Monthly Archives: December 2013

Nutrients That Boost Muscle Tone

Calories aren’t the only things that count when it comes to a jaw-dropping body: If you aren’t eating the right nutrients, you aren’t going to slim down or build strong, sexy muscles.

See, every time you curl or press, you’re actually breaking down your muscles, causing microtears in the fibers. It’s when you’re resting that your body rebuilds and strengthens your muscles-and in order do so, they need the proper fuel, including these seven vitamins and minerals, identified by experts as a sort of menu for muscle. Follow the pros’ recommendations for getting your daily dose of each through food or supplements, and you’ll see and feel a difference from head to toe.

1. Vitamin C: Adding color to your plate may help you add definition to your arms. Vitamin C-found in all fruits and vegetables “is responsible for the health of the blood vessels, which support the muscles’ needs for oxygen and nutrients,” says John Cuomo, Ph.D., of USANA Health Sciences, a company that develops and manufactures nutritional supplements. And the better stocked your muscles are, the better they can work and the quicker they recover. Orthopedic surgeon Leon Popovitz, M.D., of NY Bone and Joint Specialists, adds that vitamin C is a building block of collagen, a material that your body then uses to build bones and muscles.

How much? The National Institutes of Health recommends 75 mg daily, which you can get from a medium orange, half a red bell pepper, or a cup of strawberries.

RELATED: 8 Super Nutrients That Slim You Down

2. Fish oil: With the ability to enhance the effects of weight training by increasing blood flow to the muscles, reducing muscle protein breakdown, and decreasing inflammation for faster recovery, Cuomo says we should think of omega 3s-the fatty acids found in fish oil-as a secret weapon for toning up. It doesn’t hurt that omega-3 fatty acids also improve insulin sensitivity, which helps prevent diabetes.

How much? The American Heart Association recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna) each week. If fish make you gag, consider a 1,000- to 3,000-milligram (mg) supplement of DHA and EPA a daily. Vegetarians and vegans can find omega-3s in flax seed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and algae-based supplements.

3. Calcium: “Calcium is one of the two most important nutrients our body needs for healthy and strong bones and muscles,” Dr. Popovitz says. Every time you lift a dumbbell, your muscle contracts, and this mineral gives muscles that cue to contract-and, therefore, grow.

How much? Dr. Popovitz recommends at least 1,200 mg a day. You can get your daily dose through foods like dairy products, green veggies, and fortified dairy-free milk, or a supplement. If you prefer a pill, choose one with D, which your body needs to absorb calcium. Stick to supplements with 500 to 600 mg of calcium and take them hours apart, as your body can only take in that much at a time.

4. Magnesium: While true magnesium deficiency is rare in the U.S., Dr. Popovitz says most women don’t get enough of this mineral. Not good since it keeps things humming when it comes to your muscles, in particular ensuring that your heart is thumping at a steady beat. Bonus: It’s great for helping alleviate muscle cramps and soreness, whether you’re achy from weight lifting or PMS.

How much? The National Institutes of Health recommends 310 to 320 mg a day, but Dr. Popovitz says there’s no harm increasing your intake to 400 mg if you are lifting weights three or more days a week. In addition to supplements, you can find magnesium in spinach, nuts, legumes, and whole grains, or soak it in via a relaxing epsom salt bath.

5. B vitamins: This gang includes B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), and B12 (cobalamin), each essential for overall health but become even more important when you’re actively trying to grow muscle and get stronger, Cuomo says, as Bs play a role in everything from protein metabolism and energy production to maintaining healthy nerves and breaking down fat and carbs.

How much? Most people consume adequate amounts of the Bs through their diets, as these vitamins are found in foods such as whole grains, eggs, lean meats, legumes, nuts, leafy greens, and fortified cereals. However, B12 is only found in animal sources, so vegetarians and vegans may want to consider taking a supplement or using fortified foods and drinks to obtain 2.4 micrograms (mcg) daily.

6. Vitamin D: From scientists in ivory towers to your corner pharmacist, it seems everyone is touting the powers of the “sunshine” vitamin. Its list of potential powers includes boosting mood, immunity, and muscle. “Vitamin D is required for muscular contraction, function, and growth,” Cuomo says. It’s also essential for bone growth and strength, and since skeletal muscles need a strong base to build off of, you can’t neglect your D.

How much? Ideally you’d get adequate D through sun exposure, but then you’d have to worry about skin cancer. Take a supplement of 4,000 to 6,000 international units (IU) of D3 every day instead, Cuomo recommends, and if you are concerned, see your doctor for a simple blood test to measure you D levels and determine if you are deficient and need a higher dosage.

RELATED: The Fastest Way to Lose Belly Fat

7. Vitamin E: The handful of almonds you reach for after a workout not only provides protein, healthy fats, and fiber, it’s also a good source of vitamin E. “This antioxidant helps cell membrane recovery from oxidative stress, such as exercise,” Cuomo says. And the fast your muscles recover, the faster they’ll grow.

How much? This is definitely one case where more is not better, as doses above 300 mg daily may lead to nausea, stomach pain, weakness, or even death. Stick closer to the recommended 15 mg a day by skipping supplements and eating nuts and seeds.

Depression in Men

Women are diagnosed with depression more than men, but are there actually more women suffering from depression? Some research says no. Men may just be suffering in silence, ashamed and believing it is not manly to do anything else. According to a study published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry shows that men may actually suffer from depression just as much. So how do we miss the signs? It might be the same as when we miss autism in girls as opposed to boys. We just don’t expect it or cultural expectations take the forefront. Maybe we expect men to be somewhat more silent and brooding or something.

Of course, for the average person in the US right now, the idea of depression brings up the image of a woman who is crying, can’t get out of bed, overly emotional. Does it bring up any societal stereotypes yet? However, that’s also why it may not have been picked up as often in men. We think of these stereotypical symptoms when there are actually a variety of different symptoms that may manifest depending on the person. Men are socialized to toughen up and even be stoic, and symptoms like being stoic may seem simply normal to us rather than signs of a serious problem in men. Likewise, manifestations of anger may be recognized as being normal in men, when they are actually significant signs of depression.

Past research has shown time and time again that men express characteristics such as anger, aggression, and destructive behavior when depressed. We just don’t recognize it as often. However, there are other signs and symptoms you might be missing when it comes to depression in men:

  • Hyperactivity – Difficulty sitting still. A male with depression may have trouble focusing on one task or be fidgety or jumpy.
  • Aggression – A male with depression may overreact to minor things, show aggressive behavior whenever angry, which is more often. This may actually look like panic attacks in that they will be sweaty, have difficulty breathing, chest pain, and a loss of control.
  • Over-extension – A man with depression may not stop being productive. In fat, they may over-extend themselves, volunteering to work late hours. He may be trying to control his emotions by staying busy, which isn’t the stereotypical reaction.
  • Risky Behavior – This may include gambling, smoking, excessive drinking, or any other behavior that could be considered risky

Men who are exhibiting these types of symptoms should absolutely be diagnosed as quickly as possible. However, it is important to distinguish between what’s normal male behavior and what is actually depression. If you apply these definitions too broadly, you might diagnose depression that is just not there. You should look for changes in behavior, not something that has been going on for most of their lives. Of course, it is possible that it could be that kind of longstanding issue, but it’s more likely if this is a change in or unusual behavior.

Likewise, these could very well be signs of ADHD or other disorders found in men. However, if you see these types of sudden changes in a man, chances are the best thing to do is to double check.

Early Warning Signs of Cancer

We all know smoking causes lung cancer…and it doesn’t considering how many smokers don’t get lung cancer and how many non-smokers do. They say after a while of not smoking, your lungs become pink and clear again. However, the scarier thing is that 26% of people don’t even know any of the warning signs or symptoms of lung cancer, not a single one.

Frankly, I’m not surprised. I go into a site that is supposed to tell me what I may have, and with the most ambiguous symptoms, they tell me…..and you might have cancer. Being that this is the leading cause of death in both men and women, I’d like to think that we would be a little more informed.

Fewer than half of those in a survey of Americans knew that shortness of breath was a symptom. Only 39% knew that coughing was a sign of lung cancer. Some knew more serious symptoms, such as coughing up blood for example. Considering nearly 160,000 Americans die from lung cancer….this is no laughing matter.

According to Dr. Matthew Peters MD, Patients are often diagnosed at a very late stage when treatment is no longer an option. If we can get patients diagnosed earlier, we can treat them and save lives. That is why being aware of the symptoms is so important.

According to many doctors, lung cancer can be treated and even cured if caught early, like other cancers in general. However, once it gets past a certain point, it is no longer curable. If you’re experiencing certain symptoms, it’s time to watch out. These include:

  • Unexplained weight loss – This is a big one that coincides with a lot of different diseases, illnesses, and disorders. However, anytime you see unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more or a sudden loss of appetite, these are common warning signs of cancer in general. These are most commonly associated with cancer of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus, or lung according to the American Cancer Society. It is often among the first of many different symptoms.
  • Significant fatigue – If you suddenly feel that you can’t get through the day and you need a 3 to 4 hour nap (when this was not so before), this may be cancer. This is particularly common when talking about leukemia, and it can also be associated with blood loss related cancers like colon cancer or stomach cancer. Other disorders like anemia, sleep disorders, heart problems, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and arthritis may also be indicative of cancer.
  • Sores that don’t heal properly – This is one of the ones we freak out about, and for good reason. If you have wounds that won’t heal and bruises that come easily (unexplained) and again take a long time to go away, this may be a significant warning sign of cancer to come. You generally notice things like moles that are irregular, asymmetrical, etc. These are generally associated with skin cancer. However, unexplained bruises and sores that won’t heal properly could indicate a number of different types of cancer.
  • Trouble swallowing/hoarseness – These combined with lip sores that don’t heal, mouth pain and numbness, unusual bleeding, etc, can all be signs of oral cancer. It’s important to note though that chronic hoarseness could also be a sign of things like GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), allergies, throat or laryngx cancer, smoking, an underactive thyroid, etc.
  • White patches in the mouth – Generally seen as one of the more advanced signs, white patches in the mouth are also known as leukoplakia. They are thickened whitish or grey patches on the gums, cheeks, tongue, etc. They can be mistaken for thrush at times, but unlike thrush, oral cancer cannot be scraped away. It isn’t always quite this scary, but the patches are not worth ignoring.
  • Bloody poop/toilet – Often dismissed as simply having hard poop or something of that nature, blood in the stool or urine can be a sign of bladder cancer. If this is the case, it should be checked out by a urologist. Unfortunately, bladder cancer often isn’t diagnosed until later stages when it is already too late. Some dismiss it as a sign of hemorrhoids, but this could be a significant risk. If a change in your normal bowel habits occurs in general, it’s better to be too cautious than too lax.
  • A headache that doesn’t get better – We all get headaches from time to time, but if it doesn’t get better and doesn’t go away, it’s not something to take lightly. This could be a sign of a serious brain tumor. Likewise, back pain could indicate colon or ovarian cancer. Regardless of whether or not you have cancer, if you experience these types of continuing problems, it’s best to see your doctor anyway.

Realistically, if there’s anything that continues and is unexplained, it may be best to make an appointment with your doctor and just see.

How to Prevent Dementia

Here’s motivation to live a healthier lifestyle: Following a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a low body weight, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption can help reduce the odds of dementia, according to research published Tuesday.
Researchers at Cardiff University in the U.K. studied 2,235 men and found that those who adopted all five, or even four, of these healthy behaviors experienced a 60 percent reduction in dementia and overall cognitive decline (with exercise being the strongest mitigating factor). Seventy percent fewer cases of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke were found in those men, compared to people who didn’t practice any of the behaviors.
Yahoo Shine could not reach the lead study author, Professor Peter Elwood, for comment; however, he said in a press release, “What the research shows is that following a healthy lifestyle confers surprisingly large benefits to health — healthy behaviors have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure.”

More on Yahoo Shine: The Surprising Truth About Men and Depression
Unfortunately, Elwood adds, few people follow a fully healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips for incorporating all five health habits into your lifestyle.
Work out in pairs: People who exercise with a friend burn more calories, according to recent research conducted at Kansas State University. Some ideas: Take a walk, join a Spinning class, or play indoor tennis. And if you own a dog, even better — in one study, people who exercised with their dogs lost an average of 5 percent of their body weight.

More on Yahoo: Diet, Exercise Key for Improving Heart Health

Acknowledge your cravings: Your secret weapon against junk food is, actually, facing the fact you want it. One study conducted by Drexel University found that dieters who admitted they had cravings (versus those who tried to ignore them) consciously chose not to act on them. The idea is that accepting cravings as a daily part of life will better equip you to deal with them.
Plan your quit-smoking date: If you’re not a smoker, congrats. If you’re trying to quit, don’t attempt to do it during the holiday season. The celebratory atmosphere — parties, alcohol, and decadent food — can offset your health goals in general, so it’s best to select a specific date after the festivities, according to the American Lung Association.
If you drink alcohol, stick to lower-calorie cocktails: Holiday cocktails and after-work happy hours can be tempting, but drink too much and your fitness goals will fall by the wayside. Steer clear of creamy, sugary drinks such as eggnog and White Russians and stick to lower-calorie drinks. An ounce of vodka mixed with club soda and a squeeze of lime is just 65 calories.

Get more sleep: Adopting any of these habits will help get your weight down and keep you healthy. To keep weight low, don’t skimp on sleep. According to Harvard School of Public Health, sleep-deprived people have higher levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and lower levels of the satiety-inducing hormone leptin.

Is Stevia Healthy?

All of those other sweeteners are brain killers. You know Stevia is all natural. I’ve heard it before, as have many others. It seems ironic to me all things considered. It’s an artificial sweetener, period, end of story. Of course, the justification is the idea that artificial sweeteners are unhealthy, because they have different chemicals, and that’s not entirely true. The problem is that there is an entirely different story behind it and an entirely different problem.

Sugar is not exactly healthy, but there is one major reason artificial sweeteners are worse. They don’t function the way that your body expects them to. Have you ever heard the phrase that stevia is so much sweeter and has fewer calories than sugar? That’s the problem! The body tastes that sweet flavor and expects it to come with so many calories that your body has to burn off. Unfortunately, it doesn’t result in your body burning off a lot of extra calories. It results in your body relearning the process. Now, your body thinks that everything with that sweet a taste has fewer calories, leading you to eat more of it, even when it’s real sugar. It doesn’t change just because it’s Stevia. Ultimately, it taxes the adrenal glands, because the body works to account for sugar that is not there, and then it learns not to until you get more. In addition, this regular stimulation of adrenaline and cortisol can actually damage the adrenal glands and overall health over time. Think about decreased thyroid function and decreased immune function to start.

Second, note, Stevia has other chemical ingredients. Yup, you heard me. It has all of those nasty chemicals you thought you were avoiding by staying away from other artificial sweeteners. You can’t just take sugar and magically turn it into something else with no actual chemical changes. It has glycerine, Xylitol, and Dextrose. It’s that way for a reason.

Third is more taste related than health related. Stevia has an aftertaste. It doesn’t really taste like sugar, because once you hit the aftertaste….there’s no reason to do that to yourself. If you don’t want sugar, raw honey tastes 100X better!

Third, Stevia is not like fruit, it goes not support glycogen synthesis. Fruit and raw honey are excellent sources of nutrition, and they provide balanced sources of glucose and fructose. Don’t substitute sugar or sugar substitutes like Stevia for plain old fruits. There’s nothing healthy about that. Your body needs glycogen to release glucose into the bloodstream when you’re tired, etc. Stevia just doesn’t create that needed glycogen. Ultimately, the body ends up converting muscle protein and fat into glucose, which leads to weight gain, which is ironically what many are trying to avoid.

Fact is, there are many other things about Stevia that can ultimately be harmful. They market it as have your cake and eat it too, because surprise, they’re trying to make money! Don’t fall for it. It’s really not worth it.

Should You Eat Gluten Free?

It can really mimic almost any other disease, which is why it’s often so difficult to diagnose. according to Arthur Agatston MD, cardiologist and the man who created the South Beach Diet. He calls it the Stealth Disease or a sensitivity to gluten. It’s not full blown Celiac disease, but it’s something that has led many celebrities and health nuts to say goodbye to gluten. Keep in mind, if you don’t have a diagnosed disease or sensitivity, this isn’t necessarily going to be good for you. Despite the celebrity hype, plenty of people have actually gained weight eating gluten free (including those with Celiac disease). A lot of alternatives are higher calorie, they don’t have any other nutritional value, and you end up shelling out a lot more money as well.

The fact that a celebrity doctor probably just pushes the hype, but the truth is that it is a real disease. Especially with Celiac’s, because so many digestive disorders look virtually identical, people can literally go for years without being diagnosed. Unfortunately, when it’s this severe, they can do a lot of damage during that time, and it may accordingly take longer for the body to repair the damage once gluten is cut out of the diet.

The biggest problem is most physicians are clueless. Realistically, when Dr. Agatston MD says all of this, he seems rather clueless to me. Specifically, he seems clueless about the actual prevalence, which just isn’t that big. Digestive disorders definitely happen, but most of the people now using gluten free diets to be healthier at his and others’ direction don’t actually have any reason to do so, and they may be causing more harm than good to their bodies (and their pocketbooks).

Gluten is a protein found in many different foods including wheat, barley, and rye. Because of this, it can be found in soy sauce, breads, lipstick, toothpaste, and even some medicines. Ironically, it can be found in many unexpected places, and for those who have Celiac disease (not just gluten sensitivity), it can cause headaches, rashes, fatigue, depression, digestive upset, diarrhea, constipation, arthritis, and other signs of chronic illness. It’s nothing to be taken lightly, and the only other thing I’ve found that covers such a wide range with one disease is actually Crohn’s disease. Otherwise, you might just assume you have a few diseases, which is also completely possible.

Dr Agatston MD is certainly trying to capitalize it, writing The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution. Chances are there was just too much competition in the low carb world of dieting anymore. The fact that his diet was rated extremely low in a large study specifically because people just wouldn’t stick to it, certainly didn’t help. His original book was described as being intentionally grain free to prevent swings in blood sugar and unintentionally gluten free at least in the first phase. However, during this phase, he claims that patients saw a marked decrease in psoriasis, fibromyalgia, several types of arthritis, and other health concerns in general.

Agatston of course recommends that you just give it a try and see if it works for you. Realistically though, have you ever heard of the placebo effect? If you’re really concerned that you may have a sensitivity to gluten, take the time to go to the doctor and get a diagnosis. Have them take a quick and simple blood test. It’s really that simple. Because of some past concerns about unhealthy practices associated with this and the cost of eating this way, taking a test before you do anything drastic isn’t a bad idea.

There have been plenty of people who have started avoiding processed foods. Agatston associates this with a lower gluten or gluten free diet, but that’s simply not the truth. Eating more fruits and vegetables or eliminating meat or otherwise eliminating certain unhealthy foods does not necessarily put you in a place to avoid gluten. It simply gives you more nutrient rich foods, period, end of story, and that is healthy.

Like many extremists who claim that vaccinations cause autism, I believe Agatston is on a fad train. Okay, so many autistic kids do actually have sensitivity or a flat out allergy to gluten. That has been proven. However, in terms of the hype he’s causing by just saying well not everybody has it, but everybody should try the diet, is destructive and it takes attention away from the real problems and real everyday solutions.

Frankly, I won’t count on seeing this type of crap go away any time soon. I fully expect to see plenty more people try to capitalize on these ideas of health and weight loss that may or may not actually be founded in reality. What I can say though is that you have a diet you’ve been using for a while that makes you feel good, don’t drop it just because some celebrity or doctor (or both) tells you to.

Do Sugary Drinks Kill?

Forget cancer, heart disease, car accidents, or smoking. According to a new research study published by Harvard researchers, sugary drinks have led to 180,000 deaths a year worldwide, 25,000 of those in the US alone. Of course, it’s not a matter of a sugary drink killing you right after you drink it. Researcher Gitanjali Singh states, We know that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to obesity, and that a large number of deaths are caused by obesity-related diseases. But until now, nobody had really put these pieces together.

In other words, sugary drinks contribute to obesity and obesity ultimately leads to the whole death part. Singh and colleagues spent 5 years on this research, using data from national health surveys worldwide. They ultimately tied 133,000 deaths from diabetes and 44,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease to sugary drinks along with 6000 deaths from cancer in 2010.

With empty calories that actually have little no no nutritional value combined with the fact that there are plenty of calories popping up, you see what they mean. There have been multiple attempts to control this. When I was in Jr High, they tried to eliminate soda machines from our school. Then again, they also took away our salad bar. In my 7th grade year, that was actually the longest line. I would wait through most of my lunch hour just to get that, and then I would have to eat fast. They took it away in the health movement, and the line grew for fries instead. That probably wasn’t the effect they were going for.

The American Beverage Association has criticized the study, saying that it is more sensationalism than science. They specifically argue that it doesn’t do its job in linking cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to these sugary drinks. Ultimately, those would be considered the direct causes of death. The study came one week after a judge blocked New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on supersized sodas back in the day. So yes,it has been a while. It was just one day after Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed a bill preventing municipalities from setting limits on soda and salt content.

Personally, I would argue it’s a scapegoat. I’m not saying that sodas are super healthy. They are empty calories contributing to obesity. However, to pretend like it’s the only thing contributing to this problem with obesity. Fast foods, fatty and other sugary foods, a lack of exercise, and other unhealthy lifestyle habits can without question also contribute to these same diseases. Together, they would actually end up causing these diseases. Sugary sodas alone just aren’t cutting it for me.

It’s something that policy makers are trying to address. They’re trying to attack our growing problem with obesity and poor lifestyle decisions being made across the country. Then again, isn’t it our responsibility as individuals to address these concerns for ourselves? Isn’t it our responsibility to make healthy lifestyle decisions and also to change our culture, a culture that encourages this type of behavior? I’m not talking about going to the extremes of for example eating only organic. However, if we were to go down this road, the excess of empty calories and sugar we find in sodas could only be the beginning.