Tuesday, February 27, 2018

All You Need To Know About Vitamin D

Having enough vitamin D is important for a number of reasons, including maintaining healthy bones and teeth; it may also protect against a range of conditions such as cancer, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Vitamin D has multiple roles in the body, helping to:

Maintain the health of bones and teeth.
Support the health of the immune system, brain, and nervous system.
Regulate insulin levels and aid diabetes management.
Support lung function and cardiovascular health.
Influence the expression of genes involved in cancer development.

What is vitamin D?

Despite the name, vitamin D is considered a pro-hormone and not actually a vitamin.
Vitamins are nutrients that cannot be created by the body and therefore must be taken in through our diet.

However, vitamin D can be synthesized by our body when sunlight hits our skin.
It is estimated that sensible sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows most people to produce sufficient vitamin D, but vitamin D breaks down quite quickly, meaning that stores can run low, especially in winter.

Recent studies have suggested that a substantial percentage of the global population is vitamin D deficient.

Health Benefits of Vitamin D

1) Vitamin D for healthy bones

Vitamin D plays a substantial role in the regulation of calcium and maintenance of phosphorus levels in the blood, two factors that are extremely important for maintaining healthy bones.

We need vitamin D to absorb calcium in the intestines and to reclaim calcium that would otherwise be excreted through the kidneys.

Vitamin D deficiency in children can cause rickets a disease characterized by a severely bow-legged appearance due to softening of the bones.

In adults, vitamin D deficiency manifests as osteomalacia (softening of the bones) or osteoporosis. Osteomalacia results in poor bone density and muscular weakness. Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease among post-menopausal women and older men.

2) Reduced risk of flu

Children given 1,200 International Units of vitamin D per day for 4 months during the winter reduced their risk of influenza A infection by over 40 percent. 

3) Reduced risk of diabetes

Several observational studies have shown an inverse relationship between blood concentrations of vitamin D in the body and risk of type 2 diabetes. In people with type 2 diabetes, insufficient vitamin D levels may negatively effect insulin secretion and glucose tolerance. In one particular study, infants who received 2,000 International Units per day of vitamin D had an 88% lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes by the age of 32.

4) Healthy infants

Children with normal blood pressure who were given 2,000 International Units (IU) per day had significantly lower arterial wall stiffness after 16 weeks compared with children who were given only 400 IU per day.

Low vitamin D status has also been associated with a higher risk and severity of atopic childhood diseases and allergic diseases, including asthma, atopic dermatitis, and eczema. Vitamin D may enhance the anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticoids, making it potentially useful as a supportive therapy for people with steroid-resistant asthma.

5) Healthy pregnancy

Pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin D seem to be at greater risk of developing preeclampsia and needing a cesarean section. Poor vitamin D status is associated with gestational diabetes mellitus and bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women. It is also important to note that high vitamin D levels during pregnancy were associated with an increased risked of food allergy in the child during the first 2 years of life.

6) Cancer prevention

Vitamin D is extremely important for regulating cell growth and for cell-to-cell communication. Some studies have suggested that calcitriol (the hormonally active form of vitamin D) can reduce cancer progressio by slowing the growth and development of new blood vessels in cancerous tissue, increasing cancer cell death, and reducing cell proliferation and metastases. Vitamin D influences more than 200 human genes, which could be impaired when we do not have enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, autism, Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma severity, and swine flu, however more reliable studies are needed before these associations can be proven. Many of these benefits occur through Vitamin D's positive effect on the immune system

Recommended intake of vitamin D

Vitamin D intake can be measured in two ways: in micrograms (mcg) and International Units (IU).

One microgram of vitamin D is equal to 40 IU of vitamin D.
The recommended intakes of vitamin D throughout life were updated by the U.S. Institutes of Medicine (IOM) in 2010 and are currently set at:

Infants 0-12 months - 400 IU (10 mcg).
Children 1-18 years - 600 IU (15 mcg).
Adults to age 70 - 600 IU (15 mcg).
Adults over 70 - 800 IU (20 mcg).
Pregnant or lactating women - 600 IU (15 mcg).

Vitamin D deficiency

Although the body can create vitamin D, there are many reasons deficiency can occur. For instance, darker skin color and the use of sunscreen reduce the body's ability to absorb the ultraviolet radiation B (UVB) rays from the sun needed to produce vitamin D.

A sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 30 can reduce the body's ability to synthesize the vitamin by 95 percent. To start vitamin D production, the skin has to be directly exposed to sunlight, not covered by clothing.

People who live in northern latitudes or areas of high pollution, work at night and stay home during the day, or are homebound should aim to consume extra vitamin D from food sources whenever possible. Infants who are exclusively breast-fed need a vitamin D supplement, especially if they are dark-skinned or have minimal sun exposure. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all breastfed infants receive 400 IU per day of an oral vitamin D supplement; drops made specifically for babies are available.
Although vitamin D supplements can be taken, it is best to obtain any vitamin or mineral through natural sources wherever possible.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include:
Getting sick or infected more often.
Painful bones and back.
Depressed mood.
Impaired wound healing.
Hair loss. 
Muscle pain.
If Vitamin D deficiency continues for long periods of time it can result in:
chronic fatigue syndrome
neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease

Vitamin D deficiency may also contribute to the development of certain cancers, especially breast, prostate, and colon cancers. We explain this in a little more detail later.

Vitamin D food sources

Sunlight is the most common and efficient source of vitamin D. The richest food sources of vitamin D are fish oil and fatty fish. Here is a list of foods with good levels of vitamin D:

cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon: 1,360 IU
herring, fresh, raw, 4 ounces: 1,056 IU
swordfish, cooked, 4 ounces: 941 IU
raw maitake mushrooms, 1 cup: 786 IU
salmon, sockeye, cooked, 4 ounces: 596 IU
sardines, canned, 4 ounces: 336 IU
fortified skim milk, 1 cup: 120 IU
tuna, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces: 68 IU
egg, chicken, whole large: 44 IU

Potential health risks of consuming vitamin D

The Upper Level limit recommended for vitamin D is 4,000 IU per day. However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has suggested that vitamin D toxicity is unlikely at daily intakes below 10,000 IU per day.

Excessive consumption of vitamin D (hypervitaminosis D) can lead to over calcification of bones and hardening of blood vessels, kidney, lungs, and heart. The most common symptoms of hypervitaminosis D are headache and nausea but can also include loss of appetite, dry mouth, a metallic taste, vomiting, constipation,  and diarrhea. 

It is best to get your required Vitamin D from natural sources. When choosing supplements, choose your brand carefully as the FDA does not monitor safety or purity of supplements. 

It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on one individual nutrient as the key to good health.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Did You Know Planks Have Health Benefits?

What is a plank?

A plank is a simple, but effective core exercise that helps you build stability and strength throughout your entire body. The plank is achievable in a number of different methods, but the main goal of the plank exercise will have you with your body perpendicular to the ground, stomach facing down, elevating your torso off the ground with either your elbows or hands.

The plank is similar to being stuck in an extended push-up pose without actually moving your body weight up or down. This may sound much nicer and more forgiving than a set of push-ups, but the plank can become a strenuous exercise very quickly.
The plank is a popular exercise in many exercise routines.

The plank is a popular pose in many yoga routines – sun salutations, hot yoga routines, and cardio-centric yoga all make use of the plank pose (kumbhakasana.) The pose can be held for several seconds, or used as an intermissive pose that connects two other parts of the routine.

The plank is used as part of the training regimen for professional boxers, who alternate between sets of pushups, sets of situps, planks, and held crunches, each for decreasing durations that are determined by a timer and ended by the ringing of the coach’s whistle.

Many professional sports teams, like hockey and football, use the plank as part of their exercise routine because it’s so effective at improving strength in a wide area of muscles in the human body.
What makes the plank so special?

There’s a fair few reasons why the plank is so popular. Some people even consider it their favorite exercise. It’s good to understand why the plank is so important before you start working on the how of doing a good plank, because then you’ll be more likely to keep the plank as a part of your daily routine.

The plank is a body weight exercise.  Bodyweight exercises are workouts that you can do with nothing but your own body, which is appealing for a number of reasons.
You can do bodyweight exercises pretty much anywhere; the most equipment you’ll ever need is a wall to lean on or a chair/bench for bending

You don’t need to buy expensive equipment to do bodyweight exercises.  Bodyweight exercises are great for your core, and since they rely on your own bodyweight, they’ll be consistently tailored to your own workout needs – as you gain weight, you’ll be working out with more weight, which is similar to increasing the amount you’d bench press, for example.

The plank works out a tremendous number of muscles in your body, which makes them appealing for all sorts of training – strength, endurance, you name it. Planks can even be a benefit for those wanting to do cardio training.

Planks can be performed by people of pretty much energy age, as long as they’re still physically fit. Kids can start out doing planks and if they continue to do so, they will be able to continue the exercise into old age.

What are the health benefits of doing planks?

Here’s where things get really interesting. The plank is such a versatile exercise that most people don’t understand everything that they can do for our bodies, aside from knowing that they’re very good for us.

Fortunately, the plank targets almost every group of muscles in our body. This means that adding planks to your workout regimen will make your entire body stronger. There’s more than that, though – planks don’t just improve muscle mass. They improve the strength of our skeletal system,   they improve our ability to focus and concentrate, and even help us breathe properly.

Let’s look a little more in-depth at some of the wild health benefits you will see if you start doing planks on the regular.

1. Planks are one of the best core exercises

It’s debatable as to whether or not an exercise regime consisting solely of planks would give you a six-pack by itself. The odds are pretty slim, and the amount of planking you would have to do would be absolutely ridiculous, but including a plank as part of a varied routine shows some immense benefits.

Planks go best when mixed with an assortment of cardio and strength training exercises,  and they show this by improving the benefits that you reap from each individual exercise and type of training you do.

Some of the most important groups of muscles that are targeted by the plank are:
> The transverse abdomens, which is a set of core muscles that ultimately lays the foundation that enables you to develop your abs. The transversus abdominus must first be trained for you to build and develop your rectus abdominis, which is the front area that most people shooting for a six-pack are observing when they’re looking in the mirror.

> The rectus abdominus helps greatly improve sports performance and your ability to jump high.

> Your oblique muscles are responsible for your ability to bend sideways and twist your waist, and are often underlooked during exercise routines

> Your glutes are what help support your back and help to provide the often-desired shape of your backside.

Your core is crucial for helping keep your spine in alignment, as well as maintaining strength in the rest of your back. Core strength helps keep you safe from strain injuries. The core must be trained on a regular basis, and a lot of people don’t know this. Doing too many exercises that target specific muscle groups – weight training, for example – neglects the core and can lead to disproportionate strength and injuries later in life. Planks are a great way to maintain strength in the core.

2. Planks will improve your posture

Planks are able to improve your posture, which is incredibly important for a number of things.

Good posture prevents your body from developing injuries by improper weight distribution, which can affect everything from major exercise routines to small movements like bending over.

Proper posture displays confidence and self-assurance, which can be very attractive for people hoping to appeal to the opposite (or same) gender.  Since planks work your core, that means they work basically the whole body, from your pelvic girdle to your shoulder girdle as well as your legs.

The plank strengthens your spine, your rhomboids and trapezius, and your abdominal muscles, which naturally result in a strong posture as they grow in strength.  Developing your posture can improve on a number of alinements, and prevent the onset of other ones.

Good posture means you’re keeping your bones aligned. This means that you’ll lower the risk of skeletal injuries, you’ll be able to lift more, and your body will put less strain on your joints and bones to prevent the development of diseases like arthritis.

Improving your posture means that you’ll position your internal organs better, which can nullify any digestive issues or other functional problems that may have been caused by your internal organs being forced out of their natural position by bad posture.

Good posture increases your height, making you appear lean and actually increasing your height a bit; these bonuses come without an increase to weight (though this may naturally come as you continue working out.)

3. Planks help get rid of back pain

This benefit is partially due to the improved posture that planks provide, but the significance of the plank’s ability to affect back pain deserves a section of its own. The plank doesn’t just inhibit certain types of back pain but enhances the health of the back as a whole.

The improved posture alone helps to align the vertebrae, which takes off unnecessary stress in the spinal region. This also helps to arrange the ligaments in the back properly, which further prevents painful back conditions.

Planks help you build up the muscles in your abdomen, which allows further support of your posture. Having strong abdominal muscles also means that your body feels less of your weight – remember, you’re holding up hundreds) of pounds every second you’re standing, and all this strain comes back on your bones, joints, and muscles. Strong abdominals take a lot of this stress off your back (this is part of the reason that waist-straps are so helpful when carrying heavy backpacks!)
Having strong abs and sitting or standing up straight prevents several unpleasant things from happening.

Osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition related to the joints in your body, is less likely to develop with proper posture. As you age, your body naturally loses some of its mobility. Having proper posture and strong core muscles helps to prevent this from happening too quickly.  Neck and shoulder pain can also be caused by improper posture or by straining the muscles in your core, so keeping them strong is a key way to avoid unwanted injuries of these areas.

4. You’ll become better coordinated

One of the best benefits of planking doesn’t come from actual muscle growth, but from its ability to help you train your muscles to be more stable.
The body uses its core muscles to help maintain balance. This is obvious when you’re running, biking, exercising in any way – or during active leisure activities like dancing. Many people think that their extremities are responsible for their balance, and they are, in part – but the majority of your stabilization comes from your core.
Having a strong core helps you avoid injuries that could be caused to single muscle groups that might be over exerted by trying to maintain balance during aggressive exercise. For example, snowboarding relies heavily on the calves for balance, and having a strong core can reduce some of this strain.

Strengthening your core also teaches you how your body and muscles work together, and can help improve your ability to work as a single unit instead of trying to control a bunch of different muscle groups simultaneously.

Planks also help build endurance of these muscle groups, so you’re able to maintain balance in physically exhausting situations for longer times.

Performing endurance feats like planking also carry with them a very trying mental aspect. Many people say that half of a workout is in your mind, and the plank is great proof of this – many people can hold a plank for much longer than they believe that they can, but they give up too soon. Doing regular plank training, and continuing to motivate yourself to hold a full plank, can have incredible benefits for your focus and concentration. 

If you’re able to hold focus during an intense exercise like a plank, imagine how easy it will be for you to focus on other tasks!

5. Planks improve your flexibility

Unlike some exercises that simply improve the strength of your muscles, planks offer a versatile range of benefits – not the least of which is improving your flexibility. 
Planks make your posterior muscle groups – not just your glutes, but all of the muscle groups in the back of your body -much more flexible. These include the muscles around your shoulders and your collarbone area, and your shoulder blades themselves. These muscle areas will grow and stretch with continued planking, which is great because these areas are often neglected during many traditional exercise routines.

The plank is an important pose in many yoga routines. Yoga is a great form of exercise for people hoping to build core strength and improve flexibility, the the plank being considered a core element of many yoga training routines indicates just how beneficial it can be not just for your core, but for your flexibility as well.
Side planks, a variation we will discuss later, allow you to stretch out your sides, improving flexibility from the hip area.

A tip for enhancing the flexibility bonus you’ll gain from planking is to do a rocking plank,again, discussed in detail later. Once you’re in the plank pose, rock your body back and forth by moving your toes a little bit in either direction.

6. Planking will improve your metabolism

Planking burns more calories, when done every day, than other core exercises like situps.  More importantly, planks help strengthen massive muscle groups in your body. Having strong muscles means you burn more calories, even when you’re at rest. This makes planks crucial for people who work in offices or other jobs that aren’t very active. If you have good, strong muscles on your body, you will be able to burn calories more effectively and be less at risk for gaining extra weight.

On top of that, having strong muscles means you burn even more calories when you’re exercising, even if this exercise is simply walking to work or school in the mornings. It also means that you’ll burn more calories in your sleep!

The other side of this benefit is that, since you’ll be burning more calories, you’ll feel hungry a lot more often. This can be a great opportunity for you to begin eating a healthy diet – since you’ll be hungry for more calories, you can eat more, and if you’re deciding to eat nothing but healthy food, you’ll begin to reap the benefits of a health diet  in no time.

A lot of folk consider being hungry all the time to be a terrible affliction because it means that they’ll gain weight. This can be true, but it only becomes a problem if the individual has a bad diet. Eating lots of food can be great for you, and if you’re exercising and eating a good diet, you’ll become much healthier.

7. Your mood will improve

What? Planks can even have benefits on your state of mind?
Absolutely. A lot of the groups that planks target are groups of muscles that are frequently strained and knotted, and contribute massively to stress in the human body. Knowing that your body’s physically stressed can be draining to your mental state. Tension in certain parts of your body, like your legs, can lead to more tension in other parts of your body due to your natural need to compensate – if your legs are tense, you will try to put less weight on them, which could strain your back.

All of these worries and stressors can compound into a form of anxiety,   or vice-versa – having a lot of stress and worry on your mind can lead to your body undergoing a psychosomatic response (a physical response caused by a mental process) which could cause your muscles to tense up. These types of muscle stress are often eliminated with things like massage.

Fortunately, planking can eliminate the physical stressors in this case, which can help to ease your state of mind. No longer will you have to worry about work causing your body strain if you’re strong enough to handle it!

Additionally, all forms of exercise cause a release of endorphins– your body’s feel good chemicals. Many doctors recommend a regular form of exercise instead of trying prescription medication right away, because its effects can be immediate and extremely powerful.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Probiotics Part 5 - How To Make Your Own Fermented Foods.

Although you can get the same benefits from many probiotic supplements, we still believe fermented foods are the best way to keep intestinal bacteria in balance.

It’s also easy and affordable to make your own fermented vegetables at home. Here’s how:

1. Choose a selection of your favorite vegetables. Organic vegetables like carrots, peppers, kale, seaweed, collards, and broccoli are good choices.

2. Create a brine by juicing stalks of celery. Celery contains natural sodium and keeps the vegetables in an anaerobic environment, which encourages the growth of bacteria.

3. Put the vegetables and celery brine in a canning or jam jar (fill to the brim to eliminate any trapped air). You may add some aromatics like garlic and rosemary for taste. Completely cover the mixture with a cabbage leaf.

4. Seal the jar and keep in a warm, slightly moist place for 2 to 4 days. You can use a portable cooler filled with warm water to store the jars, or you can cover them with warm wet towels and set them in a casserole dish filled with warm water. Maintain a temperature range between 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. After several days, move the jars to the refrigerator to be stored until consumption.

Chopped into bite-sized pieces, fermented vegetables are great as side dishes, a garnishes, or in salsa.