What is a Stroke?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

The word stroke often sends chills up the spines of many people, especially those who are getting older.  While nearly 800,000 Americans have a stroke every year, up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable.  What is a stroke exactly?  A little knowledge can dispel some of the myths associated with stroke and help reduce risks for experiencing one.

What is a stroke?  Learning more about one can help ensure prevention.

What is a stroke, and where does it occur in the body? 

A stroke occurs in the brain and is usually caused by obstructed blood flow to a specific area. When blood flow is blocked, brain cells die due to a lack of oxygen.  Some people experience total recovery from stroke, but over 65 percent of individuals who live through one end up with some form of disability.  Depending on the particular area of the brain and how much is affected, a stroke can result in minor temporary symptoms or more serious long-term disabilities like lost memory or impaired speech or muscle control.  

What are the main types of stroke?

The majority of strokes result from a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel to the brain.  These are called ischemic strokes.  A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel bursts or becomes weakened and leaks.  This results in bleeding into brain tissue and is the deadliest form of stroke.

Are there risk factors that contribute to stroke?

Risk factors for stroke include age, race, gender, and family history.  Strokes are more common in people 65 years of age and older, but chances for experiencing a stroke double every 10 years after the age of 55.  African-Americans are at greater risk for stroke than Caucasians due to higher rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.  Women have greater risks for stroke than men because they live longer on average, and individuals with a family history of stroke experience increased risks.

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Are there strategies to help prevent stroke?

People can make a variety of lifestyle changes to help prevent stroke, including the following:  

  • Do not smoke; if you do, stop
  • Eat a diet high in fiber, fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat and cholesterol
  • Limit the amount of sodium consumed to 1,500 mg per day
  • Maintain a healthy bodyweight
  • Engage in daily physical activity
  • Become conscious of feelings of anger or negativity, and make an effort to release them 
  • Try stress-relieving methods like meditation, yoga, or listening to soft music
  • Limit alcohol consumption to two daily drinks for men and one daily drink for women

The idea of a stroke can be scary, especially to aging individuals and their loved ones.  Fortunately, learning about different types of stroke, risk factors and healthy lifestyle strategies can help.  People with concerns about stroke should consult with a health care professional.


The Secret to Maintaining Your Weight: Eat More Fruits

by Institute for Vibrant Living

When people are trying to keep trim and healthy, a nutritious diet plays a key role.  One of the best secrets to successful weight loss or to maintaining an ideal body weight is to eat more whole fruits.  They make a wonderful substitution for high-calorie desserts or snacks, but when it comes to the best fruits for keeping a trim physique, a handful are on top the list. 

Purchase whole fruits and shop in the organic aisle for the healthiest products.


A Brazilian study found that eating apples before meals can help promote weight loss.  Women who ate apples or pears before meals lost 33 percent more weight than women who consumed oat bars before meals.  Apples are low in calories, at about 95 calories for one of medium size, and high in fiber.  They contain no fat or sodium, which makes them perfect for breakfast, snacks, or dessert.  In addition to helping with weight loss, apples promote heart health, reduce cancer risks, keep teeth whiter and are good for the digestive system.


Blueberries rank high on the list of fruits that encourage healthy body weight.  In addition to being high in fiber, blueberries contain polyphenols that can reduce the formation of fat cells according to research.  A study from Texas Woman's University showed that feeding mice three servings of blueberries daily could lower the development of fat cells by up to 73 percent.


Cantaloupe is low in calories and high in water content, making it a great choice for the grocery lists of people hoping to maintain body weight.  Also high in fiber, this low carb melon keeps tummies full longer, which helps prevent overeating.  Its sweet taste makes cantaloupe a great option for an after-dinner dessert or it makes a yummy breakfast stuffed with a large spoonful of cottage cheese.

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When it comes to fruit and weight loss, guava offers many benefits.  It measures low on the glycemic index making it a good choice for diabetics and it is a rich source of fiber.  High fiber foods ensure better bowl movements, which help promote healthy body weight.


Made up of 90 percent water, it's obvious where watermelon gets its name.  In addition to being low in calories, watermelon is high in arginine, an amino acid that helps burn body fat. These qualities and more make this juicy fruit a great option for weight loss and maintenance.

People hoping to maintain body weight can benefit from fresh fruits. Stock the grocery cart with products that are low in calories and high in fiber for the best results.  Whole produce offers more nutritional benefits than canned or frozen options, and shopping in the organic aisle ensures fruits and vegetables have no genetic modifications or pesticide residue. 


The Fish Oil-Weight Loss Connection

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Fish oil has been proven to benefit people in a number of ways, from preventing cardiovascular disease to easing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.  Now individuals hoping to lose a few pounds might also reap the benefits of fish oil, as results from an animal study published in Scientific Reports shows a connection between fish oil and weight loss.  It appears that fish oil may transform fat cells from white to beige or brown, which affects their ability to burn fat. 

Because fish oil changes fat cells from fat-storage cells to fat-burning cells, there is a connection between fish oil and weight loss.


Maintaining a healthy body weight depends on a healthy metabolism.  Varying colors of fat cells effect metabolism in different ways.  While white fat cells store fat, beige and brown fat cells metabolize fat in order to stabilize body temperature.  As people get older, the numbers of beige and brown fat cells decrease, which partly explains why abdominal fat is harder to lose with age.

Japanese researchers fed certain mice a fatty diet and other mice a fatty diet supplemented with fish oil.  The scientists found that the mice that consumed fish oil burned more calories, gained less weight and fat, produced lower insulin and fasting glucose levels, and showed a warmer core temperature than mice that did not receive fish oil. 

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When brown fat cells generate heat to maintain body temperature, a receptor in the body of humans and mice activates a protein called UCP1.  The researchers found high levels of this protein in the white fat of mice given fish oil, which suggests that the fish oil worked with the receptor to change white fat cells into fat-burning beige or brown fat cells. To confirm their hypothesis, researchers removed the receptor in certain mice and fed them fish oil.  Results showed no effect on body weight or body fat.

Although this study shows promising results in mice, it may be a while before scientists can replicate fish oil-weight loss benefits in humans.  Until then, people can take fish oil supplements for a variety of other health advantages.




Reasons Why Women Go Commando

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Going commando…men have been doing it for ages, and women are finally catching on.  Although the phrase "going commando" sounds like some type of military role play, it is actually a modern form of expression that means "going without underwear."  There are a number of reasons why women go commando and comfort tops the list.

why women go commando include a sense of freedom and empowerment.


There's nothing more uncomfortable than underwear that rides up or cuts into the skin.  Women who don't wear underwear can avoid this discomfort altogether.  In addition, going sans knickers helps prevent unsightly panty lines and clothing fits better. 

Some women worry whether going without underwear can affect vaginal health, but according to Dr. Gillian Dean, the Associate Medical Director of Planned Parenthood in New York City, research shows no connection between going commando and vaginal infections.  In fact, some gynecologists recommend that women concerned about vaginal infections not wear underwear at all, especially at night.  

According to a recent Brazilian study, 18 percent of women follow this advice and reap the benefits.  Going commando at night helps prevent a warm, moist environment that encourages growth of bacteria and yeast.  In addition, wearing no underwear at night can stop the development of symptoms that accompany vaginal infections like bothersome itching.

Related:  Why Are Women And Men Shaped Differently?

While going commando during the day and night offers distinct benefits to women, there are certain situations where it may be detrimental.  Rigorous physical exercise usually demands some type of moisture-wicking underwear to keep parts dry and healthy.  Fortunately, many running shorts, tights, and workout pants have built-in underwear or liners, products that don't demand an extra layer of protection.  Wearing short skirts or dresses without panties can also be dangerous as private parts are exposed to germy public seating, and may not be the most couth thing to do.

Not wearing undergarments is based purely on personal reasons.  Not wearing it can offer greater comfort and promote good health in the correct circumstances.  Happily, with a little common sense, women can enjoy the health benefits and freedom that going without panties brings, and nobody has to know.



How Much Should I Exercise?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Some people believe they should spend every free minute at the gym in order to maintain a trim physique, but this may not be the case according to research.  A recent study featured in Current Biology shows that the body adapts to higher levels of exercise.  This means that more exercise does not always result in a higher calorie burn.  Learning more about the latest research and taking advantage of a few diet and exercise tips helps ensure people are getting the most bang for their buck when it comes to weight loss.

People desiring to lose weight often wonder, "How much should I exercise?"

The Research

A team of researchers from City University of New York examined daily activity levels and subsequent calories burned for more than 300 male and female subjects for one week. Results showed that sedentary subjects burned a small but measurable amount of calories from daily activity, but subjects with moderate daily activity burned about 200 calories per day more than sedentary individuals. Interestingly, subjects with higher-than-moderate activity levels showed no additional calories burned for more activity.

While the results of the study show that exercise helps burn calories, extra physical activity does not always mean better success when it comes to losing weight. The researchers concluded that the body might benefit best from a specific amount of exercise – or sweet spot – that lies somewhere in the middle of too little and too much physical activity.

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Diet and Exercise Tips

Individuals looking to lose weight should first take a look at their daily diet. Cutting out unnecessary calories and unhealthy fats and incorporating more fruits, vegetables and fiber helps ensure better weight loss success.

In an effort to lose weight, people also benefit from a few exercise tips. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least four days per week.  According to experts at Harvard University, moderate activity might include brisk walking, bike riding, mowing the lawn, or heavy cleaning. Adding regular strength training to an exercise regimen helps tone the body and increase the number of calories burned. 



Fluoride in Drinking Water: Three Possible Effects on the Endocrine System

by Institute for Vibrant Living

The question of whether or not to fluoridate public water creates a good amount of controversy.  Supporters of fluoridated water site the prevention of tooth decay as the key benefit.  However, many wonder if better dental health is worth the risks that fluoride presents to the endocrine system. 

Sources of fluoride include many public water supplies.


The endocrine system is a group of glands that manufacture and secrete hormones, chemicals which are important for growth, metabolism, and the development and function of sex organs.  The major glands that make up the endocrine system include the adrenal glands, the hypothalamus, the pancreas, the pineal gland, the pituitary gland, the parathyroid gland, the thyroid gland and the ovaries and testes.

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Chemicals that interfere with the endocrine system are called endocrine disruptors.  According to a report put out by the National Research Council in 2006, fluoride is one such chemical. Here are three ways excessive fluoride from drinking water and other sources may affect the endocrine system:

  1. Fluoride may alter function of the pineal gland.  Located near the center of the brain, the pineal gland is a tiny pinecone-shaped organ that secretes one hormone only—melatonin.  This hormone helps regulate reproductive hormones and circadian rhythms (or sleep-wake patterns).  Deposits of fluoride and other chemicals in the pineal gland over time cause calcification.  Studies show pineal gland calcification is linked to a disturbed sense of direction, Alzheimer's disease, and it is likely to reduce production of melatonin.  
  2. Fluoride displaces iodine from human cells. This is particularly important to cells of the thyroid gland, a part of the endocrine system that needs iodine to function properly.  Iodine plays a part in the manufacture of the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which are regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).  The report by the National Research Council found that human exposure to fluoride showed increased levels of TSH, altered levels of T3 and T4 and a higher prevalence of goiters (swelling of the thyroid gland).
  3. Fluoride may affect testosterone production.  Many animal studies have shown that exposure to fluoride can create a number of conditions that impair production of testicular testosterone.  These conditions include weakened enzyme function, increased oxidative stress, blockage of androgen receptors and cell damage.

Many people rely on fluoride to keep teeth strong and healthy, however too many sources may result in excessive amounts.  Fluoride is found in many city and state water supplies, food and beverage products manufactured with this water, dental products like toothpaste and mouthwash, and prescribed drops and rinses.  With growing evidence of the damage fluoride does to the endocrine system, people may want to evaluate the amounts they ingest on a regular basis.


Chronic Fluoride Toxicity: Dental Fluorosis

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Although dentists espouse the benefits of fluoride for the prevention of gingivitis and tooth decay, regular consumption of fluoride can be dangerous for young children.  Chronic fluoride toxicity in this age group can lead to dental fluorosis, a condition that affects tooth enamel.  Children up to eight years of age are susceptible to dental fluorosis if they ingest too much fluoride during the time their teeth are forming underneath the gums. 

Toothpaste is just one of the sources of fluoride that can lead to chronic fluoride toxicity.


Dental fluorosis can change the appearance of tooth enamel in a variety of ways. Mild forms can produce white flecks or spots, chalk-like lines, or white edges on the surface of the teeth, and more severe forms of dental fluorosis can cause larger spots and stained or pitted surfaces.

The most common sources of fluoride in the United States are fluoridated water and processed beverages like soda and fruit juices. Other sources include:

  • Toothpaste and mouth wash (if swallowed)
  • Foods manufactured with fluoridated water
  • Fluoride tablets, drops, or rinses

To prevent the development of dental fluorosis, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that parents do not give fluoride toothpaste to children ages two and under.  Brushing teeth with water after meals (or use non-fluoridated natural toothpaste for children) works best for this age group.  Children from two to six years of age should be given a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.  Tooth brushing should be supervised and kids should be reminded to spit out toothpaste when finished.  

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Kids should not be given fluoride rinses until all permanent teeth have come in.  Once permanent teeth have emerged completely through the gums, dental fluorosis is no longer a concern.  Because statistics show that mouth rinses have limited success for the prevention of tooth decay in children, use should be aimed at those youngsters with high risks for tooth decay.

Parents should learn whether their public water supply or private well contains fluoride and know the concentration levels.  They can find this information by calling their local water utility company or check for the information online in the case of state-wide water fluoridation.  If the primary source of drinking water at home contains levels of fluoride greater than 2 mg/L, parents should provide children younger than eight years of age with alternative water sources. 

Although studies show that fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay in older children and adults, it can cause dental fluorosis in young children.  Fortunately, parents who learn about their personal water supply and limit their children’s consumption of fluoride through dental products, beverages, and foods can thwart the development of this unsightly condition. 



Are Your Emotions Interfering With Your Weight Loss?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Homemade macaroni and cheese, rocky road ice cream, chicken and waffles…there's a reason these tasty dishes are called "comfort foods."  A few bites can make the blues, stress, anger or anxiety vanish.  Unfortunately, safe and comforting feelings gained through certain foods are short-lived and depending on them can be detrimental.  Using foods to fill emotional needs can result in an inability to properly deal with emotions and can interfere with weight loss.  Learning more about emotional eating and the triggers that bring it on can help.

Emotional eaters have difficulty with weight loss because they get cravings for fatty foods or sweets that must be satisfied immediately

Are you an emotional eater?

Emotional eaters have certain behaviors in common when it comes to food.  Such as they often…

  • Use food as a reward
  • Eat even when not hungry
  • Eat when anxious, stressed, sad, angry or bored
  • Feel a sense of safety or comfort while eating
  • Feel guilty after eating
  • Frequently stuff themselves past the point of being full

How do emotional hunger and physical hunger differ?

It is easy to confuse emotional hunger for physical hunger, but there are ways to tell the difference.  Emotional hunger is sudden and demands instant gratification, while physical hunger comes on slowly.  Physical hunger produces symptoms in the belly like pangs or grumbling and almost any food will satisfy it. 

Emotional hunger results in cravings for fatty and sugary foods that become more intense as the mind focuses on the food's appearance, taste and smell. It can lead to mindless eating, which explains why some people eat a full jar of peanut butter or a whole bag of potato chips before they know it.  Mindless eaters often stuff themselves to the point of discomfort rather than stopping when the stomach is full.

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What are some healthy alternatives to emotional eating?

Gain more control over food habits and body weight by practicing mindful eating.  This involves pausing when a craving hits to determine if hunger is physical or emotional, keeping triggers like stress, anxiety, or sadness in mind.  To practice mindful eating, make choices at the grocery store that are tasty and nutritious and prepare foods in healthy ways at home.  Eating at the dinner table without the external stimuli of television or a computer encourages mindful eating and promotes weight loss.

Coping with emotions in healthy ways also helps.  Make a phone call to a special friend, watch a comedy, or take the dog for a walk when feeling depressed or lonely.  Reduce anxiety or stress with yoga, a warm bath, or soft music.  Treat boredom with a bike ride, a trip to the book store or a new household project.

Eating to fill emotional needs becomes a viscous cycle that can hamper weight loss and instill feelings of guilt and powerlessness.  Fortunately, it isn't difficult to take control over eating habits.  Start with determining whether hunger is physical or emotional and treat it accordingly.  Use nutritious foods to feed physical hunger and satisfy emotional hunger with healthy and comforting alternatives to fast foods and sweets. 


Ten Relaxing Ways to Disconnect from Digital Technology

by Institute for Vibrant Living

According to research, more people in North America use the internet than people in Africa, Asia and Latin America combined.  While computers, cellphones and other electronic gadgets offer numerous benefits, it’s important to unplug from technology from time to time.  Taking a break from the digital world allows people to unwind and better connect with themselves and others.  Here are ten relaxing ways to disconnect from digital technology. 

A myriad of methods help people disconnect from digital technology.

1.  Practice yoga.  Considered a mind-body practice, yoga blends mental and physical disciplines to create a sense of peace and tranquility.  In addition, yoga helps tone the body, promotes better balance and improves sleep.

2.  Introduce a weekly game night.  Spending time playing cards or board games allows family members and/or friends to connect in meaningful ways and enjoy relaxing conversation.

3.  Spend time in nature.  There is nothing like a warm breeze, a bird's song, and the beauty of nature to disconnect from digital technology.  What's more, sunlight helps boost the mood and encourages good bone health by providing the body with a daily dose of natural vitamin D.

4.  Purchase an adult coloring book.  Using colored pencils or markers to fill in intricate designs allows adults to channel their inner child.  Coloring keeps people focused on the present moment and promotes a sense of calm.

5.  Get a massage. Studies on emergency room staff show that a 15-minute massage can lower job-related anxiety from 65 percent in winter and 54 percent in summer to just 8 percent no matter the season.  Adding essential aromatic oils like chamomile and lavender make massage even more relaxing.

Related:  Discover the Benefits of Hatha Yoga for Stress Relief

6.  Enjoy a hot bath.  Sinking into a tub of hot water soothes the mind as well as the body.  People can use products like bath salts, bath pillows, and candles to make a home bathroom spa-like and tranquil.

7.  Take the dog for a walk.  A 20-minute walk can help reduce stress by boosting endorphins, the 'feel-good' neurotransmitters in the brain.  In addition, walking offers owners and dogs an opportunity for quality bonding.

8.  Meditate.  Studies show that meditation helps lower heart rate and blood pressure, and it doesn't cost anything to practice.  To experience calming effects, people just need a quiet, comfortable space from which to focus on breathing for ten minutes or more.

9.  Keep a journal.  Writing about daily problems allows many people to let go of them.  Others prefer to jot down things for which they are grateful.  Both techniques are therapeutic and calming.

10. Take a catnap.  Short periods of rest can reduce help reduce stress.  Naps of 20 minutes or less encourage relaxation without affecting nighttime sleep.  

While some people can't imagine taking a break from their electronic devices, unplugging is important for peace of mind and human connection.  Any of the methods mentioned above allow people to disconnect from digital technology in minutes at very little or no expense, and many offer benefits that go well beyond stress relief.



Five Fun Ways to Connect with your Spouse

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Fulfilling marriages demand time and effort.  From sharing laughs to listening attentively, making their partnership a priority helps couples forge a strong bond.  Unfortunately, busy lifestyles sometimes get in the way and couples forget to connect on a regular basis.  To reestablish a close relationship or to maintain one, take advantage of five fun ways to connect with your spouse.

To keep your marriage strong, look for ways to connect with your spouse.

  1. Get creative in the kitchen. If you are looking for unique and enjoyable ways to connect with your spouse, try creating a meal together.  According to relationship expert, John Gray, couples who cook together report being more satisfied in all areas of their lives than couples who don't cook together.  From creating a grocery list to meal preparation, cooking together encourages good communication and cooperation.  Whipping up their favorite meals, couples can have fun in the kitchen and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
  2. Play board games.  Couples who play board games together laugh and research shows that laughter boosts endorphins and happy feelings.  In addition, competitive games played with other couples can evoke feelings of teamwork and trust.  Popular games to play with a spouse include Scrabble, Monopoly, Chess, Checkers, and Backgammon.  Enjoyable team games include Pictionary, Cranium, and pinochle.  As if happiness and laughter weren't enough reasons to play board games, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that they are one of several activities that may help improve brain function.
  3. Go on a picnic.  A picnic is one of the most romantic ways to connect with your spouse.  Enjoy a favorite outdoor spot or combine movie night with a picnic by spreading a blanket and pillows on the floor in front of the television and adding a basket filled with delicious bites.  To create a special love connection, couples might try a loaf of French bread, a variety of meats and cheeses, smoked oysters, chocolate-covered strawberries and a bottle of wine.

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  1. Ask questions. Staying interested in your spouse helps maintain a lasting bond.  Asking questions shows you care and keeps the emotional connection flowing, from inquiries as simple as "How was your day?" to those as deep as "What is your greatest fear?" Couples can make a question-and-answer session a weekly event by coming up with a variety of questions to discuss over dinner.
  2. Reflect on memories.  Sharing past memories keeps connections between spouses strong.  One of the best ways to do this is through photos and mementos.  Dig up old photo albums and scrapbooks or browse through photos on your cell phone to relive memorable events, but don't forget to create and record new memories along the way.

With regular effort, couples keep marriage bonds growing well into the golden years. Cooking together, playing board games, enjoying a picnic, asking questions and reflecting on memories all make wonderful ways to connect with your spouse.  When pressed for time, a kiss, hug, pat on the back or a loving look can do wonders.


Why the Food Pyramid Isn’t Enough

by Health News

More and more research is showing that the USDA food pyramid and recommended daily allowances of various vitamins and minerals is woefully inadequate.  Considering this fact, and compounded by the fact that the majority of Americans are not even coming close to the recommended daily allowances, it’s no wonder Americans—both young and old—are becoming increasingly overweight and unwell.

 Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables for weight control and good health.

But what if you are one of the few that eat organically grown fruits and vegetables, watch your sugar and salt intake, avoid trans-fats and hydrogenated oils, and choose free-range meats and poultry? You are doing pretty well, right?  Wrong.

In an ideal world, this type of diet would meet all of your nutritional needs. Unfortunately, the harsh light of reality tells us that this is not so. Even whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, and grains, are often grown in nutrient-depleted soils, and don't have enough of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Related:  How Supplements Help to Correct Nutrient Deficiencies

You could increase your produce intake even more…or you could augment your already healthy diet with a supplement product that gives you a plethora of fruits and vegetables in supplement or powder form.  We should all probably do both! 


Why Fluoridation May Be Making America’s Lead Crisis Worse

by Institute for Vibrant Living

The stories coming from Flint, Michigan about children sickened by lead-contaminated tap water rapidly drew the attention of the rest of America. Now there is research piling up linking the decades old practice of fluoridation and a worsening of the lead poisoning crisis.

The combination of lead pipes and fluoridation in water: not a healthy mix.

Lead Pipes and Fluoride

Fluoride is one of the most abundant elements in the Earth’s crust and is found naturally in soil, water, foods, and minerals. It can also be synthesized in a laboratory.  What many people do not know is fluoride can leach lead from water pipes.

Lead pipes were banned in the U.S. in 1986, but millions of gallons of municipal tap water still travels through old lead pipes and lead-containing brass fixtures (like faucets.)  When fluoride is added to the drinking water supply it leaches the lead out of the pipes and into the tap water we drink.

Why Is Fluoride Added To Drinking Water Supplies?

Fluorosilic acid is a corrosive fluoride chemical that is obtained from the emission scrubbers used in the phosphate industry.  FSA is added to drinking water to help prevent tooth decay after scientists in the 1930’s discovered people living in areas with naturally fluoridated water had fewer cavities and tooth decay.

Fluoride is extremely helpful in preventing cavities because it protects teeth from the demineralizing effects of acids on teeth produced by the combination of sugars and bacteria present in people’s mouths.  Fluoride helps with remineralization, especially for children as they lose baby teeth and form permanent teeth.

Fluoride Makes Water More Acidic

In the past few years, water department engineers have found that adding FSA to drinking water increases its acidity.  This makes the water more corrosive and unhealthy for the body as acidity leads to many medical conditions and cancer tumors are known to thrive in an acidic environment. 

In the case of Flint, Michigan, drinking water was being obtained from the chlorine-laden Flint River which, combined with FSA, made the water much more corrosive and leached toxic levels of lead out of old pipes that provided water to its residents.

Though Flint, Michigan is in the news right now for lead-laden water, this is not a new problem.  Back in the early 1990’s, the water departments in Maryland and Washington noted a significant drop in lead levels after fluoridation programs were terminated.

The combination of old lead pipes and fluoridated water with lowered pH levels makes water dangerously corrosive and easily contaminated with lead.

RelatedWhat You Need to Know About Lead In Your Skiincare Products

Debate over Fluoridation Programs

Controversy rages on about the practice of adding fluoride to drinking water.  Supporters of the practice say the dramatic decrease in cavities and tooth decay especially among children makes it a good practice. They also say there is no concrete evidence that ingesting small amounts of fluoride is harmful; and that the lifelong health benefits to teeth make it a public health service.

Opponents of fluoridation say that adding fluoride to drinking water is unsafe because levels can easily change, leading to fluoride poisoning.  They also say it is just a money-making scheme for the phosphate industry, that instead of having to clean up their emissions scrubbers of FSA and properly dispose of it, they sell it for profit to cities for their drinking water.  Opponents of fluoridation also state that fluoride is a drug given to the public yet has never been approved by the FDA and that each household should be able to choose whether or not their water is artificially fluoridated or not.

The Deadly Effects of High Lead Levels in the Blood Stream

Regardless of what side you are on, there is no disputing the deadly effects of high lead levels in the bloodstream.  The long-term health consequences of lead exposure like headaches, sleep problems, diminished cognitive function, fatigue, anemia and even kidney failure are largely irreversible.  Since the CDC had conceded that fluoridation increases the acidity of water and leads to increased levels of lead in drinking water, parents should know the signs and symptoms of lead poisoning and stay informed about this public health crisis.


Researchers Reveal Melanoma Is More Deadly For Pregnant Women

by IVL Products

Melanoma is a cancer that affects certain types of skin cells.  While many experts target outdoor enthusiasts when it comes to taking precautions against this type of cancer, a recent study shows vulnerability in a new group:  pregnant women. The study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology revealed some shocking results when it came to pregnant women and skin cancer, specifically melanoma.

Pregnant or recently pregnant women experience higher rates for death from melanoma than women who are not pregnant.

Researchers studied 462 women with melanoma who were 49 years of age or younger.  Within the larger group were 41 women who had been diagnosed with the skin cancer while pregnant or within one year of giving birth.  

Researchers found that women diagnosed with melanoma while pregnant or recently pregnant were five times more likely to die from it than women with melanoma who were not pregnant.  Melanoma diagnosed in pregnant or recently pregnant woman was nearly seven times more likely to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body), and women in this group were nearly ten times more likely to experience a recurrence of the cancer within 7 ½ years.

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The study's results do not indicate that pregnant or recently pregnant women are more likely to develop melanoma, yet they do show melanoma is more aggressive in this group of women.  While they have not determined a cause for the increased virulence, the researchers do venture a few possibilities.  It may be related to a diminished immune system that helps prevent rejection of the fetus or it could be caused by hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy like a rise in estrogen levels.


Research shows that when it comes to skin cancer, women from 20 to 40 years of age are experiencing rising rates.  Females in this age group who have a history of heavy sun exposure, family members with skin cancer, or a large number of moles should examine their skin on a regular basis and contact a dermatologist with any concerns.  Women with high risks for skin cancer may also want to consult with a dermatologist before planning a family.

In addition to regular self-examination, most experts recommend the following tips for preventing melanoma and other types of skin cancer:

  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, specifically 10 am to 4 pm
  • Avoid tanning lamps or beds
  • Apply a broad-spectrum, natural sunscreen if expecting to be in the sun longer than 15 minutes
  • Wear protecting clothing

Your Sugar Cravings Explained

by Institute for Vibrant Living

In a recent episode of the CBS TV show 60 Minutes, Dr. Robert Lustig stated that sugar is as addictive as cocaine.  Sugar cravings certainly have all the same attributes, as the more you consume, the more your body craves another “fix.” The only way to beat the cycle of sugar addiction is by eating less and therefore craving less, but it’s not easy.

Sugar cravings are a sure sign of sugar addiction

What are Sugar Cravings?

We often excuse sugar addiction with phrases such as “having a sweet tooth,” but those sugar cravings are down to hormones that are stimulated by the brain. When your body feels it lacks something essential, it creates cravings. In the case of sugar, it is reacting to a process in the body triggered by eating sugar on the first place.

The body needs glucose energy to operate and the main source is carbohydrates. If we eat a snack or meal containing sugar, such as a doughnut, the sugar hits the bloodstream fast. The hormone that controls blood sugar levels is insulin, which is released to process the sudden sugar surge. The energy surge quickly passes, leaving the body feeling low and lacking in energy. Naturally, it generates more sugar cravings, creating a cycle of sugar highs and lows along with insulin surges.

Once you understand how sugar addiction works, you can tackle the problem by eating a high protein, low sugar snack such as nuts or seeds. This provides the energy the body needs, but it is released slowly and steadily into the bloodstream. This means the energy and satisfaction last far longer than a doughnut sugar spike and there is no risk of high amounts of insulin surging around in the body.

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How to Kick Sugar Addiction

According to the Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes 128 pounds of added sugar each year (22 teaspoons per day) yet the World Health Organization recommends no more than 6 teaspoons per day.  Sugar is in many favorite foods, often disguised as high-fructose corn syrup, agave sweeteners, molasses, maltodextrin, dextrose and honey. Check the labels of some of your everyday foods and see the amount of sugars and carbs (which the body breaks down into glucose sugar) they contain. You are probably eating far more sugar than you ever imagined.

The best way to beat sugar cravings is by cutting down on processed and packaged foods. Make your own soups, sauces and dressings and use stevia if you need a touch of sweetness. Avoid trigger foods that feed your sugar addiction, such as nutella or cookies.

Banish candy from the desktop to reduce temptation. Wean yourself off sweet sodas (liquid candy) and substitute with water, green tea or other thirst-quenching alternatives. Even diet soda can trigger sugar cravings yet contains no nutritional value whatsoever. Once you kick those sugar cravings, you will gradually reset your taste buds, find renewed energy and have a healthier body. 


Metastatic Breast Cancer: Unlocking the Mysteries

by Health News

Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women (behind skin cancer). Metastatic breast cancer, or stage 4 cancer, is diagnosed when the cancer has spread from the original site it was detected, to the brain, liver, bones or lungs.  Breast cancer that remains localized to the breast is less of a threat than when it metastasizes, or spreads to other areas of the body.  Recent discoveries have unlocked some of the mysteries surrounding metastatic breast cancer that could lead to breakthroughs in treatment and increase survival rates for those with a stage IV diagnosis.

Unlocking the Metastatic Breast Cancer Mystery

Breast Cancer Facts and Figures

Though breast cancer rates declined in the early 2000’s, it is still one of the most deadly forms of cancer afflicting women (men, too, though rarely) and more than 40,000 women die from it each year.

Breast cancer is more prevalent among African-American women and they are more likely to die from it than Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian or Native American women.  Any woman with a first degree relative who was diagnosed with the disease has double the risk of developing it and 5-10% of breast cancers are linked to mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene.  Interestingly though, 85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.

Part of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Mystery Solved

A new study led by a group of international researchers revealed that breast cancer cells multiply and spread via the cancer’s stem cells, which exist in two states.  Each state plays an important role in metastasis, or spreading to other parts of the body.

According to the researchers’ findings the stem cells in the EMT (epithelial-mesenchymal transition) state on the outer layer of the tumor appear to be dormant but can penetrate the bloodstream and travel to the brain, lungs, bones or liver. Once in the new body part these cancer stem cells transition into the MET (mesenchymal-epithelial transition) state and begin to replicate the tumor in the breast, which in turn also metastasize in another part of the body.

Despite the complexity of this process, and that even one glitch in it completely disrupts the stem cells function and halts the spread of the tumor, these stem cells perform like clockwork, resulting in thousands of deaths per year.

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A Promising First Step Toward A Cure

This research is a promising first step toward understanding how stage I becomes the most deadly, stage IV breast cancer.  The next step is to design tests that can track a tumor’s journey from the breast to other parts of the body and how to disrupt the stem cells and halt the spread of the disease. As of now, current tests don’t screen for EMT cells.

The need to unravel more of the mysteries of metastatic breast cancer is urgent to help reduce the number of deaths each year. The efforts to establish a national data base with tumor and blood samples, medical records of those with stage 4 cancers, and a record of those with a family history of the disease could greatly advance the current research and yield results sooner for those battling metastatic breast cancer.


The Power of Plants

by Health News

Plants are under constant siege from animals, insects, humans, and the environment.  In addition, being literally rooted to the ground, it can be difficult to protect themselves. Fortunately, Mother Nature has provided for them.

Learn about secondary metabolites that help plants— and people— flourish nutritionally and help defend against viruses and germs.

They grow physical defenses like thorns or thick bark or spines. Or they can create chemical shields…defenses that allow them to fight fungus, battle viruses or bacteria, produce off-putting aromas or taste, or even forming poisonous pathogens to deter insects and animals alike from consuming them. These defenses are made possible, thanks to secondary metabolites.

Secondary metabolites are Darwin’s little secret. In addition to the defenses listed above, other secondary metabolites allow the plant to flourish in low sunlight or little water, to sustain high heats and lots of water, attract more insects to them to promote pollination, or promote quick healing of injuries sustained to the plant.

As it turns out, these secondary metabolites don’t just serve plants. Research has shown us that they can improve heart health (resveratrol), reduce inflammation (saponins, a class of plant steroids), ease pain (codeine and morphine from the opium poppy), treat cancer (glucosinolates), fight infection (erythromycin), and alleviate headaches (salicin from white willow bark). And this just the tip of the iceberg!

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Contrary to what the pharmaceutical companies would like us to believe, you cannot simply remove these nutrients and use them in isolation and expect them to perform to their full capacity. The real key to the power of these secondary metabolites is the way they interact with the other metabolites and micronutrients in the plant to provide the best health benefits possible.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution. Eat the foods that contain these powerhouses. These include primarily fruits and vegetables such as cherries, tomatoes, grapes, pineapple, apple, beets, and more.


Cranberries for Cancer

by IVL Products

When you think of antioxidants, you should be thinking of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables that are not only pleasing to the eye, but to the palate as well. Along with providing vitamins and fiber, fruits and vegetables are important for their role in absorbing free radicals.

Cranberries are delicious and add color to any dish or dessert, yet research shows that cranberries add nutrients to our diet that helps detour illness and disease.

Free radicals are highly reactive forms of oxygen that are missing an electron. When they come into contact with normal molecules, they try to steal an electron, damaging the healthy cell and its DNA. In fact, some estimates show that every cell in your body takes 10,000 oxidative hits to its DNA daily! Antioxidants work to counteract the damage caused by free radicals.

This is likely why antioxidants are effective in helping preventing against cancer. Antioxidants prevent free radical damage, which in turns prevents cellular damage. This cellular damage, over time, can damage the DNA.

According to a study published in AACN Clinical Issues in 2002, when the damage is extensive and irreversible, it may lead to cancer. The hypothesis is that since antioxidants prevent free radical damage, they can decrease oxidative stress, damage to the DNA, and therefore help prevent cancer.

And when it comes to particular antioxidant-rich, cancer-fighting foods, the humble cranberry is one of the most powerful.

One researcher from the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth set out to discover exactly what it was in this curious little berry that made it such a cancer-fighting powerhouse. After reviewing nearly 40 different studies on cranberries and cancer, he found that there are three main phytochemicals that seem to be responsible for cranberry’s anti-cancer power:

  • Proanthocyanidins (powerful antioxidants),
  • Anthocyanins (anti-cancer; anti-inflammatory), and
  • Ursolic acid (anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative).

In vitro studies have shown that proanthocyanidins (PAC) have blocked the growth of cancer in human lung cells, colon cells, and leukemia cells. Similar in vitro studies have found that PACs induce cell death, particular breast cancer, colon cancer, oral cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and esophageal cancer cells.

The anthocyanins found in cranberries appear to reduce inflammation, which is commonly associated with cancer risk. Additionally, these anthocyanins have been shown to block an enzyme (ornithine decarboxylase), which is known to promote cancer growth. Plus, anthocyanins limit angiogenesis, or the growth of new blood vessels. This is important because cancer needs this growth to spread.

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But the real hero in cranberries just may be ursolic acid. This little-known nutrient has been shown to be cytotoxic toward cancer cells. In fact, an in vitro study found that PACs and ursolic acid from cranberries brought on cell death in colon cancer cells. But, more promisingly, is that an in vivo study (in an animal) found that ursolic acid decreased the size, weight, and eventually presence of breast cancer cells in mice.

Clearly cranberries are proof that great things really do come in small packages.


Where do Brain Tumors Come From?

by IVL Products

The idea of a brain tumor strikes fear into the hearts of most people.  However, learning more about how tumors in the brain develop and where they come from can help dispel some of the anxiety generated by this terrifying topic.  Some facts may be surprising, and a little knowledge helps prepare people in the event of a brain tumor diagnosis for themselves or a loved one. 

Brain tumors can start in the brain or start in another area of the body and spread to the brain.

A brain tumor is a growth or mass of abnormal cells in the brain or central nervous system that can affect ordinary brain function.  There are over 120 kinds of these tumors, and they form in different areas and different ways for everyone.

Tumors that originate in brain cells are called primary brain tumors. While these tumors can spread to other areas of the brain or to the spine, they rarely spread (or metastasize) to additional organs.  Primary brain tumors can be either benign or malignant.

Benign tumors are not cancerous. They grow slowly, have well-defined borders, and do not invade other tissue.  Malignant tumors, on the other hand, are cancerous and they do not have well-defined borders.  Because they grow quickly and invade surrounding tissue, malignant tumors have the potential to endanger lives.

Starting in another part of the body and metastasizing to the brain, secondary brain tumors account for the majority of brain cancers and are always malignant. Cancers of the breast, kidney, lung, or skin are all types that can spread to the brain.

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Brain Tumor Symptoms and Diagnosis

Certain people exhibit no symptoms at all when a brain tumor is discovered. Others have symptoms that vary according to the type of tumor and its location.  Some symptoms associated with brain tumors include:

  • Difficulty with speech and comprehension
  • Frequent headaches
  • Impaired coordination
  • Personality changes
  • Seizures
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Vision problems
People exhibiting any of the symptoms above should consult with a medical professional.  Make sure to discuss all symptoms fully for the most accurate diagnosis.  As part of their diagnostic process, doctors often order a brain scan in the form of an MRI.  A biopsy may be necessary and other medical professionals may be brought in to help establish a diagnosis. 

Fluoride Dangers: Myth or Fact?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

With a trend toward better health on the rise in the U.S, the topic of fluoride often makes the news.  Although some natural health advocates have concerns about fluoride safety, many dentists continue to advocate its use for reducing cavities.  Learning more about fluoride dangers and whether or not they are real can help people make healthier choices for themselves and their families. 

Fluorine combined with sodium makes sodium fluoride, a chemical found in many brands of toothpaste.

Fluorine is a natural gas that can irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory system.  Combining fluorine with sodium makes sodium fluoride, the type of fluoride found in dental products, some foods, and drinking water in some communities.  Like any chemical, fluoride poses a health risk if people ingest too much of it.

Because it accumulates in plants and animals (including humans), fluoride can cause bones to become brittle and increase risks for skeletal damage if ingested in large amounts.  Skeletal fluorosis can change the structure of bones and cause limbs to bend.  It can calcify ligaments and result in stiff, painful muscles.  Extremely high amounts of fluoride can affect reproductive organs and fertility. 

While these are real fluoride dangers, very small amounts of the chemical have been proven to prevent cavities and tooth decay if used correctly.  Fluoride works to protect teeth by replacing lost minerals in tooth enamel and reducing the ability of bacteria to make acid.

The Debate over Fluoridation

The mandatory fluoridation of public water supplies has caused a great deal of debate over the last few decades.  While many studies show that small amounts of fluoride added to water can reduce cavities, others show that moderate amounts of fluoride in early childhood can lead to enamel fluorosis, a condition which causes teeth to become stained and pitted. 

Because of this, health professionals recommend that children under two years of age should not be exposed to fluoride when teeth are cleaned, and children from two to six should use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste when brushing teeth.

Due to mandatory fluoridation of many public water supplies, many grocery products like juices, sports drinks, sodas, beer, tea drinks, and even infant foods contain fluoride.  With more and more products containing fluoride, many people — particularly parents of young children — worry that fluoridated water might raise risks for over-exposure to the chemical.

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Fluoride and Cancer

According to the CDC and the American Cancer Society, the majority of studies show no link between cancer and fluoride.  However, a study in 1990 found that male rats exposed to fluoridated water showed a higher incidence for a certain type of bone cancer.

While the American Dental Association, World Health Organization, and other groups recommend the regular use of fluoride for improving dental health, fluoridating public water still remains a hot topic for debate.  Fortunately, regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice per day is enough to keep tooth decay and cavities at bay.  Remember, children under two years of age should not be exposed to fluoride toothpaste, and kids from two through six years of age should use only a pea-sized amount when brushing and spit toothpaste out when finished.


How Do People Get Addicted to Sugar?

by IVL Products

With obesity a widespread public health problem in the United States, it may not be surprising to know that the average American consumes roughly 22 teaspoons of sugar every day.  In addition to being a key ingredient in sweets like cake, pastries, cookies, doughnuts, and candy, sugar can be found in a wide range of grocery items, from spaghetti sauce and cereal to canned soup.  In fact, some experts believe that 80 percent of our food choices contain some form of sugar.  With such high consumption, it's easy to understand why people get addicted to sugar.

Even though you don't have a sweet tooth, you still may be addicted to sugar.

The Brain on Sugar

During periods of low energy or stress, certain people feel a compulsion to eat sweets.  While satisfying the craving may seem like an emotional choice, the impulse actually has physical roots.  Research shows that sugar lights up the same areas of the brain that are activated by drugs and alcohol.  Tasting sugar raises levels of the "feel-good" chemicals dopamine and serotonin in the brain and strengthens the desire for more sugar.

The Body on Sugar

Eating sugar also has an effect on the body.  When people eat sweets, the sugar consumed turns quickly into glucose in the bloodstream.  The body responds by transporting the glucose into the cells for energy, which triggers an overflow of insulin into the system.  Too much insulin causes the blood sugar to drop suddenly, leaving people feeling drained, shaky, and craving more sugar.

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The Research

A study on lab rats at Princeton University found that those on high-sugar diets showed brain changes similar to rats accustomed to narcotics or nicotine. They also demonstrated cravings and relapses that indicated addiction, and when the rats were deprived of sugar they exhibited anxiety similar to that of withdrawal.

Beware of Starchy Foods

While some people may not have a sweet tooth, they still may be addicted to sugar. Starchy foods contain carbohydrates that break down quickly into simple sugars in the body.  A few examples include foods made with white flour like bread, bagels, crackers, and pasta; white potato products like French fries and potato chips; or white rice.

Strategies for Reducing Sugar Consumption

According to the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than six teaspoons of sugar daily, and men should limit daily sugar to nine teaspoons.  People who feel they are addicted to sugar can reduce consumption by following a few strategies:

  • Replace desserts with a piece of whole fruit or a bowl of fresh berries.
  • Snack on foods high in protein like hardboiled eggs to curb sugar cravings.  Protein digests slowly and keeps people feeling full longer.
  • Get energy from high fiber foods like 100 percent whole-grain toast with peanut butter or a bowl of oatmeal. These complex carbohydrates provide energy slowly instead of spiking blood sugar.
Read labels and look for other types of sugar like honey, agave nectar, cane juice, any kind of syrups, and words ending with the suffix "-ose."