Posts Tagged ‘health’

Swimming for Better Health

swimming woman
Many people want to get into better shape, but are not sure how. Look at it this way: running can be unpleasant, especially if you are prone to shin splints; cycling is hard on the knees; lifting free weights can hardly be described as fun, and not everyone can get into Yoga or Zumba. That leaves the best exercise of them all; one that many people enjoy without even realizing that it is an exercise: swimming.

There are few exercises that are better for your health than swimming. Swimming at full speed burns around 703 calories an hour. This is the reason why Olympic swimmers eat so many calories, yet remain in excellent shape. Besides burning calories, there are many other reasons why you should put on your favorite swimsuit and jump in the water.

Low Impact Exercise

Swimming is a very low impact exercise. If you have bad knees and hips, or even an injured back, then jogging and cardio dance classes are not for you. You will only hurt worse. Instead, an hour of swimming will not harm your joints or back. You will feel some pain, post swim, but that is only your muscles trying to bounce back from your workout.

Water Provides Resistance

This is the reason why swimming burns so many calories. No matter how hard you try to propel yourself forward, the water tries to hold you back. Because of this resistance, your muscles must work harder as you move through the water. Every single part of your body gets a work out, from the top of your shoulders to the tips of your toes. On top of this, thanks to the resistance put forth by the water, you can always lie on your back and float in the water if a break from swimming is in order.

Provides Mental Health Support and Clarity

Tired of working out in the same area as people chatting on their cell phones or blasting their iPods so loud that you can hear their music three treadmills down? Try using electronic devices in the water! Exactly, it cannot be done. The quiet surrounding serious swimmers in the lap pool will give you a chance to enjoy some self-reflection or meditation. As you complete each lap, you will feel your stress melt away and your thoughts begin to clear. Pretty soon, you will feel as peaceful as the blue water that you are swimming through.

Works Most Muscle Groups

Have you ever seen a professional competitive swimmer? If you have, then you know how defined their muscles are. Swimming works your entire body: your legs work to propel you forward and keep you afloat, your arms work to keep your pace on track as well as propel your forward, and your torso (back and abs, otherwise known as your “core”) gets a work out as it stabilizes you in the water.

Swimming is an excellent exercise for those who want to get into great shape. It works many different areas of the body at once, without hurting your legs and knees like a high-impact exercise. If simply swimming laps is not for you, try attending a water aerobics class. On top of that, if you enjoy boating, snorkeling and water sports, then knowing how to swim is necessary for your safety. Can many joggers say that?

Image credit:  “Beautiful Woman Smiling In The Pool” by David Castillo Dominici via http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/ 

Aromatherapy – Scents and Effects

Aromatherapy

Have ever you experienced smelling something nice or different and it having an effect on you? Yes, even our sense of smell could have a direct effect on our mood and how we feel. And this is the principle behind aromatheraphy. In fact it’s defined as the use of natural oils which induces physical and psychological well being.

Aromatheraphy is also a form or alternative or traditional medicine that is used to promote health naturally. Often time people use aromatheraphy to induce specific moods and feelings or reduce stress and pain caused by physical ailments.

Different scents trigger different reactions. You should know that there are several types of scents which offer a different effect on the person’s mood and feeling. It is essential that you understand what particular scent can relieve your ailment. You can get the specific scent you want from oils, candles, soaps, and even perfumes. There are also a lot of variations that you can choose from with each scent having a different effect.

Here are some of the common scents available and their effects:

  • Cedar wood– this has a woody, sweet scent. The effects on the body is both soothing and strengthening. This kind of scent is used for treating Dandruff and arthritis.
  • Chamomile- it has a sweet, crisp scent which can be relaxing and soothing. You may want to use this scent if you have a headache, experiencing insomnia and nausea. This can also be effective in reducing stress.
  • Eucalyptus– this scent is characterized by a fresh and earthy smell. It balances and stimulates your body. This provides relief for colds, poor blood circulation and arthritis.
  • Ginger– this scent is commonly used for treating nausea and colds. It is characterized by a warm and spicy aroma which can be warming if inhaled.
  • Jasmine- the scent provides a soothing and calming effect for people who are suffering from depression and mental tension. It has a floral and exotic scent which calms and reduces stress levels.
  • Lavender– It is characterized by a fruity and fresh aroma. It can have a calming and therapeutic effect on the body. It’s a great remedy for people with depression, muscle pain, anxiety and burns.
  • Lemongrass-this scent has a fresh and lemony aroma to it. This helps relax the muscles and a great stress releaser. It’s great for relieving muscle pain.
  • Peppermint– it has a fresh and strong minty aroma. It helps refresh and stimulate the body. This is a good remedy for people who are experiencing headache and nausea.
  • Sandal wood – the scent is characterized by a rich delicate and sweet aroma. It can be warming and relaxing to people. This can be a great relief for stress and anxiety.
  • Vanilla– it has a rich and warm scent which could be stimulating and relaxing for the body. It is also a great scent for people suffering from depression and anxiety.

Smelling different scents can trigger different reactions from your body. If you want to relax and feel refreshed you now know that specific scents could have a soothing effect on your mind and body. So why not use aromatheraphy to relax your body and lighten up your mood. The next time you start reaching out for your pills; why not experiment with scents and oils to help relieve your tired and stressed body naturally.

Chinese Herbs and Treatments


Traditional Chinese medicine has long used herbs and other types of natural treatments for maintaining the body’s optimum health. Most of these treatments have even reached mainstream medicine with alternative treatments such as acupuncture being accepted by medical practitioners. Chinese herbs play a large role in traditional Chinese medicine. Below are some of the commonly used Chinese herbs and their benefits.

Ginseng (renshen)

One of the most popular Asian herbs in use today, ginseng has long been used as n integral part of different herbal treatments in traditional Chinese medicine. It has also been regarded as an effective way of treating and preventing many diseases. Benefits of ginseng include stress reduction, improved memory, and it could also be used as an aphrodisiac.

Some of the benefits of using ginseng includes improved stamina, strengthens the immune system and promotes better respiration in patients.  People who are susceptible to infections such as respiratory diseases may use this to compensate for diminished immune functions and weaker bodies. Ginseng addresses this need by boosting immune functions and promoting oxygen absorption in the lungs.

Ginseng can be prepared in a variety of ways, but is best taken raw. Rinse and thoroughly cleanse the ginseng, slice a piece of a fresh or dried ginseng and ingest it orally just like fresh fruits or vegetables. Cooking or boiling may damage some of the compounds contained in ginseng so careful preparation should be done not to overcook the ginseng.

Ginseng is normally served as tea; it may be taken alone or in combination with other herbs. Today, the herb comes in different form such as tablets, capsules and powder. Dosage may depend on the type of treatment it is designed for and taking in large amounts may lead to certain side effects. Known side effects of ginseng intake are nervousness and hormonal imbalances in women. Recommended dosage for ginseng intake is 0.5 to 3 grams daily.

Rhubarb (dahuang)

The root was one of the first Chinese herbs adopted in the West. It has been widely used as a laxative and other benefits include treatment of jaundice, diarrhea, ulcers, menstrual disorders and burns. Largely regarded as a Dietetic, the herb is mainly used for relieving symptoms of digestive conditions.

Uses of rhubarb includes pain relief, reduced autoimmune functions, improved blood circulation and decreased chance of acquiring digestive infections. Cooking time plays a great role in the herbs preparation. Cooking the herb for more than the prescribed time decreases its laxative properties but other medical benefits are maintained. Normal intake consists of taking 0.5 to 3 grams daily. Although the herb is widely used as a way of treating symptoms of digestive disorders, rhubarb should not be taken by patients suffering from irritable bowel conditions as they lead to uncontrolled diarrhea and abdominal cramping.

Salvia (danshen)

Derived from the red roots of the Chinese sage plant, salvia has been used for centuries as a treatment for tissue injuries. Salvia is currently being studied as a treatment for traumatic injury, chronic inflammation, post-stroke syndrome and infections caused by some degenerative diseases.

This herb has played an important role as a domestic herbal remedy treatment, providing relief for common symptoms in digestive disorders. It is also used as an antiseptic gargle and can heal sore throats and mouth sores. Salvia is also effective in relieving tooth pain when gargled.

Medical properties of the herb which make them useful in relieving symptoms are its antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, stimulant, and vasodilator properties. Popular medical applications of the herb include management of excessive lactation, excessive salivation, and menopausal problems.

The use of salvia in the treatment of TB symptoms is also well documented. Salvia has been used in the management of common TB symptoms such as night sweats and profuse perspiration. Other medical applications include treatment of some female sterility problems.

Patients suffering from Cardio Vascular diseases may also benefit from the use of salvia. The herb is known for improving blood circulation. Other benefits resulting from the use of this herb are lower blood pressures, reduce cholesterol levels and improved liver functioning.

However, the use of salvia in pregnant women is discouraged. Use of sage in pregnant women may result to miscarriage or abnormalities. It may be used alone or in combination with other herbs to produce desired effects. Recommended consumption is tagged at 1 to 20 grams per day, with special consideration as overdose may result to adverse side effects to the patient.

Rei Shi (Ganooderma lucidum)

The use of mushrooms in Chinese medicine has been practiced for centuries. These are often used in combination with other herbs to provide symptoms and even cures for simple diseases. Rei Shi mushrooms are the most widely used medicinal mushrooms in Chinese medicine.

Rei Shi mushrooms are rich in antioxidants and polysaccharides. They help improve immune functions and facilitate the elimination of cancer causing free radicals. Herbs are often used in relieving fatigue and improving general health conditions.

Natural Health Systems: Ayurvedic Medicine


Ayurveda or the “science of life” is a system of traditional medical practices which was developed in ancient India. The practice of Ayurvedic medicine is included in the list of complementary and alternative medicine in the United States. Individual practices found in Ayurvedic medicine are applied in medical treatments such as the use of herbs, special diets, meditation and therapeutic massage techniques.

The purpose of Ayurvedic medicine is to maintain the optimum balance between the mind, body and spirit. It aims to provide a more holistic approach to treatment by not only healing the physical body but also spiritual and emotional needs of the person. This is done by a series of practices to help cleanse the body, mind and spirit to reestablish balance and harmony.

Practice in India

Ayurvedic medicine is widely used in India, 80 percent of the country’s population currently uses it with conventional Western medicine in providing medical treatment to patients. The country maintains colleges and hospitals in major cities that cater to this type of alternative medicine.

The practice of Ayurvedic medicine is mainly based on information found in two ancient books. Texts written in Sanskrit on the Caraka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita book form the basis of Ayurvedic medicine practice. The books divide Ayurvedic medicine into eight main branches which are internal medicine, gynecology and pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry, treatment of head and neck diseases, care of the elderly and rejuvenation, toxicology and sexual vitality.

Treatment and Management

The aim of Ayurvedic medicine is to ultimately cleanse the patient’s body of impurities to provide cure and relief from the different symptoms of a disease. It promotes a healthier lifestyle by restoring harmony in mind and body. This is done through the different Ayurvedic medicine practices which include the following:

  • Reducing worry and increasing harmony

The practice of Ayurvedic medicine places great stress in a person’s mental and spiritual state. Emphasis on mental and meditation relaxation techniques are done to reduce the level of stress on the person’s mind and body, allowing them to live a more harmonious life.

  • Reducing symptoms

Various lifestyle changes are introduced by the practitioner to eliminate symptoms. This includes the use of physical exercises, meditation, massage, breathing exercises, stretching and dietary changes to introduce lifelong changes in health habits. Examples of dietary changes exclusive to Ayurvedic medicine is taking in minute amounts of metals and minerals such as iron to the diet.

  • Eliminating impurities

“Panchakarma” is the method of cleansing the body by removing “ama.” This substance is described as one which interferes with the normal functioning of the body by sticking to the tissues which causes disease. “Ama” is driven out by a series of treatments and exits the patient’s body via the digestive and respiratory system.

  • Increasing resistance to disease

Decreasing the patient’s susceptibility to a disease is done with the use of a wide range of treatments. Different Ayurvedic practices include the use of tonics like proteins, vitamins, minerals and herbs to increase appetite and boost immunity.

Use of Herbs and Plants

The “pharmacy” of Ayurvedic medicine currently lists more than 600 formulas and 250 single plant drugs. They provide patient’s relief from numerous medical conditions or promote health. Plants and herbs are divided into categories with regards to their effects on the patient. Herbs and plants are sometimes mixed with metals to produce their desired effects.

Toxicity and overdose are the main dangers of using Ayurvedic medicines. Because some types of Ayurvedic medicines use metals in combination with herbs and plants the danger of toxicity is great. These medications are not considered as drugs but dietary supplements, thus they don’t fall under the scrutiny of conventional medicines.

“An NCCAM-funded study published in 2004 found that of 70 Ayurvedic remedies purchased over-the-counter (all manufactured in South Asia), 14 contained lead, mercury, and/or arsenic at levels that could be harmful. Also in 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 12 cases of lead poisoning occurring over a recent 3-year period were linked to the use of Ayurvedic medications.” National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine NCCAM

Eating Better in 2010: Four Foods to Add to Your Grocery List

Eating
New Year’s resolution time has come and gone and if your resolution was to maintain your health and eat better in 2010, then the following foods and drinks should be high on your grocery list.

Grains- Dieticians suggest that you increase your intake of oats, barley and rye in 2010. For years, doctors have been telling patients that eating oats can bring down your cholesterol and recent studies show that rye can, too. The American Diabetes Association has also noted that eating a diet high in fiber and grains, like rye, can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. Adding barley to your diet, whether it is as a side dish or inside a soup or casserole, can also lower your cholesterol and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Salmon and other oily fish- If the diagnosis is to get more vitamin D this year, then get your fill with salmon and other oily fish – such as, mackerel, sardines, herring, fresh tuna, trout and anchovies. Oily fish are some of the only food sources of vitamin D. These fish are also good for curbing cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of oily fish per week, but warns against eating too much more than that because some oily fish contain mercury, which can affect your brain and nervous system.

Soy- If 2010 is your year to help reduce your risk of cancer, then soy may be your answer. Research has shown that soy can ward off certain cancers as well as have an impact on your heart. According to ABC News soy can also help breast cancer survivors.

A new study published in December of 2009 suggests that breast cancer survivors may benefit from eating moderate amounts of soy products. Soy foods are rich in compounds called isoflavones, a major group of plant-derived phytoestrogens possessing both estrogen-like and anti-estrogen actions. Researchers found that a higher intake of soy food, up to 11 grams daily, was associated with a lower risk of death or recurrence of breast cancer during follow up.

The Food and Drug Administration also states that 25 grams of soy protein a day can reduce heart problems by helping to lower cholesterol levels. To add soy to your diet, you can find it in soy burgers, tofu and soy milk.

red wineRed Wine- While you will rarely hear any doctor advising that you drink any alcohol, red wine may just be the exception. Research shows that antioxidants in red wine, polyphenols, aid in protecting the lining of blood vessels in the heart. These antioxidants come in the form of flavonoids and nonflavonoids, which red wine has more than any other food or drink.

As found on MSNBC.com thanks to its alcohol content and non-alcoholic phytochemicals, wine has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and slow the progression of neurological degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

However, the amount of wine you drink matters tremendously. If you drink more than what’s recommended, your health benefits are lost and health risks actually go up. Men should consume no more than two drinks per day and women no more than one drink per day, with a drink defined as a 5-ounce glass of red or white wine, 12 ounces or 1 bottle of regular beer or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Remember, when adding or making substitutions to your diet moderation is essential. Anything that is good for you can easily become bad for you if consumed excessively. But by following these guidelines and including these healthy food and drink choices into your diet you could be well on your way to a healthier and slimmer lifestyle.

A Thirst-Quenching Guide to Water: An Essential Element for a Healthy Life

Water pic
As Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Water is the driver of nature”. Put simply, water sustains life. So you’re already aware that drinking plenty of water is not only good for you but also a vital aspect to achieving the ultimate in health and wellness. But it might be even more important than you realized. By not drinking enough water, you can impair every aspect of your physiology. According to Dr. Howard Flaks on www.naturodoc.com by not drinking enough water, people may incur excess body fat, poor muscle tone and size, decreased digestive efficiency and organ function, increased toxicity in the body, joint and muscle soreness and water retention.

Besides air, water is the element most essential for survival. In fact, a typical human is comprised of between 60 and 70 percent water and brain tissue is said to be comprised of 85% water. It’s reported that people can go without food for almost two months, but for only a few days without water. In addition, without water humans would be poisoned to death by their own waste products. As indicated by www.naturodoc.com, when the kidneys remove uric acid and urea, they must be dissolved in water first. If there isn’t enough water available, wastes are not removed as effectively and may build up as kidney stones.

Water is also essential for chemical reactions during such body processes as digestion and metabolism due to the fact that it carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells through the blood and helps to cool the body through perspiration. In addition, it helps to lubricate our joints. We even need water to breathe. Our lungs must be moistened by water in order to take in oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide. Studies show that humans lose close to a pint of liquid each day merely by exhaling.

“Proper water intake is a key to weight loss,” says Dr. Donald Robertson, medical director of the Southwest Bariatric Nutrition Center in Scottsdale, Arizona on www.naturodoc.com. “If people who are trying to lose weight don’t drink enough water, the body can’t metabolize the fat adequately. Retaining fluid also keeps weight up.”

If you’re wondering if you’re drinking enough water then just listen to your body. Here are some common symptoms of dehydration:

• Heartburn, stomach ache
• Non-infectious recurring or chronic pain
• Low back pain
• Headache
• Mental irritation and depression
• Water retention (ironic but true )
• Dry mouth- this is the last outward sign of extreme dehydration.

Moral of the story if you haven’t figured it out yet- we need water to survive and thrive. But exactly how much water should we drink to ensure optimum health and wellness?

According to Dr. Flaks the minimum amount of water one should intake is eight to ten eight-ounce glasses a day. Eight to ten 8 oz glasses is equivalent to three to four standard 16 oz bottles of water per day. But you’ll need even more if you exercise a lot of live in a hot climate. And overweight people should drink an extra glass for every 25 pounds that they exceed their ideal weight.

The formula that the International Sports Medicine Institute uses is this: 1/2 ounce per pound of body weight if you’re not active (that’s ten eight-ounce glasses if you weigh 160 pounds), and 2/3 ounce per pound if you’re athletic (13 to 14 glasses a day, at the same weight). Simply calculated, drink 50-75% of your body weight in ounces. And intake should be spread throughout the day and evening.

If you’re wondering about how this might affect you bladder, then don’t worry. You may be constantly running to the bathroom at the onset of appropriate water consumption but after a few weeks, your bladder tends to adjust and urination is less frequent but in larger amounts.

By simply paying attention and drinking more water on a daily basis you will not only be contributing to a healthier life but you could also be on your way to a healthier and leaner body.

How to Finally Achieve Your New Years Fitness Resolutions

New Years Resolutions
So we survived the Holidays and New Years is just around the corner. A wonderful time of celebration, friends, champagne, and of course New Year’s Resolutions. Resolutions are wonderful ways to better ourselves and finally attempt to become the productive, happy, healthy person that we know we can be.

The trouble with New Year’s Resolutions is that after time our enthusiasm to make changes tend to wane once we realize we can’t change everything overnight and the commitment to make these changes becomes less exciting and too much work. According to www.proactivechange.com 40%-45% of American adults make one or more resolutions each year. Among the top New Year’s resolutions are those dealing with weight loss and exercise. In addition, according to this site a mere 46% maintain these resolutions after six months.

In order to make lasting changes, there are several things that you can do to stick to your fitness resolutions and actually see the results that you’ve been wishing for since New Year’s Day 1989. By modifying your attitude, changing your lifestyle and coming up with an effective and realistic plan for success you can make 2010 the year that you actually did it.

Modifying your Attitude- According to exercise.about.com by having the wrong attitude about fitness you’re setting yourself up for failure before you even started. Oftentimes people consider exercise merely a punishment for bad eating habits, an obligation, painful and time consuming, boring, or impossible to sustain over a long period of time.

By modifying your attitude about exercise in general you are more likely to stick with your program and see positive results. Try out a different perspective because after all, you’re the only one that can truly change your attitude and therefore the outcome. Instead of boring or painful look at exercise as a break from a stressful day, a way to boost energy and mood, time for yourself, time for your mind to rest, a reward for your body or a way to improve your quality of life.

Here are some additional key points about exercise from exercise.about.com:

1. Sheer willpower doesn’t work- Willpower is for short-term success. Long-term success requires planning, discipline and finding new and different ways to motivate yourself every day.

2. Motivation will not magically happen-
What motivates you will change from day to day. You will have to recommit to your goals each day, tweak them to fit changes in your lifestyle and attitude and find new ways to motivate yourself over the course of your entire life.

3. You will not always want to exercise and eat healthy- This is something that you will have to work on every day.

Adjust your Lifestyle- By adjusting your lifestyle you will have the best chance of success in sticking to your New Year’s fitness resolutions. Although you’ve probably heard this before, let it really sink in this time: losing weight and maintaining that weight is a lifetime prospect. You will never stop working to maintain your fitness and weight. So, before you start a diet or exercise program, old or new, ask yourself if you can sustain this diet for the long term or if your exercise program is something that you can commit to every day.

Simply put, being overweight is the fault of an unhealthy lifestyle, eating too much and not allowing enough time for exercise. This being said, one you recognize the gravity of permanently losing weight, you’ll need to change your lifestyle to accommodate this goal. Here’s a couple ways to do just that:
eating healthy
1. Figure out your bad habits- Keep a food/activity journal for an entire week. Be completely honest with yourself and do it without shame- this is simply a way to figure out habits that may be hurting your weight loss goals.

2. Replace bad habits one at a time- Replace bad habits with good habits. You can’t break bad habits without forming new ones. If you take away your daily morning donut and don’t replace it with something else that’s better for you you’ll drift right back to your old unhealthy habit.

This may sound easy but it’s not. Giving up something yummy for something healthy isn’t easy. You need to change your environment to make it impossible to have or even want that donut. Try these ideas:

1. Figure out beforehand what you’re going to eat instead of that donut. Stock up on breakfast foods that you like and that are healthier. Try different flavors of meal replacement bars or fruit shakes/smoothies.

2. Take stock in every bite that you put in your mouth, if it’s not healthy is it really worth it? For sure you’ll enjoy that first bite or flavor explosion but after that what do you really get out of it? More than likely all you get is fat, calories and guilt.

3. Eat before you get in the car in the morning so you won’t be starving and tempted to go through the drive thru or to your favorite bakery to pick up a bite.

4. Change your driving route so you don’t even have to pass by your favorite bakery.

5. Write down your weight loss goal and tape it to your steering wheel or your glove compartment so that you are constantly reminded of your goals.

Make a Plan for Success- So thus far you’ve figured out how to change bad eating habits by replacing them with good ones and to create for yourself a healthy environment that doesn’t allow your bad habits to exist. Now you need to make a plan for what you really want.

1. Set Goals- Write down specific goals including how much weight you want to lose (make sure it is reasonable for your height and frame), a target date to reach your goals, why you want to lose this weight, and how you’ll maintain your weight loss once achieved. Remember, it’s a lifetime commitment you can’t just quit once you reach your goal.

2. Set up your program- A complete program involves cardio, strength training and stretching.

3. Ensure your success-
Here are just a few suggestions regarding ensuring your success and staying consistent. Enlist family members to help you out; hire a personal trainer; get a friend to exercise with you; set aside time every week to plan out your exercise routines and meals; keep a workout bag packed and ready; keep a fitness journal to track workouts and progress; reward yourself with massages, shopping, or vacations; change your workout program every 6 weeks to avoid plateaus; revisit your goals every six months to see where you’re at and if further narrowing them down is in order.

Losing weight requires modifying your attitude, changing your lifestyle and making specific plans. You will need to change the way you think about exercise and eating, change the way you schedule your day and be prepared for what’s ahead in order to stick to your New Year’s Fitness Resolutions.

Make Time for Exercise to Experience a Truly Zen Holiday Season

Zen ChristmasTis’ the season for Holiday shopping, preparing for family gatherings, eggnog and basically anything else that can either cause stress or wreak havoc on your body. It can be the happiest but also the most nerve-racking time of the year. You may want to consider adding exercise to your daily routine to not only promote health but to tackle all of those little Holiday stressors.

According to stress.about.com exercise is an excellent stress reduction tool for several reasons:

1. Give Yourself a Natural Boost- Exercise releases endorphins and other “happy hormones” in your body, promoting a feeling of wellbeing. It can decrease stress hormones like cortisol and increase endorphins giving your body a natural boost. (The same chemistry behind a runner’s high.

2. Social Support- Some forms of exercise allow you to be social, which can also be great for stress reduction. Whether you’re in a class with others, working out with a buddy, playing softball with friends or taking a walk with a friend, working out with others can make you feel good and motivate you to push harder.

3. Looking Good- Exercise can raise feelings of self-esteem and bring other benefits that improve quality of life. It ultimately helps you to lose weight, tone your body and maintain a healthy glow and smile. Whether the effects are subtle or significant this impact can increase confidence and relieve stress.

4. An Outlet for Frustrations- Exercise helps to release built-up tension in the body. When life’s annoyances build up, a high energy form of exercise like boxing, martial arts or weight training can provide a release of negative emotions.

5. Distraction- Physical activity can take your mind off of your problems and either redirect it on the activity that you’re doing or put you into a Zen-like state. Exercise also usually involves a change of scenery. Whether it takes you to a gym, a park, a biking trail or your neighborhood sidewalk, a change of scenery can ultimately change your point of view.

6. Resilience to Stress- Research suggests that physical activity may be linked to lower physiological reactivity toward stress. Those who get more exercise may become less affected by the stresses that they face.

With all of these benefits, it’s clear that if you can exercise you should. Below are a few exercises that help specifically with stress relief.

Yoga- Yoga is good for physical health and flexibility. It can also help get you into a meditative state.

Swimming- Swimming combines the soothing properties of water and the benefits of exercise. It’s a great way to get in shape, cool off and feel great. It’s also a wonderful form of exercise of older or injury-prone adults.

Walking- Walking is an exercise that just about anybody can do; it’s also very easy and can conform to any schedule. You can take a walk during lunch, put your kids in the stroller and take a walk around the neighborhood, etc.

So amongst all of the Holiday hustle and bustle if you feel your anxiety level beginning to rise why not take 45 minutes out of your day to get your heart rate up and a little bit of exercise? Aside from stress relief, exercise has so many benefits and could ultimately help make your Holidays a little brighter.

The Link Between Stress and Your Stomach

stress and stomach pic
Does the thought of speaking in public tie your stomach in knots? Does a stressful work meeting leave you without an appetite? Or does the idea of spending the approaching holidays with your in-laws leave you feeling a bit woosey? If so you’re not alone. Having a physical response to emotional concerns is natural. Your gut is extremely sensitive to stress and emotions. Stress is a trigger that can cause stomachaches, diarrhea, and other digestive problems however, the stress management techniques listed below can keep these unpleasant physical responses under control.

There is an actual physical link between your gut and your emotion. High stress and emotions can lead to stomach aches and other digestive problems due to the fact that the gut is highly sensitive and full of nerves. Francisco J. Marrero, MD, a gastroenterologist with the Digestive Disease Institute at the Cleveland Clinic explains on everydayhealth.com, “There is definitely a connection between the brain and the gut. The gut is called the little brain- it’s the largest area of nerves outside the brain.”

Stress and nerves often have very noticeable physical symptoms that focus on the digestive tract. “Anytime you’re in a stressful situation, people will get butterflies in their stomach or they may even get diarrhea,” says Dr. Marrero.

Big events in addition to small daily stressors can affect your digestive health so it’s important to regulate your stress levels. By identifying the cause of stress, understanding the gut’s natural reaction to it, and keeping stress under control you will more effectively be able to manage stress-related stomach aches and other digestive problems.
Try implementing these stress management tips to reduce your own stressors and manage your digestive health:

• Consider counseling to deal with what’s bothering you.
• Try cognitive therapy.
• Keep a journal of what’s stressing you, how you feel, and what you did to feel better.
• Don’t take on more than you can handle — say no when you need to.
• Prioritize your responsibilities.
• Put problems in perspective, and stay positive about the good things in your life.

Butterflies in your tummy are just one way that stress and other emotions can affect your overall health and demonstrates how closely related your physical and emotional health really are. But by learning how to tame your stress you will not only maintain your emotional health but you may also just calm an upset stomach.

Health and Acupuncture

acupuncture image
If you haven’t tried it yourself, you’ve probably met somebody who has or have seen pictures. What seems like a million tiny needles protruding from strategic locations on a patient, lying prostrate and relaxed on a table despite what looks to be a fairly uncomfortable procedure. It may look a bit intimidating but acupuncture is one of the oldest healing practices in the world. Over the past two decades the correlation between health and acupuncture has been studied and practiced in the Western world and has grown increasingly popular, especially in the United States.

The practice which originated in China thousands of years ago, involves the insertion of extremely thin needles through the skin, to various depths at strategic points on your body. And although Western scientists may not fully understand how or why this holistic method of healing works, studies indicate that it may provide a number of medical benefits including pain reduction and relief from chemotherapy-induced nausea.

How acupuncture works
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, acupuncture is based on the concept that disease results from disruption in the flow of the life force called chi and an imbalance in the forces of yin and yang. Health results from a harmonious balance between yin and yang. Chi is believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. These meridians and the energy flow are accessible through more than 350 acupuncture points. Illness results from an imbalance of the forces. Inserting needles into these points in various combinations will re-balance energy flow.

The Mayo clinic website asserts that Western medicine has its own explanation, stating that acupuncture incorporates modern concepts of neuroscience. Many practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. This stimulation appears to boost the activity of your body’s natural painkillers and increase blood flow.

What exactly happens during an acupuncture session?
Acupuncture usually involves a series of weekly or biweekly treatments in an outpatient setting. Each visit typically includes an exam with an assessment of current condition, the needle insertion and a follow-up discussion on self-care tips.

You’ll lie down on a comfortable surface. Depending on where the needles are to go, you will lie face down, face up or on your side before the needles are inserted. The needles used in acupuncture are metallic, solid, and hair-thin. As with anything, different people experience acupuncture differently. But most patients feel no or minimal pain as the needles are inserted. Some people feel energized by treatment, while others feel relaxed. Improper needle placement, movement of the patient during the procedure, or a defect in the needle can cause soreness and pain during treatment. It is vitally important to seek treatment from a qualified acupuncture practitioner.

As many as a dozen needles may need to be placed for each treatment. Once the needles are inserted, they’re usually left in place for five to 20 minutes. After placement, the needles are sometimes moved gently or stimulated with electricity or heat.

Who can benefit from acupuncture?
Acupuncture is useful as a stand-alone treatment for many conditions, but it’s also used in conjunction with more conventional Western medical treatments. For example, doctors may combine acupuncture and drugs to control pain and nausea after surgery.

Preliminary studies indicate that acupuncture may offer symptomatic relief for a variety of diseases and conditions including low back pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, migraines and osteoarthritis. In addition, research has shown that acupuncture can help manage postoperative dental pain and alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. It has also been shown to offer relief for chronic menstrual cramps and tennis elbow.

According to the NCCAM website, a 2007 National Health Interview Survey estimated 3.1 million U.S. adults and 150,000 children had used acupuncture in the previous year. Between the 2002 and 2007 survey, acupuncture use among adults increased by three-tenths of 1 percent which is approximately 1 million people.

Pros and Cons
As with any medical therapy, acupuncture has benefits and risks. Here are a few benefits:

• Acupuncture is safe when performed properly.
• It has few side effects.
• It can be useful as a complement to other treatment methods.
• It’s becoming more available in conventional medical settings.
• It helps control certain types of pain.
• It may be an alternative if you don’t respond to or don’t want to take pain medications.

Acupuncture may not be safe if you have a bleeding disorder or if you’re taking blood thinners. The most common side effects of acupuncture are soreness, bleeding or bruising at the needle sites. If needles are reused, infectious diseases may be accidentally transmitted. However, these risks can be avoided in the hands of a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner. So it’s important to do your homework when locating a practitioner.

Whether you’re in tune with your body’s chi and/or median zones, the correlation between health and acupuncture is interesting and impressive. Check it out if you’re inclined. With a rich history rooted in thousands of years of practice, acupuncture is no longer for only the adventurous or ultra-health conscious.