Improve Your Balance with Four Healthy Habits

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Balance is the awareness of body position and the ability to distribute weight in order to remain upright.  Young people have few problems maintaining balance on the playground or the athletic field, but as people age, balance weakens.  This can result in falls and injuries in later life.  In fact, 30 to 50 percent of people over the age of 65 suffer at least one fall, some never fully recovering.  Fortunately, four healthy habits can help improve balance and enhance fitness levels throughout life.

Practicing healthy habits helps people retain good balance as they age.


1.  Stand on one leg

The beauty of this exercise is its convenience.  You can do it on your coffee break or while you're watching television.  You can do it while standing in line at the post office or store.  Shoot for about 45 seconds on each side, and when you have mastered that, try it with your eyes closed—but have something to hold onto if you try doing it with your eyes closed.

2.  Practice tai chi or yoga.  

Tai chi and yoga offer big benefits for balance as people age.  Studies show that people in their mid-60s who practice tai chi score in the 90th percentile on measures of balance and stability according to American Fitness Standards.  A study from Temple University showed that women 65 years of age and older who took yoga classes twice a week showed better ankle stability and reported more confidence in walking.  Because 22 percent of people 65 and older have a fear of falling, confidence in walking makes a big difference when it comes to quality of life.

3.  Build strong legs with squats.  

Few healthy habits enhance mobility and balance like squats.  Connective tissue and nerve endings deteriorate with age, and doing squats helps rebuild muscle memory by improving communication between the muscles and the brain.  To perform a basic squat:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and clasp your hands in front of your body, about 12 inches from your chest.
  2. Keeping your back straight and abdominal muscles tight, lower your body slowly (as if sitting) until legs are parallel to the floor.
  3. Hold for five seconds.
  4. Pressing the heels into the floor, rise slowly until standing.
  5. Perform two or three sets of ten repetitions each, resting about 90 seconds in between sets.  (Hold onto the back of a chair in front of you for increased stability.)

4.  Get a good night's sleep.  

Studies show that sleep deprivation slows reaction time, which affects balance.  Additional research conducted at California Pacific Medical Center found a link between sleep deprivation and falls.  The study examined almost 3,000 aging females and found that those getting less than seven hours of nightly sleep were more likely to fall than women getting more sleep.  Healthy habits that contribute to a good night's sleep include a regular sleeping/waking schedule; a warm bath or a cup of chamomile tea; and avoidance of television, cellphones and computers before bedtime.  Supplements like melatonin can help.

Related:  Sleep Disorders Linked to Serious Health Issues

A large percentage of people over the age of 65 fall every year due to diminished balance.   An injury caused by a fall can result in lost independence, related illness and early death.  The healthy living tips listed above can help improve balance, lower risks for falling and enhance fitness levels for years to come. 




Tips for Better Balance & Coordination: Pilates

by Institute for Vibrant Living

We often underestimate the value of good balance, but this necessary skill helps us navigate many situations in life like climbing stairs, riding a bike or taking a shower.  As we age, our ability to balance begins to wane, but healthy habits like Pilates can help.  Pilates is a whole-body form of exercise that boosts coordination and balance by aligning the spine and pelvis, building muscle strength and improving flexibility.  It was introduced to America in the 1920s by a German physical trainer, Joseph Pilates and has since become a popular method of exercise.

Pilates is one of several healthy habits that build better balance.


Research on Pilates and Balance

A number of studies have shown the benefits of Pilates for balance.  Research published in the "Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation" examined a group of subjects over the age of 60 who were prescribed either five weeks of regular activity or five weeks of Pilates training.  After completion of the first five-week period, subjects waited six weeks and performed the alternate intervention.  Results showed that participation in the Pilates program resulted in better static and dynamic balance in subjects in comparison to regular activity.

Pilates Exercises for Better Balance

To help build better balance, try three Pilates-based exercises:

Toe Raises:  Toe raises build calf strength and promote better balance.  Stand with heels and calves together and toes positioned slightly outward.  Pull abdominal muscles in and move shoulders back and down.  Lift up onto the balls of the feet, and squeeze the glutes as you come down, but don't bring heels all the way to the floor.  Keep them slightly elevated, and repeat raises for 10 or 15 repetitions.  Then, do repetitions twice as quickly as many times as you can.

Standing Pilates Lunge:  This exercise promotes flexible hips, builds leg strength and improves balance.  Stand with your legs together. Moving the right knee into a deep bend, step the left foot straight back into a lunge.  Keep the hips and toes forward and the back straight.  Rest hands on top of the right thigh if needed.  Straighten the left leg carefully and hold for 30 seconds.  Repeat on the other side.

Standing Leg Circle:  This exercise encourages better balance with an easy gentle motion.  Stand with feet together and arms stretched out to the side.  Putting weight on the left leg, bend the right knee slightly with the toe pointed down.  Sweep the right leg forward, out to the side and back, making a circle.  Return to the bent-knee position, and perform 10 repetitions.  Repeat on the other side. 

Related:  Yoga Lowers Fatigue and Inflammation in Breast Cancer Survivors

Additional Benefits of Pilates

When it comes to healthy habits, Pilates offers many benefits.  In addition to improving balance and coordination, Pilates helps promote:

  • Better posture
  • Quicker rehabilitation from injury
  • Increased lung capacity
  • Enhanced concentration
  • Stress relief
  • Improved fitness and athletic performance

By building control and stability with a smaller range of motion and progressing to a larger range of motion, Pilates is the perfect exercise for older adults.  Although the impact of Pilates is gentler on the body than other forms of exercise, elderly people should always consult with a health care provider before beginning any exercise regimen.




High Blood Pressure: Understanding the Numbers

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Blood pressure plays a big role when it comes to good health, but many people take their annual reading for granted.  A set of numbers deemed "normal" is often enough to calm the mind until next year's checkup.  Learning more about the meaning behind the numbers helps empower people and prevent high blood pressure.

Regular readings help to diagnose and treat high blood pressure.


Blood Pressure Defined

As the heart beats, it pumps blood into the blood vessels to carry oxygen to various parts of the body.  Blood pressure is the force exerted by the pumped blood against vessel walls.  When the heart beats, blood pressure rises, and when the heart rests between beats, blood pressure falls.

Systolic and Diastolic Pressure

A blood pressure reading is a set of two numbers, with one over the other like a fraction. Referred to as systolic blood pressure, the top number measures the pressure of blood when the heart beats (or contracts).  Known as diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number measures the pressure of blood in between heart beats.

Related:  Watermelon Lowers Blood Pressure

Healthy Blood Pressure Numbers

According to the American Heart Association, a normal measurement of blood pressure should show a reading with a top number between 90 and 120 and a bottom number between 60 and 80.  Numbers that are higher than the normal range suggest the heart is working too hard, which can impact health in a number of ways.  Numbers that are too low mean the heart and body may not be receiving enough oxygenated blood.  High blood pressure is also known as hypertension, and lower-than-normal blood pressure is referred to as hypotension.

High Blood Pressure Symptoms

Because high blood pressure is essentially a condition without symptoms, it is often referred to as the "silent killer." When blood pressure reaches emergency levels, symptoms may include:

  • A very high reading
  • Severe headache
  • Severe anxiety
  • Nosebleed

Lifestyle Practices for Reducing Blood Pressure

People with pre-hypertension (120/80 to 140/90) can benefit from lifestyle changes that help to reduce blood pressure.  People with higher readings may require medication, but these practices are still beneficial to people with any blood pressure reading.

Get more exercise: Consistent exercise is more helpful to blood pressure that sporadic exercise.  In other words, shoot for 30 minutes of exercise every day in lieu of hours at the gym on weekends. 

Reduce sodium intake:  Season foods with herbs and spices instead of salt, and steer clear of fast foods and processed foods often packed with sodium.  Adults with normal blood pressure should aim for 2,300 mg of sodium per day or less.  Adults with high blood pressure should limit daily sodium intake to 1,500 mg. 

Maintain a healthy body weight:  Research shows that for overweight individuals, a loss of even five to ten pounds can help lower blood pressure. 

Limit alcohol intake:  Having more than three drinks at one time can raise blood pressure temporarily, and repeated heavy drinking can result in long-term high blood pressure.

Manage stress:  Stress can cause the heart to beat faster and blood vessels to narrow, which raises blood pressure temporarily.  Manage stress levels with exercise, meditation, yoga, a warm bath or soft music.

Don't smoke.  Nicotine in cigarettes narrows arteries, raising heart rate and blood pressure.  To protect lung health and promote healthy blood pressure, smokers should consult with their doctor about making a plan to quit.



Take Vitamin D to Prevent Falls

by Institute for Vibrant Living

According to research, up to 41 percent of American adults are deficient in vitamin D.  Studies show that a lack of vitamin D raises risks for osteoporosis and may affect neuromuscular control and coordination.  This may explain the link between vitamin D deficiency and a higher risk for falls, especially in elderly men.  In balance tests requiring stepping and leaning tasks, elderly men with low levels of vitamin D showed poor performance.  While elderly people have a harder time absorbing vitamin D, eating certain foods and other healthy habits can help stabilize vitamin D levels.

Healthy habits for boosting vitamin D include adding fatty fish to the diet.


Healthy Living Tips for Getting More Vitamin D

Soak up the sun for short periods.  When sunlight hits the skin, the body makes its own vitamin D.  Exposure to ultraviolet B rays triggers the skin to convert cholesterol to vitamin D3.  During warm parts of the year, roughly 20 minutes of daily sunshine (sans sunscreen) results in about 90 percent of the vitamin D needed for the day.  After 20 minutes, people should apply organic sunscreen to protect the skin from too much sunlight.

Enjoy salmon.  When it comes to healthy habits for boosting vitamin D, eating fatty fish is one of the best.  In fact, one salmon filet provides all the vitamin D needed for one day.  Enjoy fresh steaks or filets for dinner or salmon-salad sandwiches or wraps for lunch.  In addition to providing vitamin D, salmon is an excellent source of essential fatty acids and lean protein.

Related:  Are You Vitamin D Deficient?  Take this Quiz!

Drink milk.  Most brands of pasteurized milk in the United States deliver good quantities of vitamin D.  Whole milk contains the most vitamin D, but skim milk still offers about 20 percent of the recommended daily value.  Many plant-based milk products like soy milk, almond milk and coconut milk also offer significant amounts of vitamin D, some even more than cow's milk.

Choose products fortified with vitamin D.  Check labels on breakfast cereals, yogurt and orange juice at the grocery store.  Many are fortified with vitamin D and other important nutrients. 

Take vitamin D3 supplementsVitamin D3 supplements offer an easy remedy for getting adequate amounts of vitamin D during the fall or winter months.  To protect bones, adults should aim for 800-1000 IU of vitamin D3 per day unless otherwise specified by a health care provider.

Getting adequate amounts of vitamin D is important for bone health and good balance.  Because aging affects the absorption of certain nutrients, sufficient vitamin D is especially essential to the elderly.  While many studies show a link between falls and insufficient vitamin D levels, others show a correlation between falls and high-dose vitamin D supplementation.   Therefore, elderly people should have vitamin D levels checked before beginning a supplementary regimen.







Understanding Zika & Tips To Avoid Contraction

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Zika is the latest health problem to affect tropical travelers. There are now confirmed cases of Zika in the U.S.  We investigate the truth about Zika is and offer some healthy living tips for avoiding the serious side effects that this mosquito-borne virus can cause.

Healthy habits include measures to avoid mosquito bites and Zika.


What is Zika?

Zika is a virus spread mainly through the bite of an infected mosquito. Named after the Zika Forest of Uganda where it was first found, until recently, the virus was contained in a narrow Equatorial belt of Africa and Asia. An epidemic of Zika outbreaks has now been confirmed in multiple countries including the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, Singapore and the Pacific Islands.

Anyone planning to travel to these areas, particularly women of child-bearing age, should follow the latest healthy living tips and information about Zika from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Most people who contract Zika have mild symptoms including a fever; a fine, red rash on parts of the body; painful joints; and conjunctivitis or itchy red eyes. The symptoms can linger for several weeks but the only treatment is to take acetaminophen to control the fever (not aspirin or NSAIDS) and drink plenty of fluids.

The only way to diagnose Zika from other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever or chikungunya is through a blood test. For some people, particularly children, Zika symptoms are so mild they do not even know they have the virus but their brains may be affected long-term. There is currently no vaccine or cure for Zika, but once you have had it you are protected against future infection.

Related:  Natural Ways to Avoid Bug Bites

Health Concerns Surrounding Zika

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency concerning Zika. This was because the virus was found to be associated with causing brain damage in unborn babies. If a woman is infected with Zika during pregnancy she can transmit it to the baby, causing birth defects such as microcephaly.

Healthy habits recommend that men traveling to areas where Zika virus is found should use a condom to avoid passing on the Zika virus to a pregnant partner. As doctors do not know how long the virus may remain active in semen, men who may have been infected with Zika should take steps to protect their sexual partner for at least six months. Women should use barrier protection for at least eight weeks after possible Zika exposure.

Healthy Living Tips for Avoiding Zika

Until more is known about the effects of Zika and how long the virus may survive in a victim, the CDC has issued several serious healthy living tips and warnings. Pregnant women should avoid traveling to areas where there are known outbreaks of Zika. Those who have inadvertently been in contact with Zika should have a blood test for Zika, even if they have no symptoms.

All tropical travelers should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, preferably made from fabric treated with permethrin, to deter mosquito bites. Regularly apply insect repellant containing deet and read blogs and books that suggest more healthy habits for avoiding Zika.






Is Your Doctor Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Roughly 70 million Americans have high blood pressure, a medical condition that boosts risks for heart attack and stroke.  Research shows about 20 percent of people diagnosed with high blood pressure have something called "white-coat hypertension."  This is a term used to explain a higher-than-normal blood pressure reading related to the stress some people experience from going to the doctor.  Stress has been shown to raise blood pressure temporarily, but you can learn how to lower blood pressure at the doctor's office with four handy tips.   

Sometimes, just the stress of going to the doctor can result in high blood pressure.


Be aware of your anxiety.  Awareness of doctor-related anxiety is the first step toward controlling it.  Arrive to your appointment ten to fifteen minutes early so you can use techniques to calm down.  As you wait, practice deep breathing or listen to soft, relaxing music on an mp3 player.

Don’t talk.  A number of studies conducted on adults and children in different settings showed a link between talking and elevated blood pressure readings.  Some subjects already diagnosed with high blood pressure experienced increases greater than 25-40 percent within 30 seconds of someone speaking.

Related:  New Study Suggests Folate Reduces Risk of Hypertension

Pay attention to your body position.  Research shows that the truest blood pressure readings are those taken when patients are sitting in a chair that provides back and arm support.  It is also important to place both feet flat on the ground for accurate testing.

Avoid caffeinated beverages.  Although it is unclear why, caffeine can cause a temporary spike in blood pressure.  While some researchers think caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline which contributes to a blood pressure rise, others believe caffeine may inhibit a specific hormone that keeps arteries open for proper blood flow. 

Normal Blood Pressure   

To be considered a 'normal' blood pressure reading, the top number (or systolic pressure) should fall between 90 and 120 and the bottom number (or diastolic pressure) should fall between 60 and 80.  Readings that are higher than this may require careful monitoring or medication. 

High blood pressure increases risks for heart attack and stroke, so regular testing is important.  To help determine if white-coat hypertension is a possibility for you, check your blood pressure with a home monitor and compare readings with those at the doctor's office.  If it is determined you have white coat hypertension, you may just need to find better ways to manage stress.  Techniques like meditation, yoga, tai chi, guided imagery, self-hypnosis and more can help curb anxiety at the doctor's office and in many other areas of life.


The Worst Diet for Stress Reduction

by Institute for Vibrant Living

You are what you eat. It’s trite but true and some of the most common foods we eat increase the negative effects of stress on our mental and physical health.  Changing your diet may help change your life in a positive way by helping you manage stress more effectively while enhancing your overall physical health.

The worst foods for stress can and should be all but eliminated from your diet to be replaced by wholesome, more natural foods with the essentials like lean protein, high quality carbohydrates, very little sugar, low in fat and with fiber, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants.

Avoid foods that worsen the effect of stress

The Dirty Diet

Highly processed foods are your body’s worst enemy. They provide very little nutrients while being loaded with empty calories made up of sugar and artery-clogging fat.  The foods that fall into this category are most things that come in a box or plastic wrapper and have white flour, sugar and hydrogenated oils listed first in the ingredients.  Here are some of the worst offenders:

Doughnuts, cookies, and cakes:  These are just sugar and fat bombs without fiber, vitamins or minerals of any kind. One glazed doughnut can have upward of 600 calories and will send your blood glucose levels soaring. You may get a temporary sugar high but it won’t be worth the ugly sugar crash that will leave you feeling sluggish and less able to tolerate life’s daily stressors.

Pretzels, potato chips, tortilla chips and crackers:  These foods are usually just a substitute for an eating utensil to transport some kind of fatty dip to your mouth. They offer no real vitamins or minerals, no fiber and are made with highly processed white flour, which spikes glucose levels in the blood. They are usually loaded with fat, excess salt and it is so easy to eat half of a bag of them. They don’t fill you up so once you come down from the sugar high they provide you will be looking for more food, packing on pounds and increasing your risk of diseases like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

Related:  Healthy Food that Tastes Better than Junk Food

Drinks:  Lattes, soda, juice, cocktails and beer:  It is so easy to guzzle down these empty calories that offer nothing in the way of health benefits. The caffeine boost in the latte will not be able to offset the sugar crash it also brings with it, and the carbonation in soda will leave you feeling bloated but still hungry.  Hello obesity!  Hard liquors mixed with sugary concoctions like juice will only make you tipsy and ultimately hung-over. Beer, while not sweet, is basically drinking a glass of sugar. Even a glass of pure orange, apple or cranberry juice is just a lot of sugar minus the fiber and nutrients you would get if you ate the fruit whole that it comes from.

Fast food and take-out:  Most of what you get at the drive-thru or have delivered is unhealthy with excess sodium, fat and calories without many healthy ingredients like vitamins, minerals or fiber.  You might think the Chinese take-out with broccoli and water chestnuts is healthy, but the greasy fatty meats, MSG preservatives and sugar-loaded soy sauce outweigh any health benefits a few vegetables have.  Any kind of fast food sandwich accompanied by French fries is just a lot of fat and carbs with little or no health benefits. The buns are white flour and sugar, the meat is fatty and the sodium levels are more than you should consume in a week, let alone one meal. 

Eating these kinds of foods increases the negative effects of stress on the body. They may provide temporary comfort, but your weight creeps up and you feel increasingly fatigued because you have been denying your body essential nutrients to rebuild, you will find stress levels rising. 

Unfortunately these foods are staples of Western diets, but research is not only showing these kinds of foods are not only physically unhealthy, but also mentally. People who consume highly processed foods and drinks, and regularly drink beer are at an increased risk for depression and anxiety, certainly things that will increase your stress levels.

The good news is, you can avoid all these kinds of foods and still enjoy delicious meals, drinks and treats. It just takes a little extra effort to plan your day so that you are not starving and find yourself chugging a soda to make it to the end of your day. Healthy options are out there and it’s worth your time and energy to find them and stave off the negative health consequences poor diet and stress will have on you.



Three Stress-Relieving Yoga Poses

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India about 5000 years ago. It calms and balances your mood and gently stretches all your muscles to help maintain strong bones, bring balance to your posture, and encourages you to breathe deeply. Yoga is something everyone can learn to do to help with stress management in today’s busy stressful lifestyle.

Yoga for stress management

The Stress-Free Three

To help calm your mind and relax your body to relieve stress these three poses are good to learn and practice regularly.

1. Downward Facing Dog

Downward facing dog is a very basic pose, sometime called a resting pose. While it appears to be very simple, there is a technique to it and done properly it has many health benefits, one of which is helping you with stress management.

Downward facing dog is deceptively challenging and requires some strength.  To do it properly, place your palms on the floor in front of you, fingers spread and palms pressing into the floor. Hands should be in line with wrist, and in line with shoulders.  Step your legs back one at a time keeping your feet in line with your hands. Make sure to keep your elbows straight as you press your bottom toward the sky pressing your thighs back and up. Lower your heels to the floor (if you can; it may take a few attempts to increase your flexibility) and relax your head and neck. Try holding the position for at least 30 seconds to begin with and gradually increase that over time.  Remember to always breathe through the nose.

Downward facing dog helps to manage stress by:

  • Clearing your head, literally and figuratively. You need to focus on form and stop fretting about your to-do list. The inverted position will also help open up nasal passages to allow you to breathe more deeply. Oxygen-rich blood will rush to your brain and help you think more clearly.
  • This pose helps strengthen bones, tighten the core and increase flexibility.  It will improve your posture and start ridding you of the little aches and pains that come with slumping at a desk all day, rushing around doing errands and tensing up with everyday stress. These little pains increase your stress level, even though you may not be conscious of them.
  • Improves your appearance:  he effect is temporary, but the rush of blood to your brain and face will give your complexion a healthy glow.  Often we feel as good as we look.

Related:  Discover the Benefits of Hatha Yoga for Stress Relief

2. Child’s Pose

This is another basic yoga pose also known as a resting pose. It requires no props and is easy for anyone to do.

Assume child’s pose by getting down on your hands and knees, in a table posture.  Lean back on your heels then extend your arms forward and lower your torso and head to the ground. Keep your forehead on the ground, keeping your neck relaxed. Press your palms into the floor in front of the body as you rest your bottom on your heels. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds, gradually increasing that time. Remember to breathe.

Child’s pose is a great way to manage stress because it helps relax your body so you can focus on your breathing to calm the mind.  While you relax you are gently stretching your back, neck and shoulders, where stress tends to manifest itself as tension in the muscles.  Having your eyes facing the floor makes it easier to block out the outside world and help you relax your body. It is natural for your stomach to press into your thighs and your hips to spread a bit. This has the benefit of helping with digestion and increased flexibility in the hips.  If this is difficult, try spreading your knees outward, toward the sides of your mat.  Relax.

3. Legs Up Wall

This is a very simple pose with great mental and physical health benefits. Most anyone can do it with very little practice. This is a calming pose that is especially good to do at the end of the day to aid in falling asleep.

To get into the pose correctly, find a clear space against a wall and sit down pressing your hip against the wall so that you are facing sideways. Slowly rotate your body so that your back relaxes to the floor and your legs are pointing straight up resting against the wall. Your bottom does not have to be touching the wall but should only be a few inches away from it.  Relax your arms at your side, while you focus on taking slow deep breathes. That’s it!

As you rest, blood will begin to drain out of tired swollen feet and legs and return to the core where it can be recycled with a fresh infusion of oxygen. You will be gently stretching the back of your legs (hamstrings), which tend to get tight after sitting all day.

Legs-up-wall pose is very good for quieting the mind. You can stay in this pose for quite some time (10 to 15 minutes) to practice deep even breathing without needing a break.  It helps calm the nervous system, aids in digestion and helps tired legs and feet to feel refreshed.  It is especially pleasing to feel the rush of blood back into your lower legs and feet when you leave the pose and stand back up, slowly. 

These three poses are a good way to help with stress management even when you don’t have a lot of time. Slowly increase the time you hold each pose and enjoy the mental and physical benefits.



Three Meditations for Stress Management

by Institute for Vibrant Living

We can all use a little help with stress management. Modern life is hectic and can cause prolonged stress, which is mentally and physically harmful to your health and wellbeing.  Meditation is a great way to relax and unwind so you can let the stress of every day drift away.

Meditation dates back thousands of years and is practiced in many different cultures. While meditation rituals and practice vary around the globe, it is considered essential to spiritual development. Western medicine has finally caught up with the rest of the world and recognizes there are many health benefits to meditating, one of them being stress management.

The many benefits of meditation for stress management

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of allowing your mind and body to enter a state of deep relaxation. It slows the metabolism, your heart rate and even lowers blood pressure, which is very healing for the entire body.

When one is in a meditative state, muscle tension will decrease, brain wave patterns shift from swift beta waves typical of busy daytime activities to slower alpha waves, the kind you have just before falling asleep.

Three Meditations to Practice for Stress Management

1. Peace & Calm

Sit or lie in a comfortable position, preferably in a quiet room or space.  Close your eyes and begin to breath in and out deeply, keeping your breathing slow.

Focus attention on your breathing, feeling the movement as each breath flows in then out.

Find a calm and peaceful place deep inside yourself, completely shutting out the outside world.   As you inhale say a relaxing word to yourself. As you exhale say that word to yourself again. Repeat this exercise for three to five minutes.

Related:  "B" Calm at Work:  New Ways to Reduce Stress

2. Golden Temple

Again, find a comfortable position. Begin by inhaling through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth. As you breathe deeply, visualize a green meadow full of beautiful and fragrant flowers. In the middle of the meadow imagine a golden temple with peace and healing emanating from it. Visualize yourself walking through the meadow and into the temple. You are the only person there and it is completely still and peaceful inside.

Stand very still and feel healing energy pour into your body through every pore in your skin, filling you with a warm golden light. Every cell in your body is nourished and healed by the light and the energy it fills you with feels like a healing balm that induces a total state of relaxation.

Allow stress to dissolve and flow out of your mind and body as you become completely at ease. Remain in the temple for as long as you want.

When you are ready to leave, open your eyes and continue breathing slowly but deeply for a few more cycles.

3. Oak Tree

Find a position with your arms resting at your sides. Close your eyes and focus on breathing deeply, taking long slow relaxed breathes.

After a few cycles of deep breathing visualize your body as a strong, sturdy tree. You are solid like the trunk of the tree. Imagine your roots are growing out of your arms and legs going deeply down into the earth to anchor your body. You feel solid, strong and confident.

If stressful thoughts or situations occur visualize your body remaining grounded and strong just like the tree. Let yourself feel your strength with arms and legs rooted firmly in the earth.  You are confident in your power and can calmly handle any situation.

Meditation Tips

Learning to meditate will take some practice and consistent effort.  If you are new to it try these tips:

  • Do it first thing in the morning so you don’t keep putting it off as your day gets busier and more unpredictable.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t do it perfectly. It takes practice to shut out the outside world and find a calm quiet place inside yourself. Practicing daily will help you master that more quickly.
  • As you settle into a meditative pose and begin your breathing, do a simple check of your feelings. Are you feeling rushed, pressured, anxious or sad?  Maybe you are excited or very happy. However you feel is okay because with meditation you can learn to let go of the negative to embrace the positive.
  • Count your breaths. This will help you bring your focus back if your mind wanders, which is completely normal. Don’t get frustrated with this lack of focus, just keep bringing your focus back to your breath and with time it will become easier to keep your mind still.

Meditation is a simple practice anyone can master and it is a wonderful, do anywhere activity for those looking for stress-management.


Sip Away Stress By Adding These Herbs To Your Tea

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Stress is just a fact of life. Even the things we enjoy doing can cause stress, like planning a vacation, preparing for a new baby’s arrival or getting a promotion and pay raise at work.  Stress management is critical to keeping your body and mind healthy. Sometimes it is difficult to get in a workout or eat healthy but it is very easy to sip away stress.

Effective stress management with herbs.

Herbs That Make Great Stress Reducing Teas

There are three herbs in particular that have a long and well-documented history of being healthy stress reducers. Ingesting them in the form of a tea can help with your stress management plan and they are all safe and easy to find.


This potent herb was first used in the 17th Century by Spanish Jesuits in Peru and is now consumed all over the world.  There are over 500 different species of Passilora, as it is also known, but the most common variety is Passionflower incarnate, which is native to the Midwest and Southeastern United States.

Passionflower has been used for centuries as an effective sedative, pain reliever, digestive aid, and anxiety reducer.  Studies in Western medicine have shown it to be an effective way to treat ulcers, boost the brain’s levels of feel-good hormones and help you relax and fall asleep. 

The herb comes in capsules, powders or tinctures, but the best way is to drink it as a tea. Soaking the dried leaves in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes will make you a brew strong enough to enjoy the health benefits.


Chamomile has a long and well documented history of use as a soothing and healing herb.  It is from a flowering plant in the daisy family and you can use the dried blossoms to make a wonderfully fragrant and slightly sweet tasting tea that has many health benefits, namely stress management.

Chamomile tea can help soothe an upset stomach, relieve tension by inducing muscles to relax and even help you fall asleep.  It has been shown to be effective in relieving stomach cramps, due to its chamazulene content, a kind of oil in the flowers of the plant. It is believed that this ingredient is what helps relieve muscle spasms. Those with irritable bowel syndrome may find it especially helpful in relieving spasms in the bowel to ease constipation or diarrhea.

Lemon Balm

Named for its lemony scent, this herb is native to Europe and the Mediterranean and is a member of the mint family. It has earned a reputation around the globe as a stress-busting herb and makes a great tea to help you sip away your stressful day.

One of the best benefits of drinking lemon balm tea is that it helps boost mental alertness. It is often recommended for the elderly to help stave off dementia by sharpening memory and enhancing problem solving cognitive function. In a Chinese study, eugenol, a compound in the herb was thought to be responsible for boosting memory.  A similar study found that lemon balm suppresses the brain chemical acetlycholinesterase, which breaks down the chemical acetylcholine, which is responsible for memory and mood.

Lemon balm is also a powerful antioxidant to help your cells start to regenerate after a long hard day in your daily life. It can also help you stabilize your blood sugar and that will keep your mood balanced instead of wildly fluctuating with sugar highs and lows.

Related:  History of Green Tea in Indigestion Remedies

All of these herbs are considered generally safe.  Always check with your doctor if you take prescription medication and your pediatrician before you offer any herbs or supplements to your children, though.

Try this tea recipe at home to help manage your stress:

Ingredients and Preparation:

  • 2 teaspoons dried chamomile flowers
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemon balm leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried passionflower leaves
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • Steep tea leaves in water for 10-15 minutes.
  • Add in honey and lemon.
  • Sip while warm.
  • Serves 1.

These herbal teas are also delicious iced and topped off with slices of fruit.  


Three Household Hazards for Pets

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Our furry four-legged family members need us to keep them safe from harm.  There are three common household items that pose a significant hazard to your pet’s safety and health. Though they are so common you may not realize the danger they pose to your dog or cat.

Ways to protect your pets from household harm.

Electrical Cords

In modern households there is an abundance of devices with electrical cords.  Their soft, chewy texture is tempting to pets, especially puppies and kittens.  If your pet chews through the soft outer-coating and his or her teeth hit one of the inner wires it can be deadly.

The resulting electrical shock is terribly painful and will cause severe burns to your pet’s tongue and mouth.  A particularly powerful shock can also damage your pet’s lungs making it difficult for them to breath. If this happens call your vet right away to know what to do next.

Whenever possible keep electrical cords inaccessible to your pets. Don’t leave puppies, kittens or dogs that are chewers alone in rooms where they can get at them.  Unplug what you can and wrap a protective, chew-proof coating around exposed electrical cords.

Paper Shredders

That innocuous paper shredder next to your desk can be a deadly device to your pet. Your dog or cat may try to lick the blades ending up with severely injured tongue and mouth. Oftentimes the injuries from a paper shredder are so severe the pet must be euthanized since it will be unable to eat or pant normally ever again.

To avoid the horror of such a thing:

  • Keep the paper shredder up on a shelf or in a cabinet when not in use (or get a desktop model)
  • If you have to keep it out where your pet could get to it, buy one with a cover over the blades, don’t leave it on an automatic setting, and unplug it when not in use.
  • Don’t shred food wrappers in it as this will draw your pet to it and tempt him or her to lick the blades
  • Put your pet in another room or outside temporarily when using the paper shredder, be sure to unplug it when you are done, and cover the blades before you let your pet back in the room

Related:  Ten Tips for Safe Car Travel with Your Pets


While this may not be in the house, it is still a common household product that may be in your garage.  Antifreeze contains a sweet-smelling chemical called ethylene glycol, which prevents your car’s radiator from freezing and removes rust.  As little as a half of a teaspoon can be fatal to a small dog or cat and make a larger animal violently ill. It can take several hours for the deadly chemicals to make their way through your pet’s digestive tract and into their bloodstream. Prior to that they may act and appear just fine.

Within 24 hours of ingesting the anti-freeze it is metabolized in the liver and becomes a dangerous metabolite that pulls calcium from the blood and deposits it in the kidneys. This can mean severe damage or kidney failure.

Signs that your pet has ingested anti-freeze are:

  • Vomiting
  • Staggering and loss of balance
  • Refusing to eat
  • Convulsions
  • Falling into a coma

To avoid poisoning your pet, carefully inspect under your car for any antifreeze leaks.  Keep jugs of it on a high shelf or in cabinets that latch closed. The sweet smell will draw your pet to it and even licking up a small puddle on the floor can be fatal.

If your pet does ingest antifreeze rush them to the vet immediately. There is only a short window to save their life.

To ensure good pet health take some precautions with these common but potentially dangerous household items and avoid a disaster for your furry, four-legged family member.


Five Tips to Avoid Constipation While Traveling

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Nothing can take the fun out a vacation faster than suffering from constipation. If it happens to you, rest assured, you are not alone.  Bowel movement issues are very common among travelers so it’s important to follow these five healthy travel tips to keep you regular.

Healthy traveling without constipation

Change Is NOT Always Good

Preparing for a trip and traveling, even if it is on vacation, can be very stressful. If you turn to junk food, skip meals or are feeling stressed, this can cause irregularities in your bowel movements.  Often, using unfamiliar bathrooms can induce anxiety.  Just not following your normal routine can contribute to constipation.

Maintaining healthy eating and drinking habits while preparing for and traveling can help you avoid traveler’s constipation.  Find a food vendor that offers fresh salads, fruit and high fiber cereals or breads and skip the fast food restaurants in the terminal or on the road. If possible, pack your own healthy high fiber snacks to munch on during the flight, train ride or car trip.

1. Dehydration Nation

The TSA won’t let you bring water through security and buying airport bottled water is expensive, so you might be tempted to let yourself get a little dehydrated. If you are road tripping you might drink less to avoid frequent bathroom stops; not a good thing!

Drink plenty of clear fluids, namely water, and save the alcoholic or sugary sodas and cocktails for a special occasion. You may also want to limit your caffeine intake for the duration of your trip, too. It can act as a diuretic and you need adequate water in your bowels to form normal stools and pass them regularly.

Bring an empty water bottle to the airport and fill it at a drinking fountain once you clear security. Sip, don’t gulp, throughout the day and plan accordingly for adequate bathroom breaks.

Related:  Dangers of Laxative Overuse for Chronic Constipation

2. Bacteria Is Your Friend

If you are not regularly taking a probiotic supplement you should be. These gut-healthy bacteria are essential for good digestion.  Before your trip, start taking them and pack them in your suitcase. They will keep your immune system strong and aid in digestion so you don’t end up with stubborn bowels that won’t move.

Try to include foods on your trip that are rich in probiotics like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi (a spicy fermented cabbage) too.

3. You Got To Move It Move It!

The last thing on your mind when traveling might be exercise. Who has time for that?  You do!

You don’t have to run several miles or go to a boot camp class, just choose stairs instead of the elevator once in awhile, walk to and from dinner, plan an activity that incorporates some walking, hiking or just hit the hotel pool for a few laps.  Mild to moderate exercise keeps your metabolism revved up and increased circulation will wake up sluggish bowels while encouraging you to drink plenty of fluids.

4. Don’t Sugar Coat It

Your bowels do not need a layer of sugar when they are already a bit stressed from travel.  Cut back on the sweet stuff and you’ll most likely keep them humming along just fine. It’s easy to over-indulge while on vacation and airport sweets might be tempting, before you board a morning flight, but resist the temptation! 

Pack your own healthy snacks like almonds, a clementine, apple or snack-sized package of whole grain crackers and save the sugar indulgence for the end of your trip.

5. Go Green

Green foods like broccoli, lettuce, peas, asparagus and spinach will make for a much more pleasant trip. Having a few salads with fresh fruits and vegetables will help you stay hydrated and full of fiber; essential for avoiding constipation.

Try eating a small salad or munching on some raw broccoli before meals to ensure you get in your greens. You’ll stay regular and slimmer on your trip.

Following these healthy travel tips can be the difference between the best trip ever, or an unpleasant journey marred by the pain and bloating of constipation.


19 Tips to Avoid Air Travel Illness & Germs While Traveling

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Getting ill while traveling is no fun, yet it happens all the time.  Following these travel sickness tips could help prevent illness so you can enjoy the journey.

Tips for Preventing Travel Illness.

Airplane Germs

Airports and airplanes are petri dishes of germs from millions of travelers.  Travel in the winter means more exposure to cold and flu viruses, bacteria abounds on handrails, elevator buttons and you will undoubtedly find yourself shoeless walking where many other feet have tread at the security area.  

Give your immune system a boost before travel by regularly taking probiotics for optimal gut health and a stronger immune system. It is also helpful to increase your intake of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that has shown to help lessen susceptibility to bacteria and viruses.  Also, consider vitamin D-3 supplements and zinc, known immunity boosters that can help fortified your immune system before you travel.

Wash your hands, a lot! Frequently washing your hands, especially before you eat or touch your face, is very important.  Many germs and types of bacteria can live on handrails, elevator buttons, doorknobs and handles for hours.  Use soap, wash for at least as long as it takes you to hum the happy birthday song under your breath; and when possible use a paper towel to open the bathroom door to exit.

If washing your hands is not an option, have a few antibacterial wipes in your carry-on to keep your hands clean.

Related:  Healthy Travel Begins with Immune-Boosting Supplements

Jet Lag Drag

Traveling across several time zones can leave you exhausted and cut into the enjoyment of your trip as you struggle to adjust.  You can avoid the worst of jet lag by following a few simple guidelines.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends you stay on your home sleep schedule for trips lasting two or less days, regardless of the difference in time zones. This will minimize disrupting your internal sleep, bathroom, and eating schedule.  

For longer trips, however, you should start slowly adjusting your schedule to the time zone you will be arriving at to start your trip or vacation. At least four days before your trip begins, shift your sleeping and eating times to match the time at your destination. Though it might be difficult, stay on the new time zone schedule as much as possible and try to go to bed when it gets dark there, not back at home.

Other things that can help are:

  • Opt for an overnight flight
  • Cut back on caffeinated foods and beverages
  • Drink plenty of water and other non-sugary fluids
  • Avoid alcohol for a few days and on the plane, it is a sleep disruptor
  • Consider taking melatonin tablets to help you fall asleep once you reach your destination (1-2 mg daily)

Light can be your friend against a jet lag foe. Exposure to bright natural light can help you stay awake and regulate natural secretions of melatonin in the brain.  Exposure to light inhibits the brain from secreting melatonin, and when it becomes dark, it will trigger its release to help you fall asleep.  Seek out bright light in the evening hours when traveling west and in the morning when you are east bound. Get as much sunshine as you can when you arrive at your destination to help you stay awake and adjust to a new sleep time.

Don’t DVT

DVT stands for deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot in a vein deep within a muscle, usually your calf or thigh.  Prolonged sitting causes DVTs, like on a flight across the ocean, or several days on a train.  If the clot breaks off it can travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.

Because of the danger in sitting too long, make sure you get up and move around whenever possible. Walk briskly to your gate, take the stairs, and on the plane or train be sure to get up frequently to walk to the bathroom and stretch.

Wearing compression garments can help.  There are socks and even full length compression suits that can be worn underneath your clothing. The gentle pressure helps keep blood flowing and reduces the chance of developing a blood clot.

Speaking of clothing, wear comfortable loose fitting clothing.  Avoid pants and belts that are constricting.  

Other things you can do to lessen your risk of a DVT is:

  • Avoid caffeine
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Taking circulation supplements like natto (made from fermented soybeans) and fish oil can help

Following these few travel tips can make for a much more pleasant journey.


Holy Basil: A Divine Answer to Stress Management

by Institute for Vibrant Living

All hail holy basil! This potent herb has many health benefits, some of them being reduced feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.  It has a long history of use around the globe for not only being physically, but mentally healthy, as well, and could be very beneficial for stress management.

Holy basil for stress reduction.


Holy basil is closely related to the more familiar sweet basil used in many dishes, especially in Italian cooking; and is from the mint family.  It is a shrub with fuzzy stems and leaves and native to Eastern tropical parts of the world. In India and Hindu countries, it is considered a sacred plant, thus the name holy basil.  It’s been grown and cultivated in India for the past 3,000 years and is revered for being a plant that can heal the body, mind and spirit.

Ayurvedic medicine has included the use of holy basil (aka tulsi) because of its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, among others. It is used to treat physical ailments like headaches, upset stomach, insect bites, skin rashes, and to calm nerves and help one sleep better.

Holy Health Benefits

Western medicine has begun to offer evidence that holy basil extract can dramatically reduce symptoms of general stress like:

  • Exhaustion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Insomnia
  • Sexual/libido issues

The benefits of the herb administered in an extract proved to be effective after only six weeks of use in one study. 

Another study in 2008 used holy basil to evaluate its effectiveness in treating the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders. Test participants took 500 mg of the herb in supplement form twice a day for 60 days.  Test administers published results saying those who took the herb supplement reported significantly reduced feelings of anxiety, stress and depression, in contrast to those who received a placebo.

Related:  Three Herbs for Stress Reduction

Other health benefits attributed to holy basil are due to its anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve:

  • Fevers
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Bites, cuts or stings

As a powerful antioxidant, holy basil is also showing to be a healthy supplement to boost cognitive function, strengthen the immune system, help kidneys function better, and stabilize blood glucose levels.

Holy Basil At Home

It’s simple to cultivate your own unlimited supply of holy basil at home.  You can plant it in in a garden pot inside to get it going when it’s cold outside and transplant it to warm soil (where it grows best) in the summer (at least 65-70 degrees F). Put it somewhere that will allow for full sun and be sure to water it regularly.  To encourage a larger, bushier plant cut off the flowering blossoms, though letting them grown into flowers does not affect the health benefits of the plant. Make sure your plant is well established and growing strong before you harvest the first leaves.

Holy Tea for Two

The best way to get maximum health benefits from holy basil is to use the leaves to make tea.  Pour eight ounces of boiling water over two teaspoons of fresh leaves, cover and steep for five minutes, then enjoy!

If you are not too keen on growing your own you can find the herb in supplement form.

If you are looking for some easy stress management techniques, sipping some holy basil tea could be for you.


Bones and Raw Food Diet For Dogs - Canine Pet Health

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Somewhere between 37 and 47 percent of households across the country have dogs, so pet health is a high priority for many Americans.  Pet owners are inundated with dog food advertisements claiming one brand or another offers the healthiest pet nutrition.  In lieu of commercially-made dog foods, many dog owners are opting for the Bones and Raw Food Diet (sometimes referred to as BARF), which is essentially what dogs ate before they became domesticated.  The BARF diet offers a number of health benefits over commercial dog foods.

Many dog owners concerned about pet health opt for the Bones and Raw Food diet.

Improved Dental Health

A large number of dogs over the age of three suffer from periodontal disease.  Kibble and canned dog foods contribute to poor dental health in dogs, but raw meaty bones do not.  Chewing through meat and soft bone massages canine gums and scrapes plaque off a dog's teeth.

Better Digestion

Many commercial dog foods are packed with grains.  Because dogs do not produce the digestive enzyme needed to digest grain (amylase), they have trouble digesting foods that contain grains.  Commercially-made dry dog foods also absorb water, which means dogs that eat it can become dehydrated.  Chronic dehydration can lead to crystals and kidney disease. 

Related:  What Does the Term Biodynamic or Organic Mean?

Allergy Relief

Many dogs that eat commercial foods filled with grains, fillers, dyes and preservatives develop allergies.  Animals that suffer from allergies have itchy skin and a smelly, greasy coat.  A diet of raw foods and bones helps reduce allergies in dogs and produces a beautiful, shiny coat.

Stool Changes

To the delight of some pet owners, a raw diet changes the size, consistency and odor of a dog's stool.  Because dogs digest raw foods more easily, those fed the BARF diet defecate less often and poop is smaller, firmer and much less smelly.

Many dog owners concerned about pet health are turning to the BARF diet as an alternative to dry kibble and canned dog foods.  Options for dog owners wanting to try the BARF diet include commercially-made products located in a refrigerated section of the pet grocery aisle, or homemade BARF diets.  Some healthy foods for a homemade diet include:

  • Raw bones
  • Meat
  • Offal (liver, kidneys, heart, tripe)
  • Whole eggs
  • Vegetables (broccoli, spinach, celery, carrots)
  • Fruit (apples, pears, grapefruit, oranges)
  • Flaxseed
  • Garlic
  • Alfalfa
  • Kelp
  • Cod liver oil

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.





The Alkaline Diet for Optimal Health

by Institute for Vibrant Living

When it comes to good health, it's all about equilibrium.  Too much acid in the body throws the pH balance out of whack and boosts vulnerability to viruses and disease.  When people eat acid-forming foods, the body releases alkaline minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorous into the bloodstream to restore pH balance.  If not available through food sources, these minerals are pulled from organs, teeth and bones, a process which compromises the health.  An alkaline diet can help. 

Fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots and cucumbers make great options for an alkaline diet.

The pH balance in our blood should be slightly alkaline for good health, which can be achieved by eating more high-alkaline foods and fewer foods that produce acid.  Good alkaline diet foods include vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli and celery. For high-alkaline fruits, people often turn to red or yellow apples, avocados, grapefruit, lemons, limes, pomegranate and rhubarb. Additional alkaline-forming foods include almonds and almond milk, buckwheat, quinoa, chia seeds, herbs and herbal tea. Acid-producing foods include meats, fish, dairy products, beans, processed foods and many types of grains.

Alkaline Diet Benefits for the Health

A diet full of alkaline-rich foods offers a number of benefits to the health.

Bone Health

Maintaining a healthy pH balance can benefit bone health.  A study from the University of California showed that chronic acidosis contributes to bone loss.  Research also shows that hip fractures among middle-aged females are often linked to diets low in vegetables and high in animal products.

Related:  The Bone-Blood Connection

Muscle Mass

As people age, they lose muscle, which raises risks for falls and fractures.  Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that diets with more potassium-rich foods (like fruits and vegetables) and less acid might help prevent the loss of muscle mass in aging individuals.


Adding high-alkaline foods to the diet can help people with cancer.  Research published in the journal Cancer shows that an alkaline diet makes some chemotherapy medicines more effective.

Adopting an alkaline diet doesn't mean eating only alkaline-rich foods.  Foods high in alkaline should make up about 60 to 80 percent of the diet, with acid-forming foods making up the remaining 20 to 40 percent.  Because pesticides are acid-forming, shoppers should purchase organic produce when possible. 


Seven Tips for Avoiding the Dangers of Sugar

by Institute for Vibrant Living

As more people are joining the health and fitness bandwagon, concerns about sugar are growing.  According to Time Magazine, the typical American consumes more than 56 pounds of sugar each year.  While everyone knows that sugary foods are bad for the teeth, too much sugar affects the body in many other ways.  Research shows that high-sugar diets can raise risks for diabetes, heart disease and obesity.  Food manufacturers make the problem worse by adding sugar to many common foods like bread, soups, sauces and condiments.   Fortunately, seven tips for avoiding the dangers of sugar can help.

The dangers of sugar include higher risks for tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

1.  Don’t add sugar to food or beverages.  Avoid adding sugar to foods and beverages like pancakes, cereal, coffee and tea.  Instead of using sugary syrups, top pancakes with almond butter and bananas.  Add fresh berries or dried fruits to cereals, and stir all-natural stevia into hot beverages.

2.  Avoid hidden sugars.  Recognizing sugar is the first step to reducing it in the diet.  Ingredients like corn syrup, agave, molasses, malt sugar, honey, and brown sugar are all types of sweeteners that affect the body the same way as white table sugar.  Reading the ingredient list on a product's label can tell you if it contains any of these hidden types of sugar.

Related:  Your Sugar Cravings Explained

3.  Beware of fat-free foods.  If the goal is to limit the dangers of sugar, fat-free foods may not be the answer.  When manufacturers remove fat from certain foods, they often remove taste as well.  To compensate, many fat-free foods contain extra sugar, salt, flour and other thickeners.  Make sure to read labels to determine sugar levels in fat-free foods.

4.  Shop the rainbow.  White makes a great color for decorating but not for the diet.  White foods like potatoes, rice, bread and pasta are almost always higher in sugar and calories.  Foods rich in color like bell peppers, berries, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and squash offer very little sugar but plenty of healthy phytochemicals, antioxidants and other nutrients.

5.  Steer clear of ingredients ending in –ose.  In addition to more obvious types of hidden sugars like honey and corn syrup, ingredients ending in –ose are also forms of sugar.  These include glucose, fructose, dextrose, lactose, sucrose, maltose and xylose.  Look for these ingredients on food labels. 

6.  Follow the law of four.  A simple math problem helps people determine how much sugar (in teaspoons) they are about to consume per serving.  For instance, if a serving of cereal contains 12 grams of sugar, divide the 12 by four to find that the serving contains three teaspoons of sugar.

7.  Skip the fruit juice.  In addition to removing all the fiber from fruit, juicing boosts sugar content.  For instance, a 12-ounce glass of apple juice has more calories and nearly the same amount of sugar as a 12-ounce glass of cola.

Too much sugar in the daily diet raises risks for many types of disease.  According to the World Health Organization, people who want to reduce the dangers of sugar should limit sugar calories to about 5 percent of their total daily calorie intake.  Fortunately, by following the tips above, consumers can slash daily sugar consumption for better overall health. 


Understanding Balance & Tips To Stay Steady On Your Feet

by Institute for Vibrant Living

We take many aspects of life for granted, such as the ability to balance. Healthy habits are important for maintaining many everyday activities such as walking on an uneven sidewalk, stepping off a curb to cross the street, or getting out of bed without falling over. Let’s look at how all the amazing parts of our body work together for perfect balance, and pick up some healthy living tips to keep it that way.

Healthy habits help maintain balance


Understanding Balance

Balance is defined as the “ability to maintain the body’s center of mass over its base of support.” We need perfect balance to stand upright, see clearly as we move around, and live a normal healthy life.

Related:  Natural Remedies for Balance Problems

Lack of balance is shown by a range of symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo and the inability to walk steadily in a straight line. These can cause nausea, feelings of disorientation, and problems with sight, hearing, concentrating and remembering things. It takes a combination of systems all working synergistically together to maintain balance.

Balance requires:

  • Muscles, bones and joints that provide motor control. Movements and postural adjustments that help us stay balanced are driven by the brain through sensory receptors and motor impulses. Information from the joints and body relay information to the brain.
  • Vision to provide sensory input through sight, giving a sense of distance and proportion. Rods and cones in the retina provide fine detail and visual information about how the body is orientated in relation to other objects.
  • The inner ear contains semicircular canals filled with fluid that detect turning movements. It sends sensory information to the brain to make compensatory adjustments to the rest of the body
  • Nerves are used to detect changes in the body as we move around. For example, pressure on the front soles of the feet tells the brain that you are leaning forward. Movement in the neck tells the brain which way you are looking. All these allow the brain to make fine adjustments so that the body remains upright and balanced through an ongoing series of large and small movements.

Healthy Living Tips to Support Balance

Fortunately, all these activities go on subconsciously or proprioceptively, allowing us to think, move and get on with life while the body and brain control the task of keeping us upright and safe.

As balance requires a coordinated combination of several systems, if one component ceases to function correctly, it is likely to affect our balance. Disease, injury or aging can affect sight, muscles, joints, the nervous system and the brain, resulting in imbalance.

Balance also depends on other more subtle factors.  Make sure to get enough sleep, as being tired can affect your balance.  Side effects of prescription drugs can dizziness and a feeling of being imbalanced and off-center.  Having a clear mind also helps with balance, therefore stress can impact your ability to remain balanced.  Hatha yoga is one of the best ways to safely and naturally improve your ability to be balanced.  

By taking care of the body holistically, we can support the interaction of different components that allow us to balance. Healthy habits include taking supplements that support vision, active cognitive function and supple joints and bones. If just one part of the whole becomes incapacitated, your balance is likely to suffer as a result.


Five Tips to Eating Healthy While Tailgating

by Institute for Vibrant Living

Football and tailgating go hand in hand, but typical tailgate food isn't always healthy. Cheeseburgers, hotdogs, ribs, potato chips and dips often have high levels of fat and calories.  What's more, grilling produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs), cancer-causing compounds that form when muscle meats are cooked over high heat.  Fortunately, football fans can enjoy healthy tailgating by following five easy tips.

Enjoy healthy tailgating by blending grilled meats with plenty of vegetables.

1.  Incorporate more fruits and veggies into tailgate food.  Fill trays with sliced vegetables like carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumber, broccoli and cauliflower, and substitute hummus for fatty dips.  Use prosciutto, fresh spinach, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fat-free dressing and skewers to create caprese on a stick.  Replace high-calorie desserts with fresh orange wedges, grapes, watermelon, or apple slices.

2.  Have fun with activity.  Tailgating isn't just about the food.  It's a time for relaxing and socializing with friends and family.  Active games like tag, corn hole, Frisbee or football make a tailgate party healthier and more fun.

Related:  Heart Healthy Recipes

3.  Make smarter beverage choices.  For healthy tailgating, make lighter choices when it comes to alcohol by packing the cooler with light beer or wine spritzers.  For the kids, replace high-sugar sodas and concentrated fruit juices with bottled water, coconut water or infused water.

4.  Stay hydrated.  Having plenty of water available helps prevent dehydration on a hot day.  Drinking H2O in between cocktails also helps counteract the effects of alcohol like headache and low energy.

5.  Reduce HCAs for healthy tailgating.  Studies show that well-cooked meat produces 3.5 times more HCAs than medium-rare meat.  Research also shows that the use of ingredients like herbs and vinegar can reduce HCAs by 50 percent or more.  Marinate chicken in a blend of white wine, garlic, thyme, rosemary and ginger for a yummy HCA-reducing recipe.  Combine ground beef with dried cherries, garlic, a little honey, cumin, and dried chilies and grill to medium-rare.

Tailgating is an activity long-enjoyed by football fans, but football foods aren't always the best when it comes to the health.  Fortunately, following the five tips above helps reduce fat, calories, alcohol content, and HCAs for happy, healthy tailgating.