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Think Spurts not Stretches – How HIIT Works

by Institute for Vibrant Living

If you’re fit and up for a challenge, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) could be the perfect exercise regimen for you. Designed to burn calories faster than endurance exercises, the intense spurts of exercise mean that the body continues to burn calories long after you leave the gym.

Interval training is the most effective way to burn more calories

Studies show that interval training increases cardiovascular fitness, promotes healthy glucose levels in the body, increases endurance and burns calories fast. It also offers a fast workout for those who have a limited amount of time to spend in the gym. HIIT has been scientifically shown to significantly lower insulin resistance leading to decreased resting blood glucose levels and weight loss.

What is High Intensity Interval Training?

High Intensity Interval Training is a series of intense anaerobic exercises interspersed with less intense recovery periods. Sessions can last from 4-30 minutes. After a warm-up period, high intensity exercise, from three repetitions to 20 seconds of maximum intensity exercise, is followed by the same repetitions at 50% intensity.

HIIT can embrace a range of different sports activities. For example, a 2:1 formula could be 30-40 seconds of hard sprinting followed by 15-20 seconds of jogging or walking, both repeated for the length of the interval training session. The exercises could be switched to exercise bikes or other gym cardio equipment, depending on your particular preference.

Why Internal Training Burns More Calories

Interval training intersperses intense periods of activity with short recovery sections. It allows you to work the body to maximum intensity in short spurts, rather than enduring a long period of steady exercise.

For those wanting to lose weight and burn more calories, HIIT is particularly effective. During a period of high intensity training the body cannot feed the muscles with oxygen fast enough, so muscles accumulate a debt of oxygen and energy that needs to be replenished after the workout is over. As a result, your body is still working hard long after the workout is over, simply to restore the normal status. This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). It’s the hidden weapon of any intense interval training program.

Related:  Why You Need Yoga for Lower Back Pain

What is CrossFit?

One particular brand of interval training is CrossFit. Devised by Greg Glassman in 2000, CrossFit workouts are offered as classes in many gyms. The program includes aspects of high intensity interval training along with weightlifting, gymnastics, calisthenics and other exercises. Many participants sign up for the workout of the day (WOD) which offers a variety of different exercises on the same principle in group classes led by a certified trainer.

Interval training can be adapted to suit men and women of all ages and fitness levels. If you are looking to get fitter, build and maintain stamina, lose weight, and maintain strength and conditioning through an exercise program, interval training or CrossFit could be worth trying. Best of all, you can dedicate as much or as little time to interval training as you wish on a regular basis to achieve and maintain your fitness goal.

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Is Stress Sabotaging Your Skin?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

We live in a stressful world and the effects of stress on our physical health are well documented. Stressful relationships or grueling work situations are the main causes of stress and can lead to headaches, elevated blood pressure levels, digestive problems and even stomach ulcers.

Wrinkles are just one of the effects of stress on skin

Research into a relatively new field of psychodermatology now reveals that the effects of stress can be etched forever on our skin.

Effects of Stress on our Skin

Doctors have found that there is a connection between stress, the brain/hormones and our skin. It seems likely that worrying over an impossible deadline, fretting about money or stressing out over a bad friendship can induce temporary or long-term skin problems including the following:

  • Acne

Stress is known to trigger inflammation in the body and when it reaches the face, it can cause breakouts of dry skin and spots. Topical application of cream containing salicylic acid to remove dead skin and benzoyl peroxide to counter bacteria can help. However, dealing with the root causes of stress is the best way to prevent acne and control sebum production from increased adrenal gland activity.

  • Wrinkles

One of the effects of stress is an increase in the production of the hormone cortisol, which causes the skin to dry out and produce less collagen which provides the skin’s elasticity. Lack of collagen is known to cause fine lines and wrinkles as we age. No one wants premature signs of aging as one of the effects of stress, so it’s important to deal with the causes of stress and control this undesirable side effect of living with stress.

Related:  Expert Tips for Healthy Skin, Hair and Nails

Reducing the Causes of Stress

It’s essential to take control of the causes of stress and counter the problems using mind control and relaxation techniques. Get a CD of breathing exercises to help you relax after a particularly stressful day. It can also help improve poor sleep patterns, another stress-related condition.

Enroll in a yoga class and learn to relax tense shoulder and back muscles, or treat yourself to an aromatherapy massage. Walking, cycling, jogging and other recreational activities provide a double benefit by helping reduce the effects of stress and getting some fresh air, which is the key to healthy glowing skin.

Finally, counter stress with a plateful of antioxidants in the form of a salad, vegetable stir fry or a platter of fresh fruit. Antioxidants can counter the harmful free radicals that are a known cause of wrinkles and aging. The effects of stress don’t have to show in your skin, but you have to take a proactive approach to counter the causes of stress in order to prevent long-term damage to your skin.

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Stress and Allergies – The Surprising Stress Allergy Link

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Did you know that your nervous system and your immune system are closely linked? This means that causes of stress can increase allergy symptoms, and these in turn create more stress. That doesn’t mean that chronic stress actually causes allergies, but for those with existing sensitivity it can trigger the symptoms or make them worse, according to a study in The Journal of Investigative Allergology and Clinical Immunology.

Scientific trials on allergy sufferers showed a definite relationship between stress and allergies, which were measured using allergy skin tests. Participants were placed in a stressful position, such as having to calculate a math problem in their head in front of a panel of judges. The skin tests showed that the effects of stress raised allergy levels immediately after the stressful situation, and even more severely the day after.

Understanding Allergies

Allergies are increasingly common in children and evidence suggests that allergies may be caused by environmental factors such as stress. Allergies are a hypersensitivity to harmless environmental or food substances such as pollen, dust mites and mold. The body detects the presence of these “dangers” and produces a hormone response. This causes side effects such as a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, skin reactions and asthma which themselves put the body under stress.

Related:  Five Natural Ways to Fight Allergies

Effects of Stress on Allergies

Stress does not cause an allergy, but it can play a role in worsening the allergy symptoms. Doctors specializing in psychoneuroimmunology understand that when the body is under stress, it feels threatened and that triggers the chemicals and hormones in the brain that are responsible for that “fight or flight” response. The heart rate will increase and blood pressure will be raised as the effects of stress take their toll. This is known to trigger asthma, eczema or skin rashes (hives).

Suffering itchy skin and labored breathing understandably causes stress, overwhelming the immune system and setting up a viscous circle of stress = allergies = more stress.

Like many enigmas, it’s a matter of which comes first, the chicken or the egg. In this case, should you treat the causes of stress to reduce the allergies, or manage the allergies to lower stress?

Treating Allergies by Lowering the Causes of Stress

Advice from Dr. James Sublett of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology advises allergy sufferers to work with a board-certified allergist to help avoid allergy triggers and lower the effects of stress caused by the symptoms.

Other specialists suggest that allergy sufferers should alleviate stress levels using breathing exercises, meditation and adopting a healthy lifestyle. They should also quit smoking and avoid caffeine, which can contribute to stress. By reducing the causes of stress, allergy flares will be less severe and less frequent. It seems that managing stress lowers allergies and controlling allergies reduces stress, so it’s a win-win situation.

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Sniff Away Stress: Aromatherapy for Stress Management

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Aromatherapy can be used in stress management to reduce tension headaches, nervous indigestion, heart palpitations and cortisol production caused by a stressful lifestyle. Stress can cause feelings of exhaustion, apathy and moodiness as it overworks the adrenal system to the point that the adrenal glands are spent. If this sounds like you, or someone you know, take time to learn more about aromatherapy as a simple life-changing stress management tool.

Studies show aromatherapy can help stress management

Study on Aromatherapy for Stress Management

The body has an estimated 50 million smell receptors in the limbic system of the brain that affects memory and emotions. These are the areas most affected by chronic stress and adrenal fatigue so it really makes sense to use fragrance to lower stress through the power of smell.

A widely quoted study by the Japanese Department of Oral Physiology in Saitama found that the free radical scavenging activity (FRSA) that fights oxidative stress in the body can be measured by the presence of cortisol in saliva. A study on 22 volunteers allowed them to smell lavender and rosemary essential oils for five minutes. Their saliva was immediately tested for the presence of cortisol, secretory IgA and other stress-induced chemicals.

After the aromatherapy, the participants had decreased levels of cortisol, indicating that lavender and rosemary essential oils decrease stress so the body produces less cortisol. Further experiments using higher concentrations of lavender and rosemary produced correlating evidence as higher concentrations showed to be even more effective at stress management.  

Stress-Lowering Properties of Lavender

The fragrant crushed flowers and leaves of the lavender plant have been used in herbal remedies for centuries. Inhaling lavender is a common treatment for stress management, lowering anxiety levels, calming restless nerves and encouraging relaxation. Lavender has been popular in bath and body care for centuries; and scented pillows are often used as a sleep aid.

Stress Management Using Rosemary

Rosemary is most commonly found in the kitchen as an aromatic herb. However, the above study found that rosemary essential oil decreased cortisol in the saliva, suggesting it lowered the brain’s production of cortisol as a response to stress.

Rosemary has many uses as an herbal remedy. Rosemary oil is produced from the flowering top of the plant using steam distillation. It produces clear oil with a light viscosity (thickness.)

Related:  Herbs that Help to Increase Energy

Ways to Use Lavender and Rosemary for Effective Stress Management

Apply a few drops of lavender oil to the palms of your hands, rub together and inhale or apply a few drops onto the forehead for instant aromatherapy benefits.

If you prefer rosemary, rub the essential oil on the palms of your hands then cover your nose and mouth and inhale the woodsy aroma. You can also add a drop to the temples to calm a stress-related headache.

Use lavender or rosemary essential oils in a diffuser to fill a room with stress-busting fragrance; burn a fragrant herbal candle or dilute the essential oils 50:50 and apply to chakras and pressure points. Adding 3-4 drops of lavender essential oil to a base massage oil or everyday vegetable oil creates aromatic massage oil. Use it for relaxing shoulder, back and neck massages to soothe tension as part of your aromatherapy stress management.

 

 

 

 

 

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Stop Stress-Related Insomnia with GABA

by Institute for Vibrant Living

If you have difficulty getting off to sleep, or wake up and cannot return to sleep, you may find it comforting to know that one in three people have some degree of insomnia, according to the Sleep Health Foundation. Much of the problem is due to a stressful lifestyle, but effective stress management using natural herbs and supplements can help.

Nutritionist Patrick Holford states in his book Optimum Nutrition for the Mind that every week Brits pop 10 million tranquillizers, smoke a similar number of cannabis joints and drink 120 million alcoholic drinks, often as a socially accepted form of stress management. This disturbing trio of alcohol, cannabis and tranquilizers all has one common ingredient – GABA – which is known to have a calming, soporific effect. Taking it in supplemental form has none of the alarming side effects that drugs and alcohol cause, but what is GABA, is it safe and how does it work?

How Does GABA Work for Stress Management

GABA stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, an amino acid which acts as a natural relaxant and calming neurotransmitter in the brain. Our bodies produce GABA from glutamine and it is vital for proper brain function. GABA influences mood, producing endorphins that make us relaxed and happy. GABA deficiency is linked to insomnia and epilepsy as well as feelings of anxiety, stress and tension, so it has an important part to play in stress management.

Research shows that GABA increases the production of alpha brain waves, similar to a state of meditation during yoga, for example. It also reduces beta waves which are associated with nervous tension and hyperactivity. These wave patterns can be measured using an electroencephalogram (EEG).  People who are stressed have high levels of beta waves, and GABA helps restore the balance. This natural calming effect makes GABA an excellent natural answer for stress management as well as for insomnia.

Related:  Sleep Deprivation: Is it Dangerous to Your Health?

Chronic Stress Lowers GABA

Low natural levels of GABA may be caused by a lack of glutamine, low levels of B vitamins, zinc, iron and manganese, or by chronic stress. A simple saliva or urine test can show whether you are producing sufficient GABA.

High amounts of caffeine, excessive exposure to electromagnetic radiation, low levels of progesterone and chronic pain can all reduce GABA levels in the body. Ironically, lack of sleep also lowers GABA levels, which in turn means you cannot sleep the following night. This sets up a vicious circle on insomnia. Taking GABA supplements can break the cycle, particularly for those suffering with stress-related insomnia.

How Much GABA to Take?

Taking 500 mg of GABA once or twice a day can significantly support stress management.  For stress-related insomnia, taking 100 mg about 30 minutes before bedtime will help you feel sleepy and relaxed. However, GABA should not be mixed with alcohol, drugs containing barbiturates, anti-anxiety medications or benzodiazepine tranquillizers, so check with your doctor if you are already taking other prescription drugs.

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Laugh Away Stress: 10 Tips on How to Laugh More

by Institute for Vibrant Living

You may remember the Robin Williams movie, Patch Adams that illustrated how humor provided relief in a hospital setting. Based on the true story of Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, the story holds more than a little truth when it comes to using laughter as a tool for stress management.

Try laughter as a form of stress management!

Here are just some of the health benefits that laughter and humor provide:

  • Lower hypertension
  • Reduces stress
  • Relaxes the body
  • Triggers the release of endorphins which promote happiness and relaxation
  • Cleanses the lungs of stale air
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Increases muscle flexibility
  • Boosts the production of T-cells
  • Helps us keep life’s problems in perspective

It’s a commonly quoted fact that adults laugh about 15 times a day while children laugh about 400 times.  No wonder the problems of the world and life in general, sometimes get us down.

Study on Stress Hormones and Laughter

A study led by Lee Berk at Loma Linda University in California showed that laughter not only lowers blood pressure and boosts mood-elevating endorphins, but even anticipating a fun event can lower the three main stress hormones: cortisol, adrenaline and dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC).

This study focused on 16 men. Half were told they would be watching a humorous video they had selected earlier, and half were told they would be sitting in a room reading magazines as a control group. The researchers measured hormone levels throughout the study and noted that 30 minutes after the video was over, cortisol was down 67%, adrenaline was down 35%, and DOPAC was down 69%. The surprise was that even before the group watched the video, the anticipation of laughter lowered cortisol by 39%, adrenaline by 70% and DOPAC by 38%.

The power of feel-good chemicals produced by the body should not be underestimated for stress management. They are believed to be up to 200 times more powerful than morphine and side effects are zero.

Related:  Five Fun Ways to Connect with your Partner

Ways to Use Laughter as Stress Management

Now we know the value of laughter to reduce stress and cortisol levels, we need to adopt some sure-fire ways to increase laughter in our lives. Here are 10 suggestions:

  • Read some funny jokes from a book, or search the internet
  • See humor in everyday life. There’s always something to smile about, such as wearing odd socks to work!
  • Plan a fun evening with some light-hearted friends
  • Spend time with younger members of the family; they are always able to raise a smile
  • Rent a funny movie – and anticipate laughter, just like in the study
  • Collect and share humorous sayings and true funny stories
  • Look out for a funny advertisement, ridiculous billboard or humorous commercial that makes you smile
  • Practice fake laughing as if you’re auditioning for a part. Even fake laughter triggers a response so spend a few minutes a day managing stress by perfecting that laugh out loud
  • Get together with friends and workmates and have a laughing contest. The effect is contagious and will soon have you laughing for real!
  • Find a few more funny activities as part of your stress management activity.
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5 Fabulous Foods For Fall and More Healthy Eating Tips

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Fall is the season of harvest, Thanksgiving and hearty wholesome cuisine as the temperatures drop. Check out these fall food favorites and see how they contribute to a healthy eating plan.

Using oysters, nuts and fall fruits in your meals is an excellent way to focus on healthy eating while still getting in some fun flavors and textures.

Apples for Quercetin

Apples are seasonally harvested in fall. There are over 7,000 varieties, with some species better than others for cider-making, pie-baking, storing, drying or eating right from the fruit bowl. One medium apple has around 96 calories and is great for healthy eating as it delivers 4.4 grams of fiber, 8.4 mg vitamin C as well as calcium, iron and trace minerals. Apples also contain high levels of pectin and the antioxidant quercetin, which may help prevent allergy symptoms.

Squash for Beta Carotene

Pumpkins and winter squash are a healthy source of beta carotene and magnesium with their soft golden flesh. Roast, bake or add to casseroles and know you are getting around 4,600 mcg of beta carotene per half cup of butternut squash. Spaghetti squash has lower levels of beta-carotene but does have double the amount of omega-3 fatty acids, another great fall food for healthy eating.

Beta carotene is used in the body to make vitamin A.  In a study at the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii researchers showed that beta-carotene can turn on a gene to help prevent the growth of cancerous cells.

Related:  Four Nutritional Powerhouses that should be a Part of Your Diet

Mushrooms for Immunity

Cool humid conditions are ideal for producing mushrooms with 10 different species being grown commercially. Mushrooms are currently being trialed as a suppressant for breast cancer as they remove estrogen from the blood. Beta-glucan protects against colds and flu viruses while reishi mushrooms have positive antiviral properties. In addition, shiitake, portobello, oyster and reishi mushrooms contain a polysaccharide molecule that stimulates the immune system. Slice mushrooms on salad or add them to almost any hot dish to boost immunity as winter approaches.

Oysters for Zinc

Eaten either raw or cooked, oysters are deliciously nutritious as part of any healthy eating lifestyle. However, to avoid food poisoning associated with eating raw contaminated oysters, play on the safe side and enjoy them cooked. Each serving of six oysters contains 43 calories packed with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Top of the list is 33 mg of zinc, which is 220% of the recommended daily value. And there’s always the unproven reputation that oysters have as an aphrodisiac!

Turkey for Tryptophan

Fall would not be the same without Thanksgiving turkey. A three-ounce serving of perfectly roasted turkey meat gives you 25 grams of lean protein (half your daily requirements) and far less calories and fat than an equivalent serving of roast beef. Turkey contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that the body cannot make. It is used to make niacin and serotonin, so perhaps that’s why a nap is in order after any Thanksgiving turkey feast!

Now you can look forward to fall, knowing it is a great season for enjoying the tastiest healthy eating, from Apples to Zinc!

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De-Stress with Biofeedback Technology – Stress Management

by Institute for Vibrant Living

If only there was an app for stress management!  Actually there is, in the form of the latest biofeedback technology.  Founded on the basics of quantum science, biofeedback measures the body’s stress levels and helps you recognize and counter the effects naturally and holistically. Using sophisticated technology, biofeedback relies on specialized software and sensors to scan the electromagnetic fields of your body. In minutes, this new stress management technology can provide feedback and vital information about the energetic stresses that your body is undergoing at that moment in time. Once users see their elevated blood pressure or symptoms of rising stress, they can implement mental techniques to lower stress levels without the need for medications or other treatment. 

Stress management is the key to good health and longevity

Rather than allowing tension and negativity to build up for months or even years, biofeedback is the key to healthy stress management, reversing the harmful effects that stress can have on your life and health.

Health issues that biofeedback is used to treat include:

  • Stress Management        
  • Anxiety ​
  • Depression
  • Pain Management
  • Headaches                                                                                                               
  • Post-Traumatic Stress
  • Fears and Phobias
  • Social Anxiety
  • Raynaud's Disease
  • Hypertension
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback uses sensors to collect data about the body. The information makes the patient aware of the physiological functions and can help control them as part of their stress management. The latest biofeedback developments include putting the sensors into portable wearable devices that are no more intrusive than a wrist watch.

Developed in the 1960s and 70s, biofeedback has been used by psychologists to treat health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hypertension, headaches and attention deficit disorder (ADD). Initially patients had to be hooked up to a device in a laboratory setting, but microtechnology now allows sensors and Galvanic Skin Resistance (GSR) monitors to track electro-dermal activity (EDA). The information can be used for stress management, monitoring mood and depression or even predicting seizures. 

Related:  Train Your Digestive System

How can Biofeedback Aid Stress Management?

Far from being a novelty gadget, biofeedback is the stress management tool of the future. There are over 900 studies published on PubMed alone about biofeedback and stress, and it has far-reaching medical relevance.

For example, a study on 41 soldiers found that those who used biofeedback-assisted stress management training on a regular basis had lower stress biomarkers than their colleagues.

Even in sports, biofeedback has invaluable health advantages. A study showed that advanced basketball players who trialed biofeedback for 20 minutes a day over a 10-day period as part of their personal stress management showed significant improvement in heart rate and anxiety levels.

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Best Diet for Stress Relief – Best Foods For Stress

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Sometimes the simplest and oldest ideas for dealing with stress management can also be the most effective. We hear a great deal about superfoods and innovative stress-busting techniques, but when it comes down to an effective diet for stress relief, there are three food staples you need.

Eating these foods can significantly help stress management

Here’s are the best foods for stress:

Whole Grains Aid Stress Management

People who start the day with a bowl of whole grain cereal have lower cortisol levels, according to research. We know that highly refined, processed and fatty foods increase anxiety and mood swings, but whole grains can counter those feelings by providing steady energy levels, high spirits and calm nerves. These benefits come from a variety of sources found in whole grain foods including B vitamins.

Vitamin B is known to have mood-lifting properties which are part of any stress management process. A three-month trial at the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia confirmed that a diet high in B vitamins significantly lowers stress levels. Professor Con Stough reported that B vitamins found in whole grains are “integral to the synthesis of neurotransmitters critical to psychological well-being."

Good sources of B-vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid are:

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Durum wheat
  • Wild rice
  • Barley
  • Wheat
  • Buckwheat
  • Millett
  • Oats

Fruit and Vegetables Lower Stress Hormones

Loading your plate with fruit and vegetables at every meal helps neutralize free radicals that are known to be stress-related. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale contain folate which produces dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter that is responsible for reward-motivated behavior and feelings of happiness. A study on 2,800 seniors found that those who consumed more folate had a significantly lower risk of depression.

Related:  Tasty, Versatile Kale is an Antioxidant Powerhouse

A similar study by the University of Otago in New Zealand found that students who ate more fruit and vegetables were calmer, happier and less stressed than their counterparts. They also found that healthy eating predicted a positive mood the following day.

More specific fruit and vegetables to support stress management include blueberries. High in antioxidants and phytonutrients they also promote killer white blood cells in the body that counter stress.

De-stress with Omega-3 Fish Oil

Good old omega-3 fish oils once again come to the rescue when it comes to stress management. The fatty acids found in salmon and other oily foods contain anti-inflammatory properties. According to Lisa Cimperman from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, omega-3 counteracts the anxiety hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

To put the theory to the test, a study on medical students from Oregon State University found that taking omega-3 fish oil supplements lowered anxiety levels by 20%, compared to the control group who took a placebo.

As one 3-ounce serving of cooked wild salmon contains around 2,000 mg of omega-3, it’s easy to follow the American Heart Association recommendation of two servings per week for a healthy heart and sensible stress management.   For consistent daily support, consider omega-3 supplements too.

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Are You Squirreling Stress: Causes and Effects of Stress

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Are you a “squirreller?” Do you hide money, tuck away sweet treats and keep a few things in reserve, “just in case?” While these may be positive attributes, storing up the effects of stress, harboring negative thoughts and increasing physical tension can be extremely damaging for your health, according to experts.

In the fall, squirrels are particularly active as they search for nuts, seeds, acorns and pine cones which are a source of food. These furry creatures are known for their habit of burying caches of food in a favorite place, which will allow them to survive the winter. In the same way, you probably have a favorite place on your body where all the effects of stress and tension hang out.

Physical pain and hypertension are often the effects of stress

Physical Effects of Stress

Causes of stress in modern-day life can range from worrying about bills, lack of sleep and working long hours to frustrating traffic congestion on your morning commute. Stop and analyze your body for a moment, and find out where those effects of stress tend to linger. Common places that succumb to stress and tension include:

  • Tense, hunched shoulders
  • Unnatural neck and throat positions
  • A “tight” head causing headaches and migraine
  • Upper and lower back tension
  • Stiff arms
  • Queasy, acid-filled stomach

Harboring stress can lead to serious health conditions including stomach ulcers, back pain, migraine clusters and poor digestion. However, being aware of the tell-tale signs of stress in your personal “storage area” can be the first step to releasing that tension and dealing with the causes of stress.

Related:  Lose Stress to Gain Joy

How to Counter the Effects of Stress

Wherever you find yourself – at your desk, in the kitchen, driving the kids to school or lying awake at night – you can begin to de-stress by deep breathing. Become conscious of each breath and make each one slower and deeper than the last. This simple exercise is often enough to alleviate the pressure before the causes of stress take hold and find their way to your stress storage point.

Research into the brain shows that social engagement is an effective tool in the fight against the effects of stress. Making eye contact with a smiling face, talking to a friend and feeling understood, or even listening to someone else’s joys and sorrows can halt the natural “fight-or-flight” reactions to stress. As you respond to the causes of stress with social engagement you will begin to calm down, think more rationally and your heartbeat and blood pressure will return to normal.

Defusing stress also allows your digestive system to return to normal, and will stop the brain flooding the body with cortisol and other “emergency” hormones.

In the long-term, allowing the causes of stress to “get under your skin” can cause immeasurable harm to your heart, digestive and immune systems. By learning to let go of the harmful effects of stress you can lower hypertension, slow down the aging process and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.

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Five Dark Chocolate Benefits – Delight in Dark Chocolate

by Institute for Vibrant Living

It’s not often that something truly delicious also happens to be super healthy. Chocoholics can rejoice in the fact that dark chocolate has many proven health benefits - its rich in antioxidants and has cardiovascular benefits. However, high levels of sugar and high calorie content can counter the benefits of chocolate if it is consumed in large quantities (take notes, chocoholics!). This is particularly true of sweet milk chocolate rather than true dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate has many health benefits, just be careful to not overdo it, particularly on the high-calorie, milk-chocolate sweets.

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans that form in pods on the branches of the cacao tree. Each ripe cacao pod contains 30-50 seeds or beans that are pale lilac or brown in color. Grown in the equatorial tropics, the ripe, fatty seeds are harvested, fermented or “sweated” in the open air then dried and bagged for export. Cacao mills and chocolate factories grind the beans to make decadent chocolate bars and drinks.

Here are five health benefits of dark chocolate:

1.  Nutrient-Rich Dark Chocolate Benefits

Rich in soluble fiber, protein and minerals, dark chocolate benefits include trace amounts of iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. Four squares (43g or 1.5 ounces) of Ghirardelli 72% Dark Twilight Delight Chocolate are shown to contain:

  • Calories 230
  • Total fat 20g (mostly saturated and monounsaturated)
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 0g
  • Carbohydrates 19g
  • Fiber 4g
  • Sugars 11g
  • Protein 3g

2.  Antioxidants in Dark Chocolate

Scientists measure how well antioxidants in any particular food manage to disarm or negate harmful free radicals using a scale called the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). Unprocessed cocoa beans are among the highest-scoring foods, showing they are brimming with biologically active antioxidants. Tests show that cacao even outshines blueberries and acai berries for antioxidant activity, demonstrating the exceptional benefits of dark chocolate.

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3.  Chocolate for Circulation

Flavonoids in dark chocolate stimulate the lining of arteries, improving blood blow and reducing blood pressure. Although the bioactive compounds improve blood flow, the decrease in blood pressure is small, so other health measures will need to be implemented to significantly lower hypertension.

4.  Health Cholesterol Levels from Chocolate

In a scientific trial on men with elevated cholesterol readings, cocoa powder significantly lowered bad LDL cholesterol and increased good HDL cholesterol. The antioxidants lower oxidized LDL and produce overall improved cholesterol levels. Dark chocolate benefits also extend to reducing insulin resistance, lowering the risk for heart disease and diabetes. 

5.  Dark Chocolate Benefits Include Brain Function

One final dark chocolate benefit is that the caffeine and theobromine content in cocoa is thought to improve brain function. A study on participants who consumed high flavanol cocoa for five days showed a significant increase in blood flow to the brain. 

There are a few provisos for considering dark chocolate benefits as healthy.  Here they are:

  • Only chocolate that contains 70-85% cacao content offers these health benefits
  • Healthy dark chocolate should contain less than 10 grams (10%) sugar per 100 grams
  • Dark chocolate should be eaten in modest amounts of 1-2 ounces maximum per day

Now go and treat yourself to some healthy antioxidant brain food, for the sake of your health, of course!

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Why Spinach May Be the Ultimate Way to Naturally Boost Energy

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Popeye was on to something.  You may not suddenly develop over-the top bulging biceps like he did, but spinach is an effective way to boost energy naturally.  It’s loaded with so many good things, if it’s not on your menu regularly, it should be! 

History of a Superfood

Spinach originated in central and southwestern Asia.  Though it typically did not grow well in hot climates, Arab ingenuity using sophisticated irrigation techniques in the eight century AD enabled it to be successfully cultivated throughout the Mediterranean.  It quickly spread across the globe with mention of it in the 12th century, dubbed “the captain of leafy greens” by the Arab agronomist Ibn al-‘Awwam. It is listed as an ingredient in dishes prepared in the 13th century, as part of vegetable gardens in the 15th century, 17th century, and it remains a hearty vegetable used in dishes around the world.  The French call spinach the broom of the stomach.

The Many Health Benefits of Spinach

Those bright, vibrant green leaves pack a powerful nutritional punch and are renowned for their ability to boost energy naturally.  They are loaded with nutrients like:

  • Vitamin C, K, B12, B1 B2, B6
  • Manganese
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Potassium
  • Phytonutrients like beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin
  • Glycoglycerolipids – a compound found to help protect the lining of the digestive tract from inflammation damage

A common cause of low energy is iron deficiency; spinach a good dietary staple as a plant-based source of this important nutrient, which is critical to the production of abundant healthy red blood cells. The vitamin K is important for good bone health and lutein helps in maintaining eye health. Spinach also provides lots of antioxidants to hasten cell repair and is a healthy source of fiber.

Related:  Five Green Veggies You Need to Eat on a Gluten-Free Diet

Many Ways to Enjoy Spinach

You can get spinach canned (Popeye’s preference but the least appetizing), frozen and fresh.  Fresh raw spinach is best, and use organic whenever possible. Choose the bunch with dark green, firm leaves with the stems till attached. Avoid any with a mushy texture or with brown or yellow spots on the leaves. Baby spinach has more tender leaves and a more delicate taste.

Store unwashed spinach in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you plan to use it, keeping in mind it starts to lose nutrients after four days.  Wash it thoroughly and remove the stems (optional unless you are adding it to a smoothie) and let it drain before eating it raw or cooking it.

You can add spinach to any number of dishes whether they are baked, sautéed or boiled. It’s also a great addition to smoothies, adding nutrients, giving them a lovely color but with a mild taste that combines well with fruit, yogurt and whatever else you blend with it. You’ll boost energy naturally and enjoy a tasty snack in the process.

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White Willow Bark - Nature’s Aspirin for Joint Pain Relief

by Institute for Vibrant Living

According to the National Health Institute (NIH), approximately 11% of the population is suffering from some form of pain, from mild or occasional to chronic or severe. That’s about 25.3 million Americans!  Many of those aches are in the joints, and a reason that sends millions of people to their doctors for relief.  For those seeking more than the traditional drugs and narcotics prescribed, white willow bark is proving to be a safe and effective way to bring joint pain relief.

What Is White Willow Bark?

White willow bark comes from the bark of white willow trees. It has been used in Chinese and European medicine for centuries and the earliest settlers in this country learned of its pain relieving properties from Native Americans.

White willow bark is often called nature’s aspirin due to the pain-relieving compound found in the bark called salicin. 

How White Willow Bark Provides Joint Pain Relief

When salicin is ingested, the body converts it to salicylic acid, which lowers prostaglandin levels. Prostaglandins are long-chain hydroxyl fatty acids produced naturally by the body and can be found in the lining of the stomach, the intestines, the uterus and all smooth muscles throughout the body.  They help regulate body temperature, control inflammation and vascular permeability. They are also responsible for uterine contractions during birth and the cause the painful cramps some women experience while menstruating.  Too many prostaglandins circulating in the body, especially the joints, causes pain. 

The salicin in white willow bark is similar to aspirin and in addition to pain relief can help reduce inflammation in the joints and reduce fevers.  Several studies have actually shown it to be as, or more effective at relieving pain, than aspirin.  It does take longer to bring pain relief but typically its effects last longer, making it a good alternative for those seeking joint pain relief who do not want to be popping synthetic drugs all day.

Related:  The History of Nature's Aspirin for Lower Back Pain

Besides joint pain relief white willow bark can also be taken for:

Dosage

If you would like to try white willow bark, the recommended dosage is 300 mg in capsule form twice a day with a meal. Just be sure to purchase a product that is standardized to 15 percent of the active ingredient salicin.

White willow bark is for adults only. There is no safe dosage determined for children. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take it either. Always consult with your doctor before taking any supplement to avoid unfavorable drug reactions. Those who are sensitive or allergic to aspirin should not take white willow bark supplements.

Side Effects:

With any medication or supplement there is the possibility of side effects. Fortunately white willow bark side effects tend to be mild but include:

  • Upset stomach (nausea)
  • Ulcers
  • Vomiting
  • Skin rash
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Kidney or stomach inflammation

Natural Pain Relief

Most people will experience some degree of joint pain in their lifetime. If you are looking for an alternative to traditional pain relievers for joint pain relief, consider taking a white willow bark supplement. 

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Top Supplements to Erase Problems of Aging Skin

by Institute for Vibrant Living

One of the common aging skin problems is light or dark brown spots called age spots. They are show up on the face, chest, shoulders and hands in both men and women; and they can affect younger people, too.  They are also called liver spots and are a result of dietary deficiencies and years of exposure to the harsh rays of the sun.

Topical creams and cover-ups will temporarily disguise the unsightly spots but in order to get rid of them, or at the very least lighten them so they are less noticeable, you will need to treat them from the inside out.

Supplements and lifestyle changes can help prevent age spots and aging skin.

Supplements

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a power antioxidant that will help damaged skin cells repair themselves and prevent new ones from popping up.  Antioxidants help your body combat cell damaging free radicals by neutralizing them. It also aids in circulation by extending the life cycle of red blood cells, important for transporting oxygen to cells for energy and keeping toxins from building up in the body. Research suggests vitamin E may also help slow down the aging process by protecting cellular membranes.

The recommended dosage for adults is 200 IU of vitamin E in d-alpha tocopherol form daily for maximum benefit.

Related:  Vitamin E Deficiency & Diseases of the Digestive System

Vitamin C

Everyone should get plenty of vitamin C in their diet, even if they don’t have age spots.  Found in abundance in citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits), spinach and kale, it is a critical nutrient that supports good health and can help get rid of common aging skin problems like age spots, but also fine lines and wrinkles. 

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant to rid your body of damaging free radicals. It also helps to combat the formation of new brown spots by offering protection against UVA and UVB rays. It’s like an internal broad-spectrum sunscreen. 

Results are not immediate, meaning, you will need to take the vitamin C and be patient for up to a year for the dark spots to fade. In the meantime slather lots of sunscreen on your face, hands and where ever else spots have formed.

The recommended daily dosage of vitamin C supplements for adults is 2,000 milligrams per day.

Beta-carotene

Beta-carotene is responsible for the bright vibrant color in many healthy foods like carrots, spinach, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, cantaloupe and winter squash.

When consumed, the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A (retinol), which is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, cell mucous membranes and skin.  It is also an antioxidant to help damaged cells regenerate.

Prevention

Of course, the most effective way to treat age spots is to not let them form at all. You can help yourself avoid this common aging skin problem by adopting a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, adding these supplements to your diet and applying sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher to your exposed skin every day, year round.

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Natural Ways to Beat Fatigue Symptoms

by Institute for Vibrant Living

About one million Americans report feeling chronically fatigued.  Millions more report occasional but reoccurring tiredness as a health issue. Fortunately, there are natural, safe ways to relieve your fatigue symptoms and they don’t involve taking a new prescription in most cases. Simple lifestyle changes and the addition of some herbs and supplements can help naturally relieve your fatigue and give you a new lease on life.

Understanding fatigue symptoms and what we can do about them.

Too Tired

Occasional fatigue is normal. A hard workout, long day at the office, a fun-filled but activity packed vacation, are all reasons you may be tired. Unfortunately many people feel tired all the time and it takes an unfortunate toll on their health. Fatigued drivers account for 20% of all car accidents. Tired kids and adults show a decrease in cognitive function making school and jobs more difficult. 

You might think that being too tired all the time is a normal part of aging, but it’s not. If daily living has you dragging, it’s time to make some changes to your lifestyle.

Common Reasons for Fatigue

Sleep

It cannot be emphasized enough how important getting enough sleep is to maintaining your health, especially your energy levels. Unfortunately, most Americans do not get the minimum 6-8 hours needed every night to help the body restore itself after long, stressful days working, working out, caring for family, dealing with traffic, and the stuff of daily life.

Day after day, week after week of not getting enough shut-eye leads to fatigue and other unpleasant experiences like weight gain, cognitive decline and speeds up the aging process.  Experts recommend going to bed at a reasonable hour each night and rising at the same time each day, even on weekends and vacations. Establishing a soothing nighttime ritual and sticking to it will do wonders for your fatigue symptoms.

Hormones

Hormones out of balance are a leading cause of fatigue.  A trip to the doctor might be in order if your fatigue symptoms came on suddenly.  This could indicate a malfunctioning thyroid or adrenal gland malfunction. Women going through menopause may have fluctuating and declining hormones, which cause sleep disturbances and fatigue.  Ruling out hormonal imbalances is key to banishing fatigue.

Related:  Understanding the Dangers of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Nutrition

Our bodies run on carbohydrates, but not the kind found in a doughnut. Highly refined white flour and sugar-laden foods will cause a surge in blood sugar giving you a short burst of energy, only to send you crashing and feeling tired.  You know what to do: eat more complex carbohydrates like brown rice, whole grains and vegetables while consuming a lot less white flour products loaded with sugar.

You may also not be eating enough fat. Yes, fat. It is as essential to a healthy diet as carbohydrates and protein. You need to eat the right kind of fat in moderation to optimize energy levels.  Nuts, avocados, olive, coconut and canola oils, eggs and organic, grass fed-beef are all great sources of healthy fats that will help relieve your fatigue symptoms.

You may be dehydrated. Many people mistake thirst for hunger, so before you reach for a candy bar to shake off that tired feeling, try drinking an eight ounce glass of good old fashioned water and see if you don’t feel better in about 10 minutes. Get in the habit of carrying around a bottle of H2O and drinking it a couple times a day.

Supplements

You could find relief from your fatigue symptoms by supplementing your diet with missing nutrients.

Magnesium – start with the lowest dosage (600 mg or less)

Omega-3 Fatty Acids – a fish oil supplement can help you get enough of this essential nutrient every day

Vitamin B12 – you can get this crucial nutrient in pill form or through injections

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Menopause Treatment Pregnenolone May Reduce Inflammation

by Institute for Vibrant Living

 

Menopause is a life transition experienced by women as a normal part of the aging process.  Menopause is caused by declining hormone levels needed for fertility, marked by increased inflammation in the body, causing a host of side effects from time to time. Fortunately, pregnenolone, often called the “mother of all hormones,” is showing great promise as a menopause treatment that also may significantly reduce inflammation throughout the body.

Understanding the hormone pregnenolone and how it can help to relieve symptoms of menopause.

What is Pregnenolone?

Pregnenolone is a steroid-like hormone produced naturally by our bodies in the adrenal glands, liver, skin, brain, testicles, ovaries, and in the retinas of the eyes. Pregnenolone is a critical building block from which all other steroid hormones like DHEA, progesterone, testosterone, estrogen and cortisol are formed in the body. It is thought by much of the medical community to be the ultimate raw material.  It is produced in abundance not only in the adrenal glands but also the brain, spinal cord and throughout the body.  It’s commonly called an adaptogen that transforms itself into whatever hormone your body needs the most at any given time.

The Effects of Declining Pregnenolone

Unfortunately, as we age, production of this very important but obscure hormone begins to decline; along with it, the hormones our bodies need like progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. As a result, women begin to experience menopause and men start to feel the effects of waning testosterone.

As pregnenolone declines, inflammation increases throughout the body. Inflammation is normal and the natural way the body fights disease and repairs itself, but prolonged inflammation begins to damage your tissues, especially in the joints and organs. 

Increased inflammation also causes the unpleasant side effects of menopause, namely hot flashes, decreased vaginal lubrication, less interest in sex and even painful intercourse.

Many women report that while going through menopause they experience a decline in their ability to concentrate, sleep disturbances and mood disorders like depression or increased anxiety.  In studies dating back to the 1930s, these symptoms have been found to be relieved by restoring natural levels of pregnenolone.

Related:  Video Blog:  Hormones: IVL Explains the Different Types of Hormones

Pregnenolone as a Menopause Treatment

The research shows the benefits of restoring pregnenolone levels in the body is an effective menopause treatment.   Those who took supplements in various clinical trials reported less stress and anxiety, better sleep, a marked decline in hot flashes and an increased libido. Additionally, it also seemed to help reduce joint pain, lower cholesterol levels and may even be helpful for those battling addiction with fewer lapses reported. Most of this is credited to pregnenolone increasing the production of other hormones like estrogen and progesterone and reducing inflammation.

Numerous studies have also shown this critical hormone has a profoundly positive effect on cognitive function, especially improving memory.  Its anti-inflammatory properties are also showing to reduce one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia, an added benefit beyond being an effective menopause treatment.

Dosage

There is no exact dosage specification for pregnenolone but the general recommendation is to start with one five-milligram tablet per day. Of course, you should always consult with your doctor before taking any new supplement to avoid unfavorable drug reactions. There is no safe recommended dosage for women who are pregnant or nursing.

 

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What Should You Do About Menopause Symptoms Like Hair Growth?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Many menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, memory lapses, increased anxiety and reduced libido are often kept private.  Dealing with them alone can be difficult, but made worse when more obvious symptoms appear, namely hair loss and/or excessive hair growth in unusual places. Hair growth during menopause, or hair loss, can be very disconcerting, but there are things you can do to minimize these hair woes.

Menopause symptoms include hair growth.

 

The Hairy Truth about Menopause

Fluctuating and declining hormone levels can cause excessive hair loss; and or hair growth such as facial hair.  While menopause is a natural phase of life, steps can be taken to help prevent hair loss and growth, such as lifestyle and dietary changes using natural herbs and supplements.

For Thinning Hair

There is HRT, or hormone replacement therapy, that is prescribed by your doctor and can help with hair loss. However, the known dangerous side effects are an increased risk for several types of cancer. Some women choose to avoid synthetic HRT because of the inhumane way horses are treated to obtain these hormones through pregnant mare’s urine.   If you want to avoid the risks and not contribute to cruel pharmaceutical practices, then forgo HRT.  Here are some natural ways to alleviate this problem.

Acceptance – While many people say, be patient, hair loss will ‘pass’, that’s much easier said than done.  Yes, hair loss in normal and natural when going through menopause, and your loved ones will continue to love you, regardless of your hair.  However, it can be emotionally devastating to experience hair loss or thinning hair.  Take steps to help reduce and remedy the situation, seek out an experienced hair stylist for the best cut for your hair type.

Reduce Stress – Get plenty of exercise, meditate, go to yoga classes, and get enough sleep. This will benefit you in many ways beyond helping to stave off hair loss. A few milligrams of melatonin might help you fall asleep on restless nights. Investing in natural fabrics for sheets and pajamas will whisk away the sweat caused by hot flashes so you can rest easier.

Related:  Restore Hair Growth and Improve Sleep

Diet – As is prescribed for every condition, eating a healthy diet will help you mitigate hair loss due to fluctuating and declining hormones. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be your dietary staples with avoidance of high-fat and sugar-laden treats.  B12 is linked to hair loss so choose foods that are rich in all the B vitamins like:

  • Spinach, mustard greens and romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli, beets, asparagus and turnips
  • Lentils, calf liver and snapper (fish)

Foods particularly high in B12 are:

  • Fortified cereals
  • Nonfat yogurt
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Lamb
  • Fortified soy products like tofu

Supplements & Herbs

Many menopause symptoms can be relieved by taking supplements and herbs that reduce inflammation, mimic declining hormones and boost your iron levels to help keep hair healthy and strong.  Try adding these supplements and herbs into your diet to promote hair growth during menopause:

  • B12 vitamins (all the B vitamins really)
  • Iron
  • Black cohosh – an herb that mimics estrogen in the body to help slow down hair loss due to the decline of natural estrogen production
  • Evening Primrose Oil, also a great source of essential fatty acids

Dealing with Unwanted Hair

How frustrating to experience thinning hair only to find it growing abundantly on your chin, around your lips, and on your chest.   Cosmetically there is no shade of cover up to disguise thick, course, and dark hair cropping up on your face.

What can you do about unwanted hair growth during menopause, then?  Show those stray strands no mercy!  Avoid shaving, since only more stubble will grow back.  Some better options are:

Epilators– there are several brands for use at home that come with different sized heads to use on the body and the face. Like waxing, these devices pull hair out by the root for longer lasting results.

Waxing – hair removed by waxing will be slower to grow back. Today’s waxing methods are less painful and most salons offer the service.

Electrolysis – choose a spa or facility with a medically trained staff and really get after unwanted hair growth. This is the most costly treatment option, but the one that is the most effective with the longest lasting results. Remember, unwanted hair growth is usually a temporary condition, so be patient.

 

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The Inside Scoop on BPPV

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Dizziness and vertigo may be caused by any number of health issues. Most causes are minor and treatable through healthy living tips and exercises developed as healthy habits. The most common cause of vertigo, particularly in the elderly, is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, which is an inner ear condition.

Healthy habits such as regular Epley maneuvers can cure balance problems in the inner ear.

 

If you think you may be suffering from BPPV, lie down with the affected ear toward the floor. BPPV will trigger a brief but intense feeling of the world spinning around.

What Causes BPPV?

The inner ear is a series of semi-circular canals filled with fluid, nerves and fine hairs for hearing. BPPV is caused by loose calcium carbonate crystals called otoconia. These crystals are normally attached to the lining but if they break loose and tumble around the inner ear, they abnormally touch the sensory receptors causing dizziness, vertigo, disorientation and loss of balance.

The best non-surgical treatment for BPPV is to maneuver these loose particles into an area of the inner ear where they cannot trigger the receptors. This is done through simple repetitive exercises that move the head around and can be completed in just a few minutes. Healthy habits include repeating these exercises regularly to maintain efficacy.  

Related:  Natural Remedies for Balance Problems

Healthy Living Tips for BPPV Using Particle Repositioning Maneuvers

Particle positioning maneuvers are a safe and natural way to treat BPPV. They are 95% successful and the only side effect may be initial nausea or vomiting triggered by the BPPV.

If the sufferer has not ascertained which ear is affected, the Brandt-Daroff Maneuver is the best option. Those who know which ear is affected should use the Epley Maneuver.

  1. The Brandt-Daroff Maneuver

Sit on the edge of the bed with your feet on the floor. Lay your head down sideways and tuck your feet up onto the bed so you are lying on one side. Keep your head in a fixed position, focusing on the head of an imaginary person stood about six feet from the bed. Lie still until the dizziness (if any) subsides. Return to the sitting position for 30 seconds then lie down on the opposite side, keeping your eyes fixed at that same imaginary point. The Brandt-Daroff Maneuver should be done three times a day and repeated five times per session for two weeks.

  1. Epley Maneuver for DPPV

Sit on the bed with your legs stretched out in front toward the foot of the bed. Turn the head 90 degrees to the left then lie down on your back, maintaining the head’s position. After 30 seconds, move the head to the right side and rest another 30 seconds. Roll the body onto the right side for 30 seconds then sit up in the original position. Rest for one minute. Repeat the cycle three times as a healthy habit for helping to alleviate BPPV each night before sleep.

If these maneuvers do not cure vertigo within two weeks, sufferers should consult their doctor to diagnose the cause.

 

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Can Melatonin Help During Menopause?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Many women dealing with menopausal symptoms experience disruptions in their sleep cycles. This can exacerbate some of the other side effects such as increased anxiety, depression, trouble focusing, memory lapses, hot flashes and a decreased libido, just to name a few. The good news is that increasing shows that melatonin supplements can be an effective menopause treatment to help you get more rest and relief.  

Can melatonin treatment relieve symptoms of menopause?

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone our bodies produce naturally in the pineal gland of the brain. It assists in the smooth operation of several bodily functions such as:

  • Regulating the release of the female reproductive hormones like estrogen, progesterone, effecting the frequency and duration of menstrual cycles
  • Promoting the quality and duration of sleep
  • It is a naturally produced antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties to help the body repair itself. It has a protective effect on your heart by helping to lower blood pressure and regulate cholesterol levels

Low levels of melatonin have been linked to an increased risk for developing breast and prostate cancer, and have more recently linked to ADHD symptoms in children. 

At optimum levels, melatonin can help improve conditions like:

  • Sunburn
  • IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Pain regulation
  • Digestion
  • Epilepsy 

Melatonin as a Menopause Treatment

Trouble focusing, memory lapses, increased anxiety and feelings of depression, all common symptoms of menopause, are made worse by a lack of quality sleep.  Many women going through menopause have trouble falling asleep, and even after they do, they often wake up because of a hot flash. They may fall asleep, but rouse frequently during the night and have trouble going back to sleep.

As we age our production of the sleep hormone begins to decline, along with estrogen and progesterone. Children have high levels of melatonin, whereas adults in their late 40s, 50s and 60s and beyond have much lower levels. Melatonin supplements can increase levels to promote drowsiness and keep you asleep for longer stretches.  It can also help you fall back to sleep when a hot flash wakes you up.  In addition, the increased shut-eye can help you deal with stress more effectively, decrease anxiety and give you greater mental clarity.

Related:  Sleep Deprivation: Is it Dangerous to Your Health?

Along with melatonin supplements try these tips to help you unwind and fall asleep more easily:

  • Do not eat within two hours of going to bed
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants as much as possible
  • Try natural fiver sheets and pajamas to help whisk away sweat from hot flashes
  • Drop the temperature in your bedroom to about 68 degrees
  • Turn off the TV, put away your tablet and smart phone since the backlight on these electronic devices interferes with the natural release of melatonin
  • Make it as dark as possible in your bedroom with light-blocking blinds or curtains and turn the digital clock face away from the bed or cover it
  • Try a few relaxing yoga poses followed by a cool shower

Dosage

As with all supplements, you should first consult your doctor before deciding on your melatonin treatment.  Taking the lowest dose possible to achieve optimal sleep is the best way to go. In general adults should take 3-5 milligrams about one hour before bedtime.

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Antioxidants: Your Immune System’s Secret Weapon

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Our immune system is a complex army of warriors with different “weapons” patrolling the body to hunt down and kill invading bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, as we age, it does too, and becomes weaker along with muscles, eyes, and everything else. Fortunately, there are immune boosters in your refrigerator called antioxidants that can keep your disease fighting warriors stronger for longer.

Fruits and vegetables are powerful immune boosters.

Antioxidants to the Rescue

What exactly is an antioxidant? Our bodies naturally produce free radicals as a result of exposure to environmental toxins like too much sunlight, cigarette smoke, radiation and even some prescription drugs.  You also produce free radicals along with inflammation in the body when you exercise, become overly stressed, and as you age. Because free radical molecules are missing an electron, they seek out and capture electrons from other molecules turning them into free radicals, a process known as oxidation. 

 

Antioxidants generously lend molecules missing an electron one of theirs without becoming free radicals themselves, thus halting the destructive chain reaction in the body. Left unchecked free radicals disrupt DNA and cause your cells to become weaker and weaker until they die.  They are tiny superhero defenders of youth and vitality.

Antioxidants for What Ails You

Our immune system cells are as susceptible to free radical damage as any other kind of cell, and we need a steady supply to stay healthy. Incorporating antioxidants into your diet helps as an immune booster and assists your immune system to produce strong B and T lymphocytes, phagocytes and neutrophils.

Several of our organs play a key role in the immune system and also need to be constantly generating strong healthy cells to replace those lost to free radicals. Make sure you ingest plenty of antioxidants to boost your immune system to help stave off disease, and even slow down the aging process.

Related:  Glutathione: The Master Antioxidant

Essential Antioxidants

Fortunately, it’s easy to fill up on antioxidants. They are found in many of the healthiest and delicious foods available to us in abundance.  Certain antioxidants are not being produced by the body, so you need to get them from you diet. They are:

Resveratrol – found in grapes, many vegetables, dark chocolate (cocoa) and wine. It also helps lower blood pressure, improves circulation, and reduces inflammation in the body.

Carotenoids- give certain foods their bright color like tomatoes (lycopene) and carrots (beta-carotene). They are converted to vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant, in the body.

Xanthophyll – found in kiwis, maize (a kind of corn), grapes, squash and oranges.

Astaxanthin – a marine carotenoid that offers protection from ultraviolet radiation. It also has been found to slow down macular degeneration, reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, several types of cancer and is a powerful immune booster.

Vitamins C and E – are generous electron donors and offer a host of other health benefits.

Best Sources of Antioxidants

Healthy and delicious foods can supply most of your antioxidant needs. You might also benefit from an antioxidant supplement to make sure you get adequate amounts daily. Be sure to add to your diet:

  • Nuts
  • Herbs and spices
  • Green tea
  • Fruits and vegetables

Fresh, organic produce and tea are your healthiest options, but even frozen foods offer some beneficial immune booster antioxidants.