7 Healthiest Water Flavoring Ideas to Try

If you have been following my blog, you know I have written posts on the importance of hydration and the negative consequences of consuming too much sugar as well as artificial sweeteners.

I have explained that it is best to drink eight, 8 oz. glasses of water daily.  This is the rule under normal conditions.  If you are sweating more than usual or out in the heat for extended periods, this amount should be increased accordingly.

Many of us get bored drinking plain water all day.  I decided to find some good water-flavoring ideas and put them in a post for your convenience.

This has been enjoyable because I have been able to try the different flavors.

Cucumber and Blueberry

This is one of my favorite combinations.  

  • 8 ounces water
  • 1/4 c. Blueberries
  • 1/4 Cucumber
Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants.  Cucumber is low in calories and high in fiber and also contains antioxidants.  This is a favorite of mine, as blueberries are my favorite fruit.

Cucumber, Lemon and Apple Detox Water

Besides its antioxidant properties, cucumber also acts as an anti-inflammatory.  Lemon adds flavor to the water as well and can help boost immunity.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced

Cucumber, Watermelon and Mint Infused Water

This flavor combination is a real treat!  The watermelon and mint add spark while the cucumber producer a mellow, soft flavor to the mix.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • 1 cup cubed watermelon
  • Fresh mint to taste

Red Currant Infused Water

Red currants are high in flavonoids and vitamin B.  This can help protect body tissues and prevent arteriosclerosis and diabetes. Red currants taste like a raspberry, rhubarb mixture.

Cucumber, Lemon, Lime and Mint Infused Water

This is a very refreshing recipe.  Think of this as spa water.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 lime sliced
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced

 

Lavender and Lemon Infused Water

Lavender is known for its calming properties.  It also takes lemon water to another level.  Try this combination.

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp dried lavender buds
  • 2 quarts cold water

Cucumber, Lemon, Lime, Berry and Mint Infused Water

Lastly, for the adventurous types out there.  Here is an infused water with many flavors.  Have fun with this one.  Try different amounts of the various ingredients and enjoy the results!

Michael Brown pictured with Final Thought written

Most of us don’t drink enough water.  The recommended intake is eight, 8 oz. glasses of water per day under normal conditions.  

If you become tired of drinking plain water, consider infusing it using some of the ingredients listed in this post.

If you are looking for a good fruit infuser water bottle, click here.

I would love to hear about the ideas you have for other infused water flavors.  I am always looking for new ways to keep the healthiest drink on the planet more tasty.

For the best 10 infusion pitchers to buy in 2020, click here.

Have a great summer, everyone.  Stay happy, healthy, and safe!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Is Aspartame Sweetener Bad for You

What is aspartame?

Is it bad for you?

My favorite soft drink is Diet Coke. Diet Coke is sweetened by a substance called aspartame. I have been trying to improve every aspect of my life regarding health choices. One thing I plan to change is what I choose to drink. 

Not surprisingly, water is going to be my main drink going forward. Water can be flavored using fruit for a different taste. Stay tuned for a future blog post on different ways to enjoy the healthiest drink on the planet!  

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

What is Aspartame?

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener marketed under the following names:

  • NutraSweetTMCanderelTM
  • EqualTM

This substance is found in over 6,000 food items and is consumed by millions of Americans daily.1

 

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Aspartame is found in many diet soft drinks, chewing gum, and vitamin supplements. It is not a good sweetener for baking because it breaks down and loses most of its sweetness when heated.  

Aspartame is a dipeptide of two natural amino acids, L-aspartic acid, and L-phenylalanine. After ingested, aspartame is broken down into-

  • Aspartic acid
  • Phenylalanine
  • Methanol4
  • Formaldehyde5
  • Formic acid

Aspartame and your Health

Aspartame has been a subject of controversy for years. Many believe that this sweetener is hazardous to one’s health. We will take a look at some of the available studies.

Effects on the Brain

The metabolism of aspartame mentioned above may lead to the following effects on the brain.

  • Phenylalanine acts as a regulator of neurotransmission.6

  • Aspartic acid is an excitatory neurotransmitter 7

Studies have shown a decrease in the production of dopamine and serotonin following aspartame ingestion. 

This is believed to be caused by an increase in aspartic acid and phenylalanine.

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We know that aspartame also increases the permeability of the blood-brain-barrier altering concentrations of some substances such as dopamine in the brain. This change in dopamine concentration may lead to the pathogenesis of some mental disorders.10

Other researchers have concluded that these adverse effects of aspartame only occur at very high concentrations not generally achieved by typical aspartame consumption.

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A study published in April of 2014 tested the effects of high-aspartame meals (25 mg/kg/day) vs. low-aspartame meals (10 mg/kg/day) on spatial orientation, working memory, mood (irritability), depression and headaches.

This study was double-blind, and the subjects served as their own controls. They received either the high-aspartame diet or low-aspartame diet followed by a two-week washout period. During this washout period, they consumed their regular diet. After the washout period, they received the other aspartame diet (high or low).  

The treatment periods were eight days in length.

The results are shown in Table 1 below.

 

 

This study found that subjects showed weaker spatial orientation and an increased frequency of irritability and depression when consuming the high-aspartame diet 12

Another study by Walton et al. in 1993 also found high aspartame diets caused more irritability and depression. This study was not completed due to adverse reactions experienced by the study subjects.13

 

Aspartame and Cardiometabolic Health

An analysis of 7 trials (1003 subjects) was published in 2017. These subjects were obese, overweight, or hypertensive. This study found that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, may be associated with increased body mass index (BMI) and cardiometabolic risk.14

More experimental studies are needed to compare different sweeteners with regard to BMI and cardiometabolic effects. At the current time, research does not support a benefit of artificial sweeteners for weight management.

 

 

 

Other Health Concerns Regarding Aspartame

Aspartame has been a controversial substance for many years. Here are some of the other risks reported with its use.

  • Lupus
  • Cancer
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • ADHD
  • Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Some people have also reported headaches after ingesting aspartame. 

My recommendation for anyone suffering from headaches is to keep a journal. Keep track of what you eat and drink daily. When you have a headache, write down the time and severity in the journal.

Determine if patterns exist.

Are certain foods a possible trigger? 

If you are taking medications for psychosis or suffer from phenylketonuria, you should avoid aspartame.  

Please see my blog post on low glycemic sweeteners by clicking here. 

My research shows the most likely adverse effects resulting from aspartame consumption are weaker spatial orientation and an increased frequency of irritability and depression. These only seem to be a concern when consuming higher amounts of aspartame.  

Although aspartame has been blamed for many other negative health effects, the available research doesn’t support this.

I look at aspartame as a risk vs. benefit situation. 

Since there are other sweeteners available, I am going to limit my intake of aspartame. My goal will be to consume black coffee, water (flavored and plain), and AXIO.

I don’t feel the risk of consuming aspartame is currently worth the benefit.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please let me know.

Have a great week, and be happy and healthy!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Low Glycemic Sugar Substitutes

Losing weight is something most of us are interested in doing. We are bombarded by advertisements for sugar-free and calorie-free products on a daily basis.  

Are sugar-free products better?

Are they healthy?

What are the best options to replace sucrose?

This post will explore some alternatives to table sugar.

What we are looking for is a substance that:

  • Contains very few if any calories or carbohydrates.
  • Is safe for human consumption.
  • Has either no effect, or a positive effect on blood sugar levels.
  • Does not cause unwanted side effects when consumed at reasonable doses.
  • Has research to support its safety.
  • Contains no hidden sources of carbohydrates.
  • Can be used in cooking. Does not decompose into simple sugars or become bitter or toxic when exposed to heat.

Sucrose

 

Sucrose is what we refer to as table sugar.  This is the substance that all other sweeteners are compared to.

 

Sucrose is known as a disaccharide because it is composed of two monosaccharides, glucose, and fructose.

This substance is a natural compound found in plants.

 

Sucrose is obtained mostly from sugarcane in hot climates and sugar beets in colder regions. Hot water is used to extract the sucrose, and this mixture is then concentrated into a syrup. The syrup is then crystallized to make table sugar.

  

One teaspoon of table sugar contains about 16 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrates. These are known as “empty calories” because they are very limited in their nutritional value and contain no vitamins or minerals.  

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a food increases blood sugar levels.

 

Foods with a low GI typically release glucose slowly and steadily, whereas those foods with a high GI release glucose into the bloodstream rapidly, causing a “spike” in blood glucose levels.

 

Spikes in blood glucose cause the body to release more insulin, which can lead to health problems over time. Some of these include metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and insulin resistance.

   

Those foods that contain fiber, fat, and or protein have a lower glycemic index because the body cannot digest the food as quickly.  

The glycemic load (GL) is a measure of the effect a serving of food will have on the blood sugar level.

 

The GL is obtained using the following equation:

 

Glycemic Load (GL) = Glycemic Index (GI) x Carbohydrate (g) per portion /100

A low GL = 1-10

Moderate GL = 11-19

High GL = greater than 19.

 

The glycemic load is significant because it takes into account the amount of food being consumed, which leads to a more accurate estimate of the effect of the food on blood sugar.

The table below lists GI and GL values for some common foods.

 

There are three main types of sweeteners.  

  • Natural Sweeteners
  • Sugar Alcohols
  • Artificial Sweeteners

Natural Sweeteners

Stevia, also known as the sugar leaf, is 100 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar. This natural sweetener has been used in South America for its sweetening properties for hundreds of years.1

Stevia is calorie-free. This is the sweetener I choose to use.

  

Stevia has some studies to suggest it may lower blood pressure.2

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Another study has shown no significant change was seen in patients with mild hypertension.5 

Stevia is sweet but doesn’t taste much like sugar. It also has a bitter aftertaste, which some dislike.

 

Some individuals may suffer from digestive problems when using stevia.

Stevia: GI = 0, Net Carbs (per 100g) = 5, Calories (per 100g) = 20

 

Allulose is a sugar that resembles fruit sugar or fructose. This sugar is only about 70% as sweet as table sugar. Although not calorie-free, allulose provides about 0.4 calories per gram (g), which is much lower than sucrose. The body does absorb this sugar but does not metabolize it into glucose.

  

A 2018 study of 144 individuals with a BMI greater than or equal to 23 kg/m2 found allulose was able to reduce body weight in overweight or obese subjects. This study also stated that the effects are likely dose-dependent.6

 

Another study from 2015 suggested allulose may also have benefits for type 2 diabetes.7

Some studies suggest It may even have antioxidant and lipid-lowering effects, although more studies are needed to confirm this.

 

Allulose has no glycemic index or net carb count because it is excreted by the body unchanged.

  

This substance is more expensive than some other sweeteners and not as sweet as table sugar.

Allulose GI = 0, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 0-5, Calories (Per 100g) = 20-40

 

Monk Fruit is a medicinal fruit from China.

 

It has been used as a digestive aid and in the treatment of the common cold.

 

Monk fruit sweetener is 100-250 times sweeter than sugar and contains no calories, carbohydrates, or sugars.

 

Like stevia, this product may leave a bitter aftertaste. The sweetness comes from mogrosides that are antioxidants separated from fresh-pressed juice during processing.

 

Monk fruit is more expensive than some other sweeteners but is a viable healthy option.

Monk fruit GI = 0, Net Carbs (Per 100g = 0-25, Calories (Per 100g) = 0-100

 

 

 

 

Tagatose is a monosaccharide that occurs in some fruits such as apples, oranges, and pineapple. It can also be found in sterilized milk.

 

This substance is about 92% as sweet as table sugar but only contains about 38% of the calories. This sugar has a minimal effect on insulin and blood glucose levels.

  

Tagatose contains more calories than some other sweeteners and is also more expensive than some.

  

Tagatose has also been shown to have some probiotic properties.

Tagatose GI = 3, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 35, Calories (Per 100g) = 150

 

Inulin is a soluble fiber found in some plants. It is also a prebiotic, meaning it feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut.

  

Inulin has also been shown to improve the body’s ability to absorb calcium, which may lead to stronger bones and teeth.8

 

This sweetener is only 35% as sweet as sugar.  The good news is, inulin caramelizes like sugar and doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste.  The bad news is, it may cause gastrointestinal symptoms to become worse.

 

Another problem with inulin is that if heated above 275 degrees Fahrenheit, a portion of the molecule will break down into fructose.

Fructose will not spike blood sugar levels, but it does contain calories.

Inulin GI = 0, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 1, Calories (Per 100g = 150

 

Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols, or polyols, are substances that are hard for the body to metabolize and thus have less effect on blood sugar than table sugar. Since these are hard to digest, they are mostly broken down by bacteria in the large intestine. This can lead to gas and bloating, especially at higher doses.

 

These molecules are not sugars or alcohols.  They are carbohydrates that have a structure that resembles sugars and alcohol.  Besides providing a sweet taste to foods, sugar alcohols add bulk and texture and inhibit browning.

  

An advantage of sugar alcohols is that they are not acted on by bacteria in the mouth, and because of this, do not promote tooth decay.9

 

One of these substances, xylitol, has been found to inhibit bacteria.

  

There are many sugar alcohols. This post will focus on just three.

 

Xylitol (pictured above) is as sweet as table sugar and is found in fruits and vegetables.

This substance has 40% fewer calories than sugar.

 

Xylitol is great for your teeth because it starves harmful bacteria in the mouth and increases calcium absorption into the teeth. This leads to its widespread use as a sweetener in gums and toothpaste.

  

Please be aware that this sweetener is toxic to many animals, including dogs and cats, even in small doses.

 

Keep this substance and anything containing it away from your pets.

  

Xylitol may cause excessive gas and bloating especially at higher doses.

Xylitol GI = 13, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 60, Calories (Per 100g) = 240

 

Erythritol is present in some fruits and vegetables. It is the sugar alcohol with the lowest calories and net carbs.

 

This sweetener also causes fewer GI complaints compared to the other sugar alcohols because it gets metabolized before reaching the colon.

 

Erythritol has been available as a sweetening agent since 1990.

 

It does produce a cooling sensation on the tongue, especially when used in large quantities.

Erythritol GI = 0, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 5, Calories (Per 100g) = 20

 

 

 

Maltitol is commonly used as a sugar substitute because it tastes and bakes similarly to sugar with fewer calories.

 

It does have a higher glycemic index than the other sugar alcohols and can spike insulin levels.

  

I would advise against consuming products containing maltitol if you are trying to lose weight. The other problem is this sweetener tends to cause more bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea when compared to erythritol and xylitol.

Maltitol GI = 36, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 67, Calories (Per 100g) = 270

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are the compounds synthetically produced to replace sugar. These are sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin.

 

Aspartame is contained in one of my favorite soft drinks, Diet Coke. Drinking this beverage is one of the few bad habits I have that affect my health. Let us take a look at these sweeteners.

 

Aspartame is probably the most studied artificial sweetener. This substance is 200 times sweeter than sucrose. If you consume sugar-free products, chances are you are being exposed to aspartame.  There have been reports of aspartame causing everything from headaches to cancer.

  

Aspartame is composed of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. These are both amino acids. When aspartame is metabolized in the body, a portion of it is converted to methanol. Methanol is toxic in large doses.

  

Those who have phenylketonuria (PKU) and those taking medications for schizophrenia or Parkinson’s disease should avoid aspartame. Those with PKU already have too much phenylalanine in their blood. Aspartame is toxic to these individuals.

 

Aspartame may increase the risk of tardive dyskinesia in those receiving antipsychotic medications.

A study published in 2014, found rats fed a diet containing aspartame experienced hyperglycemia and insulin resistance. This is thought to be due to its effect on the gut microbiota.10

Aspartame GI = 0, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 85, Calories (Per 100g) = 352

 

 

 

 

Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than table sugar. This substance is very poorly absorbed by the body. It becomes unstable when heated and can release cancer-causing substances, so do not use it in cooking.

 

Notice that the GI for sucralose has a range. In its powdered form, sucralose has a higher GI than sucrose, which can lead to large insulin spikes.

Sucralose GI = 0-80, Net Carbs (Per 100g) = 0, Calories (Per 100g) = 0

 

Saccharin is one of the oldest sweeteners available. It is 400 times sweeter than sugar.  This sweetener is not as popular as it used to be due to the bad press it has received. It has been shown to cause cancer in animal models.

 

Since these studies can not be performed in humans, we are not sure of its cancer-causing potential.

 

There have also been studies that have shown saccharin, and other artificial sweeteners can cause glucose intolerance by altering the intestinal microbiota.11

Saccharin GI =variable, Net Carbs (Per 100g) =94, Calories (Per 100g) = 364

 

There were no surprises found while writing this post. Here are my recommendations:

  • Avoid artificial sweeteners. Although we don’t have concrete evidence that they are harmful, I believe the risks outweigh the benefits.
  • Xylitol is a good option for dental products because it increases calcium absorption into the teeth and decreases harmful bacteria.
  • Monk fruit is a reasonable option as its sweetness comes from antioxidant compounds.
  • Stevia is also a good choice, although it may produce a bitter aftertaste that some may not prefer. It also has a different taste than sucrose.
  • It is crucial to avoid high fructose corn syrup whenever possible. This is a highly processed sweetener that has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

I plan to write an entire blog post on aspartame in the near future.  This sweetener is very popular and I want to give my readers a better understanding of the health effects of using it.

Please read your food labels and remember, it is always best to eat whole foods. Limit artificial and processed foods.

Drink plenty of water, at least eight, 8 oz. glasses per day and exercise for at least 30 minutes five times per week.  

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

9 Amazing Benefits of the Vegan Macrobiotic Diet

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Macrobiotics is defined as follows by the Kushi Institute:

 “Macrobiotics is a system that can be used to create extraordinary health, through using both traditional wisdom and modern knowledge to ascertain the underlying causes of an individual’s current health challenges, and make adjustments to their food and lifestyle choices that support health improvement. Not simply a diet, macrobiotic recognizes the profound effects food, environment, activities, and attitude all have on our body-mind-emotions.”

The Kushi institute is recognized as a standard for those following a macrobiotic diet.  Macrobiotic diets (MCDs) are one of the popular alternative treatments for those with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.  This is a whole-foods diet that is predominately vegetarian.  There have been reports suggesting recovery from some cancers with poor prognosis can be attributed to whole-food diets.1

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  1. The macrobiotic diet decreases total body fat and body mass.   2. It also has a positive effect on serum glucose, 3. lipids5
  1. and immunologic parameters.6
  1. Macrobiotic diets are also associated with a decrease in inflammation.7

I have stated many times in previous posts that a decrease in inflammation is thought to reduce cancer risk as well as recurrence.8

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Macrobiotic Thinking

Let’s take a step back and explore the thinking behind macrobiotics.  Macrobiotics is much more than a diet.  It is a way of living.  A different way of thinking.  It is a belief that we are all in harmony with nature and interconnected with one another.  What we do and how we eat not only affects us, but our world and everyone in it.  We start looking at food in a different way, as an energy source.  6.  This makes it easy to create healthy, delicious meals.

The vegan macrobiotic diet uses seasonal fruits and vegetables.  It is more natural way of eating that leads to a greater understanding of how the food we eat makes us feel.  7.  This leads to the consumption of whole foods and eliminates unhealthy processed foods from the diet.

 

The Vegan Macrobiotic Plate

It is not surprising that vegetables will be the star of the show.  Root vegetables such as beets, carrots and parsnips combined with green leafy vegetables will fill the plate.  Broccoli, cauliflower and seasonal squash add to the colorful array.  Don’t forget fruit!  Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries add antioxidants and color to the plate.  Pineapple, bananas and kiwi are other yummy additions. 

Complex carbohydrates are also essential so whole grains will be added.  Bulgur, brown rice and oatmeal are examples.  Fats and oils are also important.  Coconut and olive oil are great choices.  Nuts and seeds add nutrition and crunch. 

More Benefits

  1. Once we learn how much better we can feel eating whole foods, we make healthier choices. One of the most positive life-changing bits of information I obtained happened after completing the Whole30 diet.  Not only did I lose weight, I also learned how much better my body could feel as the result of eliminating processed foods and added sugar from my diet.  This thirty-day period will change the way I think about food forever.  9.  Eating a macrobiotic diet also benefits the environment.  We all need to help protect the earth.  Macrobiotics helps us to focus not only on our health, but the health of our environment as well.  Eating a plant-based, whole foods diet benefits each and every one of us.

I have spent more time thinking about what I put in my body since starting Sunshine Nutraceuticals nine months ago.  This journey has helped me not only think about myself and my family, but also the environment.  We are all responsible for leaving a healthy planet for the generations to come. 

I learned about the vegan macrobiotic diet while researching healthy diet options.  I truly believe we can all benefit by eating as much of a whole foods diet as possible.  Many health conditions we face are the result of unhealthy habits we have developed.  Smoking, drinking alcohol, over-eating and lack of exercise are just a few examples. 

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

4 Remarkable Beetroot Medicinal Uses

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Beets have recently gained popularity for their medicinal uses.  Red beetroot (Beta vulgaris rubra) is a source of nitrate and also contains betalain pigments.  Beetroot ingestion causes an increase in nitric oxide availability and  may lead to a natural treatment for hypertension as well as an improvement in endothelial functioning.  The betalain pigments possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and chemo-preventive activity in vitro and in vivo.1

These properties may lead to beetroot’s usefulness in the treatment of diseases occurring due to oxidative stress, inflammation, decreased cognition and altered endothelial function.

Beetroot Capsules for High Blood Pressure

Hypertension is either the primary cause or contributes to more than 1,000 deaths in the United States daily according to the CDC.  High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure and is also a risk factor for kidney disease.

 

Beetroot is a good source of dietary nitrate which is converted to nitrite and nitric oxide in the body.  Nitric oxide is known to relax and dilate blood vessels which leads to lower blood pressures. 

 

A systemic review and meta-analysis was conducted in 2017 to investigate the efficacy of beetroot juice supplementation on decreasing blood pressure in human subjects.  The results of this analysis is summarized in Table 1.

1To assess statistical heterogeneity, the I2 statistic and Cochran’s Q statistic were used according to specific categories (low = 25%, moderate = 50%, and high = 75%) and significance level (P < 0.10), respectively. *, P for WMD; **, P for Q value. DBP, diastolic blood pressure; SBP, systolic blood pressure; WMD, weighted mean difference.
2Blackcurrant juice (n = 10), low-calorie juice (n = 5), and control diet for NO3 (n = 1).

This study concluded that the hypotensive properties of beetroot are a potentially safe and effective nutritional approach to manage hypertension.  They recommend further clinical studies with larger sample sizes and longer duration to confirm clinical usefulness. 2

Antioxidant Effects of Beetroot

If you have been a reader of my blog, you know how important antioxidant activity is.  Oxidative stress can lead to functional impairment of the cells.  If this occurs over a long period of time, diseases such as cancer may result.  One estimate suggests oxidative stress plays a role in over 200 clinical conditions.3 

Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) are molecules capable of oxidation.  These are continuously generated during cellular metabolism.  When aberrant cell metabolism, UV radiation, xenobiotics or increased inflammation lead to more RONS than the cells antioxidant defenses can combat, an imbalance results.  This leads to the condition referred to as oxidative stress.4 

Beetroot is very rich in antioxidant compounds.  The betalain pigments have been shown to protect cellular components from oxidative stress in several studies.5

 

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Beetroot also contains many highly bioactive phenolics, including rutin, epicatechin and caffeic acid that are also known to be potent antioxidants.8

 

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Beetroot as an Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation is one of the defense systems used by our body.  It causes the release of substances that expand blood vessels increasing blood flow to injured areas helping to speed the healing process.  If inflammation persists for an extended period of time, cell dysfunction may occur.11 

Chronic inflammation has been associated with many clinical disorders including heart disease, cancer, obesity and liver disease.12

 

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We have treated inflammation with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) since the 1970’s.15

Like any medication, these agents have side effects especially when used over long time periods.  NSAIDs can cause kidney damage and bleeding issues.  They also interact with several other medication classes.  Furthermore, NSAIDs have been shown to be ineffective for many inflammatory related conditions.16

The focus has been changed from NSAIDs to natural food sources as a potential alternative to combat chronic inflammation.17 

Betalains and beetroot extracts are potent anti-inflammatory agents.  A study by Reddy et al in 2005 found that betanin inhibited cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme activity by 97%.  This effect is comparable to the anti-inflammatory drugs Ibuprofen, Vioxxtm and Celebrextm.  This was the first study to show betanin’s strong anti-inflammatory properties.18  

In 2010, Pietrzkowski et al, found beetroot capsules alleviated inflammation and pain in osteoarthritic patients.19

Beetroot and Cognitive Function

It is well known that cognitive function decreases with age.  This is believed to be due, in part, to a reduction in cerebral blood flow.20

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This reduction in cerebral blood flow has been implicated in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.23

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It would seem reasonable to conclude that beetroot could improve cerebral blood flow by increasing the availability of nitrous oxide.  We also know that a lower concentration of nitrous oxide can impair cerebral energy metabolism and neuronal activity. This may lead to neurodegeneration and cognitive deficits over time.25

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A study published in 2013 found improvements in systemic and cerebral vascular hemodynamics after ingestion of beetroot juice.  The investigators came to the following conclusion.

The hemodynamic improvements associated with the beetroot juice treatment appear to be consistent with counteracting some of the pathophysiologic cerebral vascular features of hypertension, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases associated with brain hypoperfusion and cognitive deficits.28

 

Beetroot Capsules Dosage

I recommend taking two capsules of Sunshine Nutraceutical’s Beetroot Powder Caps (1300mg) once daily.  Our product is all-natural, non-GMO and 100% organic.  This supplement is vegan and made in the United States.

After researching the benefits of beetroot, I decided to add it to our product line.  I work on a unit that cares for dementia patients so I am always interested in novel treatments for this disease.  Beetroot is high in antioxidants and is a great source of nitrates which are converted to nitrous oxide in the body.  I discussed four medicinal uses of this super food in this post but other possible uses also exist.  The increase in nitrous oxide and blood flow could be helpful in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.  The antioxidant properties may also prove to be beneficial in the treatment of some types of cancers in the future.  Finally, beetroot may be useful in improving exercise tolerance in athletes.  More studies will surely be done in the future regarding the many uses of beetroot. 

Thank you for reading this post.  As always, please contact us with any questions or comments.  Have a great week and be happy and safe.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Somatic Mindfulness Exercises to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Can somatic mindfulness exercises help me?

Are they hard to learn?

What are the benefits?

 

Mindfulness has become a popular subject for therapists as well as those seeking self-help ideas to treat anxiety disorders and decrease stress and frustration of daily living.  The COVID-19 outbreak has increased interest even more. 

Mindfulness is the ability to be present in the moment without judgement.  Paying attention to the simple things that we often take for granted.  It is an amazingly simple idea that can really pay off. 

In this post, I am going to explain a few somatic mindfulness exercises you can do to help control anxiety and improve mental health.  These are simple to do and, as with most everything else, practice makes perfect.  If you work on these regularly, you will find them to be very useful.

A Scan of Your Body – C. A. L. M.

This is something I practice often and I find it to be very beneficial for those times when I feel irritated or overwhelmed.  This works best in a quiet place with minimal distractions.  C.A.L.M. helps you remember the large zones of the body to focus on.

Before beginning, get comfortable in any position that suits you at the time.  If possible, lay down.  I find this to be most relaxing but understand it isn’t always convenient.  Close your eyes and take a few slow deep breaths.

Chest:  The first region of the body to concentrate on is your chest.  Pay close attention to your breathing.  Notice how your chest rises as you breathe in and falls as you exhale. 

Are you breathing fast or slow? 

Attempt to regulate the speed of your breathing.  Keep it slow and steady.  As you regulate your breath, your mind and body are also under your control.  You begin to relax.  Imagine your stress and anxiety leaving your body with every exhaled breath.

After a few breaths, take a deep breath and tighten all muscles in your chest.  Hold this for three seconds concentrating on how it feels to be tense.  Finally, allow all your muscles to relax and notice the tension leaving your body with each breath.  Continue to breathe slowly and evenly as you allow your body to fully relax.

Arms:  Focus on your arms.  Using your mind, scan each arm from your shoulders all the way down to each fingertip. 

How do your arms feel? 

Are they tense, relaxed, warm, cold? 

Spend a little time concentrating on just your arms.  If you feel any tension, attempt to relax. 

After a couple of minutes, squeeze each fist and flex all the muscles in each arm tightly.  Finally, release the tension in your arms and relax each hand.  Take a few breaths and notice the feeling of calmness.  Let your body relax as you slowly breathe in and out.

Legs:  Next, focus your mind on your legs from your hips all the way down to your toes.

  How do they feel? 

Are they weak, shaky, warm or cold? 

Are your legs telling you anything about your level of stress or anxiety? 

Begin to squeeze your muscles starting at your feet and extending up to your hips.  Hold this tension for a few seconds and then release. 

Notice how you feel when the tension is released. As you breathe, imagine all the tension from each leg and foot leaving your body.

Mouth:  The last area to focus on is your mouth and jaw.  Many of us tense muscles around our mouth when we are anxious without realizing it. 

What expression is your mouth communicating? 

Is this a result of stress or anxiety? 

As before, clench the muscles around your mouth and jaw for a few seconds and pay close attention to the feeling.  Relax your muscles and with your eyes still closed, smile. 

Enjoy the feeling of relaxation as your breathing helps to remove stress from your body.

  Continue to breathe is this relaxed state thinking about the areas where you noticed evidence of stress and anxiety or tension.  As you breathe, imagine the tension leaving your body with each breath. 

This exercise can be a life-changing skill once developed.  With practice, you will be able to close your eyes and imagine the stress and tension leaving your body just by breathing.

  You can train yourself to identify tension in different areas of your body and remove it using your mind. 

Grounding Exercises

Heel drops:  In this exercise you will start by standing.  Slowly lift up your heels so you are standing on your toes.  Return to your standing position.  Do this repeatedly in a slow, rhythmic pattern.  Pay attention to how your hips and lower back feel while doing this exercise.  Each time you return to a standing position, imagine stress and tension leaving your body. 

Bamboo Swaying:  In this exercise you will stand and allow your body to slowly sway back and forth like a bamboo in the wind.  The rocking motion helps to relieve tension.  If you feel little tremors through your body while doing this exercise, do not be alarmed.  This is one of the ways your body releases tension.

It is important to take a moment to scan your body after these grounding exercises to see how you feel. 

Do you feel more grounded?

  More connected to the earth below? 

Do you feel less tension or stress? 

Other Ways to Practice Mindfulness

In today’s society, most of us are used to doing more than one thing at a time.  This can lead to frustration, anxiety, burnout and even depression.  Trying to take care of our families, get our work done, prepare meals and keep the house clean can feel overwhelming.  One of your goals should be to try to do one thing at a time.  This can be learned by taking small steps. 

Make a list of what needs to be done starting with the most important tasks.  Begin with the first task on the list and try to let go of distractions that come your way.  I suggest silencing your cell phone and computer email during this time. 

If you find yourself worrying about different things or thinking about something else, take a few deep breaths and imagine those thoughts leaving your mind with your breathing.  If you find yourself doing more than one thing at a time, stop, and choose the thing on the top of the list and return to it.  This can be difficult at first but will become easier with practice.

Tell your intrusive thoughts to leave your mind.  Keep doing this until you get results.  There are several exercises that can be done to help you succeed.  Start to notice times where you are thinking about one thing only. 

How does this feel? 

Here are a few things that can be done to practice focusing on one thing only.  Try to do these exercises several times each day, especially when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

  • Watch a fire. This can be in your fireplace or a campfire.  Don’t think about anything, just watch.
  • Watch the raindrops running down a window.
  • Listen to the ticking of a clock.
  • Listen to the ocean waves.
  • Breathe mindfully as explained above.
  • Watch trees blowing in the wind.

I also like to take a walk outside and observe nature when I get stressed.  Concentrating on something as simple as the beauty of a leaf or the bark on a tree can change your mindset. 

Michael Brown pictured with Final Thought written

With practice, somatic mindfulness can become an important tool to fight stress, anxiety, depression and burnout.  We started with breathing which I believe to be a very important first step to calm the body. A few months ago I wrote a post on anxiety.  This would be a great time to review that article.  It has more information on breathing techniques and other ideas to help relieve stress and anxiety.  When these exercises aren’t enough, don’t forget about our Anxiety Formula.  This is the best-selling product in our store and our customers love it.  Take a look at this video recorded by a friend of mine who uses the product.

We can all live a more productive, enjoyable life if we take some simple steps to take care of our mind and body.  You are reading this because you are committed to be a happier and healthier person.  Remember what I have been telling you all:

  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Drink eight, 8 ounce glasses of water daily. More if you are sweating (exercise or hot weather).
  • Eat whole foods – stay far away from fast food, junk food and empty calories.
  • Exercise – Stay active. Find an exercise you like and do that activity for at least 30 minutes, 5 days per week.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. If you need a reminder why you shouldn’t drink alcohol, read my article on ethanolism.
  • Think positively and surround yourself with positive people.
  • Spend as much time with your happiness elements as possible!

That is all for this week.  I hope you are all staying safe during this COVID-19 outbreak.  PLEASE STAY HOME if you are not an essential worker.  This virus has turned out to be worse than we initially thought. 

Wash your hands often,

maintain a six-foot distance from others, and

stay isolated until this virus runs its course. 

We will get through this.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.  I welcome any interaction from my readers.  This blog is for you!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Five Amazing Organic Ceylon Cinnamon Benefits

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Cinnamon comes in two varieties. 

  • Cinnamomum zeylanicum (CZ): Also known as Ceylon cinnamon or “true cinnamon.”  This is the version we will be exploring in this post.
  • Cinnamomum aromaticum (CC): Also known as Cinnamon cassia, or “Chinese cinnamon.”

Ceylon cinnamon is a spice is made from the bark of the tropical evergreen tree Cinnamomum verum.  This tree is indigenous to southern India, Madagascar and Sri Lanka with eighty percent of the world’s supply being provided by the latter 1

Almost every part of this tree including the leaves, bark, flowers, roots and fruit has some use either as an ingredient in cooking or a medicinal agent.

Ceylon cinnamon has a lower coumarin content than Chinese cinnamon.2

This is an important difference because coumarins are known to be strong anticoagulants, are carcinogenic and toxic to the liver.  Consuming large quantities of CC over a long period of time could pose health risks whereas CZ does not carry these risks.3

Many studies have been performed demonstrating the benefits of Ceylon cinnamon.  Some of these will be summarized below.

 

Ceylon Cinnamon in Diabetes and Hyperlipidemia

A systemic review and meta-analysis on the use of cinnamon in type 2 diabetes was published in 2013.  This review included ten randomized controlled trials involving 543 patients.  Cinnamon doses ranged from 120 mg per day to 6 grams per day for four to eighteen weeks. 

This review found the consumption of cinnamon to be associated with a statistically significant decrease in:

  • Fasting plasma glucose
  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL-C
  • Triglyceride levels

An increase in HDL-C levels was also significant.  There was not a significant effect on hemoglobin A1c found.  The researchers concluded that “The high degree of heterogeneity may limit the ability to apply these results to patient care, because the preferred dose and duration of therapy are unclear.”4

The fact that cinnamon had a positive effect on five out of six diabetes and blood lipid parameters in this review suggests it may be a positive supplement to add for patients who have hypertriglyceridemia or suffer from type 2 diabetes. 

Other studies have shown no improvement in fasting blood glucose with Ceylon cinnamon compared to placebo or a control group.5

 

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In animal models, the following benefits of cinnamon on diabetes and hyperlipidemia were shown in a study published in Diabetic Medicine in 2012:

  • Attenuation of diabetes associated weight loss
  • Reduction of fasting blood glucose (FBG)
  • Reduction in LDL (bad fat)
  • Increase in HDL (good fat)
  • Reduction in HbA1c
  • Increased circulating insulin levels
  • Beneficial effects against diabetic neuropathy and nephropathy

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Ceylon Cinnamon and Hypertension

Acute intravenous administration of Ceylon cinnamon extract administered to hypertensive rats resulted in a long-lasting decrease in blood pressure.  This study also resulted in a significant decrease in plasma triglycerides (-38.1%), total cholesterol (-32.1%) and LDL-cholesterol (-75.3%).  HDL-cholesterol in this study showed a 58.4% increase.9

Ceylon Cinnamon Antioxidant Properties

Ceylon cinnamon possesses strong antioxidant properties.  This spice is rich in polyphenols.10

 

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A study published in 2005 quantified the antioxidant capacity (TEAC) and phenolic content of 26 common spice extracts from twelve botanical families.  This is important because prior to this study, many different assay methods were used to determine antioxidant capacity.  This study showed a mean TEAC value of 31.7 mmol/100g.  The strongest antioxidant based on radical scavenging activity was clove at 168.7 mmol/100g. 

Cinnamomum zeylanicum had the second highest radical scavenging activity at 107.69 mmol/100g.  This study confirmed the high antioxidant activity of Ceylon cinnamon.14

Antioxidant effects are important because they may reduce the risk of developing many diseases including heart disease and some cancers.  This is accomplished by preventing or limiting the damage caused to cells from free radicals.

Antimicrobial Effects of Ceylon Cinnamon

Ceylon cinnamon has shown antimicrobial activity against many bacterial strains.  CZ oil was beneficial in protecting mice against cryptosporidiosis.15

Another study showed chewing gum containing cinnamic aldehyde and natural flavors from CZ led to significant reductions in salivary anaerobes twenty minutes after gum was chewed.16

There are many more studies and outcomes listed referring to the antimicrobial effects of CZ in the research article “Medicinal properties of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): a systemic review.”

https://bmccomplementmedtherapies.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-13-275

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It is thought that CZ’s antimicrobial action is due to cinnamaldehyde.18

Anti-Inflammatory Actions of Ceylon Cinnamon

Extracts of cinnamon are known to increase Tristetrapolin mRNA and protein levels.  These have anti-inflammatory effects.  This may be why anti-inflammatory actions have been observed with the use of CZ.19

This effect can help the body fight infection and repair tissue damage.  Studies have shown that Ceylon cinnamon has potent anti-inflammatory properties.  If therapeutic concentrations reach the tissues, this substance may be used in the treatment of age-related inflammatory conditions.20 

A study published in 2012 determined “cinnamic aldehyde may be used in the prevention or treatment of disease where free radical formation is a pathological factor.”21

Ceylon Cinnamon Side Effects

This spice is generally well tolerated and adverse effects are uncommon.  Some side effects reported areHeartburn

  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Dyspepsia

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Cinnamon oil can cause burning and contact dermatitis when it comes into contact with the skin.  There has also been a case report of a 7 year-old child developing signs of toxicity (vomiting, dizziness, sedation and loss of consciousness) after ingesting 60 ml of cinnamon oil.23

Ceylon Cinnamon Drug Interactions

Antidiabetic agents:  Ceylon cinnamon can decrease blood sugar so combining it with antidiabetic agents may lead to hypoglycemia.  Frequent monitoring of blood sugars is recommended if combining Ceylon cinnamon with these agents.

Antihypertensives:  Some research has shown Ceylon cinnamon can decrease blood pressure in rat models.  Blood pressure should be monitored when combining Ceylon cinnamon with antihypertensive agents to prevent hypotension.

Cinnamon comes in two different varieties.  Ceylon cinnamon is the preferred type to use for medicinal purposes.  This spice may be useful for several indications.  Cinnamon can lower blood sugar, improve blood lipid levels and reduce blood pressure.  It has also been shown to be effective in preventing and fighting several types of bacterial infections. 

Cinnamon has strong antioxidant properties that may help prevent heart disease and some types of cancer.  It may also be useful in several inflammatory conditions related to the ageing process. 

Ceylon cinnamon is well tolerated when consumed at recommended dosages.  It is important to consume the correct form of cinnamon.  The cinnamon used in cooking (Chinese cinnamon) is not the same as Ceylon cinnamon.  It has many of the same effects but contains high levels of coumarin compounds which may lead to bleeding.  Coumarins are also carcinogenic and toxic to the liver.  Consuming small amounts of Chinese cinnamon in food is safe but you wouldn’t want to consume large quantities for its health benefits.

Sunshine Nutraceuticals has a Ceylon cinnamon supplement available for purchase.  Please let us know if you have any questions regarding this product or any item we offer for sale.  We are always happy to answer any questions regarding happy, healthy living as well.

Have a great week and be safe!  Remember to follow all guidelines regarding COVID-19.  We need to get through this!

 

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Abnormal Condition of Dry or Scaly Skin in Older Individuals

What can be done to prevent dry skin as you age?

The skin is the largest organ of the body. It serves as a barrier and protects us from bacteria. 

Skin also helps to regulate body temperature and allows us to respond to heat, cold, and touch. There are three layers that compose the skin.

  • Epidermis – This is the outer layer that serves as a barrier. The epidermis keeps pathogens from entering the body and regulated water being released from the body.
  • Dermis – The layer below the epidermis is called the dermis. This layer contains blood vessels, nerve endings, sweat glands, and hair follicles.
  • Hypodermis – This layer contains fat and connective tissue, and provides cushioning and insulation to the body.

Dermatologists are specialized physicians who diagnose and treat various conditions of the skin. This post will explore dry skin, its causes, treatments, and effects on the aging population.

Effects of Age on the Skin

As we age, our skin becomes thinner. The number of blood vessels, nerve endings, and the amount of connective tissue also decrease. These changes lead to a reduced ability to retain moisture, control body temperature, and sense the environment.

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Pruritis, or itching, is the most common complaint involving the skin in older individuals. Short-term itching, less than six weeks, may protect us, but pruritis lasting more than six weeks can be bothersome. Pruritis can effect the quality of life and, in some cases, patients would rather live a shorter life without symptoms than live longer with pruritis.

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Dry skin (xerosis) is more common in older individuals and those living in colder climates. Heating homes in the winter months leads to decreased humidity that can dry the skin.

Prevention of Dry, Itchy Skin

The best treatment for most anything is prevention. 

Dry, itchy skin is no exception. 

The first step is to monitor the health of the skin regularly. This can be done by scanning the body for problem areas. A physician may also perform skin monitoring during a routine physical exam. 

Some causes of dry skin include:

  • Cold, dry air during the winter months
  • Skin damage from the sun
  • Use of soaps and detergents that damage the skin
  • Excessive immersion in water (taking long baths)
  • Some diseases such as lymphoma, malnutrition, hypothyroidism, eczema, and others
  • Direct exposure to fan heaters

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    One of the best ways to prevent dry to skin is to eat an adequate amount of protein, vitamins, and fatty acids.

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Best Foods to Eat for Healthy Skin

What should you eat to help keep your skin healthy? In general, fresh fruits and vegetables are a good choice because of the vitamins and antioxidants. Below are some great suggestions.

  1. Salmon – Fatty fish, such as salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation and keep the skin moisturized.

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  1. Bell Peppers – Bell peppers are an excellent source of beta-carotene, especially the red and yellow variety. Green bell peppers are picked before they turn color and do not contain as much beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Bell peppers are also high in vitamin C, which helps keeps the skin healthy by helping form collagen.

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3. Broccoli –

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Probably my favorite vegetable, broccoli, contains many vitamins and minerals necessary for good skin health, including:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc

Broccoli, as well as cabbage, cauliflower, and kale, also contains sulforaphane. This substance may protect the skin from the sun’s damage, thus decreasing photoaging.

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  1. Avocados – Packed with healthy fats, this guacamole ingredient can improve skin health by moisturizing and improving flexibility.

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Avocados also contain vitamins C and E, which act as antioxidants. One symptom of vitamin C deficiency is dry, scaly skin. Vitamin C also is needed to make collagen that helps keep skin healthy and strong.

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  1. Tomatoes – Another favorite of mine, tomatoes contain vitamin C, lycopene, and beta-carotene. 

These substances can protect skin from the sun and help prevent wrinkles.

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  1. Soy – Isoflavones are contained in soy. These have been shown to improve skin elasticity and decrease fine wrinkles in at least one study.

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Isoflavones can also protect the skin from the sun’s harmful rays.  

  1. Sweet potatoes – We started eating more sweet potatoes when consuming the Whole30 diet. These are an excellent beta-carotene source that can protect the skin from the sun. Sweet potatoes are a better option than white or yellow potatoes. Give them a try.
  1. Green leafy vegetables – spinach, kale, and collard greens contain vitamins A, C and E. They are also a good source of protein and spinach contains selenium which can protect the skin from UV rays.
  1. Eggs – These are a good source of protein, selenium, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin C.  

10. Healthy oils –  Extra virgin olive oil and fish oil can help with keeping the skin moist and pliable.

Dietary supplements may be necessary if you cannot get enough nutrients from the foods you eat. 

Some of these can be found in the Sunshine Store. The supplements listed below are the same as those contained in the foods above.  

  • Fish Oil
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc
  • Selenium

Topical Agents for Dry Skin

Daily use of moisturizers that hydrate the skin is important. Some examples of ingredients that can help are:

 

Topical Urea – This is a molecule produced by our body that is naturally found in the skin. It is generated from the metabolism of proteins and other compounds. 

Urea is excreted in the urine and through sweating.

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Urea is one of the best moisturizing agents available to dermatologists today. It has been used safely for over a century and can be utilized for several skin conditions. Urea has different effects on the skin, depending on the concentration employed. At lower concentrations (~10% or less), it acts as a moisturizer, while at concentrations greater than 10%, it has an emollient/keratolytic action. Urea can also enhance the penetration of other molecules through the skin and is used in combination therapies.

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Other skin moisturizers available include glycerin, lactic acid, and petrolatum.

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Other Ways to Help Dry Skin

  • Avoid traditional soaps – regular soap can alkalinize the skin damaging the moisture barrier. Synthetic cleansers such as Dove, Olay, and Cetaphil are preferred.
  • Avoid excessive washing – This can worsen dry skin, especially if very hot water is used. 
  • Avoid aggressive scrubbing and use luke-warm water.
  • Use a Humidifier – Increasing humidity can help decrease skin drying, especially in the winter months.

 

 As we age, our bodies go through many transformations. Energy levels decrease, our kidneys and liver don’t work as well, and we have a higher percentage of body fat. Our skin also changes and becomes thinner, less pliable, and dry. If we don’t care for our skin, it can crack, leading to pain and possible infection.  

 

One of the best things you can do for your body at any age is to eat fresh, whole foods. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet, you are likely to help your skin stay strong and healthy. Always stay hydrated, exercise, and use high-quality moisturizing lotions. 

 

If you live in the northern part of the country where it is cold in the winter, consider using a humidifier to help decrease the effects of dry air on your skin.  

 

Avoid excessive bathing, especially with very hot water, as this may dry your skin. Stick with high-quality synthetic cleansers, and be sure to monitor your skin for dry, scaly areas. If you find problems with your skin, see your doctor. There are medicated creams and lotions available to help relieve the various skin conditions you may be suffering from.

Skin integrity is vital to our overall health. If you have any questions regarding this topic, or any other health or fitness related subject, feel free to contact us. If you have ideas for future blog posts, let me know. My goal is to keep you entertained and informed. Have a great day; be happy, healthy, and keep smiling.

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Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 
kids and dog

7 Great Health and Psychological Benefits of Bonding with a Pet Dog

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Does owning a pet dog make you healthier?

What are the benefits?

little girl hugging dog

Pet Dogs May Decrease Child Anxiety

A study published in Preventing Chronic Disease in 2015 looked at several factors involving pet dogs and children.  This was a cross-sectional study with 643 kids over the age of 18 months.  The hypothesis was that pet dogs have a positive impact on healthy weight and mental health. The results of this study were:

  • Difference in BMI – No change
  • Screen time of 2 hours or less – No change
  • Change in physical activity – None noted
  • Change in the probability of childhood anxiety – 12% for those with dogs, 21% for those without dogs.

This study showed that having a dog in the home decreased the incidence of childhood anxiety.1

Buy Anxiety Formula Here

old man with dog in lap

Dogs May Lower Hypertension and Cardiovascular Death Risk

Patients with hypertension are often started on antihypertensive medications to prevent heart disease.  Unfortunately, most of these agents work on resting blood pressure but have little effect on physical and mental stress that can lead to hypertension.2

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Studies have been performed examining the effect of pet ownership on hypertension in individuals with high-stress occupations.  Since dogs are perceived by humans to be non-judgmental, they may be a healthy social support alternative.   A study published in Hypertension in 2001, found that pets had a greater effect on sympathetic responses than did treatment with an ACE inhibitor which is a popular antihypertensive medication.4

Another study examined 4039 elderly hypertensive patients who responded to a pet-ownership questionnaire.  Of these, 3490 owned at least one pet and 871 owned at least one dog.  The investigators found those who owned pets were associated with improved survival and a lower risk of fatal cardiovascular incidents compared to those who did not own pets. 

kids and dog

Owning a Dog May Increase Socialization

Owning a dog increases the chances of random interactions with other people.  Many dog owners walk their pets and often meet other dog-lovers along the way, thus increasing the chances of stopping to have a quick chat.   Humans love to talk about their pets, including those currently owned, as well as animals they have cared for in the past.  It is well known that increased socialization improves mood.  Many friendships have started in dog parks.

As the photo above shows, kids love to hang out with friends that have a dog!  They are much more fun than toys!

Dog Ownership Can Add Purpose to Your Life

Owning a dog comes with responsibility.  Caring for another living thing can bring purpose to one’s life and give an otherwise lonely person a reason to keep going.  Dogs need to be walked, fed, groomed, and loved.  They will always give more back in return than they receive.  Dogs can be just what the doctor ordered for a lonely individual because it is much harder to give up on yourself and life in general when you have another living thing depending on you for their care. 

Dog Ownership for Children may Decrease Incidence of Allergies and Asthma Later in Life

The hygiene hypothesis states that a lack of childhood exposure to various infectious agents, including parasites and bacteria, can increase the chances of developing asthma and allergies later in life.5

It is known that (Can f 6), which is an allergen found in canine saliva, is an immunomodulary protein that may promote airway hypersensitivity reactions such as asthma.  Therefore, decreasing the sensitivity to this substance may lead to decreased asthma incidence.6

Unfortunately, many families avoid owning pets when the parents have allergies to them.  This decreases the exposure of their children to the allergens that they are likely to be allergic to later in life based on genetic factors.  It is also difficult to measure such an effect due to the vast array of allergens that may lead to asthma. 

It is probably true that early exposure to dogs and cats will decrease the likelihood of being allergic to them as adults.

Service Dogs Can Decrease PTSD Symptoms in Military Veterans

There has been an increase in the use of service dogs for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).   This disorder is prevalent in service members returning from deployment overseas.  It is estimated that 6-14% of all Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans who returned from Iraq or Afghanistan are affected by PTSD.7

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PTSD also leads to other psychiatric conditions such as substance abuse, suicide and depression. 

Although evidence-based PTSD treatment is effective for some, dropout and nonresponse rates may be up to 50%.9

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A study was completed comparing two groups of PTSD veterans.  The control group, (Group A), were those waiting to receive a service dog but provided usual care and the treatment group, (Group B), were those receiving usual care and a service dog. 

There was a total of 141 patients who completed the study.  Sixty-six subjects received usual care while waiting for a service dog, while seventy-five subjects received usual care and were paired with a service dog. 

The investigators came to the conclusion that the group paired with the service dogs showed less PTSD symptoms, reduced depression, and increased socialization as compared to those waiting for their service dogs.

Owning a Dog May Increase Exercise

Dogs love to go on walks.  It is well-known that getting outside and being exposed to sunlight can decrease the chances of becoming depressed.  Dog owners often feel the need to take their dogs on walks.  This exercise is beneficial for both the dog and their owner, and may also be more enjoyable because the owner feels like he or she is doing something special for their “companion.”  As I have stated many times in the past, any exercise is better than no exercise. 

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I don’t believe anyone who has owned a dog is surprised by the many benefits they can provide.  Canines are loyal, playful, and always happy to see you.  They improve mood and help us get through some of our toughest days.  They will never give up on you and provide unconditional love.  Dogs help keep us active and may even save our lives.  If you haven’t owned a pet dog, you really should give it a try.  Visit your local animal shelter and find the perfect friend.  They will love you even more than you love them.  Life is too short to miss out on the happiness these furry creatures can bestow upon us. 

If you have an active child as I do, dogs can help to burn some of their energy.  Joshua spends hours chasing and being chased by Ginger in the backyard.  The exercise is good for both of them, and gives mom and dad a break!  Dogs do take some work and money to care for them, but I believe the investment is well worth it. 

I hope you have enjoyed this post.  Since our family just brought a dog into our home, I thought it was an appropriate time to write about this.

Any questions regarding this article or any other, can be entered into the comments section below.  I will answer all of the questions posted.  Thank you for reading and, if you like my posts, tell a friend. 

Always remain as happy and healthy as possible.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

The Passionate Marriage – Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships

We have all heard the jokes about married couples: weight gain, no sex, endless fighting. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Why not make one of your goals a commitment to improving your relationship? 

Let’s take a look at some ways to make your marriage exciting, intimate, and fun. 

Why am I writing about this? 

Healthy relationships are one of the many keys to happiness. These include friendships and business associations, as well as intimate relationships.  Humans are social creatures.  We like to interact with others.

This post will concentrate on committed relationships.

Relationships Take Work

The most important thing I want to emphasize is that relationships don’t just get better on their own. Just like anything else, they take work to help them grow. My grandfather always used to tell me “nothing worth doing is ever easy”.  

 

Remember how it was when you first met your partner? Everything was great. You couldn’t wait to see each other. Time spent together was blissful. 

 

As time moves on, you start to realize that this other person is not exactly like you. They do things differently, have different opinions, and may even have habits that drive you crazy. No relationship will ever be perfect. The goal is to work together to function as a happy team. How do you accomplish this? What tools can you use? 

 

Communication

Communication is the cornerstone of a good relationship and, if you don’t learn how to communicate effectively, you will likely have trouble co-existing. Understand that there are different communication styles. Your partner may talk in an entirely different way. Be willing to accept your partner’s method of expression, even if it differs from your own. Communication with your lover is an on-going process and should be a priority. Here are some communication guidelines.

Avoid Anger

Yelling, calling each other names, swearing, and putting each other down are all barriers to constructive communication. Remain calm and civilly discuss the concerning topics. If you have a problem with anger, take some time to cool off before blowing your top. Be patient, compassionate, and kind. Not only will your partner appreciate this, but you will feel better about yourself.

Listen

It is easy to keep talking in an attempt to get your point across. Always remember, your partner may see things in an entirely different way. Many arguments have no right or wrong solution and the best thing you can do to improve communication is to listen!  

 

  • Give focused attention to your partner.  
  • Try to receive their message with acceptance and understanding.  
  • Ask clarifying questions. 
  • Summarize what is being said to show your partner you are listening.
  • Focus on the message, not how it is being communicated.

Think Before You Speak

Do not automatically say everything that comes to mind, especially if it may be hurtful to the other party. Remember, it is not necessary to express everything you are feeling. Ask your partner if they understand what you are communicating and be positive and encouraging. Negative energy is counter-productive.

Resolving Conflict

Conflict is prevalent in all intimate relationships. The goal is not to eliminate conflict but to handle it effectively when it occurs. When our needs are not met, or we don’t receive what we expect, conflict can arise. We all enter into relationships with expectations. Our vision of the relationship might be much different from that of our partner.  

Remember to confront your spouse in a loving way when conflict arises. Don’t keep your frustration hidden as this can lead to resentment. The steps to resolve a dispute can include the following.

 

Decide whether the issue is worth discussing. Although it isn’t a good idea to keep frustrations hidden, we do have to pick our battles. If the problem is small or doesn’t occur often, it may be best just to let it go. 

 

Consider your contribution to the problem. This is important. Is it possible that your actions can change? Most conflicts involve both parties. If you can change, bring this up in the conversation.

 

Consider the timing of the confrontation. Try not to approach your partner when they are tired or in a bad mood. Be loving, honest, and stay focused.  

 

Be willing to forgive. Forgiveness is the first step in rebuilding trust. This is not accomplished by pretending something didn’t happen or just forgetting about it. Forgiveness is a choice to set your partner free.

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Make Time for Each Other

Our lives have become extremely busy. Jobs, kids, activities, meals, and everyday chores can leave us exhausted by the end of the day and it is easy to forget to spend quality time with our partner. The best solution to this problem is to schedule weekly dates. Be proactive and decide to carve out a few hours per week for your relationship.  

These “dates” don’t have to be extravagant. Even going out for coffee is better than nothing. Take some time to connect and enjoy each other’s company without distractions.

 

Spend a few minutes each week talking specifically about your relationship. Are there things you would like to change? What is going right? What needs attention? This will give each of you a chance to discuss how you feel, your needs and expectations in a neutral situation. Remember, always to be positive and respectful. 

Some Common Stumbling Blocks

Sex

One of the most common causes of conflict in a relationship is sex. Unfortunately, men and women often feel differently about this topic. Men are usually more interested in the physical aspects of sex, whereas women are more drawn to the emotional connection. Sexual appetites can also differ substantially. Several factors can affect sexuality. Some of these include.

 

  • Stress
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Past Abuse
  • Unreconciled relationships

 

It is important to discuss your feelings about sex with your partner. Tell them what you enjoy and what you would rather avoid. None of us can read minds, and your sex life might improve with communication. Remember the factors listed above. Your partner may be dealing with issues that you don’t know about or are unable to understand.  

Money

It is common for couples to argue about money. Again, expectations may be different. If a spender and a saver are in a relationship, frequent problems may arise. There are ways to help with this issue.

 

Create a budget. Everyone should do this. A budget helps give you a spending plan and helps avoid surprises. Take some time with this. Have monthly meetings regarding the budget and make adjustments when necessary. Try to stick to the budget.

 

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Blended Families

This is something I have personal experience with.  My family is pictured above.  Blended families are a common cause of conflict. If this becomes a significant problem, I suggest seeking professional counseling. There are too many factors involved to discuss this here. This topic is a blog post in itself. Keep in mind that the children your partner brought into the relationship are used to a different set of rules and have other expectations. It isn’t their fault. They were just raised differently.

Work Stress

Most of us have jobs that can cause stress at times. Learning how to deal with this can help improve your relationship at home. Here are some tips.

 

Try to refrain from discussing work at home.

 

Learn and practice techniques to reduce anxiety. Take a look at my anxiety post for ideas on anxiety reduction.

Michael Brown pictured with Final Thought written

Relationships can be complicated. They take work and commitment from both parties. There are many tools available to help improve your relationship. My wife and I recently went to a weekend retreat for married couples. I strongly suggest considering attending one of these, especially if you are having issues. A quick Google search will give you plenty of options to suit your needs.

 

Remember, communication is key. Try to listen more and talk less, and you might learn something.  

 

Take a trip together. A surprise getaway may be just what you both need to reconnect.

 

There are many ways to improve relationships and I have only scratched the surface in this post. Be creative, don’t be afraid to do something different, and, most importantly, have fun!  

 

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.