Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Mucuna pruriens - a dangerous supplement

Mucuna pruriens is a natural health supplement that is beginning to receive more attention these days. This is because whilst the supplement is completely natural, it has a powerful effect on the mind and body due to its L-dopa content.

This makes it potentially beneficial in the treatment of conditions like Parkinson's disease, but dangerous for the treatment of other conditions or home use without the supervision of a doctor. It's shocking to think that more and more people are beginning to take mucuna without knowing how it works.

What is mucuna pruriens?

Mucuna pruriens is a plant which is also known as velvet bean. This plant is well known for its high concentration of psychoactive compounds. The most concentrated compound in this mixture is L-DOPA, which is the precursor to dopamine in the human body.

As well as L-DOPA, mucuna pruriens also contains other compounds like 5-HTP, which is the natural precursor to serotonin. These other ingredients aren't present in a very high concentration, so the effects of mucuna pruriens are largely related to the L-DOPA content alone.

Effects of mucuna pruriens

Mucuna pruriens is primarily taken as a natural way to increase the amount of dopamine in the central nervous system. Whereas dopamine taken orally can't cross the blood brain barrier and has only peripheral effects, L-DOPA in mucuna pruriens is able to cross the barrier.

It is here that the L-DOPA from mucuna pruriens is converted into dopamine, and the dopamine which is produced in the brain can elicit a psychoactive effect. This has the effect of lowering blood pressure, increasing libido, improving mood, and improving wakefulness and memory.

Where Parkinson's disease or restless legs is present, it will often improve these conditions in the same way that prescription L-DOPA will, but the effect is largely dependent on how much of the compound reaches the brain. Prescription supplements include carbidopa to ensure that the precursor isn't converted into dopamine outside the central nervous system, so they are more powerful and have less side effects on a dose to dose comparison.

Dangerous side effects of mucuna pruriens

Mucuna pruriens carries with it all the potential side effects of prescription L-DOPA treatment, which is carefully used by doctors in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. Taking the supplement for long periods of time can even cause a form of physical addiction and withdrawal because long-term use causes the body's dopamine receptors to become down-regulated in response to the excess dopamine.

This means that any perceived benefit of mucuna pruriens is short lived and will gradually fade away as you continue to take the supplement. Worse still is that ceasing consumption after this time will result in a withdrawal where symptoms like apathy, lack of motivation, inability to find pleasure in anything, restless legs, Parkinson-like symptoms, and learning problems can occur. This withdrawal can be prolonged and difficult to treat.

Short-term use is just as dubious because of the potential side effects and the lack of real benefit of using the supplement. Whilst mucuna pruriens may be useful as a treatment for Parkinson's disease or restless legs, it is not as effective or safe compared to prescription L-DOPA products. It's use in the treatment of other conditions is not currently supported by medical science.

Not only can it cause hallucinations, psychosis, the impairment of certain brain functions, and physical side effects like hair loss, but it can also potentially provoke schizophrenia in people who are genetically predisposed to the condition.

One of the best theories for the cause of schizophrenia is that the illness is related to dopamine dysfunction, and this effect is easily shown through the use of dopamine antagonists as a treatment for schizophrenia. These drugs, also known as anti-psychotics, block the effect of dopamine on its receptors, causing a reduction of psychosis, hallucinations, and other symptoms.

Drugs like amphetamines on the other hand, increase dopamine and are known to cause psychosis and hallucinations. Some of these drugs are believed to aggravate existing schizophrenia or even cause the onset of schizophrenia in people who are at risk of the illness. For this reason, it's logical that mucuna pruriens, because of its dopamine-boosting effect, could influence schizophrenia in the same way.

All of this makes mucuna pruriens a dangerous supplement to take; especially without the supervision of a doctor. Although many people start taking mucuna pruriens for depression or mood problems, it is not proven to be beneficial in these conditions and the side effects outweigh any potential benefit. Any benefit that is received from the supplement is short-lived and will give way to physical addiction and withdrawal, further illustrating just how reckless it is to take mucuna pruriens.

If you are thinking about taking mucuna pruriens, it's something that you absolutely must discuss with your doctor because it can interact with other medications. Keep in mind that many doctors aren't entirely familiar with the supplement either and may not know how dangerous it can be. If your doctor doesn't have actual experience with the supplement and doesn't know when to use it and what conditions it is actually appropriate for, you need to talk to someone who does before you actually take it. Taking it without a medical consultation with a suitably knowledgeable doctor could very well endanger your health.

As with all supplements that influence the monoamine neurotransmitters (Dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, primarily), it is never wise to use these supplements without a clear indication of benefit. Neurotransmitter levels are maintained delicately by the body and any manipulation of these levels can lead to problems both physically and mentally. It's not something you really want to risk if you can avoid it.

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Thursday, 4 December 2014

65 Tips to supercharge your health and fitness

This is page two of the Profound Health '65 tips to supercharge your health and fitness', giving you 31 more health tips that you can use every day to supercharge your health and fitness.

Page 1 - Read the first 34 tips for better health

Switch to lean meat

Lean meat is meat that contains less fat, and this also results in the meat having a higher percentage of protein than fattier cuts. Leaner cuts of meat benefit your health because they don't have as much cholesterol and can be a healthy way to avoid heart disease later in life.

Sit down often

Standing for long periods of time isn't healthy for your knees, hips, and other joints. When you're standing or walking, you place more pressure in your knee joints than your actual weight. Your knees are designed to take this stress, but they need to rest whenever possible or else you'll end up suffering from injuries to the ligaments and cartilage of your knee, as well as the muscles and tendons that join onto the knee joint.

This leaves you more susceptible to arthritis or even an injury that could require surgery. Rest often in-between periods of standing and exercise, and take a joint supplement where arthritis or other knee issues run in the family. You'll thank yourself later on in life when you can still walk and run without pain. Sensible joint care now means continued mobility later on when you retire.

Take care of your joints

Your joints are very important, and any misuse or overuse can dramatically increase your risk of arthritis later in life, as well as your risk of injuries. Injuries from joint overuse can include anything from a cartilage tear in the knees, to tendonitis in the elbow.

All joint issues are serious because they have the ability to greatly impact your quality of life. Losing mobility reduces your ability to exercise, do the things you love, and work. It has a direct effect on your mental health and can cause depression.

If you have joint issues, even if they seem less serious, it pays to have the problem looked over by a doctor. It is also wise to strengthen the muscles around your joints as this takes strain off the cartilage and connective tissue. Having a strong back, buttocks, thighs, and calves, is the key to reducing joint strain and strengthening your body overall.

Visit the chiropractor

The condition of your back affects the rest of your joints and an improperly aligned back can even lead to problems with your hips, knees, and ankles. A visit to the chiropractor should be a regular addition to your healthcare regime.

Chiropractors can examine the condition and alignment of your joints as well as offer treatment that realigns them into proper position, reducing pain and the risk of injuries as a result.

Take glucosamine sulfate

Glucosamine is a natural compound present in the synovial fluid of your joints. This fluid lubricates your joints and keeps them moving properly. Glucosamine plays a key part in the functioning of synovial fluid and can decrease in concentration with age.

For this reason, if you're older and suffer from osteoarthritis, glucosamine sulfate is a natural treatment for the immobility and pain associated with arthritis. It can also be taken by younger people who suffer from osteoarthritis.

However, only the sulfate salt has proven efficacy and it's currently only proven to be beneficial for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Taken for this condition, it improves mobility, reduces pain, and increases quality of life and allows you to exercise properly and return to more regular activity.

Quit your job

Feeling stressed, sleep deprived, and fatigued? Have you been called in to work again or had to stay back long hours and haven't had enough time to get a decent sleep before you start again the next day? This kind of devotion might advance your career, but it's poisonous to both your physical and mental health.

Chronic sleep deprivation and overworking damage all areas of your health, including your memory, brain function, cardiovascular health, skin, and digestion. The further you continue to push yourself, the more likely you are to suffer a breakdown or end up extremely sick. If this is you, it may be time to look for a career that doesn't suck the life out of you and allows you the time to look after yourself. If nothing else and you can't or don't want to leave your job, you absolutely need to be able to place time aside for yourself so that you can recover and stay healthy.

Cut down on stress

Stress is a mental condition, but it has physical effects on the rest of your body. Research shows that stress increases the risk of heart disease and other illnesses, as well as reduces the effectiveness of the immune system.

This is not surprising considering that corticosteroids, which are naturally released in response to stress, are well known for their immune suppressant effect. A little stress is fine, but too much can be detrimental to your mental and physical health.

Drink more water

Water is the primary component of life, and this is reflected in the fact that our bodies are mostly water. As such, your body needs a constant supply of clean, high quality water to maintain optimum health and aid the function of the kidneys.

Getting enough water can even help decrease bloating from water retention, because when the body knows it will receive enough water to function properly, it doesn't see the need to store large amounts of it under your skin. You'll look less bloated, and your body will be better able to remove metabolic waste. Drinking more water also helps to keep your skin looking great and feeling firmer.

Listen to music every day

Music makes the world go 'round, and it will certainly put a bounce in your step or cheer you up when you're feeling down. Listening to music is a great way to relax, ease stress, and improve your mental health. For best results, turn off the lights and use headphones to block out the external environment and increase your relaxation.

Reduce caffeine intake

Caffeine is the most commonly consumed drug in the world, and it's present in a huge variety of different drinks. Many people are dependent on a hot cup of coffee every morning before they can even begin to focus or truly wake up.

All this caffeine isn't without its problems however, and your caffeine intake has a direct effect on stress by increasing concentrations of the fight or flight neurotransmitter epinephrine when you consume too much.

Excess caffeine also increase the release of cortisol, which is normally released in response to stress and can inhibit the immune system and cause you to feel run down and bloated in excess. Reducing your reliance on caffeine helps to avoid all of this and reduces stress. It can also help you get a better sleep.

But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a hot coffee...

Too much caffeine is harmful to your health, but a little caffeine can actually improve several aspects of your health, as well as increase alertness and wakefulness when you need it most. The key here is to try not to consume it every day, and limit the amount you do consume.

Coffee as a source of caffeine, and even decaf coffee, is beneficial to your health because it lowers cholesterol and reduces your risk of developing diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.

This is because coffee contains beneficial antioxidants and other compounds that effect health in ways that are separate to the caffeine content. Caffeine itself is noted to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer.

Consume enough iron and zinc

Iron and zinc are two very important minerals. Iron is particularly well known for its role in fatigue and malaise when a deficiency is present, and it is necessary to consume enough iron to maintain energy levels and be able to perform at your best.

Iron is also involved in several enzymes that are crucial to health, meaning a deficiency can have more widespread effects on your body as a whole.

Zinc is highly important to the function of enzymes within your body and is also very important for men's health as it is involved in the production of testosterone.

A zinc deficiency can leave you feeling run down and tired, but it will also lead to lower levels of testosterone, decreased mental well being, and an impaired immune system. Studies have even shown that when people are deficient in zinc, they are more susceptible to a cold and have symptoms for longer than those who consume enough zinc.

Add black pepper to your food

Black pepper is hot because it contains piperine. This compound is responsible for the warmth that is experienced when you eat food that has been seasoned with pepper, and it is also a compound that has the ability to increase the absorption and bioavailability of vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients.

Curcumin, which is found in turmeric and can be used as a natural treatment for joint swelling and pain, is not very bioavailable. Piperine increases the absorption of curcumin, allowing a much lower dosage to be used to attain the same effects. Black pepper may even help prevent lung cancer and other types of tumours.

Get enough calcium every day

Calcium is another mineral that can often be overlooked and many people just aren't getting enough of it these days. As more and more people are avoiding dairy and decreasing their consumption of foods like cheese and milk, which can be high in fat, calcium deficiencies become more common.

This leads to an increased risk of osteoporosis and is detrimental to the health of your bones and joints as your body will leach it out of your bones to use as an electrolyte when external supply is low.

Getting the right amount of calcium, which means at least 1000 mg per day, will keep your bones healthy into an older age, as well as keep you feeling your best. It may even help you lose more weight according to studies.

Lose weight

Losing weight is a fairly obvious way to improve your health, but one that a lot of people can sometimes overlook. Being overweight is a significant risk factor for many illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, and even several types of cancer. Being obese can even put you at a risk of type II diabetes that is 20 times higher than someone of a healthier weight.

If you're struggling to lose weight and have been for some time, it may be about time to see your doctor and have them assess your health and provide you with some assistance to lose the excess weight. There is no quick way to do this other than exercise and a healthy diet.

Exercise daily

Maintaining a healthy diet and weight is important for achieving a high level of health, and daily exercise is the best way to maintain your fitness. Daily exercise can also reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels, your risk of stroke and diabetes, and will lead to stronger muscles and better endurance as a whole. This keeps you feeling and looking great, well into old age.

Perform gentle cardio

Cardiovascular fitness is paramount to a healthy heart and lungs, and the best way to achieve a healthier cardiovascular system is through the use of gentle aerobic exercise every week. Whilst resistance exercise builds muscle and strength, aerobic exercise strengthens the heart.

Adding more cardio to your exercise routine is as easy as going for a walk or jog. You can also try swimming, jumping jacks, rowing, or any other exercise that gets your heart pumping. The key is to maintain a moderate pace. Doing so will strengthen your cardiovascular system, endurance, and also burn fat.

Eat blueberries

Berries are a nutritional powerhouse, brimming with antioxidants and vitamins. Blueberries are even better though, with studies suggesting that a daily serving of blueberries can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and steer clear of cancer. On top of that, they taste great and can be eaten by themselves or added to your favourite salads, yogurt, or desserts.

Cook with coconut oil

Virgin coconut oil is a promising new way to lower LDL cholesterol—the bad kind—whilst increasing HDL cholesterol. It has also been shown to lower triglycerides and phospholipids, and can even decrease the oxidation of LDL cholesterol into artery clogging atherosclerosis. This is because of the polyphenol content and the medium chain triglycerides found in virgin coconut oil.

To make the most of coconut oil, use it as a dipping oil, a base for mayonnaise, salad dressings, or infuse it with different flavours. You can also use it whenever you need to fry anything; especially if you're sautéing meat or vegetables for a curry that is going to use coconut milk or cream. The use of coconut oil here fits with the flavour profile of the recipe perfectly.

Avoid trans fats

Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat, but they don't share the benefits of other unsaturated fat. This is because they're chemically different, and although they are rarely found in nature, they are artificially produced when foods are processed in a certain way.

The most common method of production is when vegetable oil is hydrogenated to create margarine and other spreads. Trans fats are an unintentional by-product of this process and any margarine or other product containing margarine is likely to contain trans fats.

These fats are proven to contribute to heart disease as they raise LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, decrease HDL cholesterol, and promote inflammation. To maintain good health, you shouldn't consume any trans fat wherever possible, or at least greatly limit your intake.

Eat good fats

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are examples of good fats. This kind of fat helps your body produce healthy cell membranes, as well as lowers your risk of heart attack and stroke.

They achieve this through lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol, as well as positively affecting blood pressure and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Unsaturated fats like this are most commonly found in vegetable oils like olive oil. Olive oil itself has a range of health benefits beyond that of the unsaturated fats found within it and is a great oil to use for cooking or as a dip for bread and dukkah.

Eat more vegetables

It's something you hear constantly, but still worth repeating nonetheless. Many people simply don't eat enough vegetables, and no, potato chips don't count. For optimum health, and to ensure you're getting a wide variety of different nutrients, you need to eat a wider variety of vegetables, and more of them.

Some of the different types of vegetables you might want to incorporate into your diet include carrots, spinach, pumpkin, beetroot, onion, broccoli, beans, lentils, chickpeas, capsicum, tomatoes, and eggplant (Admittedly, capsicum, pumpkin, eggplant, and tomatoes are fruit, but they're tasty regardless).

Add chili to your food

Chili causes a hot sensation because of a compound called capsaicin. This binds to TRPV1 receptors in your mouth and stimulates them to produce the same response that would occur when you feel actual heat, albeit without the physical effects of the heat itself.

An interesting benefit of this however is that it also lowers blood pressure through nitric oxide release, and may increase metabolism to help you lose weight faster by burning more energy at rest.

Eating food containing chili can also slow down the rate at which you eat so that your body has more time to tell you when you're full and you don't overeat. All of these benefits help you maintain a healthier weight.

Eat more slowly

When you are hungry and eat something to satisfy your hunger, your body doesn't realise that it's full for a while. This means that you continue to eat even after your body is actually satisfied. The easiest way to combat this, whilst enjoying your food more, is to take the time to eat slowly and really enjoy and taste your food while you eat it. This allows more time for your body to indicate that it is full and you will eat less as a result.

Try lentils

If you're a vegetarian, not a big fan of meat, or simply eating on a strict budge, lentils are one of the cheapest ways to add more protein to your diet, as well as essential vitamins and minerals.

They're inexpensive, healthy, and can be incorporated into a variety of different recipes to bulk up the nutrition of your meals.

Get a massage

The benefits of a massage to your mental health are obvious. Massages are an easy way to relieve stress, relax, and get to sleep easier. They also have health benefits for your physical health though, which can range from benefits to your circulation to a reduction of pain in overused muscles and joints.

Use low fat dairy

Dairy gets a bad reputation for being high in fat, even though it has many vitamins and minerals, high protein, and other benefits. Low fat or no fat dairy gives you the best of both worlds by allowing you to lower your fat intake while still getting the vital nutrients that dairy offers.

In particular, skim milk, reduced fat cheese, and low fat yogurt are some of the best low fat dairy products that taste very similar to their higher fat counterparts. What's better is that you can add them to all your favourite recipes to decrease the amounts of fat in your meals. You can even substitute evaporated milk for cream in some circumstances, or top baked potatoes with low fat Greek yogurt for a tasty yet lighter meal.

Ditch the soft drinks

Soft drinks are like a liquid version of candy and they share the same lack of nutritional benefits. Whilst delicious and refreshing, they are full of sugar and absolutely nothing else. All these drinks do is increase the size of your waist and promote teeth decay.

Ditching the soft drinks will see you feeling and looking better. If nothing else, at least reduce your intake and you'll still experience better health.

Eat wholegrain and multi-grain foods

Wholegrain and multi-grain foods are less refined because the entirety of the grain is used in the product. In the case of multi-grain, several different types of grain are incorporated into the product, which boosts the amount of nutrients that are present in the food. These food products also contain a lot more fiber and protein than processed white flours.

Limit refined carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates like white sugar, white flour and other processed carbs are terrible for your waistline, as well as your health in general. These carbohydrates are also devoid of many beneficial nutrients that are present in the less refined and natural alternatives. The easiest way to limit your consumption of refined carbohydrates is to switch from 'white' products to wholemeal products.

This means instead of baking with white flour, try to use wholemeal flour or even try different types of healthier grains and flours like rye or flax seed. Sugar, on the other hand, can be substituted with honey, molasses, or another healthier sweetener that includes vitamins and minerals.

Consume more fiber every day

Fiber is not a nutrient in the traditional sense like protein or vitamins and minerals are as it isn't actually absorbed and used in the maintenance of your body. The benefits of fiber are actually directly related to this lack of absorption though. When consumed, fiber acts to assist the digestive system by adding bulk and helping to keep things moving smoothly.

On top of this, a type of fiber called soluble fiber is beneficial in an entirely different way because there is mounting evidence that it can help to absorb and remove LDL cholesterol. This has direct benefits for the health of your heart.

Living healthier and happier doesn't mean you need to control every single aspect of your diet and every little thing you eat, nor does it mean you have to jog for 8 hours a day. Living a healthier lifestyle can be as easy as using these tips to improve your health.

Each small tip helps contribute to your health in various ways and the benefits mount as more of the tips are used together. Taking care of yourself is important, and you can do it with one small change at a time, every day.

Page 1 - Read the first 34 tips for better health

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65 Tips to supercharge your health and fitness

If you want to become healthier, there are many different ways that you can achieve this while enriching your health and well being every day.

In fact, here's 65 tips to improve your health and happiness, ranging from a few tips that are more obvious, to others that you may have never heard of before.

Get more sleep

It goes without saying that you're probably sleep deprived or not getting as much sleep as you really need. This is the case for the majority of people and very few people actually sleep as long as they should.

Getting the appropriate amount of sleep helps to avoid weight gain, stress, premature aging, and just keeps you feeling happier and healthier in general though, so it's wise to try and sleep more.

Avoid light before you go to bed

One of the ways you can help yourself to get to sleep easier and have a better quality of sleep is to avoid light exposure before you to bed. Bright lights, especially lighting that is primarily blue, reduce levels of melatonin.

Melatonin is one of the hormones your body uses to promote sleep, and levels of it are naturally influenced by day and night. If you have the lights and TV on at all hours of the day, your body is less likely to realise it's actually night time and it should be winding down.

Wherever possible, switch off all the lights, TV, and don't look at your phone screen at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep. If you can't bear to go without a little TV before bed, try amber-tinted glasses to block out the blue spectrum of light. This helps to limit the effects of light exposure and allows you to sleep easier.

Avoid eating right before bed time

Eating before you go to bed is another factor in how well you sleep. Not only does eating before bed potentially result in indigestion and discomfort, but it can also keep you awake. When your body is trying to digest a large meal, sleep is the last thing it plans to do.

Aim to stop eating 1 - 2 hours before you go to sleep, or limit portion sizes and you'll sleep much better as a result.

Relax before bed time

If you go to bed and immediately try to fall asleep right after you've finished working, chances are it will take longer and you'll end up tossing and turning for longer before you actually fall asleep because you're not relaxed. Taking the time to relax before you plan to go to sleep helps get your body ready to go to sleep and makes it easier to do so once you're ready.

Take a multivitamin

Even with a varied diet, many people don't get enough vitamins and minerals for optimum health, and this is compounded if your diet isn't so good or you binge on junk food fairly often. If this is you, a multivitamin can do you a world of good, providing your body with the necessary vitamins and minerals it needs to function at its best. Not only that, but you'll feel more energetic, less stressed, and ready to take on the world.

Start the day with gentle exercise

Exercising in the morning helps to kick you into action early on, right after you wake up. This exercise should be gentle and isn't meant to exhaust you; it's primarily a way to get motivated and ready for the day.

Drink mineral water

Mineral water, depending on its source, contains beneficial necessary minerals like calcium and magnesium. This is in comparison with tap water, which can contain nasty chemicals like arsenic, perchlorate, and radon. Old pipes that have begun to corrode can even leach lead into tap water, and whilst the high levels of added fluoride benefits your teeth locally, drinking it in the form of water can have side effects for the rest of your body.

Eat more protein

Protein is vital for your body to maintain itself, repair injuries, and gain muscle. On top of this, foods that are higher in protein will make you feel fuller and leave you less likely to binge later or to eat portions that are too large.

Getting enough protein whilst on a diet can even help you avoid losing muscle when calories are cut and you start exercising. You've worked hard for your muscle—you don't want to lose it.

Fidgeting burns calories

Fidgeting burns calories, and if you can't relax in your seat, that might be more of a good thing than you think. Studies show that there is an inverse association between fidgeting and weight gain, meaning that those who fidget more, seem to gain less weight than those who do not. So if you're a chronic fidget and can't relax in your seat, relish in that fact and fidget away.

Drink a glass of orange juice

Orange juice is not only refreshing, but is also high in vitamin C. This vitamin is crucial for the health of your skin, joints, and immune systems. Anyone who avoids fruit may be at risk of a vitamin C deficiency.

Cigarette smokers require more vitamin C than other people too, and there is some belief that the usual recommended amounts of this vitamin may be below what many people really need in general.

In any case, if you plan to take more than 200 mgs per day, you should always see a doctor first. Any more than this dosage would likely offer no further health benefits.

Choose low GI foods

The nutrients and energy from low GI foods are absorbed more slowly over time compared to foods that have a higher GI. They also tend to contain more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than their counterparts, and are a healthier alternative overall.

Eating low GI foods helps you to avoid blood sugar spikes, crashing later on, and allows you to add more essential nutrients to your diet. Choosing a low GI food could be as simple as choosing wholegrain rye over white bread, basmati rice over white rice, or even eating pasta, which often has a very low GI.

Try basmati rice

Basmati rice is a much tastier alternative to regular white rice, with a slightly firmer texture and a greater propensity towards holding its shape.

Unlike white rice and many other kinds of rice, it is also a low GI food. This means that it will provide sustained energy instead of causing your blood glucose levels to spike. You will remain satisfied and energised for longer and are less likely to suffer a crash later on.

Add basmati to curries, Indian food, stuffed peppers, or even to Western recipes that would normally call for white rice. You may be pleasantly surprised how tasty it is in your favourite foods.

Eat yogurt as a snack

What better snack is there than yogurt? Yogurt is high in protein and calcium, easily digestible, and contains large amounts of beneficial probiotics that can help keep your digestive system running smoothly and even strengthen your immune system. What's more is that it's healthy yet ready to eat, so it can save you time without ruining your diet. It is also a low GI snack option.

HIIT training

HIIT training is a short exercise regime aimed at pushing your body to close to its maximum exertion. This has been shown in studies to have unique health benefits that aren't seen with other types of exercise. Because the regime itself takes little time and can be complemented by your regular workout, most people will have time to try HIIT training.

Eat oily fish like salmon

Oily fish is high in omega 3, and omega 3 is necessary for the health of your brain, heart, and joints. Not only do most people not get enough omega 3 in general, but they also consume too much omega 6, which decreases the benefits of the omega 3 they do get.

These different types of omega fatty acids need to be balanced for maximum benefit. Oily fish like salmon are a tasty and nutritious way of adding more protein and omega 3 to your diet.

Drink less alcohol

If you drink alcohol, it can have benefits for your cardiovascular health because it reduces the risk of blood clots and benefits your heart. This is only in smaller amounts however. Excessive consumption has the opposite effect, as well as many other damaging effects to your body. Try to consume no more than 4 standard drinks, and avoid binge drinking in order to protect your brain, liver, and heart.

Drink red wine

Whilst a small amount of alcohol is beneficial to your health in some ways, red wine differs in that it has many different health benefits beyond its alcohol content due to the numerous antioxidants and other natural plant compounds that help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and may even help you to live longer. Red wine could even be beneficial for fat loss and 1 - 2 glasses are safe and healthy to consume.

Watch your cholesterol and blood pressure

A high blood pressure and high levels of LDL cholesterol are risk factors for cardiovascular disease and a heart attack. For this reason, it is wise to keep an eye on both of these levels. Your doctor can test both your cholesterol and blood pressure and give you a better idea of where you stand, as well as provide assistance to lower levels of these risk factors that are higher than they should be.

Salt isn't evil

Salt, in the form of sodium, whilst frequently demonised in the media, is actually an important nutrient. In the body, sodium acts as an electrolyte and there are severe side effects to a low intake of salt. This all comes down to a matter of concentration.

Whilst too little salt can even cause death, too much salt raises your blood pressure and puts you at risk of a heart attack. The key is to consume around 2000 mg of sodium a day if you're healthy, or less if you have blood pressure problems and your doctor has advised you to limit your intake.

Limit sun exposure

Sunshine on your skin allows your body to produce vitamin D, but that's as far as the benefits go. No amount of sunshine is safe exposure, and every minute you spend out in the sun is putting you at a higher risk of skin cancer and prematurely aging your skin.

Wherever possible, you should try to get your vitamin D from foods or even supplements rather than relying on the sun. Always use sunscreen products when you expect lengthy exposure and you'll significantly decrease your chances of skin cancer whilst maintaining a youthful complexion.

Check your vitamin D levels

Vitamin D is crucial to your mental health as well as your physical health, yet a large proportion of the population is deficient in this necessary nutrient. Without adequate vitamin D, you are at risk for joint problems, osteoporosis, depression, and there is some evidence that a deficiency may even contribute to chronic fatigue syndrome. Having your vitamin D levels checked regularly is important, and you can take supplements if your vitamin D is low.

Use your brain daily

Your brain can't be exercised in the same way as the rest of your body, but it's just as important to exercise this organ daily. Solving problems, calculating figures, playing thought games, and reading are all easy ways to strengthen your brain and maintain its health.

Doing so could even help maintain your memory and intelligence later in life. Even video games are a good way to keep your brain active and properly exercised.

Reduce your sugar intake

Sugar can cause many problems for the body beyond weight gain. It damages your teeth, lowers insulin sensitivity, and causes you to feel run down and fatigued if you consume too much. This isn't to say that you should avoid all sugar like the plague, but rather, to reduce your intake to a healthier level and you will see the benefits in your energy levels, as well as your waist line.

Walk to work

If you work in an office or any other job that leaves you sitting down at a computer for most of the day, you're not getting much exercise.

Walking to work is an easy way to lose weight, improve your fitness, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and offset the negative effects of a lifestyle that is overly sedentary. What's even better is that it will save you money on fuel or transportation.

Of course, this requires you to actually be somewhat close to your workplace. Walking 10 miles to work and back isn't on the agenda for most people. If your workplace is located far away, you may be able to park your car on the way to work and walk the rest of the distance in order to get your exercise without having to run a marathon to the office.

Eat a healthy breakfast

A healthy breakfast is the cornerstone to getting the most out of every day. When you first wake up, your body has been fasting for about 8 hours and it really needs a good supply of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water to ease it back into operational mode and get you primed to perform at your best.

Eat pasta for breakfast

What's that you say? Pasta for breakfast? It sounds strange as it's not the most conventional breakfast food, but pasta is a nutritionally dense, high protein, low GI food and is well suited to breakfast meals.

Eating a low GI food like pasta can help keep you feeling full and nourished all the way into lunchtime, whilst giving you the energy to perform at your best.

Eat smaller portions

Eating smaller portions, but more often, is one of the easiest ways to provide your body with more sustained energy, prevent bloating, and to give your body more chance to effectively use the nutrients you consume.

Drink green tea

Green tea is beneficial to your health in a few ways. The antioxidants in green tea help to fight aging, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and even help you boost your metabolism.

Theanine in tea serves to calm your mind and reduce stress, supporting your mental health and working in unison with the other active ingredients in green tea to help you think clearer, and feel healthier.

Add garlic to food

Garlic is known for its strong smell and taste, but did you know it also benefits your immune system? Eating garlic is known to help strengthen the immune system and even prevent colds and flu, as well as other illnesses.

Research also suggests that garlic can lower your cholesterol when eaten or taken as a dried extract, making it a powerful natural ingredient that enhances the flavour of your food and your health at the same time.

Eat a steak

Red meat like steak is somewhat shunned these days because of the saturated fat content. Studies have failed to draw the conclusion that saturated fat itself is a significant risk factor for heart disease recently though.

Whilst it may not be the healthiest type of fat compared to unsaturated fats, which actually improve cardiovascular health, it is not likely to be detrimental to your heart.

This means that you can feel free to enjoy a steak if you want, and doing so brings with it the benefits of the protein, iron, zinc, B12, and other nutrients that are difficult to get enough of without red meat. For best results, choose a cut like scotch fillet or filet mignon as these cuts are leaner and more tender.

Eat balanced meals

Many people eat meals that aren't balanced and only include one or two of the key macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Ensuring that your larger meals contain a balance of these nutrients is the key to good health as well as feeling satisfied after a meal.

When planning meals, look at the types of ingredients you're using. If you're having a serve of potato bake for dinner, does this incorporate protein rather than just carbohydrates and fat? Can you reduce the serving size and add in some lean meat, lentils, or another source of protein as a side? Better still, can you reduce the amount of fat in the potato bake or use potatoes that have a lower GI?

These are all ways to eat meals that are more balanced and once you start looking at meals in the sense that they incorporate all of the three primary nutrients, you'll notice the benefits.

Build more muscle

Building more muscle is good for your health, appearance, and self esteem. It also acts to burn more calories even at rest, and the resistance exercise used to gain muscle is itself a great workout that burns many calories and continues to burn calories over the rest of the day as the muscles begin to repair themselves from the exertion.

Try a whey protein shake

Whey protein is one of the best and easiest ways to get more protein, especially if you're a vegetarian or can't afford quality lean meat. Whey protein shakes made from whey protein isolate are even very low in fat and carbohydrates, so they can provide a supply of relatively pure protein without the nutrients you may not need, whereas whey protein concentrate and regular whey protein are a more balanced source of every kind of nutrient.

As a source of protein, whey is high in all the essential amino acids, easily digestible, rapidly absorbed, and can be mixed up in anything from water or juice to milk, or used in cooking to make high protein cookies and other healthy recipes.

Consume protein before bed

When you go to sleep, you're about to embark on an extended period of fasting where your body starts to repair and maintain itself. It needs protein to do this, and if your protein intake is low, or you don't consume enough of it at the right times, this will impact this process and reduce your body's ability to repair damage.

Taking protein before you go to bed is the best way to give your body what it needs to maintain itself, as well as ensure your body has an ample supply of amino acids to produce hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin which are crucial for your mental health and well being.

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The 5 best sources of protein

Protein does a lot for your body. More than many people realise in fact. Whilst everyone knows that protein is necessary for muscle growth, a lot of people don't know how vital it is to the growth, maintenance, and general health of the body as a whole.

Not only is a good daily intake of protein required for muscle gains to occur, but it is also required for the production of neurotransmitters; healthy skin, hair, and nails; and the health of many other aspects of your body and brain. In this way it affects both your physical and mental health.

All of this makes protein one of the most important nutrients, but how can you get enough of it without devouring a mountain of steak? Here are 5 of the best sources of protein, which are not only high in protein but also phenomenally good for you in other ways too.

5. Salmon and other oily fish

Salmon isn't everyone's cup of tea and some people don't eat fish. For those who do however, salmon is easily one of the best and healthiest foods to include in your diet. This oily fish is high in protein, and it's also high in healthy fats and omega 3 fatty acids.

It is these healthy fats in salmon that make it so beneficial for your heart. It can potentially even help reduce the pain of arthritis and other joint issues or inflammation based diseases because omega 3 fatty acids have a natural anti-inflammatory effect.

On top of this, salmon is one of the only foods that are naturally high in vitamin D, which tends to be deficient in surprisingly many people. A deficiency in vitamin D can cause problems with joints, bones, muscles, mood, and lead to fatigue and depression.

Add in the positive benefits to your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and what you have is a veritable powerhouse of nutrition, so fans of seafood can rejoice in knowing that salmon is one of the best sources of protein, yet also a healthy food in its own right.

4. Peanuts, almonds, and other nuts

Nuts like peanuts and almonds are extremely high in protein, even approaching the amount of protein found in lean meat. What's even better is that if you're a vegetarian or vegan, they are a source of protein that doesn't require the consumption of animals or animal products.

Overall, anyone can enjoy nuts, whether you're an avid carnivore or strictly vegan. They're easy to add to other foods and meals, and they can be used in anything from breakfast to dessert, making them one of the most versatile sources of protein.

Most nuts are also a good source of nutrients like vitamin E and zinc, as well as a source of healthy fats that lower cholesterol and blood pressure. This means that eating nuts can help you protect your heart and keep you healthier well into old age.

They are nutrient dense however, so if you're on a diet you will need to take this into account before you decide to eat too many of them. In this case, the best thing to do is to substitute your unhealthy snacks for a handful of nuts.

3. Yogurt

Yogurt is one of the best foods in general without even taking its protein content into account. The fact that it is also one of the best sources of protein just adds to the benefits of eating yogurt every day.

The benefits of yogurt begin with its digestibility. Yogurt is one of the easiest foods to digest because it's already partially digested by the beneficial bacteria within. This makes it easy on the stomach and the probiotics in yogurt help to ward of stomach infections, improve your digestive system, and prevent you from feeling bloated.

It is also high in many different nutrients like calcium, vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorous, many of which aid bone formation in conjunction with calcium. This means that yogurt is not only high in protein for your muscles, but also high in bone-building nutrients that strengthen your bones.

Yogurt gets even better when you add nuts and fresh berries to it. Adding nuts increases the protein content whilst also adding in beneficial fats and more vitamins and minerals, whilst berries like blueberries add even more vitamins, antioxidants, and can even help reduce your risk of cancer or fat gain. It even keeps you feeling fuller and more satisfied for longer due to its low GI. All of this makes yogurt a great healthy source of protein.

2. Eggs

No list of the best sources of protein is complete without mentioning eggs. Whilst eggs don't have the highest quantity of protein on this list, they are an incredibly healthy food which helps benefit your body in many different ways in conjunction with the high quality protein they offer.

Eggs are high in a lot of different nutrients including vitamin A, zinc, iron, and B vitamins. Of particular note however is the abundance of selenium that is present in eggs. Selenium is a trace nutrient that is required for a healthy immune system. Getting enough selenium in your diet helps ward off illnesses and keeps you feeling and looking healthier.

They are also a highly versatile food. Not only can you use them in cooking baked foods, sauces, and the preparation of other foods, you can also cook them in a variety of different ways by boiling, frying, or poaching. Add eggs to your favourite recipes and you can increase both the protein content of your meals as well as the vitamin and mineral content.

1. Whey protein

Whey protein is the king of protein, and with good reason. It is the same high quality as egg protein, easily digestible, highly bioavailable, and can be consumed in the form of drinks or even added to baked foods.

As a protein source, whey is high in all the essential amino acids, as well as high in calcium. When added to milk in the form of a whey protein shake, this further increases the vitamin and mineral content, as well as the amount of protein.

It is also completely natural and doesn't go through any form of chemical processing like soy or other forms of protein powder; the purification process is purely physical. Peptides present in the protein powder even have their own unique benefits for your health and can help reduce inflammation, cholesterol, and even boost muscle growth beyond the effect of protein itself.

All of this makes whey protein the absolute best source of protein, with no real parallel. Whey protein isolate, the most concentrated form of whey, 'weighs' in at approximately 95 percent protein, making it the easiest way to add extra protein to your diet without added fat or carbohydrates.

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Thursday, 20 November 2014

How you can help fight antibiotic resistance

The advent of antibiotics was a revolution in healthcare, and likewise, the gradual loss of their effectiveness is possibly the most frightening situation to find ourselves in. The conquest of bacterial infections is over, and the bacteria have turned the tide and come up victorious. Worst of all, we're all to blame because we've all unwittingly played a part in antibiotic resistance.

When antibiotics were first discovered and began to be hailed as a miracle, nobody thought that they would simply stop working one day. This is what is actually happening though, and it has dire consequences for the world.

Only a decade ago, superbugs like methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), were the kind of dangerous bacteria that was only found in hospitals, where infections and antibiotic use were more concentrated. This has changed, and now MRSA is found all over the world and there's a chance you could become infected with this highly resistant bacteria even from a simple prick to the finger.

Bacteria have even become resistant to most of the more powerful 'last resort' styled drugs like vancomycin, which are usually only used to treat infections that haven't responded to other antibiotics. Strains of tuberculosis called 'extremely resistant tuberculosis' are becoming almost impossible to treat, and new classes of antibiotics aren't being actively developed.

This is all real, and it's exactly as terrifying as it sounds. If antibiotics are lost, society itself will return to the dark days of medicine where nothing could be done to treat an infection. If your body can't fight it off, you, or someone you love very dearly, could lose their life. It's absolutely as serious as it sounds.

What causes antibiotic resistance?

Bacteria are extremely diverse, just like all other lifeforms. Unlike most life forms however, they multiply and reproduce at an unprecedented rate. Under the right conditions, a population of bacteria could quadruple within a few hours or less depending on the type of bacteria present. This allows genetic mutations to occur much more quickly in bacteria.

These mutations could be relatively benign, or they could even make a strain of bacteria more virulent. Another possibility is that a strain of bacteria can develop that isn't susceptible to a particular antibiotic. When that antibiotic is used, the bacteria that are susceptible are killed off, and the resistant strain goes on to multiply.

This is the ultimate cause of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics have been overused since they were introduced, and it's not uncommon for people to take them when they don't even need them. This has lead to a scenario where resistant strains of bacteria have become the most dominant kind because we've killed off the strains that were susceptible to our antibiotics and caused artificial selection to take over.

It's now more likely that when we contract an infection, the causative agent will be a resistant strain of bacteria, because there is simply more resistant bacteria around now. Our overuse of antibiotics has driven their evolution and could cause our own downfall.

Find out more about the cause of antibiotic resistance, and the methods scientists are using to stop it...

How can you fight antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance starts with you. When one person starts to take a stand, more are soon to follow. Before long, there is a revolution. We need an antibiotic revolution to sweep the globe to slow down the growth of resistance and give scientists the time they need to come up with ways to reverse resistance and develop new antibiotics.

To take a stand, all you need to do is try not to rely on antibiotics so much and only take them when they are really necessary. If you are one of the millions of people who ask the doctor for antibiotics when you have a cold or flu, you can make a difference just by stopping this and letting your body fight a cold. The common cold and flu are caused by viruses anyway, and antibiotics do absolutely nothing for a viral infection.

You can also speak to your doctor and ask them what they're doing to fight antibiotic resistance. Are they trying to limit how they prescribe antibiotics? Do they realise what is happening? Become a catalyst and start a conversation with your friends and family. Show them this article, or direct them to the CDC or other relevant health organisation. Share on social media and help spread the word.

We can't stop antibiotic resistance just by limiting how we use antibiotics, but we can definitely slow it down. If enough people jump on board and make the informed decision to really think about how they use antibiotics and whether they really need to take them for their condition, you'll help allow the much needed time for antibiotic resistance to be researched and conquered.

This can be done, but it needs to start right now, and it needs to start with you!

Easy ways to combat antibiotic resistance

  • Use safe food practices - avoiding bacterial food poisoning, avoids the need for antibiotics. Always store food properly and never eat anything that has expired or has not been preserved properly. If you don't know whether a food has been stored properly, you shouldn't eat it.

  • Practice good hygiene - good hygiene protects you from illnesses and helps avoid the need for antibiotics. Always wash your hands when handling animals, dirt, before eating, and before and after using the bathroom.

  • Don't ask for antibiotics when you have a cold or other virus - sure, your doctor may prescribe them to you, but they really shouldn't. Antibiotics have no effect on a viral infection. They only kill bacteria.

  • Always take the full course of antibiotics - often an infection will be cured before you finish a course of antibiotics, but if you stop taking them early, you increase the chance of resistant bacteria developing.

  • If you have chronic tonsillitis, consider having your tonsils removed - it's not recommended to just go ahead and have your tonsils removed to curb antibiotic resistance, but if you're sick of dealing with the tonsillitis and want to help fight against resistance, getting your tonsils removed is a way to stop the infections and avoid the need for antibiotics in the future.

  • Treat acne with alternative methods - if you have acne and use an antibiotic cream or take an oral antibiotic, you can try an alternative treatment like benzoyl peroxide, laser therapy, light therapy, or retinoid creams. Isotretinoin is often the best treatment if your acne is serious. Not only are these treatments often more effective, but they help avoid antibiotic resistance.

  • Practice safe sex - gonorrhea is becoming highly resistant and difficult to treat. You can avoid sexually transmitted bacterial infections by practicing safe sex and avoiding contact with infected persons. Get yourself checked and encourage your partner to do so to.

  • Avoid exposing other people to illnesses - if you have a bacterial infection, you should try to avoid exposing other people to your illness whenever possible. Always wear dressings over skin infections like impetigo, and wash your hands before touching objects or other people. If possible, simply stay at home while you recover. The less people that get infected, the less antibiotics that will need to be taken.

  • Talk to your friends, family, doctor, and pharmacist and share your concerns about antibiotic resistance. Ask them what they are doing and how they intend to help slow it down.

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