Calcium supplements
Nutrition, All posts

7 Reasons Why Calcium Is Essential for More Than Just Bone Health

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

Calcium Supplements

Calcium is well-known for its role in bone health—it’s shouted from commercials, advertisements, and most doctor offices. Everyone needs calcium for healthy bones.

Yet calcium supplements are essential for many other health reasons, much like other nutrients are also critical for bone wellness (like magnesium and vitamin D, to name a few).

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What is Calcium?

Calcium is an essential mineral and the most abundant mineral in the human body. It is required for many aspects of health, including:

  • Bone strength and skeletal structure
  • Normal heart rhythm
  • Muscular function
  • Healthy blood pressure
  • Normal cholesterol levels
  • Nerve communication and signaling
  • Balance of minerals magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium in the blood
  • And more

A deficiency in calcium isn’t only harmful for bones, but it’s detrimental for heart heart, the nervous system, the muscular system, and beyond.

While it’s true that most of the body’s calcium stores are held in the bones and teeth (approximately 99 percent of it), it’s still needed for other reasons. The other one percent of calcium lives in various tissues throughout the body. (source)

Calcium is needed on a daily basis from dietary sources. The recommended daily amount for adult men and women under age 50 is 1,000 milligrams, and over age 50 increases to 1,200 milligrams.

Children need between 200 and 700 milligrams daily, depending on age, and teenagers need 1,300 milligrams daily to support the rapid growth and expansion of the skeletal frame in the teen years.

Low levels of calcium at any age can lead to serious problems. Signs of low calcium can include:

  • Bones that fracture easily
  • Osteoporosis diagnosis
  • Osteopenia diagnosis
  • Blood clotting abnormalities
  • Muscle spasms or cramps
  • Poor growth and development in children and teens
  • Blood pressure problems or heart arrhythmias
  • Poor energy levels and fatigue

The body works hard to keep calcium levels stable at all times, so when it’s low in tissues, it can pull calcium from bone stores. The problem is that, over time, this results in the bones being deficient in this crucial nutrient.

At some point in the aging process, it can be difficult to recoup these losses. Bone density begins to naturally decline in the 30s and rapidly progresses after menopause sets in for women, and after age 50 for men.

Certain people have a higher risk for calcium deficiency than others. Risk factors can include:

  • Children and adolescents who are experiencing rapid times of growth and development
  • Pregnant women
  • Postmenopausal women
  • Diets high in grains, beans, and legumes
  • Diets excessively high in protein or sodium
  • Long-term use of steroids
  • People who don’t eat any dairy products
  • People with insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels
  • People who have digestive problems that make it hard to absorb nutrients from food

Even though calcium is found in many food sources, many adults in the United States and across the world do not get enough each day to maintain healthy bone and tissue levels.

While this affects both men and women, women are at greater risk from long-term lower levels.

7 Health Benefits of Calcium

While bone health is a crucial aspect of calcium, it is far from the only reason that we need it. These are the top reasons why the body needs calcium.

1. Healthy Bones and Teeth

Calcium is needed for the growth and health of the entire skeletal structure. The same is true for teeth.

Calcium works with other nutrients, like magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin D, and phosphorous, to provide strong bones that support the weight of the body. Without enough calcium, bones will be weak and brittle and prone to easy breaks.

Calcium also helps to prevent tooth decay and promotes healthy teeth and gums.

2. Healthy Blood Pressure Levels

Calcium is a mineral that is crucial for helping to regulate heart functions. This is because it helps to dilate blood vessels, allowing blood to pass more freely through them, and reducing the likelihood that arterial plaque will build up.

Calcium also helps to send chemical nerve signals from the brain to the heart, which promotes normal heart rhythms, blood pressure, and healthy systemic circulation.

Ensuring that calcium levels are adequate has been shown by research to help lower blood pressure in people who were diagnosed with hypertension. (source)

Boosting calcium levels by using supplements as needed has further supported the role that calcium has in reducing blood pressure levels.

3. Healthy Glucose Levels

Calcium isn’t only important for bone health, it also supports glucose metabolism and how the body handles the digestion of carbohydrates. It can even be helpful in preventing diabetes, according to research. (source)

This is because calcium, along with vitamin D, acts on cells in the pancreas that regulate how much insulin is made and released. The amount of insulin released determines how much blood sugar is taken into cells versus how much remains in circulation.

Regular intake of calcium at the RDA or higher (1,200 milligrams) was associated with a more than 30 percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (source)

While there are other factors in preventing diabetes, this research shows that calcium is critical for other aspects of health that go beyond bone strength alone.

It’s also possible to assume that those who eat nutrient-rich diets, including those with adequate calcium, are also doing other things to reduce the risk of diabetes. Either way, optimal levels of calcium are required in both scenarios.

4. Reduced Risk for Certain Types of Cancer

Cancer prevention is a popular topic and for good reason—it’s often easier to prevent something than to cure it.

Research shows a strong association between healthy calcium levels, paired with good vitamin D intake, and a reduced risk of developing 15 different types of cancer, including: (source)

  • Colon cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Gastric cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Renal (kidney) cancer

Research shows a strong association between optimal levels of calcium and a reduced chance of developing these types.

Calcium could have anti-cancer properties due to the way that it induces cell death in cancerous cells and the checks and balances it introduces for cell reproduction. (source)

However, simply supplementing with high levels of calcium don’t provide anti-cancer benefits. Calcium needs to be obtained naturally through dietary sources to primarily have the overall health benefits.

5. Healthy Muscles and Nerves

Calcium is necessary for the release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that help to regulate muscle movements and contractions, as well as nerve signaling.

It helps cells communicate better, relay nerve impulses, and activate proteins in the body that control voluntary and involuntary movement. (source)

Calcium is also essential for helping to maintain healthy glucose levels. This is important because the muscles draw from glucose stores to get fuel for the energy needed to move.

Without adequate calcium levels, this process can be compromised, and the results could be muscle spasms and cramps, fatigue, and poor nerve function.

6. Supports Healthy Body Weight

Everyone seems to be looking for the magic bullet to fight obesity and promote healthy, natural weight loss.

While nothing is a quick or magic fix, healthy calcium levels are associated with maintaining healthy body weight in both men and women.

Low calcium levels contribute to weight problems by triggering excess parathyroid hormone to be released. This causes the body to withdraw more calcium from bone stores.

However, excess parathyroid also triggers the production and storage of fat, preventing its breakdown, and contributing to excess body weight.

7. Supports Kidney Health

Kidneys filter fluids in the body and get rid of waste. Because of this, they can be at risk for developing stones of oxalate deposits as waste passes through.

In the past, it was assumed that high levels of mineral intake was what caused these to occur, but more modern research shows that optimal intake levels of calcium actually decrease the risk of developing kidney stones, along with drinking plenty of fluids and maintaining healthy hydration levels.

Bottom Line

Calcium is a vital nutrient that supports skeletal health. While 99 percent of calcium stores live in the body’s bones and teeth, the other one percent that is found in tissues is vital for health and wellness.

While calcium is essential for health, how you get it matters equally as much. Those who have low dietary calcium intake might be tempted to simply get all of their calcium from supplements alone, but the absorption rate and other nutrient balance does not make this an equal choice.

In fact, research finds that excessive supplementation from calcium without a high level from foods can result in an increased risk for heart attack. (source)

The Best Dairy-Free Foods That Are Rich In Calcium

We all know that dairy products are high in calcium, but many adults and children can’t digest dairy. You can still get plenty of dietary calcium from non-dairy food sources.

Dairy-free foods that are naturally high in calcium include:

  • Bone-in sardines (1 cup = 57 percent RDA)
  • Almonds (¼ cup = 14 percent RDA)
  • Raw kale (1 cup = 9 percent RDA)
  • Raw okra (1 cup = 8 percent RDA)
  • Bok choy (1 cup = 7 percent RDA)
  • Broccoli (1 cup = 5 percent RDA)
  • Watercress (1 cup = 4 percent RDA)

While calcium foods contain some of the highest amounts of calcium per serving, sardines are actually higher than milk or cheese. Research shows that calcium from dairy sources is not superior, as many in the past have claimed.

It is especially not effective for people who struggle to digest lactose or who are allergic to milk protein to assume that they need dairy products to have healthy calcium levels.

Whether you eat dairy products or not, getting calcium from food sources is optimal. If it is not possible to get enough calcium from food alone, supplements may be used, but it is not healthy to rely only on supplements, and can, in fact, be risky or disruptive to overall mineral balances.

How to Supplement with Calcium

If you do need to up the amount of calcium in your diet and plan to use a supplement, be sure that you approach it as a supplement and that you are not aiming to get all 1,000 milligrams or more from a capsule alone.

Additionally, the calcium-filled antacids are not the optimal form of calcium and can also reduce stomach acid too much, compromising digestion and making it harder for the body to absorb nutrients in general.

If you plan to supplement with calcium, be sure to check with your doctor first and ask if it’s recommended. Second, ask the maximum number of milligrams you should take each day from supplements.

If you take a multivitamin, check the number of milligrams in that first. Next, choose a high-quality supplement that contains no additional ingredients.

It’s also a good idea to pair calcium with vitamin D supplementation if needed.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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Benefits of Magnesium
Health & Wellness, All posts

14 Amazing Health Benefits of Magnesium

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

Benefits of Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body and it’s essential for many body processes.

While calcium gets a lot of attention when it comes to mineral supplementation, magnesium is equally as important. Without enough, you might suffer from anxiety, sleep problems, bone problems, and muscle spasms, along with many other problems.

Read on to learn more about this important mineral, research-backed health benefits, and how to make sure you’re getting enough on a regular basis.

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What is Magnesium?

There are many minerals in the body that are required in higher amounts. While calcium is the most abundant, magnesium is the fourth most abundant. Without enough magnesium, humans can’t function on a basic cellular level.

Magnesium is required for many things, including: (source)

  • ATP production in cells (which gives them energy)
  • Making DNA and RNA
  • Cellular communication
  • More than 300 enzyme reactions
  • Bone health
  • Muscle contraction and reduction of muscle spasms
  • Healthy blood pressure
  • Normal glucose levels
  • Healthy fat metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter production
  • Immunity

While magnesium is found in many food sources, even slightly low levels can result in body processes that are not optimal.

14 Common Symptoms of Low Magnesium Levels

Low levels of magnesium can cause many symptoms, and even with plenty of food sources, magnesium deficiency or insufficiency is still a worldwide problem today. (source)

Most American adults don’t get enough. The recommended daily amount for adult men is 420 milligrams and for adult women is 320 milligrams, yet most fall close to 100 milligrams short each day from what they need. (source)

Sometimes people may not eat enough magnesium, but other times low circulating levels can happen because it isn’t absorbed well in the digestive tract and the body can’t put it to use.

Magnesium losses can also happen from certain health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disorders, and alcoholism. Excessive exercise and sweating can also lead to magnesium losses or imbalances since it also functions as an electrolyte.

Symptoms of low magnesium levels can be mild or attributed to other causes, but can often include one or more of the following: (source)

  • Hyperactivity
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle contractions or spasms
  • Restless legs
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Vertigo
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tremors
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of excessive fatigue
  • Depression

If you have one or more of these symptoms and wonder if you could be low in magnesium, the best way to find out is to have your doctor test your blood levels.

14 Amazing Health Benefits of Magnesium

Low levels of magnesium can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms, but the health benefits of magnesium are far-reaching. They range from better bone health to healthy muscles and beyond.

1. Bone Health and Osteoporosis Prevention

Magnesium is essential for bone health, including bone density and the prevention of osteoporosis. (source)

Magnesium is a mineral that is crucial for bone formation and affects how osteoblasts and osteoclasts function in bone breakdown, remodeling, and rebuilding.

A lack of magnesium can result in more brittle bones and fewer nutrients available for rebuilding. Magnesium also influences parathyroid and thyroid hormones which can affect bone density.

Research consistently shows that women with osteoporosis have lower levels of magnesium. (source)

2. Healthy Blood Pressure Levels

Magnesium helps to promote healthy muscle function, and the heart is arguably one of the most important muscles in the body. It also plays a vital role in promoting normal blood pressure.

One of the main contributors to heart disease is elevated blood pressure.

Magnesium supplementation and maintaining healthy levels can reduce average blood pressure by up to 12 points. (source)

3. Headache and Migraine Relief

Headaches and migraines can be life-altering and debilitating, especially when they occur with frequency.

Magnesium deficiency or low levels can increase spasms in the brain that can result in severe headaches and head pain and has also been associated with migraine and tension headaches. (source)

Regular supplementation with magnesium can reduce the occurrence of headaches by more than 41 percent and can also reduce how severe they are when they do occur. (source)

4. Healthy Hydration Levels and Electrolyte Balance

Electrolytes help to regulate fluid balance inside and outside the cells. While most people know that potassium is an electrolyte or can help muscle cramps, magnesium is equally important for the same reasons.

Magnesium is one of the four electrolyte minerals in the body required for proper fluid balance. The others are potassium, sodium, and chloride, although calcium is also essential for healthy fluid balance.

Magnesium helps to promote healthy biochemical reactions in the cells, which are facilitated by proper fluid balance and exchange between the cells.

Without enough magnesium, calcium and potassium transport is hindered and nearly every cell in the body can be affected.

5. Reduced Risk of Heart Attack

A major aspect of heart health is blood pressure, and magnesium can help lower levels. But the heart is also a muscle and when magnesium levels are too low, the risk for heart attack increases.

This mineral is required for proper electrical impulse transmission in the heart and also helps to widen blood vessels, decrease inflammation, and prevent blood platelets from clotting—all factors that can contribute to the development of heart disease and increase the risk of heart attack. (source)

By optimizing magnesium levels, the risk of heart disease can decrease by 30 percent.

6. Supports Healthy Blood Sugar

Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance all have in common that the body loses the ability to properly handle blood sugar.

This leads to higher levels of blood glucose circulating throughout the body which can be harmful to cells in nearly every organ, including the brain, the heart, and the liver. (source)

Supplementing with magnesium and boosting dietary intake can help to reverse the effects of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance and can help to address obesity and blood pressure problems. (source)

7. Neurological and Brain Health

Magnesium supports the brain and overall nervous system by improving the chemical communication that happens between nerves, known as nerve impulses. It can also improve and support neurological disorders and nerve regeneration after damage.

8. Fights Depression and Anxiety

Magnesium is especially helpful for supporting mental health and for decreasing associated symptoms with depression and anxiety.

It works by suppressing overstimulation of the HPA axis, which can work to decrease cortisol, the stress hormone, and other signals that can trigger excessive anxiety, depression, and mood disturbance. (source)

Magnesium is required for the production of several neurotransmitters, hormones, and enzymes. When magnesium levels are low, the levels of these crucial compounds can be low, too, resulting in increased hormone sensitivity and mood disturbance. (source)

Research associated low levels of magnesium with depression in both animal and human studies. (source)

Supplementing with magnesium can not only improve signs and symptoms of major depression, but can also work to improve postpartum depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, like OCD.

It has even been shown to help speed recovery from traumatic brain injury. (source)

9. Improves Fatigue Problems and Supports Healthy Energy Levels

Without access to enough magnesium, every cell can struggle to produce energy individually. This translates to an overall lack of body energy and systemic fatigue in many cases.

It has even been associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. (source) Supplementation with magnesium has been shown to improve chronic disorders associated with extreme fatigue.

10. Promotes Healthy Kidneys

The kidneys are essential detox organs in the body and low levels of magnesium have been associated with kidney problems and even chronic kidney disease. (source)

Magnesium helps to support healthy electrolyte levels in the body, and without healthy fluid balance, the kidneys can be more prone to developing stones, calcifications, infections, and disease.

11. Improves Sleep Quality

Sleep problems are a pervasive problem across the world, with nearly one-third of all adults struggling with acute episodes of insomnia at any given time. Magnesium helps to support muscle relaxation and a quiet mind, both of which can be essential for healthy sleep.

It can also help to alleviate other problems with sleep: anxiety, restless legs, high stress levels, and early morning waking. Supplementing with magnesium also comes with few side effects and is much lower risk than sleep aids or sleep remedies, and does not increase next-day drowsiness.

12. Lowers Inflammation

Inflammation is a healthy response designed to promote healing in the body. But chronic inflammation can quickly lead to diseases, disorders, and chronic pain.

It is associated with conditions like arthritis that lead to overall body pain. Magnesium helps to protect nerve cells and can reduce inflammation in tissues and joints, providing relief for inflammatory conditions.

13. Reduces Signs of Aging

While getting older is inevitable, sometimes humans age more quickly in cells due to low levels of nutrients and inflammation.

Magnesium helps to decrease systemic inflammation and promotes cellular energy, which keeps them functioning properly and reduces the chances of early-onset aging signs and can delay typical signs of aging from happening. (source)

14. Naturally Alleviates PMS Symptoms

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, can be a debilitating time of the cycle for many women. Magnesium supplementation can reduce many symptoms that can make life miserable, including cramps, fatigue, irritability, and bloating from water retention. (source)

In order to provide balance, it should be supplemented throughout the whole cycle, and not just during signs of PMS.

Magnesium can also help to reduce anxiety and mood disturbances associated with hormone changes in the menstrual cycle, especially when paired with vitamin B6. (source)

Foods That Are High in Magnesium

Magnesium can be obtained from many different food sources. They include:

  • Spinach (1 cup = 49 percent RDA)
  • Swiss chard (1 cup = 47 percent RDA)
  • Black beans (1 cup = 37 percent RDA)
  • Mung beans (1 cup = 30 percent RDA)
  • Almonds (¼ cup = 30 percent RDA)
  • Cashews (¼ cup = 28 percent RDA)
  • Potatoes (1 medium = 26 percent RDA)
  • Pumpkin seeds (¼ cup = 14 percent RDA)
  • Avocado (1 medium = 12 percent RDA)
  • Banana (1 medium = 11 percent RDA)
  • Broccoli (1 cup = 10 percent RDA)
  • Brussels sprouts (1 cup = 10 percent RDA)

Other food sources also provide magnesium, including leafy greens, other fruits and vegetables, whole grains, red meat, and seafood. Additionally, dark chocolate that is 75 percent or darker is also a good source.

How to Take Magnesium Supplements

Even if you eat a diet rich in magnesium foods, you could still have low levels. This is because the digestive tract may have trouble breaking down and absorbing magnesium from foods if you have existing health conditions, low stomach acid, or other intestinal disorders like celiac disease, SIBO, or Crohn’s disease.

Supplementing with magnesium can help to boost levels and support overall health. Magnesium comes in several different supplemental forms. They include:

  • Magnesium chelate: This type is highly absorbable and gentle, although over-supplementation could lead to diarrhea or intestinal disturbance.
  • Magnesium citrate: This type also absorbs well but may also lead to laxative effects.
  • Topical magnesium oil: Some recommend boosting magnesium levels by using a topical oil, however, it is much harder to regulate a dose this way.
  • Magnesium glycinate: This form absorbs well but doesn’t lead to intestinal upset, making it the gentlest and best form for supplementation.

Doses can range for supplements from 100 milligrams to 300 or more. Keep in mind that the recommended daily amount for women is 320 and men is 420 milligrams.

You won’t want to regularly supplement with higher levels than that since you’re likely getting some from food sources. Excessive levels of magnesium from supplementation can disrupt other minerals in the body.

Don’t take more than 500 milligrams a day as levels higher than this can lead to toxicity. Always speak with your doctor about dosing and recommendations.

You can get your magnesium levels tested if you don’t know where you stand.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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What is diabetes
Nutrition, All posts

Everything You Need to Know About Diabetes

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

what is diabetes

Almost 10 percent of the U.S. population has type 2 diabetes. (1)

This condition happens when the body stops responding to insulin and blood sugar levels become too high. But it’s actually more complicated than that.

This is a complete guide to type 2 diabetes, as well as symptoms of insulin resistance—the issue that occurs before diabetes.

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What is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin is a hormone in the body that helps to regulate how glucose, or blood sugar, is used. The hormone is made in the pancreas.

When carbs are eaten, they are broken down into simple sugars that get released into the bloodstream. In response, the pancreas releases insulin to guide the cells to take sugar into them for later stored energy.

This keeps blood sugar levels stable and keeps them from being too high, which can be problematic.

Insulin is a hormone, which means that it sends messages. But the cells can stop listening to the message to take in blood sugar, which is known as insulin resistance.

When this happens, the amount of glucose that circulates in the bloodstream stays high. This can result in levels that are mildly high or that are high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.

Insulin resistance is very common in the U.S., with more than 30 percent of the population meeting the criteria. (2)

About the same number of children, as well as adults, have insulin resistance. (3)

When blood sugar gets too high, it can harm cells and especially the brain. As the body gets resistant to insulin, the pancreas makes more and more—sort of like shouting louder and louder to tell the cells to do their job.

As blood sugar levels stay high, insulin levels get higher, too. The more this cycle continues, the worse the hormonal communication gets.

Beyond diabetes, the pancreas can become overworked and damaged from this process, leading to an overall reduced output of insulin, which worsens the problem even more.

Insulin resistance can be triggered in the body for many reasons, including: (4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

  • High levels of fatty acids in the blood
  • High intake of fructose and high-sugar processed foods
  • Inflammation
  • Low levels of physical activity or exercise
  • Imbalances in gut bacteria
  • Genetics and ethnicity

It is possible to have more than one of these triggers at a time.

5 Signs of Insulin Resistance

Your doctor has several ways of testing to see if you have insulin resistance. Signs that this may be a problem include: (9)

  • High fasting insulin levels from a blood test
  • High glucose levels from a blood test
  • Being obese, overweight, or having a high amount of belly fat
  • High levels of triglycerides
  • Low levels of HDL cholesterol

Insulin resistance is problematic because it can lead to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Both of these also independently increase the risk of developing problems like heart disease or cancer. (10)

If you have a family history of diabetes, are overweight, or sometimes have episodes of feeling extremely hungry or lightheaded, see your doctor to have your insulin and glucose tested.

What is Diabetes?

When people refer to diabetes, most often they’re talking about type 2 diabetes, which is a chronic disease. Type 1 diabetes, sometimes referred to as childhood diabetes, is an autoimmune condition.

It is distinctly different from type 2 diabetes and cannot be caused by lifestyle factors.

Type 2 diabetes typically occurs after insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. It is a condition where blood sugar levels become excessively high due to insulin resistance and dietary intake.

It typically occurs in adults, but can happen in children who are overweight and eat a diet that is high in processed foods, carbs, and fast food.

Type 2 diabetes is typically caused by diet, obesity, and lifestyle choices (like lack of exercise), but there is also a genetic component to it.

Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Sometimes diabetes can exist for a long time before it is diagnosed. Other times it is diagnosed before any symptoms really exist.

But common signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Higher appetite
  • Weight changes
  • More frequent infections and reduced immunity
  • Yeast infections or fungal infections
  • High blood sugar levels

A person may or may not have these symptoms when they develop diabetes. Sometimes it can be discovered from routine blood work or a yearly physical. This is why it’s important to keep regular appointments with your healthcare provider.

How Is Diabetes Treated?

How Is Diabetes Treated

When someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, there are common ways it is addressed.

Losing Weight

Obesity and being overweight can worsen blood sugar and insulin problems, so when type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, weight loss is often recommended.

This can happen from dietary interventions and an appropriate exercise program. Stress management can also be a key factor in being able to lose weight.

Exercise

Exercise is important for treating diabetes beyond just the purpose of weight loss. Exercise helps the body’s cells become more sensitive to insulin, helping to lower blood glucose levels. It can also help to lower stress levels and promote overall wellbeing.

If you don’t exercise at all, starting with a walk for 15 to 20 minutes five days per week, or even just three days per week, can be a good place to start. Never start an exercise program without first clearing it with your healthcare provider.

Dietary Changes

The food that you eat can go a long way in helping to regulate blood sugar levels and to address type 2 diabetes. Eating fewer refined and high-starch carbs and increasing fiber intake can help to reduce blood sugar spikes.

Protein and fat should be paired with carbs to prevent fast digestion that leads to high blood sugar levels.

You don’t have to eat a super strict diet forever, but it is important to get control of your blood sugar by making some serious changes.

Don’t replace all sweeteners with artificial ones, either, as these can still lead to blood sugar and insulin problems and have other unaddressed concerns—like potentially leading to the development of cancer. (11, 12)

Medication

In some cases, type 2 diabetes needs medication to bring it into balance. This can include medication to help the pancreas make more insulin, reduce the amount of sugar in the bloodstream, or could even be insulin injections directly.

There are other medications, too, but ultimately the approach taken to treat diabetes is determined by how severe the case is and other health factors.

Natural Ways to Address Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes doesn’t always have to be treated with medication. In fact, it responds well to natural lifestyle changes. Insulin resistance too, before type 2 diabetes happens, can be addressed with some healthy changes. These are the most proven ways to promote healthy blood sugar and insulin levels.

Regular Physical Activity

Research proves that exercise on a regular basis is the most effective way to optimize insulin sensitivity. It can start working literally the same day you start it. (13)

Losing Belly Fat

While there’s no way to target weight loss to one specific area of the body, overall working in regular physical activity to your lifestyle can help to reduce belly fat.

Decrease Sugar and Sweetener Intake

Real sugar can lead to glucose spikes and can worsen insulin resistance, but so can artificial sweeteners. If you have a mega sweet tooth, it’s important to find ways to promote satiety so that you aren’t driven to endless snacking.

Fat and fiber are both great at helping promote feelings of fullness and reducing sugar cravings in the process.

Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

While focusing on a diet rich in whole foods is a good way to naturally address diabetes, it’s specifically important to increase anti-inflammatory foods like omega-3 fats (salmon, mackerel, tuna, walnuts, chia seeds) and those that are rich in antioxidants, like fresh fruits and vegetables.

Optimize Your Sleep Routine

Sleep is important for nearly every aspect of good health, but research shows that when you consistently get poor sleep, you’re more stressed and the body is less sensitive to insulin’s effect. (14)

While not everyone needs eight hours of sleep every night, you consistently need at least six or seven consecutive hours. If you have insomnia or struggle to sleep straight through, speaking with your doctor to address your sleep problems is important.

8 Foods That Are Good for Diabetes

Foods That Are Good for Diabetes

Eating a whole food diet is important for diabetes and insulin resistance. Certain foods have stronger impacts on blood sugar levels and insulin and can be therapeutic when eaten more frequently.

The following foods are especially helpful for people who have diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or insulin resistance.

1. Leafy Greens

Arguably good for everyone, leafy greens are especially good for diabetes. Rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, leafy greens help support good blood sugar levels. They’re also low in calories and carbs.

Try spinach, kale, watercress, chard, and romaine.

2. Eggs

Rich in folate, protein, and antioxidants, eggs are a superfood for blood sugar balance. They can help decrease inflammation levels, promote satiety, and help promote normal blood sugar levels. (15, 16)

But keep in mind that most of the nutritional benefits are in the yolk, so eating egg whites alone won’t offer the same health support.

3. Coldvwater Fish

Some fish is extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids and promotes good blood sugar health, heart health, and leads to overall reduced levels of inflammation in the body.

Cold water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies have the highest levels of omega-3s. If you’re not used to regularly eating seafood, try working in a serving three to five times per week.

4. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts are rich in fiber and also contain fat and protein, making them an excellent snack option for good blood sugar levels.

Different types of nuts contain differing levels of nutrients, but generally speaking, they’re all good snack options in moderation.

Keep in mind that peanuts are not nuts and are actually pro-inflammatory.

Great nut options include:

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pecans

Seeds can be a good snacking choice, too, as they’re also rich in fiber. Try pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, but be sure to choose options that aren’t roasted in oil or coated in salt.

5. Cinnamon

A popular spice, cinnamon doesn’t just taste good but has a high level of antioxidant benefits. Research shows that it’s helpful in lowering blood glucose levels and helping increase insulin sensitivity. (17, 18)

The important distinction is that there are two types of cinnamon: cassia and Ceylon. Ceylon has significantly more health benefits than cassia, yet cassia is the kind you’re most likely to see in grocery stores.

If you’re going to increase cinnamon for blood sugar benefits, finding Ceylon is worth it. To get some benefits, you really only need a teaspoon per day. You can even add it to black coffee, tea, or oatmeal to effortlessly get it in.

6. Chia Seeds

Rich in fiber but very low in carbs, chia seeds have a ton of health benefits. Available in black and white varieties, chia seeds can be made into pudding, used as egg replacers in baking, or added to salads and smoothies.

7. Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are healthy because they’re high in fiber and they contain lots of other important nutrients for diabetes and blood sugar, like vitamin C, magnesium, and folate.

While all vegetables have health benefits, cruciferous veggies are lower in carbs than some others and can be better for people with insulin resistance.

Try working in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus regularly into your diet.

8. Berries

While all fruits have vitamins and antioxidant benefits, many of them are also fairly high in carbs. Berries have the benefit of being very high in fiber along with vitamins and antioxidants, making them the perfect blood-sugar-friendly food.

Pair them with chia pudding or oats for a high-fiber breakfast.

Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all excellent, low-carb and high-fiber choices.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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Benefits of folate
Health & Wellness, All posts

12 Incredible Health Benefits of Folate

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

Benefits of folate

Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is a member of the B vitamin family.

While vitamin B12 might get more attention, and vitamin B6 is known for being anti-nausea, folate is an essential nutrient that not only helps vitamin B12 work, but is also important for reproductive health, heart health, and beyond.

There’s a lot of confusion between folate and folic acid, too. Folate is the natural version found in foods. Folic acid is a synthetic form of the nutrient that is harder for most to absorb and activate.

While lots of foods are fortified with synthetic folic acid, folate deficiency can still exist, especially in cases of certain genetic mutations.

Let’s explore.

[toc]

What is Folate?

As we learned above, folate is a member of the B vitamin family. It is a water-soluble nutrient, which means it is excreted in urine and must regularly be replenished to avoid deficiency. (source)

Folate is biologically active in the body in many areas but is especially vital for DNA health, amino acid conversions, regulating certain biological reactions, and methylation. It’s also vital for nervous system and immune health.

Due to certain genetic mutations, such as MTHFR (which stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase), certain people cannot convert folic acid into usable forms of folate and may even require supplementation with the active form of folate, 5-MTHF.

Research also finds that foods rich in natural folate are so powerful that they might help to prevent or treat cancer, heart disease, anemia, cognitive decline, and even birth defects.

Health Benefits of Folate

Folate has numerous health benefits. They range from being vital for reproductive health to preventing heart disease, and many things in between.

Here are the top reasons to make sure you’re getting enough of this critical nutrient.

Healthy Homocysteine Levels & Heart Health

Homocysteine is an amino acid compound in the body that, when at elevated levels, has been associated with increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and other aspects of compromised heart health.

As with all B vitamins, folate has an essential role in maintaining healthy homocysteine levels.

You can’t overdose on homocysteine from dietary sources either, as it only occurs in the body during conversion processes from methionine, a different amino acid that is found in foods like meat, dairy products, and seafood.

Folate and other B vitamins are responsible for converting homocysteine into methionine and also metabolizing minerals. Folate also promotes key antioxidant reactions in the body.

Research shows that those who eat a diet higher in folate tend to have lower risks for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. (source)

Improved Cognitive Function

Folate is a vital nutrient for healthy brain development and function. Research links faster brain decline in aging with low levels of folate. (source)

Folate is also required for healthy function of the areas of the brain that handle learning and memory, so low levels can have consequences even in younger individuals.

Folate is so potent that even short-term supplementation is associated with improved IQ, memory, motor skills, and short-term memory. (source)

Fertility and Birth Defect Prevention

Folate is required for healthy embryonic development in utero, particularly due to its role in DNA synthesis and the prevention of neural tube defects.

Folate’s role is so critical for a healthy pregnancy that supplementation with folate prior to and in the first few weeks of pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects by as much as 60 percent. (source)

It can also reduce the risk of other birth defects, like congenital heart defects and cleft lips or palates.

It also supports pregnancy by promoting a healthy gestational length (i.e. helping to reduce the risk of preterm birth), promoting a healthy birth weight for baby, and supporting the circulatory and overall health of the mother-to-be. (source)

Certain genetic mutations can decrease fertility and make it harder to get or stay pregnant, but supplementing with natural or activated folate can help to address these concerns.

Having higher levels of folate in the cells is associated with better conception rates in men and women, mature eggs, and even greater odds of a healthy live birth. (source)

It even helps boost male factor infertility, with supplementation of folate paired with zinc boosting sperm count by as much as 74 percent. (source)

Reduced Risk of Cancer

Healthy folate levels are associated with protection against certain types of cancer, especially those involving the breast, gut, pancreas, and lungs. (source, source)

Low levels have been found to be riskier for the development of cervical cancer and breast cancer, as well as cancer of the brain, lungs, or colon.

Folate helps to regulate gene expression in the body—essentially it can act as a sort of light switch. Good genes can be turned on or off, as well as bad genes.

If good ones are off, and bad genes are on, cancer and other disease can occur. Folate helps to serve as a switchboard mediator of genetic expression and can have protective effects.

Folate also protects DNA and keeps it from breaking in the replication process. When DNA is replicated incorrectly, cancer and other anomalies can occur. (source)

Naturally Fights Depression

Research shows that people who are depressed tend to have lower levels of folate. (source)

While the nutrient alone cannot prevent depression or cure it, the association is there that balanced folate levels also work to avoid this brain condition.

Not only does low folate indicate higher risk for depression, but it can also mean poorer response to antidepressant medication. (source)

Folate plays such a crucial role in mental health because it helps synthesize certain neurotransmitters, specifically serotonin and dopamine.

Both of these neurotransmitters are required for feelings of calm and balance in the brain. When the levels go too low, anxiety and depression often result. (source)

Boosts Antioxidant Activity in the Body

Folate helps to decrease free radical activity in the body, cutting back on oxidative damage that can skew how cells function.

Folate can even protect DNA and cellular health in the presence of toxins by acting as an antioxidant and stimulating the body’s natural detox mechanisms. (source)

Supports Healthy Immune Response

We need immune systems to defend against viral and bacterial invaders, but we also need them to be properly sensitized.

Folate helps promote normal immune response and activity both in cases of illness and autoimmunity—where the immune system needs to be reminded not to attack its own body.

In people with folate deficiency, reduced immunity is often seen, with frequent infections or illness.

Supplementing with folate and adding folate-rich foods to the diet can not only increase a person’s defense against illness, but can improve blood health and oxygen transport throughout the body, increasing energy levels and helping the body recover faster.

Boosts Healthy Red Blood Cell Levels

Speaking of blood, we need an adequate number of red blood cells to carry nutrients and oxygen throughout the body.

Independent of other factors, if a person is low in folate levels, they may be more prone to anemia. This leaves the blood short of oxygen and red blood cells, and the overall body fatigued and unable to properly repair itself or fight infection.

Promotes Healthy Bones

Increased risk of bone fracture, bone density loss, and diseases of the bone are associated with inadequate levels of folate. (source)

Without enough folate, bone loss happens faster.

This is partly due to the fact that folate stimulates an enzyme that is responsible for promoting bone formation and preventing excess loss of bone.

Supports Healthy Vision

Part of the aging process can result in a natural decrease in perfect vision. But it can also be associated with age-related macular degeneration, a condition that is largely responsible for blindness in older Americans.

Research finds that healthy intakes of folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 can reduce the risk of developing this disorder by more than 40 percent. (source)

Protects Against Liver Damage

The liver is a crucial organ for detox, hormone break down, and digestion. Research shows that when low folate levels are present, there are greater chances for oxidative damage to liver cells and even a greater risk for liver cancer. (source)

Of course, one of the biggest risks for liver disease or disorders is excessive intake of alcoholic beverages.

Not only do those who drink moderately or more experience lower levels of folate, folate itself helps protect liver cells from damage of this kind. Folate works to protect liver health by boosting levels of antioxidants in the body, especially glutathione. (source)

Might Help Address Autism Spectrum Disorders

Adequate folate intake during pregnancy might help to decrease the risk of birth defects but might also reduce the chances of autism spectrum disorder.

However, in children who have already been diagnosed with autism, supplementation with folate has been shown to improve brain function and alleviate certain symptoms.

It can also decrease oxidative stressors which can tend to worsen symptoms or progression of the brain disorder.

Symptoms of Folate Deficiency

It’s entirely possible to be deficient in folate. Because it is water-soluble, it needs to be replenished on a regular basis to avoid low levels.

While the average person in the United States is likely not deficient, people in certain populations (like being pregnant or being elderly) or with genetic mutations can struggle to get enough.

Signs of folate deficiency could include any of the following:

  • Frequent infections or illness; low immunity
  • Low energy levels and fatigue; including chronic fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Early graying of the hair
  • Anemia
  • Digestion problems like bloating, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Birth defects
  • Frequent canker sores
  • Mood changes, depression, anxiety, or irritability
  • High levels of homocysteine
  • Shortness of breath

It’s most likely that you’ll fall short of the folate needed if you fit into one of the following categories:

  • Genetic mutations, especially MTHFR
  • Breastfeeding or pregnancy
  • Alcoholics
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Regular laxative use
  • Diabetes or diabetes medications

There are other reasons why you could be low in folate. If you suspect you’re low or have concerns, speak with your healthcare provider about getting tested to understand your levels.

Natural Food Sources of Folate

Folate can naturally be found in many foods. While people with certain mutations may struggle to absorb it all from food sources, most healthy individuals will do best to get as much as possible from dietary sources.

The foods richest in folate are:

  • Spinach
  • Beef liver
  • Edamame
  • Artichokes
  • Black eyed peas
  • Asparagus
  • Lentils
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mustard greens
  • Collard greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Kidney beans
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Avocado
  • Wheat germ
  • Okra
  • Oranges

How to Supplement with Folate

While folate is in several foods, people with certain genetic mutations struggle to convert even natural folate into the active and usable form. Supplementing with pre-activated or easier to convert forms might help to correct a deficiency.

Speaking with your doctor is the best way to know if you might fall into this category. If you know that you don’t have MTHFR mutations, you can supplement with any type of natural folate or folinic acid.

If you do have known or suspected MTHFR mutations, choosing folinic acid (which is easily activated into 5-MTHF) or methylfolate will help to boost levels.

Dosage can range from person to person, so ask your doctor for recommendations or follow the suggested dosage on your product.

Bottom Line

Folate is a critical nutrient that is needed for nervous system health, cardiovascular function, fertility and reproductive health, and even for protection against certain types of cancer.

It is naturally found in foods, but some people with genetic mutations may struggle to activate it at a cellular level. Supplementation can help to provide balance and support.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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seasonal allergies
Natural Living, All posts

Seasonal Allergies – The Complete Guide

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

seasonal allergies

It’s always exciting when the weather turns and it’s finally nice enough to spend time outdoors again without freezing, but for many people, spring, summer, and even fall allergies can make outdoor time unpleasant or even downright miserable.

More than 60 million people each year suffer from seasonal allergies. (source)

While common remedies are over the counter medications or even prescriptions, there are several proven natural remedies that can decrease allergy symptoms and even address root causes.

[toc]

What Are Seasonal Allergies?

Seasonal allergies, also known as allergic rhinitis, refers to hay fever and other allergies that are related to outdoor and seasonal elements of spring, summer, and fall weather.

Allergic rhinitis typically appears at a young age, but sometimes seasonal symptoms don’t develop until well into adulthood. Other times, they can seem to fade for years at a time and then flare up again.

A large part of what determines seasonal allergy and how severe the reactions are is where you live and how severe the pollen or other allergens are in the season.

It’s possible to have seasonal allergies in one state and move to a new area without any signs of hay fever.

Seasonal allergies can be triggered by one or more component, and each individual’s sensitivity level can vary. For example, some may be allergic to pollen from trees, whereas others are allergic to pollen from grass or flowers.

Between grass, trees, flowers, and ragweed, there is almost always something to be seasonally allergic to, except in the winter when pollination goes dormant in most areas.

Seasonal allergies can cause symptoms ranging from mild to completely intolerable and can impact day-to-day living. They can even lead to asthma attacks, with around 80 percent of asthma sufferers also having allergic rhinitis. (source)

What Are the Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies?

While most know about sneezing and itchy eyes as symptoms of seasonal allergy, the symptoms are more widespread than that in most individuals. Some can even be so severe as to be confused for colds, sinus infections, or other viruses.

Typical symptoms associated with seasonal allergies can vary from one person to the next, but can include any of the following:

  • Itchy and watering eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Excess mucus
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Headaches
  • Ear infections, especially in the middle ear
  • Irritation in the ear or feelings of itchiness
  • Exhaustion, insomnia, and sleep problems
  • Poor concentration and focus
  • Impaired decision making
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Low blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Hives
  • Eczema
  • Skin rashes

While staying indoors can cut down on the severity of symptoms, it likely won’t fully erase them since no one’s house is a fully contained bubble.

Besides, living the warm seasons entirely indoors is never ideal. Yet for some, it feels like the only option given the severity of their symptoms.

What Causes Seasonal Allergies to Develop?

There are a number of underlying causes that can lead to the development of seasonal allergies or which can exacerbate them.

All seasonal allergies are activated by a histamine response, which is controlled by the immune system. When the body is exposed to the allergen, histamine production ramps up.

Some people produce significantly more than others. (source)

Boosting natural immunity can help to reduce some aspects of seasonal allergies, but isn’t always the only trigger or culprit behind symptoms.

Asthma: People who have asthma are significantly more likely to experience seasonal allergies in addition to their existing respiratory triggers. Managing seasonal allergies is a crucial way to avoid asthma attacks.

Stress: The body under stress changes numerous aspects of health, and reduced immunity is one of them. As a result, histamine production can increase, resulting in more severe reactions to allergens.

Illness: Following an illness of any kind, the body is more susceptible to ongoing immune problems and the result can be more dramatic seasonal allergy symptoms. The same is true for those recovering from surgical procedures.

Pregnancy: The body is at a heightened place of sensitivity when pregnant due to extra hormones and a shifted focus. Immunity can be altered, and allergies that didn’t exist before can pop up, including hay fever or seasonal allergies.

One in 100 women end up with asthma during pregnancy—even when they never had it before—and more than that find seasonal allergies added to their plate.

Other allergies: If you’re already allergic to foods or other substances, your body’s histamine production already runs on the higher side and you’re also likely to have a compromised immune system in one way or another.

Allergy disorders tend to stack together, so an allergy to a food or substance can just as easily indicate allergic response to outdoors and other components of seasonal allergies.

Simple Lifestyle Adjustments for Seasonal Allergies

Before we get to some natural remedies for underlying causes, here are some quick ways you can add to your comfort level when going through hay fever or allergic rhinitis in the spring, summer, or fall.

1. Hydration: It’s important for everyone to drink enough water, but when you suffer from seasonal allergies and excess mucus production, ensuring you have enough water can thin the mucus and cut down on congestion.

2. Frequent showers: If you’re outside and around allergens, showering shortly after can cut down on the continued irritation from pollen or other contaminants on your clothing, and you’ll be less likely to bring outside stuff into your living space. Washing clothes in hot water can also cut down on the presence of allergens.

3. Keep clutter minimized: The more stuff you have sitting around, the more dust and other allergens can accumulate underneath. Spring is the perfect time for decluttering and deep cleaning, but so are summer and fall.

4. Don’t open doors or windows: As obvious as it might seem, limiting exposure to allergens in the home will allow for better comfort, especially at night. Limit your time outdoors, too, on days when pollen or other allergen counts are high. Most weather apps will give this information.

9 Ways to Naturally Address Seasonal Allergies

Most over-the-counter or prescription medications for allergies come with side effects and don’t correct the underlying causes of allergies.

Natural therapies can provide relief, but can also help to address some triggers for seasonal allergies, like immune problems or excessive histamine production. These are the top nine ways to naturally address seasonal allergy symptoms.

1. Try Spirulina

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is often found in supplement form, either powder or capsules. Research finds that spirulina can stop histamine release that leads to allergic rhinitis symptoms.

It can improve such irritating symptoms as sneezing, congestion, nasal itch, nasal discharge, and generalized itching according to the results of a 2008 double-blind, placebo-controlled study. (source)

2. Avoid Trigger Foods

Certain foods can’t cause seasonal allergies but they can lead to increased histamine release in the digestive system, worsening hay fever or other symptoms associated with seasonal allergies.

The foods most responsible for causing problems include:

  • Wheat, gluten, and other grains
  • Peanuts, soy, and other legumes
  • Chocolate and cocoa
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Vinegar and fermented beverages, like kombucha
  • Dairy products
  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Citrus except for lemons and limes
  • Chamomile, echinacea, and other herbal teas
  • Processed foods, preservatives, nitrates, nitrites, sulfates, and sulfites
  • Melons
  • Bananas
  • Cucumber
  • Shellfish
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Dried fruits
  • Dates
  • Any foods you’re allergic to, sensitive to, or intolerant of

While all of the above foods won’t worsen symptoms for everyone, they’re common histamine releasers and trigger foods. Other foods could worsen your allergies, too, so being mindful of symptoms and even keeping a food journal can help.

3. Use a Neti Pot

While neti pots might scare some away, they can provide significant sinus relief for allergy symptoms. It’s a great way to flush out mucus or clear the sinuses from fresh exposure to pollen, ragweed, or other allergens. You can use a neti pot once or twice daily.

Be sure to follow the instructions and always use purified or filtered water. Understanding the proper procedure can also make it a successful experience. Most neti pot companies provide helpful support videos or other resources to customers who are new to the concept.

4. Try Quercetin

Quercetin, a potent antioxidant supplement, is backed by research for allergy support. This supplement is a flavonoid that stops histamine in its tracks and can provide long-term relief with regular use.

It’s often paired with vitamin C for maximum benefits. However, quercetin can interact with certain medications, so if you already take any prescriptions—including antibiotics—be sure to check with your doctor first. Don’t pair this with other allergy medications.

5. Eat Foods That Support Healthy Histamines

While there’s a lengthy list of foods to avoid that could trigger worse histamine and allergy reactions, there are also foods that can decrease histamines naturally.

These foods should be eaten in support during allergy season, primarily for the benefits they offer the immune system, digestion, and overall gut health.

The best foods to eat for allergy support include:

  • Raw, local honey: Research finds that truly local honey contains components of seasonal allergens from the area that better help the body cope with symptoms. Over time, it can even decrease the chance for allergies at all. (Note: never feed honey to children under age 1, and don’t try this if you’re allergic to bees or have had other sensitivities to honey-related products.) All it takes is a few bites a day. (source)
  • Bone broth: Perfect for gut health and immunity, bone broth is packed with nutrients that can fight infection and support the body when dealing with seasonal allergies. It’s also comforting when consumed as a hot beverage and can help loosen up the sinuses.
  • Apple cider vinegar: While most fermented foods are histamine releasers, apple cider vinegar is a potent immune booster and can help to dislodge mucus. Try a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with honey and lemon juice, up to three times per day.
  • Omega-3 fats: Allergies often lead to inflammation, and omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory fats. Foods rich in them include salmon, cod, mackerel, chia seeds, and walnuts.
  • Ginger: Another anti-inflammatory nutrient, ginger helps to decrease swelling and can also support digestive health. This might lead to a decrease in histamine production in the stomach. It can also have a warming and detoxifying effect on the body, helping to remove toxins that could exacerbate allergies.

6. Essential Oils

Some essential oils can help open nasal passages, decrease congestion, and alleviate other respiratory symptoms. Diffusion, especially at night while resting, can help to improve overall comfort in the home.

The best oils to try are peppermint oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus, menthol, tea tree, and lemon. Always use a carrier oil to dilute if you’re going to use topically, or you can make your own vapor rub for chest and sinus congestion by pairing essential oils with coconut oil.

7. Boost Probiotic Intake

Probiotics support gut health and all around immunity. They’re the good bacteria that live in the gut and fight off invaders like viral infections and bacteria.

Supplementing with probiotics can help take the edge off of seasonal allergies, especially when taken regularly. Research backs up probiotics as an effective allergy treatment. (source)

Try at least 50 billion IU or get a recommendation from your healthcare provider.

8. Try Stinging Nettle

A medicinal herb, stinging nettle has been used for natural allergy support for hundreds of years. It has antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties that work nearly as effectively as over the counter allergy relief. It especially helps to decrease histamine levels.

It can interact with certain medications, though, so check with your healthcare provider before starting, especially if you take blood thinners, have diabetes, have high blood pressure, or take antidepressants.

9. Supplement with Butterbur

Another supplement with medicinal properties, butterbur is so effective with mucus that it is sometimes used to address bronchitis. It also provides relief for asthma, although should never be used as a replacement for emergency asthma relief.

Research shows that butterbur can be as effective as allergy medications. It, like all other supplements, is not safe for pregnancy or children unless directed by a doctor. (source)

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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Liver Health
Health & Wellness, All posts

Liver Health: The Definitive Guide

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

Liver Health

The liver is the body’s largest internal organ. It is responsible for many things, most notably metabolizing alcohol and detoxing the body from harmful substances. But it does way more than that.

This article explores the functions of the liver, problems that can arise, and natural ways to support good liver health.

[toc]

What is the Liver?

The liver is shaped like a half-moon and resides in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen. It weighs close to three pounds and is about the size of an American football.

Much like the brain and the heart, the liver is a vital organ that is needed for human survival.

The primary functions of the liver are: (1)

  • Detoxing the body from harmful substances
  • Breaking down and metabolizing substances (such as alcohol and medication) and hormones
  • Filtering blood
  • Storing nutrients like iron and copper
  • Breaking down fats for digestion
  • Producing bile for the digestive process
  • Breaking down proteins
  • Breaking down ammonia into urea, for removal from the body
  • Supporting proper immune function
  • Making proteins for blood clotting
  • Holding glycogen, the storage form of glucose for energy
  • Recycling old red blood cells

The liver does much more but these are just some of the primary and essential functions. It’s such a crucial organ that it can literally regenerate itself if it is damaged from injury or surgical removal.

The cells expand to fill the space, and then new cells begin to regenerate to repair and replace. This process is so efficient that the liver can be back to normal size in a week’s time after losing two-thirds of the organ.

Liver Problems

The regenerative capacity of the liver is important. There are numerous complications that can occur in the liver which can have serious health implications.

These are some of the more common types of liver problems and disorders. Overall, there are more than a hundred different varieties of liver issues. (2)

Hepatitis

An infection of the liver, there are several types of hepatitis. Hepatitis A is a viral infection that leads to inflammation of the liver.

Hepatitis B is most commonly a sexually or shared-needle transmitted disease that can be short or long-term, depending on how it is acquired and the severity.

Hepatitis C is another form of viral hepatitis that can lead to long-term health issues like cancer or cirrhosis. There is also an autoimmune type of hepatitis where the immune system mistakenly destroys healthy liver tissue. There is no cure for autoimmune hepatitis.

Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is a condition that involves liver damage, where scar tissue appears in place of normal, healthy liver tissue and cells. Cirrhosis can be caused by many disorders like hepatitis, alcohol abuse, Wilson’s disease, genetic disorders, and more.

Hemochromatosis

The liver stores extra iron. When excessive iron builds in the body, it can damage the liver and lead to liver disease.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

While alcohol abuse can cause liver disease, other problems can lead to fatty liver deposits, resulting in disease and damage. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can develop from obesity, type 2 diabetes, and more.

Symptoms of Liver Problems

While the liver can be subject to many types of disorders or problems, most liver issues start with common symptoms that then require a proper medical diagnosis to explain.

Common symptoms of liver problems include:

  • Flu-like symptoms that don’t go away
  • Jaundice (the yellowing of skin or whites of eyes)
  • Dark-colored urine even when not dehydrated
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Itchy skin
  • Low sex drive
  • Joint pain and body aches
  • Vomiting and nausea not associated with other illness
  • Nose bleeds
  • Weak muscles
  • Pale-colored bowel movements

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s essential to see your doctor ASAP. Liver disorders can often be diagnosed with blood tests and other imaging diagnostics.

The Liver and Detox

Perhaps the most well-known aspect of the liver’s tasks is detoxifying the body. It does so in conjunction with the other detox organs: the kidneys, bladder, intestines, lungs, and skin.

Liver cleanses have become popular wellness trends. These are dietary or supplemental protocols aimed at supposedly increasing the efficiency of the liver or of clearing the liver from extra toxins.

But do they really work?

When it comes to the “need” to detox your liver, science says it’s not actually even possible. You can do things to promote liver health, but you can’t change the way that your body detoxes.

You can make it harder on your liver by consuming things it has to work harder to break down, like alcohol, but you cannot actually “make” your liver detox.

In order to actually promote better detox in your body, you just need to eat and live in such a way that supports overall good health.

This means regular exercise, eating a diet filled with whole foods and nutrients, and avoiding things that make your body feel worse or that are a burden on your health.

So in spite of what internet ads may say, doing a liver detox is NOT necessary and isn’t even possible. Instead, focus on living a life of wellness that supports all of your organs.

How to Keep the Liver Healthy

While you can’t “do” a detox, you can certainly do many things that promote the health of your liver and other organs.

Things that specifically promote liver health include:

  • Vaccinating against hepatitis, if you’re at risk
  • Practicing safe sex and not ever sharing needles, toothbrushes, razors, or other personal items
  • Getting frequent exercise
  • Making sure your medications don’t interact with each other, which could lead to liver damage
  • Not excessively consuming alcohol
  • Eating a healthy diet

11 Foods to Support Liver Health

Foods to Support Liver Health

While most foods that are whole and unprocessed contain nutrients that are beneficial for health, certain foods have specific components that support the liver as it does its job.

Cruciferous Vegetables

The sulfuric compounds in cruciferous veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are healthy for many reasons. One benefit is that they boost levels of enzymes in the liver that protect it from oxidative damage. (3, 4)

They’re also rich in fiber, vitamin C, and folate which are important nutrients for overall health.

Coffee

Coffee gets a bad reputation as being unhealthy, but it’s actually one of the foods highest in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells in the body from being damaged by oxidative stress.

The liver, because it processes so many toxins, has a greater chance of being damaged by oxidative substances. Foods or drinks that are high in antioxidants are protective of the liver, and coffee is no exception.

Coffee can also help to protect the liver from disease, including cirrhosis and other chronic liver disorders. (5)

It also lowers the chances of developing cancer of the liver and reduces overall inflammation in the organ. (6)

For coffee to be beneficial for the liver, however, it is best consumed black and not loaded with milk or sugar.

Tea

Tea is also a rich source of antioxidants that can protect the liver. Green tea especially can support liver health, including improving liver enzymes that can be tested via the blood. (7)

The best green tea benefits are seen when consuming more than four cups per day. (8)

Black tea is also rich in antioxidants and promotes liver health.

Red Grapes

While many like to write grapes off as “high sugar” fruits, they’re actually rich in nutrients that protect the liver—most specifically, resveratrol, an antioxidant that has been widely studied for heart health.

Turns out it’s also important for liver health, too. (9)

Blueberries

A berry that is rich in vitamin C and fiber, blueberries also contain antioxidants known as anthocyanins. These are what make blueberries so vibrant in color and also what makes them supportive of liver health. (10)

Eating blueberries protect the liver from oxidative damage and can rev the body’s natural immune response for defense. While more research is needed, blueberries have preliminarily been shown to actually inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the liver. (11)

Cranberries

Another berry with anthocyanins, cranberries are chockfull of antioxidants. They can promote a healthy liver and protect it from oxidative damage. (12)

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Seafood—especially coldwater, fatty fish like salmon—is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that fight inflammation in the body. (13)

They’re so good for the liver that they can prevent fatty deposits from forming in the organ and can even keep liver enzymes in the normal range. (14)

Red Beets

A potent source of antioxidants known as betalains, red beets not only promote heart health but also liver health. (15)

Beets can be eaten whole or juiced for benefits, and should be consumed on a regular basis to achieve the protective results.

Walnuts

One of the nuts that is highest in omega-3 fats, walnuts have numerous health benefits. They’re high in fiber and contain a balance of protein and healthy fats.

They have also been shown to be good for liver health and can reduce the development of liver disease and fatty deposits in the liver. (16)

Olive Oil

While some fats are unhealthy, like trans fats, other types are protective of the liver and other organs. These good fats contain antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients.

Olive oil is ones of the best fatty acids for heart, liver, and anti-inflammatory health. It can help to keep fatty levels in the liver normal and can even help to reduce oxidative damage and abnormal enzymes. (17)

Olive oil also promotes a better flow of blood in the body—part of why it’s good for heart health—and since the liver filters a large portion of the body’s blood supply, it is good for hepatic health, too.

It can prevent abnormal fatty deposits from forming in the liver, which is one of the early signs of liver disease.

Avocados

Another source of good fat, avocados are technically a fruit that is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Avocados support a healthy heart and liver and helps to prevent abnormal fatty deposits from forming in the liver. (18)

They are also high in fiber and can promote natural weight loss. Since obesity can be a trigger for liver disease, they protect the liver in this roundabout way, too.

3 Supplements to Support Liver Health

Some supplements are effective at helping the liver do its job better—but should you take them?

Reasons why you might take a supplement for liver health may vary, but it’s always important to understand that you can’t force the liver to detox, and taking too many liver-stimulating supplements can actually cause harm, not help.

Always speak with your doctor before starting any supplements. They can interact with medications and other supplements and some can be harmful for certain health conditions or when taken for too long.

These supplements have been well-studied for their liver benefits. However, it still doesn’t mean that you need to take them to have a healthy liver.

Milk thistle

The most well-studied supplement for liver health, milk thistle is an herb that is rich in antioxidants. It helps to reduce inflammation in the liver.

The active ingredient is silymarin, which can actually help regenerate new liver tissue and protect cells from being damaged. (19)

It can also reduce elevated liver enzymes, which are often tested and used to measure liver disorders and disease. (20)

Dandelion root

Literally the root of the popular dandelion weed, dandelion root has been used for many thousands of years to treat liver problems.

It hasn’t been as well-studied as milk thistle but is thought to work in a similar way to reduce oxidative damage to liver cells.

Turmeric

Another potent antioxidant substance, curcumin—the active ingredient in turmeric—can reduce inflammation throughout the body and supports the liver through its two-phase detoxifying process.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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Alkaline Water
Nutrition, All posts

What is Alkaline Water & is it Really Better for You?

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

What is Alkaline Water

Alkaline water is a popular buzz word in wellness circles, with some touting benefits like keeping a youthful appearance, balancing the body’s pH levels, reducing acidity, and even preventing chronic diseases or disorders like cancer.

Those are some tall claims, so how does alkaline water really stack up?

[toc]

What is Alkaline Water?

Alkaline water is a particular kind of water with a pH value that is higher than regular tap or bottled water. The pH value refers to a measure of acidity—with lower numbers being more acidic and higher numbers being more alkaline.

Blood pH is strictly regulated in the body to be around 7.4, and when other aspects of the body become more acidic, inflammation and problems occur.

It has been said that diseases can’t survive in the body when it is alkaline. Because alkaline water has a higher pH level, it is supposedly better for overall health than normal tap or bottled water.

How do pH levels of water compare?

  • Tap and bottled water: 7.0 or less
  • Alkalized water: Between 8.0 and 9.0

Other supposed benefits of alkaline water are that it provides more minerals to the body, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium.

These minerals perform critical functions in the body when it comes to acid buffering and also act as electrolytes, helping to maintain a healthy fluid balance inside and out of cells.

Because of these minerals and a higher pH level, alkaline water is believed healthier because proponents say it can neutralize acid and even free radicals in the body. We will explore the research below.

How Does Alkaline Water Compare to Other Types of Bottled Water?

Between spring water, alkaline water, ionized water, and so on, choosing a bottle of drinking water is becoming just as complex as choosing beverages that actually contain other ingredients.

Looking at the bottled water section of any grocery store or health foods market can quickly get overwhelming. With dozens of varieties at a wide range of prices, it can be difficult to see through the packaging and claims.

Alkaline water is the same as mineral water, but depending on the company and how the water came to be alkaline, packaging and claims may differ.

Let’s break down the common types of water you might find for purchase:

  • Regular bottled water that doesn’t make any special claims typically comes from a water source, like tap water, that has then been purified and filtered. Usually, the filtering method is reverse osmosis. This process removes contaminants, but also largely removes most of the mineral content.
  • Mineral water comes from natural spring water that is mineral-rich and has not been purified to remove them from it. It is alkaline water, but may not be marketed as “alkaline.” Instead, it may say mineral-rich or natural.
  • Spring water is another term that often means something similar to mineral water since “spring” means that it naturally passes over rocks and picks up minerals. However, not all companies use “spring water” to mean naturally mineralized. Reading the label on the water bottle will tell you what the original water source was.
  • Alkaline water could be another way of referring to mineral water, but it also often references water that has been through purification and then electrolysis, which is a chemical process that uses an electric ionizer to raise the pH values of water. The method of creating this alkaline water isn’t thoroughly backed by research for understanding the exact health benefits.

In general, drinking water that has been processed with reverse osmosis or that is distilled isn’t the healthiest long-term solution, because these are largely void of the natural minerals that we need for electrolyte and bone health.

What are the Health Claims of Alkalized Water?

In the health world, alkaline water is controversial and surrounded by more opinions than research.

Some health professionals say that there aren’t enough unbiased studies showing benefit and that the claims are largely unproven.

Others cite small studies that do prove some benefits, such as helping to reduce acid reflux or helping to better control certain conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. (source, source)

Yet another study shows benefit for people who work out intensely, showing that alkaline water could improve blood flow and oxygen delivery throughout the body. (source)

While these studies show promise, in the big picture, they are small and most proven health benefits are backed by bigger studies with a larger body of research.

Even so, those who believe in the health benefits of alkaline water continue to make claims, including:

  • Benefits for colon health
  • Boosting antioxidants to fight signs of aging
  • Supporting natural immunity
  • Hydrating the skin
  • Promoting weight loss
  • Decreasing acid and increasing cancer resistance
  • Boosting energy and oxygen levels
  • Promote better hydration
  • Reduce headaches

For most of these claims, there is no direct evidence linking alkaline water with these benefits. Some research even shows that alkaline water or alkaline foods cannot treat or prevent cancer. (source)

While the evidence is limited, overall, alkaline water can do a few key things in the body—although “regular” water may be just as capable, in some cases. The benefits include:

Hydration: Any water helps to boost hydration levels, so claims that alkaline water can do it better are not necessarily founded.

However, it will certainly push you toward your goal of being hydrated, which is vital for maintaining homeostatic balance in the body, keeping your temperature regulated, ridding the body of waste, and ensuring the cells have the proper fluid balance to work efficiently.

Bone health: Acidic diets that are highly processed can lead to bone loss, due to the loss of calcium through urine. Increasing the intake of alkaline foods and liquids can help to cut back on the volume of acidic intake.

Some research shows that alkaline water can support bone health and potentially lead to a decrease in bone turnover. (source)

Acid reflux: A chronic problem for many, acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) produces unpleasant and painful symptoms like nausea, burping, gas, and even stomach acid coming up the esophagus and burning the throat.

Alkaline water can help to tone down the severity of stomach acid, but only in cases where too much is actually present. In most cases of reflux, too little acid is present, leading to poor digestion of food.

This impaired digestion results in undigested food sitting in the stomach for longer than it should, allowing for reflux symptoms to occur. Alkaline water is in no way a fix for acid reflux, but can simply temporarily ease symptoms.

Circulation: As mentioned above, some research does show that alkalized water can boost blood flow, particularly after athletic events or workouts, so it may be better for pre- or post-workout hydration.

Is Alkaline Water Safe?

Alkaline water isn’t considered unsafe, even by those who criticize its supposed health claims. The concern lies in those unproven claims, and that people would try to use it to treat or address certain health problems.

Essentially, medical experts want consumers to be aware that spending more on alkalized water that makes health claims is likely just a waste of money.

There is a mild concern, however, that if you drink only alkalized water all the time then you might alter your body’s natural mineral balance, which could result in nutrient deficiencies.

Generally speaking, balance is always the best idea when it comes to most aspects of health, and water is no exception.

While drinking enough each day is important, it doesn’t have to be a specialized type and there is no guarantee that spending extra money on alkalized water will do anything for your health anyway.

Focus on drinking enough ounces per day and that alone will be beneficial for your wellness. Most people do not drink enough water on a regular basis.

Alkaline Water Recommendations

If you want to drink alkaline water, you can, but be sure to choose alkalized water that is sourced from a natural mineral spring. It should contain mineral content and not be first treated with reverse osmosis.

If you have questions about a particular water brand, you can check the water company’s website or call the company for more information.

Various types of alkaline and mineral water can be found in most health food and grocery stores or wherever bottled water is sold.

Prices can vary wildly per ounce, so do your homework and read labels before impulse-purchasing one that has the flashiest packaging or makes the most claims.

Make Your Own Alkaline Water

You don’t need to involve complicated science if you want to add some alkaline pH to your regular tap or drinking water. You can do this in a few ways:

Add lemon or lime: While these citrus fruits seem acidic, they actually have a pH-lowering impact on the body. It’s also a great way to get a boost of vitamin C.

Add pH drops: Several different companies sell pH or electrolyte drops, which can typically be added to eight ounces of whatever water you are drinking. Be sure to read serving sizes carefully to ensure you don’t take too much in a single day.

Electrolyte powder: While it doesn’t have the same effect as simple pH drops, many companies sell healthy versions of electrolyte powder that contain minerals. These are often flavored, but several sugarless options exist, which are healthier than drinking sports beverages. Beware of artificial sweeteners in these types of products, however, even in organic products.

Bottom Line

While alkaline water can offer some potential health benefits, mostly in the form of being another way to hydrate your body, most of the claims are largely unproven. Spending lots of money on special alkalized water could be a waste.

The reasons why people might seek out alkaline water—to fight acidity or to combat an acidic, processed diet—are better addressed with an overall dietary and lifestyle change, not just by drinking “special” water.

If you want to boost alkaline ingredients in your diet, focus on the following nutrients:

  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Other fresh fruits
  • Leafy greens and other green vegetables
  • Carrots
  • Herbs and spices

If you have specific questions about eating for pH balance, it’s best to work with a nutritionist to get personalized information.

Not only will you want to know the best foods to add to your diet, but you’ll want to be able to understand the most acidic foods you’re eating and why they’re best eaten in moderation or avoided altogether.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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References

  1. Watanabe T., Shirai W. Influence of alkaline ionized water on reproductive functions in the ratInternational Journal of Fertility and Sterility1990;35:748–751.
  2. Jin D., Ryu S. H., Kim H. W., et al. Anti-diabetic effect of alkaline-reduced water on OLETF ratsBioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry2006;70(1):31–37. doi: 10.1271/bbb.70.31.
  3. Percy D. H., Barthold S. W. Pathology of Laboratory Rodents and Rabbits. 2nd. Ames, Iowa, USA: Iowa State Press; 2001.
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Boost Your Metabolism
Health & Wellness, All posts

10 Natural Ways to Boost Your Metabolism Fast

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

Boost Your Metabolism

Most of us don’t think about our metabolism unless we’re frustrated by it, yet “metabolism” doesn’t only refer to weight or burning calories.

It literally means all of the different chemical reactions that happen in the body at any given time. Without metabolism, we would not be alive.

When people think of the typical use of metabolism, they’re actually referring to the metabolic rate, or the rate at which your body burns calories for energy.

The faster it is, the lower your weight. The slower it is, the more extra weight you’ll carry.

If you want to increase your metabolic function and boost your body’s overall metabolism, stay tuned. But first, let’s explore what might lead to a slower overall metabolic function.

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What Slows Metabolism Down?

Several factors can slow down your body’s metabolic function and result in hard-t0-lose weight or low energy levels.

Sometimes you even think you’re doing a good thing and you’re actually hurting your metabolism. Other times, the situation is out of our control until we address underlying factors.

The top reasons your metabolism might be slow are:

1. You’re eating too little calories.

2. Your sleep is messed up.

3. You have thyroid problems.

4. You have other hormonal imbalances.

5. You do too much cardio and skip other forms of working out.

6. You don’t exercise at all.

7. Your gut bacteria are out of balance.

8. You’re eating too much sugar and processed foods.

9. You are dehydrated.

10. You don’t eat enough protein.

11. You’re older.

12. You’re extremely stressed out.

13. You spend too much time trying fad diets.

14. You’re taking medications that slow your metabolism.

15. You have diabetes or other chronic diseases.

18 Signs Your Metabolism Needs Revved Up

How do you know if your metabolic function could be low?

There tend to be telltale signs that things are running on the low end. If you have one or more of these symptoms, your metabolic function might need a wake-up call.

Work with your healthcare provider, a nutritionist, and/or a trainer to get customized answers to meet your metabolic needs.

Signs of a low metabolism can include:

  • Constant tiredness or fatigue
  • Low energy levels or poor motivation
  • Lower basal body temperature
  • Constantly feeling cold
  • Hair that’s falling out or getting thinner
  • Skin that is dry and cracked
  • Low sex drive
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Fingernails that break easily or grow slowly
  • Insomnia or sleep problems
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Mood disorders such as anxiety or depression
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Gaining weight easily
  • Frequent thirst or dry mouth
  • Poor concentration or brain fog
  • Frequent infections or illness

10 Natural Ways to Rev Your Metabolism

While you can’t control every aspect of your metabolism, if you have symptoms of low metabolic functions, these 10 tips might help boost overall energy.

1. Eat Enough Calories

Starving yourself or severely restricting calories might seem appealing if you’re struggling to lose weight, but doing so deprives your body of energy.

When you don’t eat enough food, your cells won’t get what they need to effectively reproduce, which slows every aspect of the inner workings of your body.

Instead of severely counting calories or following a fad diet, choose to eat enough food each day that focuses on nutrient-rich, high-quality items.

If you need help determining how many calories you need each day to support your basal metabolic rate, work with a nutritionist to get detailed information.

2. Don’t Skimp on Protein

You need plenty of high-quality food, but in that, you need to make sure you’re getting enough protein.

Certain foods help to metabolically rev up your body.

This process is referred to as the “thermic effect of food” and if you’re struggling with symptoms of low metabolism, this could boost your overall energy.

Protein specifically increases the metabolic rate by as much as 30 percent, compared to only 10 percent for carbs or 3 percent for fats. (source)

Protein also increases feelings of fullness, which can help prevent you from overeating poor sources of food, like sugary or processed stuff.

3. Boost Your Nutrients

Running low on crucial nutrients can also cause metabolic problems. Key nutrients like B vitamins especially are essential for cellular energy, but more than half of the population has genetic mutations that make it hard to convert them into their active forms.

Additionally, if you eat a plant-based or low-meat diet, you might not be getting enough B12 either.

Without enough B12, folate, B6, and the other B vitamins, the blood can be low in red blood cells and oxygen, which can, in turn, affect the cells’ abilities to make energy.

You can be tested to determine if you have genetic MTHFR mutations, or you can take activated or higher-quality supplements.

Methyl-folate and methylcobalamin are the already activated forms of folate and B12, or folinic acid and hydroxocobalamin are pre-active forms that readily convert into the active type of nutrient.

If you’re unsure of the type of supplementation you need, work with a nutritionist to determine what might be helpful.

4. Drink More Water

Where sugary drinks slow your metabolic function, water increases it. If you’re dehydrated, your cells won’t work as efficiently. Drinking water can also temporarily boost your metabolism, so drinking it throughout the day can keep the energy levels higher. (source)

For example, research shows that drinking 17 ounces of water can boost the metabolic rate by as much as 30 percent for an hour afterward. (source)

The effect is magnified if you drink cold water since the body spends more energy heating it up. (source)

5. Drink Tea

Both green tea and oolong tea can increase metabolic rate by around five percent. (source, source) They can also help take stored body fat and turn them into energy, increasing your body’s ability to burn fat by as much as 17 percent.

Tea can also help improve hydration levels, so if you’re tired of drinking only water, adding some cold tea to the rotation can change things up and still achieve your metabolic goals.

6. Skip Foods That Trigger Inflammation

While you’re adding beneficial foods to your diet, be sure that you don’t sabotage your metabolic progress by eating inflammatory foods that slow things back down.

Foods that hamper digestion, cause intestinal problems, are low in nutrients, or that you’re allergic or sensitive to can all rob the body of critical nutrients that bring energy but can also lead to inflammation.

When the body is inflamed, it goes into repair mode, which can cause it to slow metabolic function and focus more on healing.

Foods that can trigger inflammation include:

  • Sugar of all kinds, including sugary drinks, desserts, and even fruit juice
  • Processed foods that contain preservatives
  • Grain-based foods like pasta, bread, crackers, muffins, chips, and so on
  • Refined vegetable oils
  • Artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols
  • Dairy products, if you’re at all sensitive to them
  • Beans and legumes
  • Seafood with higher mercury levels, like shark and swordfish
  • Soy products
  • Anything you’re sensitive or allergic to

While you don’t have to avoid every item on this list forever, if you find that this represents most of your dietary intake, it’s time to overhaul your habits and work with a nutritionist to find a healthy plan that meets your needs.

“Dieting” doesn’t boost metabolic function, but eating a nutrient-dense, energy-rich food plan does.

7. Eat Spicy Foods

If you can tolerate them, spicy foods can rev your metabolic function by requiring extra energy to digest. But we’re not talking about a little spice here—we’re talking about enough to likely make you break a sweat.

Most people may be unable to tolerate foods at this level, so don’t eat spicy foods just for metabolic value. But if you happen to love it hot, then enjoy those metabolic benefits.

8. Drink Coffee

Coffee has plenty of its own health benefits thanks to antioxidants and other nutritional compounds, but it can also help boost your metabolism, especially if you drink it in the morning.

Research shows the caffeine in coffee can raise metabolism by as much as 11 percent. (source)

9. Do HIIT or Strength-Based Workouts

Chronic cardio will actually hurt your metabolism, but there are other types of workouts which can boost how well your body burns fat and your cells make energy.

HIIT, also known as high-intensity interval training, is based around quick, intense bursts of activity. The workouts tend to be shorter, which can make them more doable on a regular basis, but they’re going to get you sweating and more energized than your average cardio session.

Research shows that high-intensity interval training can even keep your metabolism high well after your workout has ended. (source)

Lifting weights has numerous benefits for bone health and overall stamina, and it also can boost your metabolism. You don’t even have to be a bodybuilder or lift extreme amounts of weights to benefit, either.

When you lift weights and build muscle, even at smaller degrees, you increase your baseline metabolic rate.

If you want to harness HIIT or weight-lifting for metabolic benefits, find a personal trainer who is well-versed in these and get a customized program.

This will help avoid injury or excessive workouts for your current shape, and will also challenge you in a safe and healthy way.

10. Get More and Better Sleep

While sleeping more to boost metabolism might seem counterintuitive, you only think that your body does nothing while you rest.

In reality, the body is extremely active while you sleep, regenerating and recharging, repairing and revving. Not to mention, lack of sleep is strongly associated with a slow metabolism, obesity, and countless other health problems. (source)

When the body gets deprived of sleep, especially when it’s on a regular basis, your metabolism suffers because your cells literally get too tired to do their work. Everything slows down, your body holds onto fat, and your cells fall into a slump of their own.

Too little sleep is also associated with high blood sugar levels, poor insulin response, and digestive problems—all of which can independently hinder optimal metabolic function. (source)

When you get chronically worn down, your appetite signals also change. Your brain thinks you’re hungrier, and your body absorbs food and nutrients less efficiently.

It can all work together to increase your weight while slowing down how the body can use food for energy. Hormones control the appetite and satiety cycles, and these hormones are incredibly sensitive to sleep and other factors. (source)

Bottom Line

If you struggle with low energy, can’t seem to lose weight, or have other signs and symptoms of metabolic issues, your body is trying to tell you something.

While underlying medical conditions can cause this, it could be as simple as needing to change up your diet, be better hydrated, or sleep more.

Working with professionals who can provide expert advice on your unique situation is a fast-track way to optimize your metabolism, but in the meantime, make sure you’re giving your body the basic TLC that it needs and deserves.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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10 Natural Ways to Boost Your Metabolism Fast | Happybodyformula.com

References

  1. Goss AM, Chandler-Laney PC, Ovalle F, Goree LL, Azziz R, Desmond RA, et al. Effects of a eucaloric reduced-carbohydrate diet on body composition and fat distribution in women with PCOSMetabolism: clinical and experimental. 2014 doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2014.07.007. Epub 2014/08/16. 
  2. Song HJ, Cho YG, Lee HJ. Dietary sodium intake and prevalence of overweight in adultsMetabolism: clinical and experimental. 2013;62(5):703–8. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2012.11.009. Epub 2013/01/30. 
  3. van Beek L, Lips MA, Visser A, Pijl H, Ioan-Facsinay A, Toes R, et al. Increased systemic and adipose tissue inflammation differentiates obese women with T2DM from obese women with normal glucose toleranceMetabolism: clinical and experimental. 2014;63(4):492–501. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2013.12.002. Epub 2014/01/29.
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benefits of fiber
Nutrition, All posts

5 Health Benefits of Fiber (Plus How to Get Enough Each Day)

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

benefits of fiber

Fiber is an important component of carbohydrates that few Americans actually get enough of.

While we, as a whole, consume more than enough carbohydrates (and typically far too much), the average intake of fiber is dramatically low. In fact, only five percent of Americans actually get enough.

The low level of fiber in the average American diet has been deemed a public health concern. (1)

Why is fiber so important?

This article explores what it is, proven health benefits, how to get enough, and what foods exactly you need to eat to get your daily fiber intake.

[toc]

What is Fiber?

Fiber is an indigestible component of carbohydrates in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains. It is one of the major reasons why these foods are healthy, and every human needs fiber for many reasons.

Some of the key benefits of fiber include:

  • Roughage to promote proper digestive function
  • Slows carb digestion and promotes good glucose levels
  • Keeps you feeling full

Eating enough fiber is closely associated with a reduced risk for many health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and stroke. (2)

Most people know that fiber is healthy, but don’t necessarily know why or how much they’re actually eating. Surveys find that people tend to think they’re getting more than they really are.

Types of Fiber

While all fiber is good for you and has important health benefits, there are two different types. Each is required in its own right for wellbeing.

Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that is fermentable and can dissolve in water. The beneficial bacteria in the gut use this fermentation process to grow and proliferate.

This type of fiber promotes healthy immunity since the gut is a major regulator of the immune system.

Insoluble fiber does not ferment and cannot be dissolved in water. It functions as roughage in the digestive tract to help promote digestive motility.

That’s basically a fancy way of saying it keeps the intestines and bowels moving, preventing constipation and being stopped up.

5 Health Benefits of Fiber

Fiber has many health benefits. These are the most research-proven and medically backed reasons to include fiber in your diet.

1. Helps Blood Sugar Levels Stay Steady

Blood sugar, also known as glucose, is what carbohydrates get converted to after they digest. When you eat carbs that are low in fiber, you get a bigger jolt of sugar that enters the bloodstream.

Fiber is an indigestible part of carbs that helps to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream, providing a more stabilizing effect on blood sugar levels.

People who are diabetic are familiar with measuring things on a glycemic index scale, or by measuring foods according to “net carbs.” Foods with lots of fiber have a lower glycemic index, making them more diabetes-friendly. Foods with more fiber also have fewer net carbs.

Eating more carbohydrates that are higher in fiber can help to prevent blood sugar spikes and can help address and prevent diabetes. (3)

2. Promotes Good Gut Health by Helping Good Bacteria Thrive

The human gut is home to trillions of bacteria, some good and some bad. Literally the bacteria in the gut outnumber our other cells in a ratio of 10 to 1. Without this host of bacteria, humans wouldn’t actually exist.

The good bacteria or probiotics help regulate the immune system and play important parts in blood sugar balance, mental health, neurological function, and even weight. (4, 5, 6)

More than 500 different species of bacteria are in the gut, and supporting diversity is the key to ensuring good gut health and overall balance. When a few dominant “bad” strains take over, the result can be major digestive woes and discomfort, not to mention health issues.

While we can’t digest fiber in and of itself, soluble fiber has an important role in nourishing the good bacteria in the gut. (7)

The good bacteria thrive in the presence of this fiber, and also produce short-chain fatty acids which have health benefits of their own (like reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes). (8)

Many people avoid eating high-fiber foods because they can cause bloating and gas, especially in people who don’t eat them frequently. But this gas-producing quality is also what allows the good gut bacteria to feed off of it.

While some people have sensitivities to fermentable fiber foods, like beans and legumes, others would notice a decrease in bloating and gas if they made it a point to eat a higher fiber diet on a consistent basis.

Digestive enzymes can also help.

3. May Protect the Colon from Cancer

Cancer of the colon is the third most deadly cancer in the world. (9) While every cancer is different, the risk of colon cancer specifically can be reduced by a higher intake of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes. (10)

How much fiber you need to see a protective effect hasn’t been fully determined, but meeting daily requirements would be a start. Most people only get about half of the fiber that they need each day.

4. Helps Address and Prevent Constipation

Constipation is a common problem in the developed world because of the higher consumption of processed foods, protein, and fat. Fiber can help to reduce constipation and promote a healthy digestive tract—and that includes elimination.

Fiber helps to absorb extra water in the digestive tract, bulks up waste products, and speeds efficiency of elimination in the bowels. (11, 12)

There are many types of fiber, by psyllium fiber is the most effective at reducing constipation-related problems. This is because it forms a gel-like substance at it works its way through the digestive tract, essentially sweeping out waste that may have “clogged” the system. (13)

Prunes, another popular constipation remedy, work their magic because they too are rich in fiber. This type helps increase the amount of water in the bowels and colon, helping to promote elimination by releasing waste that has become too dried-out to effectively move through the colon. (14)

Fiber from food sources can be exceptionally effective at addressing constipation. However, the temptation to take laxatives for a quick fix can be strong.

Laxatives can damage muscle tone in the intestines, actually worsening the long-term nature of constipation problems. They can also have other negative side effects, like dehydration.

5. Keeps You Feeling Full (and Promotes Weight Loss)

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to losing weight is the constant feeling of hunger.

While extreme calorie-restricted diets are not a good way to lose weight because they also restrict nutrients your body needs to thrive, there is a way to not feel hungry all the time.

Eating fiber-rich foods can promote feelings of fullness and lead to weight loss. If you’re not hungry all the time, you will eat less, which could result in natural weight loss.

Boosting fiber is one of the simplest ways to initiate natural weight loss, according to some research. (15, 16)

Not only can it increase feelings of fullness, but it also helps to promote balanced blood sugar. For people with metabolic imbalances or type 2 diabetes, this is an important avenue to weight loss and better health.

25 Foods Highest in Fiber

Foods Highest in Fiber

Many foods have some amount of fiber in them. But if you want to dramatically increase the fiber in your diet, focusing on high-fiber foods is the best way to do it.

With this list, you will have plenty of variety and new foods to work in each day to boost your fiber intake.

These are the 25 foods highest in fiber, ranked from most to least per serving:

  • Oats (16.5 grams per cup)
  • Split peas (16 grams per cup)
  • Lentils (15.5 grams per cup)
  • Black beans (15 grams per cup)
  • Chickpeas (12.5 grams per cup)
  • Kidney beans (11 grams per cup)
  • Chia seeds (10.5 grams per ounce)
  • Avocado (10 grams per cup)
  • Artichoke (10 grams each)
  • Raspberries (8 grams per cup)
  • Pears (5.5 grams in a single fruit)
  • Quinoa (5 grams per cup)
  • Pumpkin seeds (5 grams per ounce)
  • Apples (4.5 grams in a single fruit)
  • Brussels sprouts (4 grams per cup)
  • Red beets (4 grams per cup)
  • Sweet potatoes (4 grams each)
  • Carrots (3.5 grams per cup)
  • Almonds (3.5 grams per ounce)
  • Blueberries (3.5 grams per cup)
  • Bananas (3 grams per fruit)
  • Broccoli (2.5 grams per cup)
  • Kale (2.5 grams per cup)
  • Spinach (2.5 grams per cup)
  • Walnuts (2 grams per ounce)

How to Increase Your Fiber Intake Naturally

If you want to eat more fiber in your diet, it’s simple. Choose some higher-fiber foods from the list above and start adding them to your meals more often. You don’t have to dramatically change the way you eat to get the benefit of more fiber.

Simply add a serving of fruit with your breakfast, and add an extra vegetable or fruit to lunch. Start using high-fiber sides like quinoa or beans instead of white rice or white potatoes with meals, and you’ll be hitting your daily fiber needs before you know it.

If you’re not used to eating a high fiber diet, be sure to make these changes slowly. You won’t want to suddenly eat all high-fiber foods. Instead, gradually make these changes over the course of two or three weeks.

If you experience bloating or gas or other symptoms of discomfort and they don’t subside within a few days, check in with your doctor.

These are the top simple ways to naturally work more fiber into your food plan:

  • Eat fruit instead of drinking juice
  • Swap sweet potatoes for white potatoes
  • Swap quinoa for brown or white rice
  • Eat chia pudding or oatmeal for breakfast instead of cereal
  • Eat almonds instead of peanuts
  • Add beans to your soups and stews
  • Add more vegetables and fruits to each meal

Should You Try Fiber Supplements?

If you make dietary changes and you still struggle to get in enough grams of fiber, should you try fiber supplements?

The important thing to know about fiber supplements is that they don’t replace a diet high in fiber. Just taking a supplement alone isn’t enough.

Secondly, some supplements can contain other ingredients or fillers that people can be sensitive to. Always read the labels.

If you do choose to try a fiber supplement or your doctor has recommended one, always be sure to start slowly. If you go from nothing to a full dose, you will likely experience extreme bloating and intestinal discomfort.

Most fiber supplements also require being taken with water to avoid leading to constipation or other symptoms.

Cautions About Dietary Fiber

While fiber has numerous health benefits, there are some cases where consuming lots of fiber can actually cause health issues.

Particularly in Crohn’s disease or IBD (irritable bowel disorder), too much fiber can lead to intestinal blockage and can cause other more serious problems.

If you have any health conditions, always speak to your doctor before making dramatic dietary changes or before starting any supplements.

How Much Fiber Do You Need Every Day?

Men and women have different fiber needs. Guidelines say that men need 38 grams per day, while women need 25 grams. Some experts say these recommendations only make up about half of what we need to truly be healthy.

In reality, most men and women take in about half of what is needed for good benefits; in some, it’s even less. Aiming for at least 25 grams per day is a goal for good digestive health. (17, 18)

Bottom Line

Fiber has many health benefits and most adults aren’t getting enough. Different types of fiber work to promote good gut health, protect against certain types of cancer, and even promote feelings of fullness.

Without fiber in the diet, the digestive system becomes inefficient and weakened.

Eating a diet that contains enough fiber, from varying sources, is a simple and essential way to promote good health all around. Focus on whole foods fiber sources, but when necessary, fiber supplements can help to promote balance, too.

Always be sure to check with your doctor before making dietary changes or starting new supplements.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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References

  1. Tucker L.A., Thomas K.S. Increasing total fiber intake reduces risk of weight and fat gains in womenJ. Nutr. 2009;139:576–581. 
  2. FDA, authors. Code of Federal Regulations. Vol. 2 Food and Drug Administration; Silver Spring, MD, USA: 2008. Health claims: Fiber-contaning grain products, fruits and vegetables and cancer
  3. Story J.A., Furumoto E.J., Buhman K.K. Dietary fiber and bile acid metabolism—an update. Adv. Exp. Med. Biol. 1997;427:259–266.
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The Ultimate Guide to Thyroid Health

Fact checked by Aimee McNew for Accuracy

thyroid health

Experts estimate that more than 20 million Americans suffer from thyroid problems and that well over 10 percent of the population will experience a thyroid disease or disorder at some point in their lifetime.

The sad part is that these numbers are only expected to continue growing. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune form of thyroid disease, is the most common of all types of autoimmune diseases.

It affects women seven out of eight times and can lead to life-altering symptoms. But that’s not the only problem that can impact the thyroid.

Read on to understand what this small but vital organ does for the body, problems that can occur, and options that can help you take back control of your thyroid wellbeing.

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What is the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ that produces hormones. It is part of the endocrine system. It sits at the base of the neck.

The primary job of the thyroid is to produce two hormones: T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). These hormones control the body’s metabolism and other aspects of health, such as:

  • Cellular energy
  • Appetite
  • Digestion
  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Mood
  • Body temperature
  • Other hormone levels

While these two hormones are made by the thyroid, they have distinctly different roles. T4 is the primary hormone made by the thyroid, but it is also the inactive form.

When it is activated, it becomes T3. While the body makes some T3, most of the body’s T3 comes from activating T4 into T3.

Because the body requires nutrients and other physiological processes to ensure a constant balance of thyroid hormone, it’s pretty easy for them to get off-balanced.

When thyroid hormones are not optimal, it can result in some unpleasant and extensive symptoms that, in some cases, can be difficult to diagnose. While thyroid problems are common, especially in women, they’re still not as easily diagnosed as they should be.

How Thyroid Problems Begin

The thyroid is highly sensitive to the systemic environment of the body. This means that stress, illness, allergies, immune problems, other hormone imbalances, along with several other factors, can easily blow the thyroid off course.

People of any age can experience minor or major thyroid disturbances, from temporary hormone changes to autoimmune diseases and even thyroid cancer.

Thyroid issues are most commonly seen in women over age 30. Factors that can increase the risk for thyroid problems include:

  • Family history of thyroid disease or disorder
  • Genetics
  • Pregnancy and postpartum hormone changes
  • Menopause hormone changes
  • Infection with Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, or others in the herpes virus family
  • Environmental toxins or allergens
  • Food allergy or sensitivity
  • Leaky gut or other gut-related problems
  • Immune disorders
  • Having another autoimmune or chronic disorder

Signs the Thyroid Isn’t Working Properly

Not everyone will have the same signs that their thyroid isn’t working properly, but many common symptoms do tend to appear at one time or another.

Because thyroid symptoms overlap with other conditions, sometimes it can be hard to get an accurate diagnosis.

Frequently seen symptoms of a thyroid that is under-functioning can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Poor circulation
  • Depression
  • Easily fatigued or out of breath when exercising or walking
  • Insomnia or unrestful sleep
  • Low pulse and low basal body temperature
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair that falls out more than usual
  • Thinning eyebrows
  • Constipation
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Weight gain and the inability to lose weight
  • Poor concentration and focus
  • Low sex drive
  • Heavy menstrual cycle

Signs that the thyroid could be over-functioning include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of nervousness
  • Poor concentration and focus or feeling “manic”
  • Feeling excessively warm or hotter than everyone else in the room
  • Increased heart rate
  • Diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Insomnia
  • Bulging eyes
  • Thinning hair
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Weight loss without trying

Different Types of Thyroid Disorders

There are several different ways that the thyroid can begin to malfunction. These are the most common categories that thyroid disorders fall under.

1. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid is stimulated to produce too much hormone, resulting in an overall highly stimulated body. It can include heart palpitations, sweating, feeling warm, and having a brain that doesn’t settle down.

Short-term or temporary hyperthyroidism can occur for various reasons including too much intake of iodine, an inflammation of the thyroid gland, or even benign tumors in the thyroid or the pituitary gland.

2. Graves’ Disease

Hyperthyroidism that is driven by an underlying autoimmune component is not temporary and can result in more serious symptoms. Autoimmune hyperthyroidism is known as Graves’ disease.

It is driven by a miscommunication from the immune system, where it begins to attack the thyroid. There is no cure, but treatments can bring the disease into remission and reduce overall symptoms.

Graves’ disease is the most common reason that people get hyperthyroidism and women are significantly more affected than men. (source)

It often needs medical intervention to prevent severe symptoms. Common medical treatments can include radioactive iodine, thyroid surgery, or antithyroid drugs. Lifestyle factors can work in addition to calm autoimmunity.

3. Hypothyroidism

The opposite of hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism involves a thyroid that is putting out too few hormones. The results are a sluggish body and slowed metabolism. The most common triggers of short-term hypothyroidism are menopause, pregnancy, and postpartum hormone changes.

Most cases of hypothyroidism will resolve on its own, but some doctors will prescribe hormone replacement to boost levels.

4. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the autoimmune form of hypothyroidism. It is caused by an immune attack on the thyroid gland that slowly destroys the gland’s ability to produce hormones.

There is no cure, and the damage cannot be undone, but hormone replacement and lifestyle changes can lead to remission and the relief of symptoms.

The most common autoimmune disease in the world, Hashimoto’s affects more than 14 million people in the United States alone.

5. Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer is not as common as other types of thyroid disorders, but it does still impact some. Statistics show that just under 50,000 get diagnosed each year, and it leads to death in under 2,000 cases per year. (source)

Not all thyroid cancers are the same. There are five different types that affect the thyroid:

  • Follicular thyroid cancer: Most likely to recur and spread elsewhere in the body.
  • Papillary thyroid cancer: Most common, slow-spreading, and highly treatable.
  • Medullary thyroid cancer: Second most common kind, typically genetically derived.
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer: Most aggressive form, but quite rare.
  • Thyroid lymphoma: Rarest form of thyroid cancer.

Cancer of the thyroid is treated like other types of cancer, with potential treatments including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgical removal of all or part of the gland.

Medication for Thyroid Conditions

Both types of autoimmune thyroid disease often need some sort of medical intervention. Non-autoimmune hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism often don’t need medication, although some providers may recommend it for short-term relief.

Graves’ disease is treated with antithyroid medications to calm the overactivity of the gland. Hashimoto’s is treated with hormone replacement to compensate for the gland’s loss of hormone production, sometimes only partially or sometimes completely.

Most thyroid hormone replacement is either T3 alone, T4 alone, or a combination of the two. Dosing medications for thyroid hormone replacement is complicated and often requires a significant amount of adjusting before a patient feels settled with the right amount.

Sometimes medication changes are done to find one that works best with the person’s physiology. Regular blood tests are required to monitor levels.

Supplements to Support Thyroid Health

When a thyroid problems presents itself, often people want to look into more natural means to address it. Supplements can be enticing and there are many on the market that claim to be for thyroid health.

The problem is that, depending on the thyroid condition, supplementation could make it significantly worse.

Iodine, for example, is often touted as being for thyroid health, but when you have autoimmune thyroid problems, adding iodine to the mix will ramp up the immune system’s attack and worsen symptoms and the damage being done to the gland.

Supplements can also interfere with how thyroid medication works, so it’s important to run any supplements by your doctor before trying them.

If you suspect you have a thyroid issue but have not been diagnosed, don’t simply start taking supplements in the hope that it will be fixed. You could unknowingly make your condition a lot worse and a lot harder to treat and recover from.

That being said, there are a few nutrients that can support thyroid health and don’t tend to worsen the condition, even if there is something underlying.

It’s still best to run all supplements by a practitioner before starting, but the following nutrients can naturally support thyroid function without directly influencing it to make more hormone:

  • Selenium: A potent antioxidant that is required by the thyroid before it can make hormones. Also has other health benefits throughout the body due to antioxidant protection.
  • Vitamin D3: Essential for immune health and neurotransmitters, vitamin D is important for the thyroid, too. Don’t supplement unless your levels have been assessed and they’re low (typically below 40). Normal supplement intake ranges from 2,000 IU daily to 10,000 IU daily, but should always be done with a healthcare provider’s approval.
  • Magnesium: A mineral that is required for converting T4 into T3, many adults are low in this mineral that also supports many other aspects of health: bone health, mental health, heart health, and muscles, to name a few. Magnesium glycinate is the best supplemental form and is usually safe up to 300 milligrams per day.

Nutrition for Thyroid Health

There is no one-size-fits-all thyroid diet. But basic principles that apply to thyroid problems include:

  • Avoiding refined and processed junk foods
  • Limiting or eliminating gluten
  • Limiting or eliminating dairy products
  • Eliminating soy products
  • Reducing sugar intake
  • Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Eating plenty of high-quality protein
  • Focusing on healthy fats like salmon, sardines, anchovies, avocado, coconut oil, and grass-fed butter
  • Limiting or eliminating caffeine and alcohol
  • Boosting intake of healthy probiotics
  • Boosting intake of gut-friendly nutrients like bone broth and collagen

One of the major factors in the development of thyroid disease is leaky gut, and these dietary tips are also used to address this intestinal disorder.

Understanding your personal food triggers is important, too. If you have known allergies or sensitivities, avoiding those is essential for healing your digestive system.

If you are unsure if these exist, ask your practitioner to test for food allergies and to advise on foods that could be worsening your condition.

Lifestyle Tips for a Healthy Thyroid

Many today live a life of stress and chaos, and regardless of how well you think you handle it, the thyroid can suffer under these conditions. Making some lifestyle adjustments to reduce stress and promote relaxation will support thyroid health and overall wellness.

The best lifestyle tips for thyroid health include:

  • Having a regular bedtime and getting plenty of sleep.
  • Eliminating exposures to household or other toxic chemicals, including fragrances, cleaners, solvents, and more.
  • Working in regular exercise that is gentle. HIIT or extreme aerobic workouts might be too difficult to promote thyroid healing; focus instead on yoga, swimming, tai chi, Pilates, bicycling, and basic walking routines.
  • Avoiding junk foods and stimulants and focusing on a well-balanced diet. There’s no one way to do this, and you don’t have to overhaul everything at once. Just start working in better choices on a regular basis.
  • Get regular health check-ups and follow through on your lab work. The best way to improve thyroid health is to be informed about what’s going on in your body.
  • Managing stress in a healthy way is important—see a counselor, practice meditation, get acupuncture, or find other creative outlets to combat feelings of stress.
  • Don’t ignore self-care. Having a thyroid disorder or any other health problem is overwhelming, and taking care of your health needs can feel like a full-time job. It’s also important to do things that bring you joy and rejuvenate your mood. Whether it’s reading, seeing a movie, getting a manicure, or something else, make sure to find little ways to focus on self-care on a regular basis.

This article was fact checked for accuracy by Aimee McNew, MNT, a certified nutritionist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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