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Monday, April 14, 2014

Probiotics and Prebiotics

The Buzz on Bacteria – Probiotics and Prebiotics

Deep inside your gastrointestinal tract (or gut) is an on-going, daily balancing act performed by your digestive system. Your digestive system is home to several hundred different bacteria. In an effort to avoid overgrowth of harmful, dangerous bacteria, your gut works to maintain a proper balance of various “good” bacteria.

Unfortunately, unstable diets, stress, and certain medications can throw the gut off balance. This is where a special pair of dietary supplements comes into the picture—probiotics and prebiotics.

Probiotics: The Good Guys

Not all bacteria have a bad name. Probiotics are live cultures of “good” bacteria that can naturally be found in the gut. Like a typical metropolitan city, your gut is an environment of bacteria that are constantly changing and repopulating (moving in and out). Probiotics can help improve the health and balance of your gut bacteria. This can have a positive effect on your immune system (especially by lowering risks of infection) and digestive health.

Probiotics can keep prevent certain pro-inflammatory chemicals from entering the bloodstream. Recent research has shown that this mechanism is a valuable weapon in the battle against many common chronic diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and glucose intolerance.

Probiotics: Food for thought?

Research presented in the journal BioEssays shows that probiotics deliver more than just digestive health. They provide the gut with neurochemicals. These neurochemicals are circulated through the bloodstream and produce beneficial effects in sites other than the intestines, thus improving both GI and psychological health.

Probiotics can help other health problems, such as diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, and certain allergies. They have even been used for treatment of digestive diseases such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

For maximum absorption and digestion of probiotics, you want to choose good food sources such as fermented dairy foods (yogurt, milk, kefir products).

Prebiotics

Bacteria are living organisms, so what do they feed on? Prebiotics! These indigestible (by human) food ingredients help promote probiotics—they feed your flora. Not only do help keep your digestive system healthy but they can help enhance calcium absorption.

Examples of prebiotics include soluble fibers such as inulin, oligofructose, fructooligosaccharides, and other oligosaccharides. Good sources of prebiotics include raw chicory root, artichokes, garlic, leeks, onions, bananas, and asparagus.

Synbiotics: the beauty of Probiotics and Prebiotics Combined

These two groups work best as a team. Therefore, it is important to make sure your diet includes both to swing the balance in favor of your digestive health. EnergyFirst’s Greenergy Powder makes it easy to get 200 billion CFU’s (colony forming units) of probiotics with a tasty superfood drink. For days when a green drink may not be on your menu, our Double-Strength Probiotic Complex can give you the balance you need for the day.

Sources:
British Journal of Nutrition, 2013; 1 DOI:10.1017/S0007114513003875
BioEssays, 2011; DOI: 10.1002/bies.201100024

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Do You Feel Tired?


Do you feel tired, irritable, or angry? When we think of stress, we usually think of the daily struggles and anxieties of the adult life—paying bills, pleasing the boss, or supporting, feeding, and raising a family. However, it’s easy to let another vulnerable group slip through the cracks—teenagers. It isn’t easy being a teenager. They may feel on-edge due to frequent exams, overscheduled days, and other stressors and pressures of life—the desire to be accepted, to get good grades, and to make big decisions that may affect their future.

According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, adolescents report higher stress levels than adults during the academic year. In the survey, almost 75% of teens reported more than one of the following symptoms of stress: irritability, anger, anxiety, and lying awake at night.

Health Implications—A Vicious Cycle

What do these high stress levels mean for their health? The very thing that can help reduce stress are overlooked. In the prime years of their life, exercise, nutrition, and proper sleep habits can be neglected. In turn, neglected sleep, nutrition, and exercise create more stress.

Many teens may not even realize that stress is affecting their health. Even worse, this teenage stress can carry over into their adulthood if nothing is done about it or they do not learn how to cope with it properly.

How to De-Stress

Exercise. In the survey, teens reported exercising less than one time per week or not at all. Both physical exercise as well as breathing exercises can help reduce stress. Even gentle exercise can help you relax and relieve some stress. Fuel your exercise so that you can fuel your workout, think clearly, and stay focused during your exercise routine. EnergyFirst Prefuel is a natural, effective alternative to unhealthy, sugary artificial energy drinks that can interfere with effective exercise.

Stable Blood Sugar. As we learned, stress leads to a vicious cycle. Unstable blood sugars during stress are a vicious cycle within a vicious cycle. Brains are fueled by glucose. However, sugary foods or refined carbohydrates can cause unstable blood sugar levels that spike and then plummet, making it hard to stay concentrated and think clearly.

If under stress, don’t resort to sugary foods. They will leave you feeling lethargic and sluggish, which leads to cravings for more sugary foods. Focus on a blood sugar stabilizing diet. An easy, quick way to prepare a meal that won’t mess with your blood sugar levels is the EnergyFirst Protein shake. With strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate flavors, you can get the sweet fix you need without entering the vicious cycle of unstable blood sugars.

Eat regularly. Stress can weaken the immune system, making it more vulnerable to infections. The body’s nutrient needs may increase during stressful times. Skipping a meal to manage stress can only create more stress on the body. This can also cause unstable blood sugars. In fact, research shows that regular meals can lead to better academic performance.

While a daily multivitamin supplement can support some of the body’s nutrient needs, it is important to also get these nutrients from whole foods, especially those rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that can boost the immune system.


If you are a teenager, it may seem like stress is taking control of your life. However, remember that following these simple steps can help you take control of your stress.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Prioritize Your Protein


You’ve been keeping your lifestyle active. You fuel your workouts with the best quality protein out there. You make the most out of your workout by feeding your body and muscles with the perfect workout recovery drink. You even manage to get your lean protein in most of your meals—a moderate amount at lunch and a generous amount for dinner. What’s missing in this picture?

Breakfast. What do you “break” your “fast” with every morning? Do you start your day off with the greatest energizer and fat burner available—lean protein? Although most Americans are able to consume enough protein in a day, they tend to forget an important principle about protein: Consuming your protein at the right time is just as important as consuming the right amount.

Research shows that most Americans only eat a small amount of protein at breakfast, if any. This make them more susceptible to hunger, cravings, and overeating later in the day. A recent study done at the University of Missouri’s Department of Exercise Physiology and Nutrition gave participants meals with similar fat and fiber contents but different protein content—low-protein and protein-rich.

The protein-rich breakfast eaters showed significant improvement in appetite control. They were less hungry, more full, and had less desire to eat in the time period between breakfast and lunch compared with the low-protein breakfast and breakfast skippers.

Instead of letting hunger pangs and food cravings distract you every morning, why not make it a priority to gear up on protein every day?

Getting Your Protein on Time

In the hustle and bustle of your morning routine, it may be hard to find a quick way to sneak 4-6 ounces of lean protein into your meal. In fact, most Americans eat low-protein breakfasts because they lack convenient high-protein options. This is one of the main reasons we recommend having an EnergyFirst protein shake for breakfast. You won’t have to worry about unstable blood sugars or food cravings for another 4-6 hours—until lunch time!

Other sources of lean protein to consider including in your meals are fish, eggs, egg whites, skinless chicken breast, free range beef, wild game turkey, low fat cottage cheese, and non-fat dairy.

Cruciferous Vegetables - Meet the Brassica family!

If cancer had a kryptonite, cruciferous vegetables would be it. Your raw vegetable platter would not be complete without them. Among others, these include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, watercress, and wasabi.

Pungent, but Powerful

Compared to other vegetables, cruciferous ones are relatively high your conventional vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are also chock full of antioxidants and phytochemicals. This family of vegetables features carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

True, these vegetables tend to have a pungent aroma and bitter or spicy flavor. That, however, is what gives these vegetables the anti-cancer benefits we need. It’s worth it to try and embrace their unique properties.

Cruciferous vegetables are a concentrated source of glucosinolates, a group of substances that break down into sulfur-containing phytochemicals that are responsible for the pungent aroma and bitter flavors. Every time you sink your teeth into a Brussels sprout or kale leaf, these glucosinolates are broken down to form indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates (ITCs). These compounds have been studied for their anticancer effects, especially cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, ovaries, and stomach.

Just how do these glucosinolates work? What are their strategies? Studies have shown that these compounds, like sulforaphane, render carcinogens inactive. Detoxify carcinogens before they damage your cells.

They are also anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory. They help protect cells from DNA damage (which will help prevent mutations that can often lead to cancer), stop tumors from spreading, or even induce cancer cell death.

If a tumor already exists, glucosinolates can interfere with the growth of tumor cells by decreasing the formation of blood vessels that feed them. Studies have shown that these vegetables can help improve cancer survival rates.

Maximize your Cruciferous Intake

A chop or a chew allows certain enzymes to come into contact with glucosinolates to break them down into the active compounds. Chewing or blending your vegetables thoroughly helps the breakdown process. Also, if you aren’t going raw, cook these vegetables to minimum temperatures to retain the maximum amount of phytochemicals. Add them to your soups, stews, salads, and smoothies. Also, since they can be leached into cooking water, try to use cooking methods that use less water, such as steaming.

All vegetables are a unique package rich in different nutrients. As you try and diversify the vegetables that are part of your diet, remember to include cruciferous vegetables.

Sources:
Pharmacol Res. 2007 March; 55(3): 224–236.
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Jul;19(7):1806-11. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-0008. Epub 2010 Jun 15
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/diet/cruciferous-vegetables

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Snapshot of Your Health


What were the findings of your last blood test? Not sure? Is your physician the only one who has a record of your medical history? If so, you may benefit from keeping an organized health journal or health diary for a clearer picture of your health status.

An informed person is an empowered person. The more knowledgeable you are the better. You can even take your journal with you to doctor visits to review any patterns, concerns, or information you have to share. Make sure to include any records and notes from your doctor visits.

Date all your information to track any progress (or lack thereof). Record your allergies, family history of diseases, any surgeries or operations, screenings, physicals, and medication or supplements with dosage and timing.

What does your current physical activity routine look like? How are your sleeping habits? Write it down and date it. Make any changes as your routine evolves. Do you ever track your food intake over the course of a day and up to a week? Put it in your health journal.

Your Journal, Your Way

What purpose will your journal serve you? The answer to that question may influence how detailed or how straightforward you want your journal to be. It may only focus on your sleeping habits, only on your energy levels, or only on the foods you eat. Depending on your journal’s purpose, keep it in a handy place for easy access. Is it mainly about food? Keep it in your kitchen. Is it mainly about your energy level? Keep it around your work area or in your car or a bag.

The idea of writing something down every day may seem daunting and quite unrealistic for your schedule. You only have to write as often as your situation permits. You may only feel inclined to write when you start taking a new supplement, feel a new symptom, or try out a new routine.

Honesty

A health journal is meant to help you not to impress someone else. Make sure to be as accurate and truthful as possible in your records.

Take a Glance

There’s always room for improvement in our routines. On a weekly or monthly basis, take a moment to go back and examine your recent records. Do you see any patterns worth keeping or changing? Are there any clues to a constant source of stress? You may find clues into what is working and what doesn’t seem to work.

Do you ever gain a few pounds and have no clue why? This may be your moment to get to the bottom of the problem. Do certain foods aggravate your body? This is your chance to use your reference and pinpoint them.

If you’re dealing with energy crashes, is there something missing in your recorded routine? Have you been skipping meals because of running out of time? An EnergyFirst protein shake is an easy way to fuel your day with a meal that stabilizes your blood sugar.

If you haven’t kept a journal before, consider trying it for several weeks. You may be surprised what you find. It may increase your motivation and help you stay on track.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

White Foods


No color, No Problem
Bland colored diets often have bland nutrient contents. As versatile as the color white (or off-white) can be, it doesn’t always scream health. In general, the average American diet is chock full of fast, cheap, processed foods high in refined grains, added sugars and solid fats. These off-white foods are overwhelming the aisles, pantries, and plates. They are also overwhelming blood sugar levels. The increased blood sugar from these foods triggers insulin to spike. In just 1-2 short hours, hunger returns and the vicious cycle repeats itself.

Should all white foods be “put in the same basket” though? Not necessarily. Although not in the color spectrum, foods the color white still carry numerous health benefits. Unprocessed foods such as white beans, white potatoes, garlic, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes and onion are white foods that fight.

As we await the discovery of more phytochemicals, ground-breaking research has led to the discovery of thousands with unique disease-fighting powers. These naturally-occurring chemicals protect essential nutrients in our bodies. They act as antioxidants and regenerate those essential nutrients. The unseen battle that phytochemicals fight inside our bodies protects our cell membranes and DNA while preventing cell death. They also prevent the damage and oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which can lead to plaque formation and heart disease.

Every food contains a unique blend of phytochemicals and nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber) that work synergistically to provide these health benefits. Although foods have multiple phytochemicals, many foods have a predominant phytochemical group, which is often revealed by the color of the food.

When we think of disease-fighting phytochemicals, we usually think of strong, vivid, vibrant hues of blue, red, or purple. However, some phytochemicals are colorless but just as potent. In fact, the largest phytochemical group, the flavonoids, is generally colorless. In his book “What Color is Your Diet,” David Heber, MD, PhD categorizes the color white-green as its own phytochemical group.

What white or white/green foods can you think of? Antioxidant-rich foods such as garlic, onion, celery, pears, jicama, chives, endive, and even white wine fall into this category. Here are a few reasons why they should be in your shopping cart.

Apigenin: Celery, onions, and chamomile are high in plant flavones called apigenin. This flavone has been shown to possess outstanding anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogenic properties. In fact, it is largely studied for its role in killing cancer cells.

Quercetin: Onions and shallots are high in a flavonol called quercetin. This safe and natural flavonol has remarkable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Because it reduces the production of prostaglandins, quercetin helps reduce some of the pain associated with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. It prevents cancer by stopping the growth of cancer cells. It can even block many substances that are involved in allergies. A higher intake of quercetin can lower your risk of lung cancer, heart disease, and asthma.

Hesperetin: This flavanone is known to lower blood pressure, inflammation, and LDL cholesterol levels in animals.

Organosulfur compounds: When you think of garlic and onion, does a pungent smell first come to mind? A group of vegetables termed allium vegetables (including chives, leeks, garlic, onions, and shallots) have organosulfur compounds that are cancer-protective.

Allicin: One classic example of a colorless, yet potent food is garlic. The powerful aroma of freshly crushed garlic demonstrates the disease-fighting potential of this white food. Allicin, one of the main active chemicals in garlic, has anti-microbial activities. It has been shown to have anti-bacterial activity even for multi-drug resistant strains of E.coli. It offers anti-fungal protection against a strain of Candida, and anti-parasitic activity for common human intestinal parasites. Allicin also prevents the growth of cancer cells.

Indoles: Many white foods are cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage and cauliflower) that contain indoles and isothiocyanatas that are also anti-cancer. Many different types of natural indoles work together to prevent cancer, such as colon cancer.

How to Eat Whiter than White
How do you plan to eat more white food? A simple way is to sneak more garlic and onion in your stir fries, soups, curries, and other dishes. Make your own reduced fat dressings infused with garlic. Use some cauliflower and parsnip or kohlrabi chunks for a creamy soup, add white- button mushrooms for an earthy flavor, or a small serving of mashed potatoes with olive oil (instead of butter).

If solid fats, sodium, and added sugars are added in the preparation of these white foods, you may have to kiss their health benefits goodbye. Enjoy them in their natural state or use minimal cooking to prepare these foods. Make sure to surround them with an array of other colors to add some spice and disease-fighting power to your meal.

Sources:
Int J Oncol. 2007 Jan;30(1):233-45.
J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2006 Jul-Dec;20(3-4):47-52.
Knekt P, Kumpulainen J, Jarvinen R, Rissanen H, Heliovaara M, Reunanen A, Hakulinen T, Aromaa A. Flavonoid intake and risk of chronic diseases. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Sep;76(3):560-8.
Microbes Infect. 1999 Feb;1(2):125-9.
Nutr Cancer. 2000;38(2):245-54.
Environ Health Perspect 2001;109:893-902.
Cancer Res. 2001 Aug 15;61(16):6120-30.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Power of Peer Pressure


A “Contagious” Diet
What governs your food choices? It turns out peer pressure can extend beyond adolescence and into adulthood. It can influence your personal food choices. You may not realize it but your eating habits may be influenced by your peers. Do you tend to eat what your friends eat? If you hear your peer order a high-calorie item on a menu, are you more likely to choose the same item? Such social influences can control what you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat.

A recent review published in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that social influences on dietary choices can be rather strong. Many people who were told that others were choosing low-calorie or high-calorie foods were more inclined to make similar choices.

“I’ll Have What He’s Having”
If your friend orders a burger and fries, are you more inclined to order a similar menu item even if your plan was to stick with a lean fish and salad? Or are you eating that high-fat dessert just to make the hostess of a dinner party happy? Researchers explained that many people conform to their peers’ food choices to assure their place in a social group—to fit in. The influence may be so strong that you may behave or eat like your peers even when they are not around to see your food choices.

Holidays, special occasions, and family dinners may make it hard for you to stick to your healthy meal plan. Being aware of this influence can help you combat it and stick to what works for you.

Voice your goals!
Focus on sharing your healthy resolutions with others. This may decrease the chances that they will try to tempt you or push you to make an unhealthy food choice. with the purpose of positively influencing them. In the end, to stay healthy and energized, you need to consider your own nutritional needs when making food choices.

Speak up!
Prepare a kind refusal in advance if you anticipate that friends or family may push you to consume too much food or not the right type of food. Your refusal of unhealthy foods that do not fit into your meal plan need not be offensive. A mature, strong, confident and gracious reply, such as “No, thank you” can help stave off the pressure.

Choose Wisely!
Do you have like-minded peers in your social network who have similar health goals? Are there any members of your social network that help support your healthy lifestyle? To some extent, you have control over the people who you fill your environment with. Choose your peers wisely. They can either help or hurt the healthy habits you’ve chosen for yourself.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Control Job Stress


Put Out Stress
Are the mounting piles of folders on your desk, the incessant ringing of your phone, or the impending tight deadlines stressing you out? Although you may be happy to have a job, is the stress from job demands more than you can bear? It turns out more stress at work will mean more stress on your heart and on your health. A new study found that the effects of mid-life job stress can even carry on into old age.

According to a study done in Finland, people who experience more job stress have longer hospital stays in old age. The study published in Age and Aging followed 5,000 public sector employees for almost 30 years. Researchers identified two types of job-related stress.

  1. Mental stress includes those looming deadlines, packed schedules, and other pressures and demands related to work. This type of stress has been associated with heart disease. 
  2. Physical stress from work refers to cardiorespiratory strain, such as physical exertion at work that causes sweating, breathlessness, and heart palpitations, or muscle strain, especially of the arms, legs, and back. This type of job stress can lead to irreversible conditions, such as osteoarthritis, pain, and immobility. The inability to move can further lead to problems with keeping a healthy weight and a healthy heart. 

Regardless of the type of employment you have, job stress can be a health hazard. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 40% of workers report their job is extremely stressful.

Although you may not be able to control all of the factors causing you stress, you may be able to minimize it. If the stress you experience from work is persistent and high in any of these areas, you may benefit from some simple workplace stress relief strategies.

Stressed out? Work Out!
Physical activity is proven to combat stress. Although a jam-packed schedule may tempt you to neglect your workout, don’t forget it may actually help you work more efficiently. Don’t waste your workout. Fuel it with a high-quality protein shake that will keep your blood sugar stable. Fuel it with an EnergyFirst shake.

Get Adequate Sleep
Get enough sleep so that you can boost your mood and energy while staying mentally alert.

Relaxation and Breathing Techniques
Relaxed breathing can lead to a relaxed state of mind. Reduce tension by practicing breathing exercises that are simple and easy to learn. You can practice easy breathing exercises whenever and wherever you want.

One simple breathing technique is deep breathing. Focus on taking regular, deep breaths. This helps slow down breathing, reduce high blood pressure, and slow down an increased heart rate.

Did your last bout of stress leave your mind wandering off to a tropical island with a warm breeze, soft sand, and cool waves crashing in the background? Guided imagery may be the technique for you. Guided imagery, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation are all accessible ways to manage stress.

Manage Time Wisely
While it is important for you to make time for yourself and your needs, try not to procrastinate or put things off. Staying organized, reduce distractions, and commit to only as much as you can realistically accomplish.

Do You Have Job Stress?
Signs of job stress include headaches, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, upset stomach, short temper, low morale, and job dissatisfaction.

If you experience any of the previously mentioned warning signs of job stress, consider applying the stress-relief strategies to protect your health. Job stress can impair your immune system and increase your risk of workplace injury. Managing stress will reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, and mental health problems.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Danger of PCB's - Polychlorinated Biphenyls


PCBs – Toxins with a Lifelong Threat
Your environment affects your health. Three crucial aspects of our environment are the air, water, and soil. When any of these become polluted, health problems can arise.

As a result of human activities, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) have contaminated water, soil, and certain foods. These man-made chemicals were normally used as coolants, electrical insulation, and lubricants for electrical equipment. Although banned in 1979, recent studies have found that many seniors still have high levels of PCBs in their blood. Seniors with higher levels suffer poorer mental performance.

Aside from mental deficits, health problems that result from PCB exposure include skin problems, birth defects lung irritation, gastrointestinal discomfort, depression, and liver disease, changes in reproductive function, and increased cancer risks.

Findings from a recent study done at the University of Montreal suggest that the dangers of PCB exposure accumulates as a person ages, leading to more health problems later in life. Since even slight exposure to these hazardous chemicals can severely impact mental abilities, it is important to reduce PCB exposure as much as possible.

Soil Exposure
Although PCBs are banned and no longer manufactured, they may still be present in hazardous waste sites.

Air and Skin Exposure
Old appliances or other electrical devices may still contain PCBs that leak out over time. These devices may be found in workplaces, too.

Food Exposure
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease, fish is a major source of PCB exposure because it can accumulate in the fatty tissue of fish. Thus, leaner fish collect less PCBs.

Since fish can be a source of PCB contamination, fish oil supplements need to be chosen carefully. Instead of helping your health, a poorly chosen fish oil product may actually harm it.

It is important to look for a product with third-party verification that is pure. EnergyFirst’s OmegaEnergy Fish Oil supplement is a safe fish oil supplement that helps you reduce your exposure to PCBs. Due to strict molecular distillation that removes heavy metals, pesticides, and PCBs, this USP-certified fish oil is free of dangerous toxins commonly found in fish.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Avoiding Migraines


Mind Over Migraines
More than 30 million Americans suffer from migraines. According to the World Health Organization, it is one of the most disabling illnesses that even children suffer from. Even when the painful headache is in remission, a sufferer lives in fear of when the next bout will rebound. Even if you do not normally deal with these painful headaches, you may have a closed loved one who does. In fact, the Migraine Research Foundation reports that 1 in 4 U.S. households have someone with migraine problems.

Know Your Triggers
If you are prone to having migraines, certain circumstances that may lead to a migraine should be avoided. Your personal triggers are unique. According to the American Headache Society Committee for headache Education (ACHE), identify personal triggers and avoid as many as you can to help reduce chances of having a migraine attack.

Dietary. Certain foods and medication, skipped meals, and unstable blood sugar levels can trigger a headache. You are your own expert. Practice tracking down your personal triggers in a journal to avoid them. A healthy eating program, such as that outlined in the EnergyFirst program can help you maintain stable blood sugars and avoid the painful aftermath of a drop in blood sugar.

Sleep Disturbances. Don’t disturb your normal sleep patterns. A lack of sleep or too much sleep can trigger a headache. Sleeping on a regular schedule can help reduce your risk of migraines.

Stress. Since persistent stress, anxiety, and mental fatigue can be triggers, stress management may help reduce migraines.

Weather. When researchers took a closer look at reported headache triggers, they found that changes in humidity, storms, dry or dusty conditions, and extreme changes in temperature triggered pain. A personal record of triggers will help you track what specific weather conditions may spark your headache pain.

Dehydration. Drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated. Aim to drink at least one 8oz cup of water each waking hour. Keep your water handy everywhere you go. Add variety to your water regime to make it an easier habit to stick to.

Prepare in Advance to Prevent an Attack
There are numerous triggers, including hormonal changes, bright lights, certain odors, pollution, and overexertion. Once you know your triggers, keep your list handy. Consult with it regularly. Check weather reports regularly. Keep pure water handy. Carry ear buds or eye masks in case of visual or loud triggers.

One way to reduce the number of attacks is the natural supplement Coenzyme Q10. According to a study published in an international journal on headaches, Cephalalgia, coenzyme Q10 appears to be a good migraine preventive. After just 3 months of supplementation, the chances of a migraine were reduced by more than 55%.

Sources:
National Headache Foundation: "Environmental and Physical Factors."
Cephalalgia. 2002 Mar; 22(2):137-41.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Artificial Preservatives


If you’re eating something you did not personally cook or that is not fresh, it mostly likely will have a preservative in it. Most processed foods are made in a factory where preservatives need to be added to extend product shelf life. At first glance, the role of preservatives may look innocent. They are simply there to keep your food safe from spoiling, right? Unfortunately, many of the chemicals used to preserve foods longer may not necessarily help us live longer, healthier lives.

You will generally run into three types of preservatives. One type prevents growth of mold or bacteria (anti-microbial). Another type of preservative is used to stop fruits and vegetables from ripening. Finally, a third kind of preservatives is used to prevent oxidation of foods (antioxidants), which can lead to rancidity or color changes.

Some preservatives have proven to be safe, thankfully. For example, calcium propionate is a preservative used in breads and rolls to prevent mold growth. Acetic acid, a chemical naturally found in vinegar, also acts as a preservative.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT): Just because it is called an antioxidant does not mean it is good for your health. These preservatives are made from petroleum and have been shown to be carcinogenic. Even though there are safer, more natural alternatives (like Vitamin E), many companies still use it because it is still allowed. They are used in everything from gum to cereal. BHA is especially important to avoid because it has shown to cause cancer in three different species of animals. 

Heptyl Paraben: This preservative is used in some soft drinks and beer. Although it is generally recognized as safe, its effects when combined with alcohol are unknown. Poorly studied preservatives make “guinea pigs” out of consumers, who consume these preservatives at their own risk.

Propyl gallate: Although it is considered an antioxidant, don’t be fooled. This preservative is used (often together with BHA and BHT) to prevent rancidity. It has not been sufficiently studied for safety. Animal studies show that it can cause many cancers of numerous different organs. 

Sodium Benzoate: This preservative is used as an anti-microbial. Some who are sensitive to it have experienced allergic reactions. It has also been linked to hyperactivity in children.  Benzene, a chemical that causes cancers such as leukemia, can be formed from sodium benzoate when it reacts with vitamin C. Only a few soft drink companies have been forced to change the chemical composition of their drinks to prevent this dangerous reaction from occurring.

Sodium nitrite: Added for curing meats (ham, bacon, hot dogs, lunch meats), this preservative may cause cancer from nitrosamines that it forms once in the body, especially gastric cancer. It preserves the red color of meat. Think about it: why should your meat need help just to “look” fresh. Would you prefer old meat made to look fresh with chemicals or fresh meat? A meat company may claim that the nitrites they use are important for preventing bacterial growth. Although this is true, there are safer and healthier techniques, including proper refrigeration. 

Sulfites (sulfur dioxide and sodium bisulfate): Used to prevent discoloration, these preservatives can cause severe allergic reactions including headaches and difficulty breathing; sulfites destroy vitamin B1; some restaurants even keep their product in a sulfite solution to preserve them. Sulfites are found in dried fruit, wine, and processed potatoes (frozen, dried, fried)
What is more important to you? Preserving the “lifespan” of processed foods or preserving your own personal lifespan, and a healthy one at that? After considering the benefits and risks of preservatives, the choice is yours whether you will consume them or not.

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