best solution, giving up an entire food group is a pretty drastic measure, particularly when dairy products are so important for bone growth in children and bone density in adults. Fortunately, several studies suggest that supplementing the diet with certain probiotics is a safe and effective route to keeping the symptoms under control.

Probiotics, specifically certain strains of lactobacillus acidophilus, work by adhering to the intestinal lining and releasing lactase enzyme needed to digest dairy products.

A 1995 study* whose results were published in The Journal of Dairy Science showed that lactose-intolerant children who drank milk treated with probiotic lactobacillus acidophilus showed a significant reduction in symptoms.

A 1999 review** of hundreds of studies on the health benefits of probiotics found, among other things, that a certain strain of lactobacillus acidophilus has demonstrated consistent positive results against the symptoms of lactose intolerance. The author of this review states: “To date, its probiotic effects have been demonstrated in humans as reducing problems associated with lactose intolerance and as reducing levels of free amines in the intestine, thereby decreasing the risk of colon cancer. These properties make this strain of potential value in several patient populations.”

Digestion Health Problems - Free Ebook

 SOURCES:

*http://www.mendeley.com/research/effect-milks-inoculated-lactobacillus-acidophilus-yogurt-starter-culture-lactosemaldigesting-children/

**http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC99697/

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7 Key Celiac Disease Symptoms

by Health News

Symptoms of Being Gluten SensitiveAccording to health experts, more than 55 diseases have been linked to the consumption of gluten - a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

Not only that - even though as much as 15% of the US population may be sensitive to gluten, 99% of people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease are not properly diagnosed.

How can you tell if you’re one of those who are sensitive to gluten?

Any of the following symptoms could be a sign:

  • Gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation after meals.
  • Migraines, fatigue, brain fog or feeling tired after a meal.
  • Dizziness or feeling of being off balance.
  • Hormonal imbalances such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or unexplained infertility.
  • Chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia - such diagnoses can sometimes mean that your physician is unable to identify the underlying cause of your fatigue or pain.
  • Inflammation, swelling or pain in your fingers, knees and hips.
  • Anxiety, depression, mood swings and hyperactivity or attention-deficit disorder (ADD).

Being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus, psoriasis, scleroderma or multiple sclerosis.

The single best way to really know if you are sensitive to gluten is to do a complete elimination diet. This means you need to completely remove gluten out of your diet for at least 2-3 weeks and then reintroduce it.

Gluten is a very large protein and it can take months and even years to clear from your system. In other words, the longer you eliminate it from your diet before reintroducing it, the more conclusive the results will be.

If you notice that you feel significantly better off without gluten - and feel noticeably worse when you reintroduce it into your diet, then you are likely sensitive to gluten.

To get accurate results, you must eliminate 100% of the gluten from your diet as even trace amounts from medications or supplements can be enough to cause an immune reaction in your body.                              

Source

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The Bone-Blood Connection

by Cindy Gray

Osteoporosis and stroke are two totally different medical ailments, but scientists are now finding that they may actually be connected. Some studies looked at the incidence of hip fractures and osteoporosis (marked by a decrease in bone density) in stroke victims, while other studies looked at the incidence of stroke and survival rate in people already diagnosed with osteoporosis. In both cases it seemed that those who suffer from one condition are more likely to suffer from the other.

Osteoporosis: the Blood-Bone ConnectionStroke and Osteoporosis

Each year more than half a million U.S. residents suffer a stroke and 150,000 of them die as a result. A stroke is caused by the supply of blood and oxygen being cut off to the brain due to a blood clot or brain hemorrhage. In some cases the stroke affects the part of the brain that controls speech, sight and mobility and there may be lasting disability.   

Osteoporosis is a disease which causes a decrease in bone density, where bones become brittle and fracture easily. It is caused by a deficiency of calcium or vitamin D, often as a result of hormonal changes during menopause.

Related: Does Green Tea Improve Bone Density?

Study into Fractures in Stroke Victims

Dr. Kenneth Poole, B.M., M.R.C.P. at the Department of Stroke Medicine in Cambridge, UK, carried out an analysis of several studies assessing the risk of hip fractures in people who had suffered a stroke. He found that stroke survivors are significantly more likely to suffer from osteoporosis, which puts them at higher risk of bone fractures if they suffer a fall.

Interestingly, researchers found that stroke victims incur more fractures on the side of the body that has been affected by the stroke than on the unaffected "healthy" side. Their research found that patients who are immobile after having a stroke were likely to develop osteoporosis in the paralyzed limb. Over time, this becomes more widespread throughout the rest of the body.

Scientists found that stroke sufferers are up to four times more likely to suffer a hip fracture than other people. A Swedish study also showed that stroke victims quadruple their risk of suffering a hip fracture compared to non-stroke victims in the same age group.

The average age of a stroke patient is 70, so in most cases they would be more susceptible to falling than younger people, particularly if they have some difficulty walking as a result of the stroke. However, the risk of a bone fracture following a fall was higher than expected, suggesting that these stroke patients already had a higher risk of osteoporosis than normal.

How to Reduce the Risk of Osteoporosis

Dr. Poole, working on behalf of the National Osteoporosis Society, is recommending that anyone undergoing rehabilitation after a stroke should also be considered at high risk of osteoporosis. In his words, "Osteoporosis is a significant complication of stroke". He believes stroke victims should automatically be given bisphosphonates such as Fosamax and Actonel as part of their stroke rehabilitation. These drugs are used to treat osteoporosis by improving bone density and preventing bone loss associated with a stroke.

Another specialist, Eoin Redahan, Director of the Stroke Association, agrees, saying, "Osteoporosis is a complication of limb mobility of any cause. It therefore makes sense that osteoporosis is a significant complication of stroke".

Other ways to lower the risk of osteoporosis without medication include having a diet high in calcium and vitamin D throughout your life, engaging in regular physical exercise, and considering hormone replacement therapy for post-menopausal women, although this treatment has been shown to carry other serious health risks. 

 

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Ginger: Natural Digestive Relief

by Health News

In Western culture, ginger has mostly been used to add a distinct flavor to a variety of recipes from cookies, breads, candy to stir-fry and chicken dishes. But parts of the world, such as China and India, have been using this herb for more than 2,000 years for its therapeutic properties.

Over the last 20 years, numerous studies have demonstrated ginger’s efficacy in treating various conditions. In vitro studies suggest that ginger has antiemetic (anti-nausea) and anti-inflammatory effects and may even protect against Alzheimer's disease and cancer. But in clinical studies, ginger has shown most benefit to the gastrointestinal tract. 

Benefits of Ginger - Natural Digestive Relief

Ginger has been successfully used to treat various types of "stomach problems," including motion sickness, morning sickness, colic, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, nausea caused by cancer treatment, nausea and vomiting after surgery and loss of appetite. Medical researchers believe two ingredients, shogoal and gingerol found in the ginger rhizome stimulate the flow of saliva, bile, and gastric secretions.

Ginger also has been found to suppress gastric contractions and improve intestinal muscle tone. Constituents in ginger are thought to interact with 5HT-3 receptors (receptors responsible for activating the vomit reflex) and may be partially responsible for the antiemetic (antinausea) benefits. 

Ginger products (as nutritional supplements) are made from fresh or dried ginger root, or from steam distillation of the oil in the root. It is available in extracts, tinctures, capsules, and oils and can be found in health food stores as well as many drugstores and supermarkets. Fresh ginger root can be prepared as a steeped tea.

The therapeutic dose of ginger, generally, should not exceed 4 grams daily, with the standardized dose being 75 - 2,000 mg in divided doses with food.

Digestion Health Problems Quiz

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Learn How Eat Like a Caveman

by Health News

Our diet today looks nothing like that of our ancestors. While they first subsisted on foliage, leafy vegetables, fruits, and some nuts and seeds, once fire was discovered during the Paleolithic era, the diet began to include game food and seafood.

It wasn’t for another 10,000 years later that agriculture was introduced. This meant grains, legumes, vegetable oils, and dairy products. This diet was high in fiber, vegetable-based protein, and plant sterols. Still good, right?

Then came 1800s and the start of the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of hydrogenated oils, refined grains and sugar, packaged foods, and fast foods. In the past 200 years alone, we’ve managed to virtually undo evolution by turning away from whole grains, legumes, lean meats and fish, and leafy greens and veggies, and towards saturated fats, dietary cholesterol, and high glycemic carbohydrate food sources.

The solution? Go Caveman!

Focus the bulk of your diet on anything you could hunt or gather.
This means lean meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
This also means that you won’t have many natural sources of calcium and/or vitamin D, so you’ll need to supplement with a good calcium/magnesium product, as well as 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day.

Digestion Health Problems

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From Chronic Diarrhea to Autism—The Power of Probiotics

by Health News

According to a recent study, a probiotic and nutritional supplement has beneficial effects on bowel issues in children suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD.

Chronic diarrhea and constipation typically lasting for several days are major issues affecting autistic individuals, particularly children. These conditions also contribute to behavioral problems in these children, along with posing significant management challenges for both parents and teachers.

From Chronic Diarrhea to Autism—The Power of Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria that confer a health benefit on the host they live in, by improving its intestinal microbial balance. Lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria are the most common probiotics, but certain yeasts and bacilli can also be used. Probiotics are commonly consumed as part of fermented foods with specially added active live cultures - such as in yogurt, soy yogurt or as dietary supplements.

In this study, probiotic and nutritional supplement capsules were given to 25 children with ASD over a 42-day trial period. Responses were measured using the ATEC (Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist) scoring tool, which helps to evaluate autism severity in four categories:

  1. Speech/language/communication,
  2. Sociability,
  3. Sensory/cognitive awareness, and
  4. Health/physical/behavior.

The parents of participating children completed an ATEC questionnaire before the study started. Also, bowel issues, drugs or supplements used and any other special problems were carefully recorded.

After 21 days without therapy, the parents received a 3-week supply of the probiotic and nutritional supplement to be given to their children. Once again a daily record of each child's bowel behavior, as well as drugs or supplements administered was recorded. After 21 days of supplement therapy, the parents again repeated the ATEC survey.

At the end of the 42-day trial period, nearly half of participating children showed a reduction in diarrhea severity - while more than half showed a decrease in constipation severity.

Overall, nearly 90% of the participants showed a lower total ATEC score, meaning that their debilitating ASD symptoms improved thanks to treatment with the probiotic and nutritional supplement.

Source: Probiotic Supplement Relieves Autism Symptoms.

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Selenium and Vitamins for Cataracts

by Cindy Gray

Many vitamins have important roles in treating or preventing various medical conditions. Just as in science, where a combination of substances can produce a different or stronger effect by working together, so too a combination of vitamins can be more powerful and effective when they work together. This exponential benefit, when the combined effect of two or more substances is greater than their separate effects, is called "synergy".

Vision Problems: Selenium and Vitamins for CataractsWhen it comes to healthy eyes, scientists have found that some vitamins work synergistically together to slow down or prevent the development of cataracts and other vision problems.

What are Cataracts?

Cataracts are a clouding condition in the lens of the eye that gradually reduces vision. Cataracts are usually age-related and by the age of 80, half of all adults will either have cataracts or will have had surgery to remove them.

Cataracts usually affect one eye more than the other but they do not spread and cannot be "caught" like an infection. Instead they gradually develop and require the lens to be replaced with an artificial intraocular lens under a simple surgical procedure.

The risk of developing cataracts is higher if you smoke, expose your eyes to bright sunlight or are diabetic. Some of these risks can be controlled or prevented but studies show you can also lessen your chance of getting a cataract by eating certain vitamins.

Related: How to Avoid Macular Degeneration Naturally

C is for Cataract!

Vitamin C has been shown to prevent or slow the progression of cataracts, along with vitamin E. As our levels of these vitamins decline with age, it’s important to take them either through diet or supplements. Research has shown that people with a diet high both in these vitamins have a lower risk of cataracts and other vision problems, suggesting these vitamins work synergistically together for good eye health.

Vitamin C is found in many fruits including oranges, blueberries, papaya, guava, strawberries, sweet peppers and spinach. Good sources of vitamin E are almonds, sunflower seeds, broccoli, peanuts, tomatoes and similarly in spinach and blueberries. Both these vitamins are high in antioxidants that neutralize free radicals in the body and help reduce oxidative stress. 

Other vitamins that have been found to be effective against cataracts include thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3). What is most interesting is that it is a combination of these vitamins that appear to be most effective in preventing or slowing the rate of cataracts, suggesting they work in synergy for maximum effect.

Studies on Cataracts and Vitamin Intake

A study by Professor Paul Jacques at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University was held on 112 older patients.  The study found that 77 of them had cataracts while 35 did not. However, those with low levels of vitamin C were 11 times more likely to have a cataract than those with higher levels. In fact, the highest concentration of vitamin C in the body is found in the eye and it appears to be a protective agent on eye health. Jacques' study also found that those who ate less than 3.5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day were 13 times more likely to develop cataracts.

A Nurses Health Study in the U.S. found that women who regularly ate vegetables, fresh fruit and whole grains (i.e. a diet high in antioxidants including vitamins C and E) were half as likely to develop cataracts as those who ate less healthily. However, when the study gave patients vitamin supplements, they did not appear to have the same beneficial effect on arresting cataract development. This may be because getting vitamins from your diet means they can act in synergy with other vitamins and nutrients, making them more effective.

Although no single vitamin is a magic "cure" for cataracts, one thing is for sure, getting a range of vitamins B, C and E from your 5-portions-a-day diet appears to reduce the quantity and severity of cataracts, and it certainly won't do you any harm at all!