FODMAP Diet for IBS

Digestive complaints are among the most common health concerns. If you're experiencing distress, a holistic practitioner will evaluate the foods and substances you are eating to identify where a reaction exists. There are many ways to conduct a dietary analysis, including food diary, food allergy testing, muscle testing, and elimination diets. The FODMAP Diet is often recommended by healthcare practitioners. 

What is a FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for fermentableoligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols. This scientific term is used to identify groups of carbohydrates - also known as "fermentable carbs" - that trigger digestive problems such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea. 

FODMAPS in Food?

You will find FODMAPS in a variety of foods:

  • Oligosaccharides: in wheat, rye, legumes, garlic and onions.

  • Disaccharides: in milk, yogurt and soft cheese. Lactose (milk sugar) is the main carb culprit.

  • Monosaccharides: in many different fruits, including fig and mango, and sweeteners such as honey and agave nectar. Fructose (fruit sugar) is the main carb culprit.

  • Polyols: in blackberries and lychee, as well as some low-calorie sweeteners like those in sugar-free gum.

Why the Low-FODMAP Diet?

Research and clinical experience demonstrate that following a diet low in fermentable carbs reduces digestive distress, improves enjoyment of eating, and supports gut health by promoting the growth of good gut bacteria. 

Starting a Low-FODMAP Diet

There are several stages, briefly outlined here:

Stage 1: Restriction of high-FODMAP foods. This involves strict avoidance of foods that have been identified or are suspected to be irritants to the digestive system. This stage lasts eight weeks for most people. You will record food intake and monitor symptoms and health variables, which you will discuss with your doctor/ nutritionist.

Stage 2: Reintroduction. You systematically reintroduce high-FODMAP foods to learn which ones you can tolerate and in what amount, or if you are sensitive to several/ all FODMAPS. 

Stage 3: Personalization. With the data collected in the first two stages, you and your health practitioner will establish a personalized low-FODMAP diet. You will progress over time to ensure you have a diet that is flexible, manageable, and provides a variety of nutrients and flavors.

Remember: check with your health practitioner before you try adopting this diet because it has to be customized to your specific food intolerances/ allergies. 


Photo Credit: BondDLegion/bigstockphoto.com

References:

Marsh, A., Eslick, E.M., Eslick, G.D. "Does a diet low in FODMAPs reduce symptoms associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders? A comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis." European Jl of Nutrition(2016 April) 55:3, 897-906. Accessed 12 Feb 2019: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00394-015-0922-1

Staudacher, H.M., Lomer, M.C.E., et.al, "Fermentable Carbohydrate Restriction Reduces Luminal Bifidobacteria and Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome." Journal of Nutrition, (1 August 2012) 142: 8, , 1510-1518. Accessed 12 Feb 2019: https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.112.159285

Healthline.com "A Beginner's Guide ot the Low-FODMAP Diet." Posted by Rossi, M. (2017 Mar 15). Accessed 12 Feb 2019: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/low-fodmap-diet

StanfordHealthCare.org "Low Fodmap Diet." Accessed 12 Feb 2019: https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-treatments/l/low-fodmap-diet.html

KateScarlata.com "Low and High FODMAP Diet Checklists." Accessed 12 Feb 2019: http://www.katescarlata.com/lowfodmapdietchecklists/

Aloe Vera Benefits the Gut

With long, thick, plump and pointed deep green leaves, Aloe vera is one of the most well-recognized medicinal plants in the world. It has a long history of use in pharmaceutical, food, and cosmetic products. A great deal of research supports the use of topical Aloe gel, balms and creams for wound healing, sunburn, frostbite, and other inflammatory skin conditions. But did you know Aloe juice is highly regarded for supporting digestive health and can be used to manage chronic constipation and IBS?

Aloe leaves consist of a fleshy tissue that stores water and contributes to the familiar pulp that oozes from the leaves when sliced open. The Aloe plant contains more than 200 different biologically active substances, most of which are found in the pulp. This includes amino acids; antioxidants; vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, and E; and the minerals sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, chloride, and traces of magnesium and zinc. Many of these compounds are natural relaxants, helping produce a laxative effective for stressed bowels. 

When selecting Aloe juice as a remedy for IBS related symptoms, look for juice without Aloe latex. Aloe latex contains anthraquinone, which is a natural laxative. Too much aloe latex can worsen GI symptoms; consult with your holistic health provider about how much, and which type of extract, supplement or juice is best for you. 

For blending into smoothies, use in cooking, or adding Aloe to other beverages, remember that Aloe's flavor is similar to cucumber. It's best to use Aloe in recipes with flavors on the same spectrum such as watermelon, lemon, lime, or mint. 


Photo Credit: cgdeaw/bigstockphoto.com

References:

NCCIH.nih.gov "Aloe Vera" https://nccih.nih.gov/health/aloevera

Radha, Maharjan H., and Nampoothiri P. Laxmipriya. "Evaluation of Biological Properties and Clinical Effectiveness of Aloe Vera: A Systematic Review." Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine5.1 (2015, 14 July): 21–26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4488101/

Asadi-Shahmirzadi A, et al. "Benefit of Aloe vera and Matricaria recutita mixture in rat irritable bowel syndrome: A combination of antioxidant and spasmolytic effects." Chinese Jl of Integ Med (2012 Dec.) pp 1-9. DOI: 10.1007/s11655-012-1027-9 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11655-012-1027-9

Davis K, et al. (2006). "Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of aloe vera for irritable bowel syndrome." DOI: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2006.00980.x. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1742-1241.2006.00980.x

Soothe Digestive Irritation with Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)

Slippery Elm has a long history of use in American medicine. George Washington and his men found sustenance in Slippery Elm porridge during their 12 days at Valley Forge. It helped soothe "nervous stomach" and provided nutrition when they ran out of food. Medicinal preparations (teas and syrups) were used to soothe irritations of the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines. In addition, the salve was used for treating wounds. 

One of the few herbs approved by the U.S. FDA, Slippery Elm is a non-prescription drug that can help heal inflamed mucosa in the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It is commonly used by holistic physicians for treating GERD, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's Disease, IBS and common bouts of diarrhea and other inflammatory GI conditions.

Slippery Elm bark first appeared in the United States Pharmacopeia in 1820. Since then, scientific research has slowly emerged. Recent studies, combined with the historical medical uses of Slippery Elm, show a variety of medicinal applications for tea, capsules, powder, lozenges, and topical ointments. Within the bark, is a group of compounds called mucopolysaccharides, which become like loose jelly when they come in contact with water. This property allows the medicinal preparation to coat and soothe inflamed tissue in the body. The unique consistency of mucopolysaccharides allows it to add "smooth bulk" to fecal matter, which makes Slippery Elm useful for both types of IBS - constipation dominant and diarrhea dominant. 

Since there are a variety of ways to prepare and use Slippery Elm, and because it can affect the absorption of other medicines, consult with a holistic healthcare practitioner about the best way to take Slippery Elm for your health and well-being.

Photo Credit: Marek Uliasz

References:

Johnson, R.L., S. Foster, Low Dog, T. and Kiefer, D. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World's Most Effective Healing Plants.(2012) Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.

Hawrelak, J.A. & Myers, S.P., " Effects for Two Natural Medicine Formulations on Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms: A Pilot Study." Jl. of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2010 Oct 18) 16:10. Accessed 12 Feb 2019: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/acm.2009.0090?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&

Pizzorno, Joseph E. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4thEd. (2013) St. Louis, MO Elsevier. 

Langmead L, Dawson C, Hawkins C, Banna N, Loo S, Rampton DS. Antioxidant effects of herbal therapies used by patients with inflammatory bowel disease: an in vitro study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther . 2002;16:197-205.

Fermented Vegetable Medley

When you hunger for something tangy, nutritionally potent, and full of beneficial bacteria to help heal an aggravated digestive tract, fermented veggies are a wonderful option. They're a great side to any meal (vegan or carnivore) and can be added to a hearty stews. This recipe gives you a variety of options, with a focus on veggies that are least likely to irritate those with sensitive digestion.

Equipment Needed for Preparation & Storage

  • 1-gallon or 4-liter glass, enameled or clay jar which will be your fermentation jar 

  • 1 small plate that fits into the fermentation jar

  • 1 small glass jar, filled with water

Ingredients

  • 1 head of red cabbage, roughly cut

  • 1 medium-size beetroot, sliced

  • Handful of garlic cloves, peeled

  • 2 T of sea salt

  • 1 t. dill seeds or dill herb (fresh or dry)

Personal Choice of Additional veggies & herbs: carrots, bell pepper, fennel, parsnip, radish, shredded broccoli, etc.

Preparation

  • Combine all the vegetables and herbs and put them into the fermentation jar. The amount of vegetables should not go beyond the half-way mark on the jar.

  • Fill the rest of the jar with filtered water and add salt.

  • Float the small plate on top and submerge it with the small jar (filled with water to keep it down). This way the vegetables won't float to the top and get moldy.

  • Leave to ferment for 1-2 weeks at room temperature.

  • You will know the medley is ready when the vegetables are soft and tangy.

  • To stop the fermentation process, transfer the medley to smaller jars and keep them in the fridge; they keep well for weeks.

Photo Credits: hormonesbalance.com

References:

Excellent fermentation site: http://phickle.com/ 

Recipe Source: Hormones & Balance https://hormonesbalance.com/recipes/fermented-vegetable-medley-thyroid-diet-food/

Fermented Foods

You can support your gut health with fermented, nutrient-potent foods. Ranging from tangy to bitterly-sweet in flavor, these foods originated decades ago in the cultures of Japan, China, India, and Germany. 

Fermenting imbues foods with the health-enhancing properties of live bacteria, providing an ample source of probiotics, which are essential to a strong digestive tract. Probiotics help build up antibodies to pathogens and provide for a strong "gut immunity" which is key to maintaining overall vibrant health. 

Fermented Foods Short List

  • Cultured Dairy: Yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sour cream, and some cheeses

  • Veggies: Beets, radishes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, kimchi, green beans, sauerkraut

  • Condiments fermented at home or commercially: ketchup, relish, salsa, chutney

  • Other: Miso, tempeh, tofu, soy sauce, and kombucha (check that sugar content is not high on any pre-packaged or bottled fermented food). 

Tips for Choosing & Storing Fermented Food

  1. Food labels must be marked "fermented."

  2. Fermented and "pasteurized" do not go together. Pasteurization kills live cultures.

  3. Pickled is not the same as fermented (unless indicated on the label). Pickled foods are soaked in vinegar or brine.

  4. Choose organic, non-GMO items or locally farmed products.

  5. All fermented foods must be kept cool to maintain the live cultures.

Adding Fermented Foods to Your Daily Diet

When introducing fermented foods to your daily diet, start with small servings such as 1-2x a day. A few easy ways to sneak in fermented foods: Toss fermented veggies into salads or rice dishes. Enjoy fermented food as a snack or as a side dish (e.g., beets, tempeh, kimchi). Add a spoonful of a fermented food to your morning smoothie (e.g., beets, kefir).

Photo Credit: sveta_zarzamora/bigstockphoto.com

References:

Rawlings, Dierdre, Ph.D., N.D (2013).Fermented Foods for Health: Use the Power of Probiotic Foods to Improve Your Digestion, Strengthen Your Immunity, and Prevent Illness. Fair Winds Press.

Nevin Şanlier, Büşra Başar Gökcen & Aybüke Ceyhun Sezgin, "Health benefits of fermented foods." Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. (2017) DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2017.1383355

Chilton, Stephanie N., et. al. (2014). Inclusion of Fermented Foods in Food Guides Around the World. Nutrients7(1), 390-404. http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/1/390

Fermented Foods that Boost Digestive Health. http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/traditional-fermented-foods-examples/

Fermented Foods: How to 'Culture' Your Way to Good Health http://articles.mercola.com/fermented-foods.aspx

Schwenk, Donna. (2013) Cultured Food for Life: How to Make and Serve Delicious Probiotic Foods for Better Health and Wellness. Hay House, Inc.

Digestive Distress: Holistic Approaches to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

When the smooth rhythm of the muscles of the digestive tract is disrupted, either moving too quickly or too slowly, we experience digestive distress. For some of us, this distress can be frequent and painful, creating a major disruption in our life and in our lifestyle. 

Several health conditions are marked by severe digestive distress including ulcerative colitis, Crohn's Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). While all of these conditions involve inflammation of the lining of the bowel, IBS can be healed through careful shifts in diet and lifestyle.

What is IBS?

IBS is marked by abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, and a cluster of symptoms that last for three months or longer. Symptoms vary for each person and can include:

  • Stomach gas and bloating

  • Alternating diarrhea and constipation

  • Mucus in the stool

  • Nausea after eating

  • Rectal bleeding

  • Abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night

  • Weight loss not explained by dieting or other health concerns

IBS can be caused by one or several underlying health factors that cause a disruption in the digestive tract. These factors can include:

Food Allergy or Sensitivity. Research has shown that IBS can be triggered or made worse in people who are consuming foods to which they have a food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity. For some people a specific category of carbohydrate foods known as "high-FODMAP" create symptoms of IBS. For a list of food culprits, read the article below and see how you can help determine what is causing your distress.

Imbalance in Gut Flora. In the digestive system, we have friendly gut flora that support the process of digestion, nutrient absorption, and immunity. If we don't have enough friendly flora, or there is an overgrowth of unfriendly flora, or an "invader" yeast or bacteria, then inflammation, nutritional deficiency, and digestive distress can result. Toxins, processed foods, stress and antibiotic use can also increase inflammation and trigger or worsen IBS.

Hormones. Changes in hormones, particularly for women, can cause a cascade of changes in the body, including digestion. 

A Holistic Plan for Healing IBS

Holistic practitioners assess for IBS using diagnostic tools such as physical exam, lab tests, stool and urine tests, food allergy or intolerance testing, dietary assessment, and assessment of lifestyle factors including stress level, fatigue, etc. The goal is to identify sources of inflammation that have set the stage for developing IBS. Once identified, doctor and patient, and sometimes a nutritionist, will develop a plan to minimize/ eliminate exposure to triggers, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. 

The "healing plan" for IBS will be different for every person because so many factors interact to produce inflammation and symptoms. This plan can include following a Low-FODMAP Diet (useful for a variety of GI conditions), nutritional and herbal supplementation, stress management, avoiding smoking and caffeine, moderating alcohol intake, adjusting sleeping habits, homeopathy and exercise. 

If you suspect that you are affected by IBS, contact a holistic health practitioner about an evaluation and put yourself on the road to wellness. It is possible to enjoy food again and heal from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.


Image Credit: Aaron Amat/bigstockphoto.com
References:

Marsh, A., Eslick, E.M., Eslick, G.D. "Does a diet low in FODMAPs reduce symptoms associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders? A comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis." European Jl of Nutrition(2016 April) 55:3, 897-906. Accessed 12 Feb 2019: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00394-015-0922-1

Staudacher, H.M., Lomer, M.C.E., et.al, "Fermentable Carbohydrate Restriction Reduces Luminal Bifidobacteria and Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome." Journal of Nutrition, (1 August 2012) 142: 8, , 1510-1518. Accessed 12 Feb 2019: https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.112.159285

AboutIBS.org https://www.aboutibs.org

Healthline.com "A Beginner's Guide ot the Low-FODMAP Diet." Posted by Rossi, M. (2017 Mar 15). Accessed 12 Feb 2019: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/low-fodmap-diet

StanfordHealthCare.org "Low Fodmap Diet." Accessed 12 Feb 2019: https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-treatments/l/low-fodmap-diet.html

KateScarlata.com FODMAP Diet and IBS info. Accessed 12 Feb 2019: http://www.katescarlata.com/

Johnson, R.L., S. Foster, Low Dog, T. and Kiefer, D. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World's Most Effective Healing Plants.(2012) Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.

Hawrelak, J.A. & Myers, S.P., "Effects for Two Natural Medicine Formulations on Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms: A Pilot Study." Jl. of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2010 Oct 18) 16:10. Accessed 12 Feb 2019: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/acm.2009.0090?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&

Pizzorno, Joseph E. Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4thEd. (2013) St. Louis, MO Elsevier. 

"What is IBS?" DrWeil.com https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/gastrointestinal/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs-symptoms-treatments/



Ah, The Health Benefits of a Good Stretch

You know you should do it, but in a rush, you often skip it: Stretching. It's important to your health, regardless of how intensely you do - or do not - exercise Regular stretching helps increase muscle flexibility, which is one of the important factors of fitness. Muscles that are limber have better reaction times, help protect joints, support posture, and reduce stress and body aches. 

Additional benefits of stretching include:

  • Increased range of motion around the joint

  • Enhanced blood flow circulation throughout the muscle

  • Enhanced performance in physical activity (for work or play)

  • Prevention of injury to muscles and joints, including the back

  • Improved recovery time and reduced soreness after a workout

Styles of Stretching: 

Static Stretching: Involves holding the body in a particular stretch position for 10-30 seconds. This is most beneficial after you exercise. You often do a lot of static stretches in a gentle yoga class. 

Dynamic Stretching: Active movement that gently warms the muscles as they stretch, but you don't hold the stretch. This is the type of movement done before exercise or sport. The movements might mimic those being done in an exercise routine, but at a slower and more deliberate pace. If you watch pro athletes before an event, you'll see this type of stretching. 

PNF - Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation: Involves actively contracting and relaxing specific muscles in specific patterns. For example, a "hold-relax" pattern places the muscle in the stretched position for a few seconds and is followed by contracting the muscle without moving the joint. Other PNF patterns involve contraction, stretch and relaxation for different lengths of time and in differing order. PNF is commonly used by physical therapists, athletic trainers and athletes. It can be done with a partner's assistance or on your own (possibly using props such as straps or blocks, as in a yoga class). The muscles that respond best to PNF are the ones we often overuse and/or neglect, making them most prone to injury: hamstrings, glutes (your squatting muscles in the butt), back, and shoulder muscles.

To learn more about the type of stretching that best addresses your needs, consult your physician and/or an experienced physical therapist or chiropractor. You might also consider working with a yoga teacher certified in Yoga for MS or an exercise specialist/trainer certified in water fitness or medical exercise.

Photo Credit: Rido81/bigstockphoto.com

Black Currant

Among the most nutritious of berries, Black Currants (Ribes nigrum) were once a forbidden fruit in the United States. Native to Europe and Asia, it was believed that the berries spread a fungus that killed pine trees. Fortunately, we know better today and have discovered the many health benefits of this herb. Important compounds and nutrients found in black currant include antioxidants, vitamin C and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). 

GLA is an unusual fatty acid that is not available in many other dietary sources. It works as an anti-inflammatory and has been used in managing several autoimmune disorders, as well as health conditions where inflammation plays a significant role. Because it's an adaptogenic herb - meaning it helps support your adrenal system - it can work with your body to modulate the effects of stress. 

For nutritional supplementation, black currant is available in tea blends, oil, pill and capsule form. When using black currant medicinally, it can take up to eight weeks to see changes. 

Because it can impair blood clotting, produce soft stools and mild intestinal gas in some people, be sure to check with a holistic health provider before adding a black currant supplement to your health regimen.

References:

Black Currant. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Stockton, CA: Therapeutic Research Faculty. [Updated July 31, 2012; Reviewed Feb. 10, 2013; Accessed Jan 24, 2014]. http://naturaldatabaseconsumer.therapeuticresearch.com/nd/Search.aspx?cs=NONMP&s=NDC&pt=100&id=1085&fs=NDC&searchid=43295940

Yoshida, Kaori et al. "Black currant anthocyanins normalized abnormal levels of serum concentrations of endothelin-1 in patients with glaucoma" J of ocular pharm & ther : the official journal of the Association for Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics (2013) 29,5: 480-7.Accessed 31 Jan 2019: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3669603/ 

Basic report: currants, European black, raw. (2016, May) Accessed 14 Jan 2018: ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2195?fgcd=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=35&offset=&sort=&qlookup=black+currant

Bonarska-Kujawa, D., Cyboran, S. Zylka, R., Oszmianski, J. & Klezcynska, H. (2014). Biological activity of blackcurrant extracts (Ribes nigrum L.) in relation to erythrocyte membranes. BioMed Research International. Retrieved 15 Jan 2018: hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2014/783059/

Duke, J. A. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, Second Edition. (2002, June). books.google.com/books?id=B_XLBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=blackcurrant+diuretic&source=bl&ots=iMxQJR-61J&sig=CcezgphCC2yjD5PLFeW3TDOCqxg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi6irDi8YrPAhVkwYMKHVOiAoI4ChDoAQg1MAQ - v=onepage&q=blackcurrant diuretic&f=fal

Jankowska-Lech I., Terelak-Borys B., Grabska-Liberek I., Palasik W, Bik W., Wolińska-Witort E. "Decreased endothelin-1 plasma levels in multiple sclerosis patients: a possible factor of vascular dysregulation?" Med Sci Monit. (2015;) 21:1066-71. Published 2015 Apr 13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4403550/

Photo Credit: Volff/bigstockphoto.com

The Power of Potassium for Muscle and Nerve Function

Potassium is a mineral that, once inside the body, operates as an electrolyte. Potassium ions carry a positive charge that the body uses for neural and muscular function. The average adult needs 4,700 mg of potassium daily compared to only 200 mg of sodium. Unfortunately, for most people, our eating habits fill us with too much sodium (3,300 mg a day) and not nearly enough potassium. This imbalance can cause muscle cramps, as well as problems with nerve transmission, hypertension, fluid balance and cellular function throughout the body. 

Conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis are marked by changes in muscle tissue, including strength, tone, and resiliency, as well as the inability to generate strong nerve conduction. Too little (or too much) potassium in the blood has a significant impact on the strength of nerve impulses and muscle contraction for both the heart and skeletal muscle. 

When your body is receiving enough potassium, blood pressure and fluid levels stay in optimal balance, providing protection against stroke, kidney stones, and more serious muscle or nervous system conditions. 

Great sources of potassium include cooked beet greens, Portobello mushrooms, avocado, spinach, kale, salmon, bananas, and yams. Taking too much potassium can lead to kidney damage or even heart arrhythmia. You'll want to consult with a holistic physician regarding the right dose for you.

References:

Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center. "Potassium." Last Reviewed 2010. Accessed on December 11, 2015.http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/potassium

American Heart Association. "Potassium and high blood pressure." Last Updated August 04, 2014. Accessed on December 11, 2015. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Potassium-and-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp#.Vopz2DYwcrg 

Healthline.com "What Does Potassium do for Your Body?" Accessed 15 Jan 2018: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-does-potassium-do#section7

Photo Credit: somegirl/bigstockphoto.com

Oh, Pineapple!

Sweet and tangy pineapple - who can resist its juicy, vibrant flavor? Not too many of us: pineapple often ranks as one of America's most in-demand tropical fruits. 

Pineapple (Ananas comosus) contains two important enzymes, pancreatin and bromelain, that help break up protein molecules for easier digestion and absorption. Besides being anti-inflammatory, these enzymes help reduce the level of circulating immune complexes (CICs). High levels of CICs occur in a number of autoimmune diseases, including Multiple Sclerosis. Rich in Vitamin C, pineapple also provides antioxidant protection and support for the immune system. 

Pineapple season runs March through June, but some markets may have them available throughout the year. Look for one that has a sweet aroma at the stem end, is free of soft spots, bruises or darkened "eyes." It's also good to choose one that is heavy for its size. While larger pineapples yield more edible flesh, there's usually no difference in quality between a large and small fruit. You often get more flavor in a hefty, smaller pineapple. Cut the fruit within two days of purchasing. Once cut, chilled pineapple retains its nutrients for up to a week. You can also freeze pineapple chunks for use in smoothies, fruit water, and ice pops.

Since cooking pineapple can destroy the enzyme action important for the body, it's best to eat fresh, raw pineapple, or dried (dehydrated) pineapple without added sugar or sulfites. Another good option is frozen pineapple, no sugar added. Raw pineapple is ideal to use in dishes such as relish, fruit salads, dressings, smoothies, and yogurt. If you do choose to cook with pineapple, add small chunks or medium-size slices toward the end of the cooking process. Better yet, top warm food with chilled pineapple and enjoy!

References:

WorldsHealthiestFoods.com "Pineapple" http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=34

"Tropical fruits see strong demand." The Packer (posted April 2014) https://www.thepacker.com/article/tropical-fruits-see-strong-demand

EverydayHealth.com "8 Anti-inflammation Foods for Mutltiple Sclerosis." Post written by Mikel Theobald; Medical Review by Niya Jones, MD. Accessed 15 Jan 2018: https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/living-well-with-multiple-sclerosis/anti-inflammatory-foods-for-multiple-sclerosis-pictures/

Photo Credit: jchizhe/bigstockphoto.com

Broth: Health Benefits Approved by Mom

soup broth tops the list of healing foods to eat when you're feeling sick or simply need a soothing, light and nutritious meal.

Varieties of soup broth include vegetable, fish, chicken, beef and bone broth without meat. Make your broth by simmering the ingredients, straining off the solids and saving the liquid. Overall, broths don't contain much protein, are low in carbs, and abundant in nutrients. For robust flavor and nutrition power, you want the broth to include a variety of veggies and herbs such as carrots, celery, garlic, mushrooms, onion, spinach, leeks, broccoli, green beans, bay leaf, turmeric, ginger, parsley, and pepper to name a few.

The soothing effect of drinking warm, steaming broth happens to be an effective way to loosen up mucus when you have a stuffy nose and it can ease irritation from a sore throat. Broth helps provide what the body needs to prevent dehydration and manage nausea. This is because broth contains many minerals, including potassium, sodium, and calcium, which are important to hydration and heart and muscle function. Broth also contains Vitamin A which is important for immunity. The wider the variety of veggies and herbs included in the broth, the more robust the vitamin and anti-inflammatory power. 

Consider this soup-broth bonus: it's not only good for you when fever hits; the endless varieties of broth offer health benefits when you make it a frequent part of your usual diet.

References:

Lynn, D. "Is Soup Broth Good for You?"posted at Livestrong.com Accessed 13 Dec 2018: https://www.livestrong.com/article/439591-is-soup-broth-good-for-you/

Saketkhoo,K. et al., "Effects of Drinking Hot Water, Cold Water, and Chicken Soup on Nasal Mucus Velocity and Nasal Airflow Resistance." Chest Jnl (Oct 1978) 74:4, 408-410. Accessed 15 Dec 2018: https://journal.chestnet.org/article/S0012-3692(15)37387-6/fulltext

Photo Credit: Qwart/bigstockphoto.com

Hydrotherapy Home Remedies for Fever

When an adult is struck down with fever, we make our way through the misery. When a child runs a temp that just doesn't come down (or keeps rising), you want to have every reasonable remedy at the ready to help make the child comfortable. The hydrotherapy remedies described below are also suitable for adults but our focus is on children.

"Magic" Socks at First Signs of a Fever

Typically done at night before sleep, this therapy can really boost immune function. Wet a pair of thin cotton socks and wring out well. Put on wet socks and cover with a thick pair of wool socks. Snuggle up in bed and allow the body to dry the socks through the night. This can also be done during the day as long as the person is lying down and resting until the socks have thoroughly dried. 

Cold "Magic" Towel Remedy to Reduce Mild Fever (99-102 degrees)

Place a cold, well-wrung out towel on the abdomen and cover it with a wool blanket. Leave it in place for 20 minutes as the body warms up the towel. This will reduce temperature by one degree or return to normal temperature if the body is ready. If fever is 102-103 degrees, this method can still be beneficial or try the remedy below. 

Spanish Mantel (or Magic Carpet) Remedy for Fever over 103 degrees

Since the fever is higher and the child's discomfort is greater, a full body wrap is used. Wet a sheet in cold water, wring it out well, and wrap it around the body; then, cover in a wool blanket. This will bring the fever down by two degrees or the fever will break.

Important Tips

  • When fever is over 99 degrees, the child must be on a liquid fast, drinking clear broth, homemade electrolyte replacement drinks, water or sucking on ice cubes. Food requires digestion which generates heat that causes temp to rise. The body doesn't use resources for digestion when fighting a fever so either your youngster will wind up nauseated as food sits in the gut or the fever will persist much longer than if fasting.

  • The liquid fast should continue until the temp stays below 99 for at least six hours. With very high fevers, this could take a few days. At this time, introduce homemade vegetable soup or other foods suggested to you by your holistic practitioner. 

  • The child may lose a pound or two, but once free of fever and return of appetite, they will regain that weight.

Seek emergency care immediately if you are unable to manage the fever, if an infant has persistently dry diapers, or if a child becomes lethargic or unresponsive. Never hesitate to get help.

References:

Medicine Talk Professional, Vital Conversations with Letitia Dick Kronenberg, N.D.

Mooventhan, A and L Nivethitha. "Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body" North American journal of medical sciences vol. 6,5 (2014): 199-209. Accessed 18 Dec 2018: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049052/

Lindlahr, H., & Lindlahr, V. H. (1931). The practice of nature cure. New York city: The Nature cure library, Inc.

Photo Credit: markcarper/bigstockphoto.com

Skip the Gatorade and Make Your Own Electrolyte Drink

Why use a commercial electrolyte replacement beverage when you can make your own and know that it will have far greater benefits and less sugar and chemical additives than anything sold in stores? An electrolyte drink is essential for rehydrating after intense training or competition in the heat, for hydrating a day or two before a sports event, and for preventing or recovering from the dehydration caused by illness.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces filtered water

  • 1 large or two small oranges

  • 1 lemon

  • 1/3 tsp Celtic sea salt

  • 1 tsp liquid trace minerals *optional

  • 1 Tbsp raw honey (use maple syrup for children under 12 months of age) *optional

Instructions

  1. Juice the orange and the lemon. 

  2. Mix the fresh juices with the sea salt, honey (maple syrup), and optional trace minerals.

  3. Blend the juice mixture with filtered water in a tall glass.

  4. Serve electrolyte replacement at room temperature, NOT cold as this inhibits absorption.

  5. Sip and drink half within about one hour. Consume the rest as needed.

Refrigerate remainder of juice. Use within 2-3 days. Remember to bring to room temperature before drinking.



Ease Cold Symptoms with Echinacea

Just a glance at the lavender-hued petals and deep crimson center of Echinacea flowers can brighten a gloomy day. That's probably why this wildflower is a staple in many gardens. Plus, with many medicinal uses, echinacea is a wonderful addition to your home apothecary, especially during cold and flu season.

Historically, Native Americans used echinacea for more therapeutic purposes than any other herb. Fresh root was chewed to numb a toothache while juice made from the roots was used in baths and salves to treat skin irritations and even snakebites. By the mid-1800s, American herbalists were using it to treat cold, cough and other respiratory symptoms. Usage in America declined in the 1900s but picked up in Germany where much of the research on the herb has been done. 

Today, echinacea is one of the most well-studied herbs. Herbalists and physicians from many different countries use it for the treatment of the common cold, flu, cough, sore throat and fever. While many believe echinacea can be used to prevent illness, it's more effective at reducing the intensity and length of a cold by about two days. Echinacea also helps boost immune function thereby enhancing the body's ability to resist infection.

Echinacea can be taken as a tea, tincture or in capsule form. Daily use of tea is a wonderful addition to your relaxation ritual. When taking echinacea to combat a cold, it's best to take it at the first sign of illness. Ask your holistic physician which form and dose of echinacea is best for you.

References:

Johnson, R.L., S. Foster, Low Dog, T. and Kiefer, D. National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World's Most Effective Healing Plants(2012) 65-67. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Online. Accessed 17 Dec 2018: http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/(X(1)S(umfwo0iqznos3t55f00s4155))/nd/Search.aspx?cs=&s=nd&pt=100&id=981&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

Pizzorno, J. E., & Murray, M. T. (2013). Textbook of natural medicine. St. Louis, Mo: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone. 

Photo Credit: http://www.medicinetalkpro.org/pt_newsletter_images/feb2019/Feb19_Image_Herb.jpg

Natural Therapies for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a chronic disorder with chronic widespread pain, diffuse tenderness, fatigue, and non-restorative sleep that can interfere with a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. Fibromyalgia can be difficult to treat, and pharmacological therapies are costly, and are not very effective in improving pain and function.

Unfortunately, the exact cause is unknown, and treatment is generally directed toward decreasing the severity of symptoms. Conventional treatment usually involves the use of prescription drugs, analgesics, and NSAIDs. However, other alternative therapies are coming to light, such as Tai Chi, acupuncture, massage, and nutrient/vitamin therapies. Although the evidence is mixed and relatively new, these therapies may be beneficial for patients and low risk. Here is some information I have found regarding these natural treatment options.

Evidence is emerging that Tai Chi has potential therapeutic effects for fibromyalgia. Some studies have shown that once or twice weekly Tai Chi sessions are an adequate regimen to decrease pain and improve quality of life (1). However, more research needs to be completed to determine the optimal dose of Tai Chi. Depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia are often intertwined. Since Tai Chi is a low impact form of exercise that also uses mindful relaxing techniques, it seems like an excellent therapeutic option for fibromyalgia patients.

Fifteen to twenty percent of patients with fibromyalgia seek out acupuncture treatment (2), and it appears to be effective at reducing pain. Although the evidence is relatively new and mixed, one review found that acupuncture led to a small, but significant reduction in pain post-treatment (2), but whether or not it was beneficial in alleviating other symptoms is still unclear. In multiple studies, the patient drop-out has been low, indicating good acceptance of the treatment by patients, and a relatively low risk treatment (2). Other functional syndromes that are also present in fibromyalgia patients such as irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety, may also benefit from acupuncture treatment.

Massage may also be an option for treatment in patients with fibromyalgia. However, there are many different types of massage, so which one is best for relieving fibromyalgia symptoms? According to a systematic review, there is moderate evidence that myofascial release technique reduces pain, anxiety, and depression, especially immediately after treatment (3). Effects of pain and depression were also observed during short and medium term follow up after myofascial release. Manual lymphatic drainage may be of use too, in terms of decreasing stiffness and depression (3). Swedish massage (your normal massage treatment) did not seem to have any symptom-reducing effects (3). Keep in mind, that the evidence in mixed, as it is hard to have a control group in a study when you are examining the effects of massage. However, the risk is low, and the after treatment effects seem to provide a decent amount of relief.

A few studies have shown that patient with fibromyalgia syndrome are vitamin D deficient. The relationship between vitamin D and fibromylgia syndrome is not yet clearly understood. Could vitamin D deficiency be the cause or the result of fibromyalgia? Although some studies show no benefit with vitamin D therapy for fibromyalgia symptoms, other studies do show that vitamin D therapy may improve quality of life of some patients (4). It is also important to keep in mind that patients with fibromyalgia also may struggle with depression, and as a result spend less time in the sun. This could result in vitamin D deficiency, and be a possible explanation of the association between fibromyalgia and vitamin D deficiency. As vitamin D therapy is inexpensive, keep in mind that it is not low risk. Vitamin D toxicity can be detrimental, and anyone wanting to try vitamin D supplementation should consult their physician before doing so.

Make sure you tell your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

  1. “A Randomized Trial of Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia — NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0912611.

  2. Langhorst, Jost, et al. “Efficacy of acupuncture in fibromyalgia syndrome-a systematic review with a meta-Analysis of controlled clinical trials | Rheumatology | Oxford Academic.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 25 Jan. 2010, academic.oup.com/rheumatology/article/49/4/778/1789898/Efficacy-of-acupuncture-in-fibromyalgia-syndrome-a.

  3. “Effectiveness of different styles of massage therapy in fibromyalgia: A systematic review and meta-Analysis.” Manual Therapy, Churchill Livingstone, 5 Oct. 2014, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1356689X14001829.

  4. “Effects of Vitamin D Therapy on Quality of Life in Patients with Fibromyalgia.” ProHealth.com, www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=30554.


Arugula, Apple, and Pecan Salad

In this simple, seasonal and healthy salad, peppery arugula is combined with crisp apples, toasted pecans, red onion, and dried cranberry. A vibrant lemon vinaigrette complements this flavorful plant-based dish. It's a perfect beginning to your lunch or dinner. To make it a main dish, consider adding crumbled goat cheese, white beans, chickpeas, or tofu for your favorite protein. Serves 4. 

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1/2 cup raw pecans

  • 7 ounces arugula (organic when possible)

  • 2 small apples (1 tart, 1 sweet, peeled, quartered, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise)

  • 1/4 red onion (thinly sliced)

  • 2 Tbsp dried cranberries (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 large lemon, juiced (1 lemon yields ~3 Tbsp or 45 ml)

  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)

  • 1 pinch each sea salt + black pepper

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp water

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and arrange pecans on a bare baking sheet.

  2. Bake pecans for 8-10 minutes or until fragrant and deep golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

  3. While pecans are toasting, prep remaining salad ingredients and add to a large mixing bowl.

  4. Prepare dressing in a mixing bowl or mason jar by adding all ingredients and whisking or shaking vigorously to combine. Taste and adjust flavor as needed.

  5. Add pecans to salad and top with dressing. Toss to combine and serve immediately. Serves two as an entrée and four as a side.

  6. Store leftovers (dressing separate from salad) covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 days (though best when fresh). Dressing should keep at room temperature for 2-3 days when well sealed.

Recipe Resource: https://minimalistbaker.com/apple-pecan-arugula-salad/

Photo Attribution: minimalistbaker.com

Awesome Arugula

With a nutrient profile similar to kale, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, arugula is an excellent alternative to these other cruciferous vegetables. Its distinctive, almost peppery flavor, makes arugula easy to enjoy and you'll easily boost the flavor and health power of a meal when you add in this Mediterranean leafy green.

Arugula is high in the following vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin C, A, and K: these antioxidants play a role in protecting cells from free radical damage (oxidation). Vitamins A and C also support a healthy immune system. Vitamin K is involved in the body's blood clotting process and plays a role in bone health, which helps prevent osteoporosis.

  • Folate (a B vitamin): supports the production of DNA and is very important in a healthy pregnancy and fetal development. 

  • Calcium and potassium: minerals that have many functions in the body. Both are involved in producing strong muscle contraction. Calcium is important to bone and tooth health. Potassium, an electrolyte, is essential for healthy heart and nerve function and it helps maintain healthy sodium levels in the body.

Add arugula to a salad, rice and other grains, or use in your main meal in lieu of parsley or other herbs. With its lovely leaf shape, flavor and edible flowers, arugula can add pizzazz to many dishes.

References:

Healthline.com "What You Should Know About Arugula." Accessed 21 Nov 2018: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/arugula

MedicalNewsToday.com, post by Ware, M., "Everything You Need to Know About Arugula." posted 2 Nov 2017. Accessed 21 Nov 2018: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282769.php

Photo Attributions: Fleur-k/bigstockphoto.com



So Many Apps, So Little Time: Which Fitness & Diet App is Best for You?

So Many Apps, So Little Time: Which Fitness & Diet App is Best for You? 

Sticking to diet, fitness or other wellness goals can be made simpler by using some of the many popular apps on the market. A well-designed app can help you stay motivated, track progress, and provide reinforcement for even the smallest successes. With thousands of apps available, the hardest part is figuring out which ones are best for you.

The majority of diet and fitness tracking apps are not regulated by a governing agency, such as the Food and Drug Administration, unless it's considered a medical device. Be prepared for some trial and error in testing out apps; but before you get to the road-test stage, keep the following tips in mind. 

Essential Features of Quality Apps 

Key features to look for in an app designed to track eating and exercise behavior: 

  • user-friendly, intuitive platform that displays data that is relevant for you;

  • ability to set a goal and get visual or other feedback (e.g., alerts, stickers) so you can see your progress and feel a sense of achievement;

  • tools for positive reinforcement/accountability (e.g., social networks, contests);

  • accuracy of data entered and how it is tabulated, including calories, nutrients, steps, miles, etc. 

Apps that monitor dietary intake of macro and micronutrients (e.g., calories, protein, fat, sodium, sugar, vitamins etc.) should have a comprehensive food database. Make sure the database includes foods you typically eat. 

A physical activity app is best if it accurately tracks the activity you enjoy and will help you stick with it over time. For most people, it may be helpful to find a fitness app that allows you to track a variety of activities (e.g., walking, weight training, or swimming) and encourages you to increase total movement each day. Others may want to gather robust data for more intense training such as distance running. There are also many apps that will take you through a basic workout right on your phone. As your fitness level improves, you can always change or upgrade the app. 

Quick Tips for Choosing a Reliable App 

When viewing an app in the iTunes or Android store:

  • Read reviews to see if the app performs as advertised. 

  • Look at the date the developer updated the app. It should be updated regularly, at least within the last 3 months.

Visit the developer website for the app:

  • Look at the developer team. Ideally, you want to see medical advisors, not just engineers, with appropriate health/medical credentials

Be realistic about what is promised:

  • Steer clear of apps that claim to diagnose or treat as well as those that suggest you take a certain drug or supplement, or encourage restrictive diets or excessive exercise.

References:

"Best Health and Fitness Apps of 2018." https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/top-iphone-android-apps

"Best Diet/ Nutrition Apps for 2018" https://wa-health.kaiserpermanente.org/best-diet-apps/

"Forbes Best List of Fitness Apps for 2017." https://www.forbes.com/sites/leebelltech/2017/12/06/best-health-and-fitness-apps-of-2017/#793a81616fd7

"Get Mobile, Get Healthy: The Appification of Health & Fitness" https://visual.ly/community/infographic/health/get-mobile-get-healthy-appification-health-fitness

"Health and Fitness App Development; Must Have Features." https://www.mobindustry.net/health-and-fitness-app-development-must-have-features/

Photo Attribution: HalfPoint/bigstockphoto.com



Make a Change for Better Health in the New Year

Have you set an intention to make better choices around diet and exercise in the New Year? Kudos for recognizing a change needs to be made and committing to it! As you begin to adopt new, healthier behavior, remember that change is a process. Be kind and patient with yourself. It takes about six weeks for a new behavior to become ingrained in our lifestyle, whether it's exercising, eating more veggies and less meat, or limiting those sodas you've come to love. 

Success involves creating plans for moving forward, as well as for for managing those inevitable setbacks. Here are some simple strategies to help you achieve your goals. 

Know Your Why. Write down why you want to adopt a particular health behavior or change a poor one. Motivation is an important predictor of behavior, so be honest with yourself. Think deeper than just wanting to fit into smaller clothes - examine how you want to feel when you achieve that goal. Connecting emotion to your "why" strengthens your motivation and willingness to stick to the goal: I'll feel healthier and stronger and more confident when I lose weight and fit into a smaller size. 

Find Your Tribe. Enlist the support of loved ones, friends, and co-workers. Working toward a goal together provides social support that makes it easier (and more fun) to stick with making the change. You might start by telling the people closest to you what you are doing and why. Ask people for specific help: When you see me reach for a third cookie, please say something. Tell people what you need as you start and keep them updated as you progress. 

Have a Plan and Be Flexible. Anything you want to achieve isn't about finding the time, it's about making the time - and that's a choice in your power. Look at your daily and weekly routines to identify blocks of time when you can exercise or prepare meals in advance. It may mean getting up 20 minutes earlier or getting off social media. Do it. Make actual appointments with yourself and keep them. Planning also means knowing your environment - at home, work and play - and being aware of triggers that could put you off course. Examples: bring your lunch instead of going out; take a walk before eating; reduce temptation by removing salty, fatty snacks from the house; shop for food mindfully, staying in the outside aisles of the store where the food is typically healthier. And be flexible: life happens and things will get in the way. Those are temporary shifts. Get right back to your health routine the following day or as soon as possible. 

Set Reasonable Goals. If you need to get up earlier to exercise, don't start with an hour - start with ten minutes. Every five days increase by five minutes until you're awake early enough to do the kind of workout that you want. Starting with small, reasonable goals makes them more attainable and gives you a sense of achievement. And that's important when you're first making a behavior change. Every small success builds up to bigger achievements.

Celebrate! In your plan, note the markers at which you'll celebrate success. Incorporate a small reward for weekly successes and a bigger reward for milestones (e.g., 3 weeks of exercising daily, or losing the first five pounds). Rewards need not be expensive; rather, make them meaningful for you - and not food based unless you're going out to a great new vegan restaurant.

References:

Young, S. "Healthy Behavior Change in Practical Settings." Perm J (2014, Fall) 18:4: 89-92. Accessed 26 Nov 2018: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4206177/

NIH.gov "Changing Your Habits for Better Health." Accessed 26 Nov 2018: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diet-nutrition/changing-habits-better-health

Medium.com "10 Science-backed Tips to Making a Health Behavior Change that Sticks." Posted by Paige Brown Jarreua; Accessed on 26 Nov 2018: https://medium.com/lifeomic/10-science-backed-tips-to-making-a-health-behavior-change-that-sticks-8655c3bbde50

APA.org "Making Lifestyle Changes that Last" Accessed 26 Nov 2018: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/lifestyle-changes.aspx

Harvard Healthbeat "7 ways to jumpstart Healthy Change in Your Life." Accessed 26 Nov 2018: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/7-ways-to-jumpstart-healthy-change-in-your-life 

Beckman, S. Cooper Institute. "Tips to Support Healthy Behavior Change." Posted 30 Jul 2015: Accessed 26 Nov 2018: https://www.cooperinstitute.org/2015/07/tips-to-support-healthy-behavior-change/

Photo Attribution: vesnacvorovic/bigstockphoto.com

Doing Good for Others is Good for Your Health

Lower stress, higher self-confidence, and enhanced social relationships - sounds like the health benefits of exercise, right? Surprise! Those benefits also come from volunteering. Whether you're working at a food shelter, giving time as a literacy mentor, or helping out after a natural disaster, the many ways of doing good for others is also good for your health. 

In general, people volunteer because they believe helping those who are having a harder time in life can actually make a difference. That alone makes those who volunteer feel good about themselves, about others, and about their community. But there's much more to it; research shows that the "happiness effect" of volunteering enhances social, emotional, and physical aspects of health and that these benefits increase as we age.

Social Benefits

  • Strengthens community ties 

  • Builds in-person social networks to create genuine friendships

  • Reduces feelings of loneliness

  • Enhances professional networks and job opportunities

Emotional Benefits

  • Strengthens emotional stability for those with and without mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD

  • Improves self-esteem

  • Contributes to a sense of purpose

Physical Benefits

  • Lowers stress and tension 

  • Enhances brain function

  • Reduces risk of Alzheimer's Disease

  • Promotes being physically active

People who volunteer tend to take better care of themselves; they typically have lower rates of heart disease, depression and anxiety. These health benefits don't just apply to adults. They apply to kids and teens as well. As noted earlier, the benefits continue as we age and become even more pronounced for older adult volunteers. 

So, find a cause (or two) that is meaningful for you, involve the whole family in volunteering, and celebrate all that it does for others and for you!

References:

NationalService.gov. "The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A review of Recent Research." Corporation of National & Community Service.Accessed 13 Oct 2018: https://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf

Thebalancesmb.com "Th15 Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering that will Inspire You." Accessed 13 October 2018: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/unexpected-benefits-of-volunteering-4132453

CreateTheGood.org "Health Benefits of Volunteering." Accessed 13 Oct 2014: http://createthegood.org/articles/volunteeringhealth

Carlson, Michelle C., Erickson, Kirk I., Kramer, Arthur F., et al., " Evidence for Neurocognitive Plasticity in at-risk older adults: The Experience Corps Program." Jls of Gerontology: Series A, (1 December 2009) 64A:12, Pages 1275–1282, Accessed 13 Oct 2018: https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glp117 

Raposa, Elizabeth B et al., "Prosocial Behavior Mitigates the Negative Effects of Stress in Everyday Life" Clinical psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science (2015) 4:4, 691-698. Accessed 28 Oct 2016: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4974016/

Photo credit: LightField Studios/bigstockphoto.com