Allison Fletcher, Author at Wakunaga of America

Smarter Eating in the Summer

It’s easy to throw caution to the wind when you’re with family and friends, and disregard your previous healthy eating practices. And this is fine every once in a while. But if you eat these foods regularly during the summer, this could take a toll on your health. So we are going to take you through some tips for smarter eating in the summer.

The Importance of Good Nutrition

The food choices you make each day affect your health – how you feel today, tomorrow, and in the future. Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Combined with physical activity, your diet can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic diseases, and promote your overall health. Unhealthy eating habits have contributed to the obesity epidemic in the United States – about one-third of U.S. adults are obese and approximately 17% of children and teenagers are obese.1 Even for people at a healthy weight, a poor diet is associated with major health risks that can cause illness and even death. So what can you do?

Healthy Summer Eating Habits

Work more veggies into your diet: Try adding avocado to your sandwich. Or the next time you’re cooking fish, meat or poultry, try sautéing some peppers, onion, garlic, and tomatoes to serve alongside, or even on top of your protein. Not only will it add an amazing flavor, but your portion size will be bigger without too many added calories.

Just because we’re recommending adding more veggies to your plate, that doesn’t mean you should forget about fruit. Summer is a great time for fresh fruit. Add your favorite berries to your morning cereal or oatmeal for a healthy flavor boost. You can also grill peaches (yes, that’s possible) for a sweeter, more caramelized flavor, which can act as a tasty summertime dessert.

Include more salads: Bump up that green nutrition! If you order salads when you go out to eat at restaurants, well done, you are probably in the minority. That takes some serious willpower. But remember, not all salads are healthy, especially at a restaurant, or fast-food drive through. Salads that are loaded with toppings, dressing, and things like fried chicken are also loaded with extra calories and fat. But healthy salads don’t have to be boring. Pick a salad with a lot of veggies, top it off with a lean protein like grilled fish or chicken. And when it comes to your salad dressing, opt for something light, like olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or a vinaigrette.

Pace yourself at summer BBQs: It’s easy to “go wild” at summer BBQs. There is just so much food available, and you can go back as many times as you want. Beat the temptation to overeat by filling up on the healthy stuff first, before you reach for the ribs and mac and cheese. Try filling your plate first with fruits, veggies, and a nice green salad. Moderation is the name of the game, when it comes to things like summer BBQs. And try to recognize when you are full. When you have finished eating and are satisfied, get up and get moving! Play with your kids or get a badminton game going with your friends. When you’re engaging in an activity like badminton, frisbee or tag, you’re less tempted to keep eating.

Cook at home: People who cook at home more often, rather than eating out, tend to have healthier overall diets without higher food expenses. Some studies have also found that home-cooked dinners were associated with a “greater dietary compliance,” meaning the overall weekly diet met more of the federal guidelines for a healthy diet.2  Additionally, the average fast food order ranges between 1,100 to 1,200 calories total – which is almost all of a woman’s recommended daily calorie intake (1,600-2,400 calories) and almost two thirds of a man’s daily intake (2,000-3,000 calories).3  So if you can, try and cook at home a little more. You’ll save money, eat healthier, and save time.

Greens to the Rescue

Speaking of healthy home cooking, if you’re looking for a healthy recipe that tastes great, and is also packed with a serving of greens like barley grass, wheatgrass, chlorella, kelp and spirulina, check out these recipes here.4 In our Great Greens Healthy Living Guide, we have some tasty and nutritious recipes for you to try. You can whip up a Green Goodness Protein Shake, Superfood Pesto (which is great on grilled chicken and even spread on a sandwich!), and even Dark Chocolate Mousse, while getting a serving of greens.

So while you are indulging in all the best foods summer has to offer, try and keep these tips in mind, so you can still keep your health top-of-mind.

The Immunity Gap: Why Men Lag and What to Do About It

The numbers back it up: Men not only get sick more severely and more often during their lifetime; they also die at a younger age.1 Fortunately, with a targeted supplement like Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) and a few lifestyle changes, guys can easily build up their immunity and live longer, healthier lives. And since June is Men’s Health Month, there’s no better time to shine a light on the unique challenges that men face.

What’s Behind the Health Gap?

So what accounts for the difference in health outcomes between men and women? Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. Research has identified several factors that may contribute to the longevity gap, but lifestyle choices appear to have the biggest impact. Smoking, excessive drinking, and poor dietary habits are all more common among men. On top of that, they tend to be more aggressive, take more risks, and suffer more work stress than women. And because guys are much less likely to see a doctor if anything is wrong, what might be a routine treatment could balloon into something serious by the time they seek medical attention.

Of course, the choices men make aren’t the only thing taking years off their lives. Biology is also to blame. The fact is, the male immune system just doesn’t respond as quickly or efficiently when faced with harmful intruders.2 And that can leave guys more prone to infection when cold and flu season rolls around.

Boost Immunity with Garlic

It’s not all bad news. There’s one powerful herb that can help men make up the health gap: Garlic. Used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat a wide range of ailments, garlic has been shown to benefit everything from digestive disorders to cardiovascular issues.3 But this pungent herb doesn’t just settle your gastrointestinal system or strengthen your heart; garlic can play a big role in the health of your immune system as well. In fact, garlic can change the way key cells react to uninvited pathogens, reducing the severity of colds and flu.4

Unfortunately, even though garlic makes almost everything you cook taste better, eating it isn’t the most  effective way to get all of this herb’s protective benefits. Instead, the real immune-boosting power of garlic is unlocked during the aging process. This concentrates the beneficial compounds, giving Aged Garlic Extract much more potent antiglycation and antioxidant properties as compared to fresh garlic.5

But as powerful as AGE is on its own, it can be even more effective when combined with synergistic ingredients like astragalus, which boasts immunomodulating effects, and medicinal mushrooms, which contain critical immune-supporting B vitamins and a unique compound called beta-glucan that stimulates a healthy immune response. Luckily, you can get all of these immune-enhancing compounds in a single supplement with Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract Immune Formula 103.

Men’s Health Tips for Immune Health

Adding an AGE supplement to your daily routine is a key piece in the immunity puzzle. But making a few changes to your lifestyle is just as important. Here are three tips to have your immune system ready to handle whatever comes your way.

Don’t skip your annual checkup. While a visit to the doctor’s office isn’t anybody’s idea of a good time, seeing your physician every year is critical to staying on top of your health. Unfortunately, only about half of all men consider an annual checkup to be a regular part of taking care of themselves. Even worse, 65 percent of guys wait as long as possible to see a medical professional if they’re experiencing health symptoms.6 But avoiding the doctor could have serious consequences, landing you in an even worse situation later on down the road.

Be more active. Elevating your heart rate with exercise isn’t just good for cardiovascular health. Studies show that breaking a sweat on a regular basis can enhance the immune system as well. Unfortunately, about half of men in the U.S. don’t get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise every week.7 And that’s bad news for immune health because regular physical activity can reduce your chances of getting sick. It can also reduce the intensity of symptoms if you do come down with something.8 But don’t overdo it: Training too hard can have the opposite effect, weakening your defenses by causing inflammation and oxidative stress.9 So keep it on the lighter side with activities like a jog around the neighborhood or pick-up game with friends. What’s more, being active outside will give your body a burst of immune-supporting vitamin D, which helps the immune system react to and fight off serious infections.10

Feast on immunity-fortifying foods. You are what you eat, especially when it comes to immunity. In fact, your diet can affect how well your immune cells function.11 But while eating your fruits and veggies would make mom proud, some of these foods benefit the immune system more than others. And that’s particularly true for those rich in vitamin C.12 So opt for citrus fruits, bell peppers, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and broccoli, all of which are jam packed with C and other vital nutrients that support a healthy immune response.

Men might have a less efficient immune response than women, but that doesn’t mean they’re destined for an early demise. By incorporating the immunity-enhancing power of Aged Garlic Extract along with a few changes to your routine, you can live a longer and happier life, this June and beyond.

 

What You Can Do to Minimize Seasonal Allergies

In fact, the spring and summer months can be completely miserable for some. But life doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. You can reduce your exposure to common allergens and tame seasonal allergy symptoms when they do appear by following a few allergy-smart tips.

What’s Behind Seasonal Allergies?

In some parts of the U.S., allergy season can begin as early as February, and a mild winter can kick things off even earlier. Between the trees, grasses, ragweed, and mold spores, there’s no shortage of potential allergens that can have you sneezing well into the fall, especially after a rainy spring. Add in dust and pet dander and you’ll be going through boxes of tissues in no time. And even though all of these allergens are essentially harmless to the human body, the immune system can recognizes them as intruders and deploy antibodies to stamp out the threat. And that can trigger those all-too-familiar seasonal allergy symptoms of coughing, sneezing, runny nose, watery, and itchy eyes.

Tips for Avoiding Allergens

Though it’s impossible to completely escape all of the causes of allergies this time of year, some proven remedies can help you to minimize exposure. Spending less time outdoors during allergy season is good start. If you do plan on being outside, check the local air quality on a site like airnow.gov to gauge what pollen counts are before heading out.

If allergies do force you to spend more time indoors, there are a few things that you can do around the house to reduce allergy risk. If you have an HVAC unit, switch over to a high-efficiency HEPA filter and be sure to change it out every month or so to keep the air in your home free from circulating airborne particles. It’s also a good idea to invest in a high-quality air purifier. Having one that can filter out not only allergens like pollen, dust, and pet dander, but also smoke, exhaust, and other environmental pollutants can greatly improve your home air quality.

Cleaning often is another smart strategy. But be careful not to stir up the very things that can set off your allergies. Some vacuum cleaners and dusters may actually throw up just as much dirt, dust, and  dander as they remove. Getting a vacuum with a HEPA filter and using a microfiber cloth for dusting can work to eliminate allergens while keeping them contained.

Take a Supplement for Allergy Relief

When seasonal allergies hit, most people head straight to the pharmacy for an antihistamine or decongestant. These over-the-counter medications may be effective for reducing immediate symptoms but long-term use may pose its own set of dangers. On the other hand, nature has already provided safe and effective nutrients that treat seasonal allergies, which can not only address your seasonal allergy symptoms but also support overall health and well-being.

Probiotics. Best known for their beneficial effects on intestinal health, probiotics can have a big impact on allergies. Because your digestive tract accounts for a substantial portion of your overall immune function, balancing your intestinal microbiota can be the most effective strategy to pinpoint the root of persistent allergy symptoms. But while foods like Greek yogurt and kimchi contain naturally-occurring probiotics, the best way to boost your seasonal allergy defenses is with a supplement.

Probiotic supplements have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of allergy symptoms.1 In one recent placebo-controlled trial, those taking a probiotic saw a nearly 10 percent decrease in sneezing symptoms.2 But not just any probiotic supplement will do. When choosing one for allergy relief, there are three probiotic strains to look for in particular: Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and bifidobacterium longum. These have been shown to be the most effective at reducing symptoms in people with seasonal allergies.3 Fortunately, you can find all three of the allergy-fighting strains in a probiotic supplement like Kyo-Dophilus.

Aged Garlic Extract (AGE). AGE may not have a big reputation when it comes to allergies, but it’s a powerful weapon that can enhance your body’s immune response to airborne particles. That’s because when pollen and dust get into your airways, it causes inflammation that triggers the sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes that you dread. But according to recent an Iranian trial, AGE can substantially diminish inflammation in the airways as well as reduce mucus production.4

Quercetin. A potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, quercetin has been shown to be effective in combating seasonal allergies naturally.5 That’s due to its unique ability to slow the release of histamines in the body, which can work to reduce pesky allergy symptoms including cough, runny nose, and itchy eyes. Fortunately, you can get plenty of this nutrient from eating a healthy diet full of plant foods such as broccoli, leafy greens, apples, and citrus. However, you can also incorporate a supplement into your daily regimen for added support.

Nettles. Next time an allergy attack has you sneezing up storm, take some nettles. Often referred to as “stinging nettle,” this medicinal plant contains active compounds that fight off inflammation and  inhibit key enzymes in pro-inflammatory pathways.6 The best way to take full advantage of nettle’s allergy-busting benefits is to begin supplementation a few months before allergy season begins. But taking a twice daily dose of 300 mg can help reduce symptoms in as little as 15 minutes.

Though you may not be able to stop seasonal allergies completely, there are proven methods that can help you minimize exposure and manage symptoms. Staying indoors when pollen counts are high, allergy proofing your home, and incorporating a symptom-busting supplement can help you get through the season a little easier. That way, you can spend more time doing the things you love instead of constantly saying “achoo!”

 

Want to Lower Your Blood Pressure? Here’s What Can Help

However, what’s truly concerning is that only about a quarter of those adults have their hypertension under control.1

But even though sidestepping high blood pressure triggers can sometimes be tricky business, getting a handle on your blood pressure is easier than you think. With a few simple lifestyle adjustments, you can start to bring down your BP levels and get your heart health back on track in no time.

Understanding Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force that your blood exerts against artery walls. It’s measured in two numbers: The first or top number, called systolic blood pressure, is the pressure caused by your heart when it beats and pushes out blood. The second or bottom number, called diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure in between beats when your heart relaxes and fills with blood.

A healthy blood pressure range for most adults is a systolic reading under 120 mm Hg and a diastolic one under 80 mm Hg. If your systolic number is in the 120 to 129 range, then it’s considered to be elevated. But if your reading comes in with a top number of 130 or higher, or 80 or higher for the bottom number, you are one of more than 100 million Americans high blood pressure.

Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

It’s hard to overstate just how beneficial reducing your blood pressure can be. Not only will it reduce your risk of a major cardiovascular event, but lowering BP can also improve symptoms of mild cognitive impairment, which is a precursor to dementia, as well as slow down the progression of kidney disease.2 3 4

Unfortunately, the risks for high blood pressure are everywhere. Some factors, like a family history and the aging process, are beyond your control. However, most causes of high BP are related to the choices that you make. Thankfully, it only takes a few changes to reduce your risk for hypertension while boosting overall cardiovascular health. Here are five ways that safely and effectively lower blood pressure:

Lose Weight.  Being overweight or obese can have a big impact on blood pressure. It can also lead to sleep apnea, which can increase BP even more. That’s why shedding even a few pounds can do wonders for your heart health. And the science backs that up: In a meta-analysis of twenty-five randomized, controlled trials published in the journal Hypertension, every pound lost correlated to a reduction in blood pressure, especially for those already taking hypertension-lowering medication.5 That means the more weight you’re able to lose, the greater the decrease in BP you’ll see.

Eat Healthy. What you put into your body plays a huge role in your blood pressure numbers. A diet full of fried, fast, and ultra-processed foods packed with sodium and unhealthy fats can cause BP levels to surge; not to mention the havoc these foods can wreak on your cholesterol count. But swapping out the drive-thru burger and fries for more heart-friendly fare can work to considerably lower BP. In fact, studies show that eating blood pressure-lowering foods like salmon (which is bursting with heart-healthy omega-3s) reduces BP, particularly in those already diagnosed with hypertension.6 Fruits such as cherries and berries can also contribute to an improvement in blood pressure.7 And a high intake of vegetables like dark leafy greens has been associated with a lower baseline of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure as well.8

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water either. By staying well hydrated, you can flush out excess sodium that accumulates in the bloodstream. On the flip side, it’s wise to limit alcohol and caffeine consumption as they can increase BP.

Exercise. Although it may seem a bit counter-intuitive, raising your heart rate can work to lower your blood pressure. That’s why the American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of U.S. adults aren’t meeting those basic guidelines. But while getting into a regular workout routine can seem daunting, you don’t have to become a total fitness freak to get all the benefits of exercise. All it takes is just 20 minutes a day, and any movement that gets your heart pumping will give your blood pressure health a significant boost. Whether you go for a bike ride or out dancing, everything adds up. And consistency is key so be sure to pick activities that you’re interested in and enjoy doing. That way you’ll be more likely to stick with them over the long term.

De-Stress. When you’re felling stressed, your heart rate speeds up, your blood vessels tighten, and your BP goes up. These reactions are helpful in those “fight or flight” moments when your body needs a temporary jolt to help you get through a stressful situation. But if stress becomes chronic, your blood pressure can remain high for dangerously long periods. Eventually, that can take a serious toll on your cardiovascular health.9 10 That’s why it’s important to take a step back and unwind whenever the world gets overwhelming. So next time the pressures of life are too much, try a stress-management technique like breathing exercises or mindful meditation to help you cope. To get into the habit, start with five minutes a day and work your way up from there.

Supplements. If you’re looking for additional support, reinforcing your BP health with a few targeted supplements can be a smart move. One supplement in particular, Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract (AGE), has been scientifically shown to lower blood pressure while improving arterial stiffness, inflammation, and gut microbial composition. In a 2018 study, participants with uncontrolled hypertension who were given a daily AGE supplement for 12 weeks saw a significant drop in both systolic and diastolic pressure compared to those who got the placebo.11 Better still, a 2021 clinical trial that paired AGE supplementation with regular exercise enhanced the supplement’s blood pressure-lowering effects even further.12

But AGE isn’t the only supplement that can lower pressure. Research suggest that two additional nutrients, nattokinase and l-theanine, may also have a positive effect on preventing and treating hypertension. Fortunately, you can get all three in one convenient supplement with Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract Formula 109.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can have significant health consequences. If you are among the growing group of Americans prone to hypertension due to lifestyles habits or a family history, it’s critical to get a handle on your blood pressure levels as early as possible. Following these strategies  can reverse an uptick in BP and keep your heart healthy for years to come. But as always, be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise or supplement routine, especially if you’re already taking medications to control your blood pressure.

 

Best Practices for Healthier Joints

Fortunately, there are several natural and effective ways to protect your joints from damaging inflammation. Combining a joint-protective herbal compound like curcumin with an anti-inflammatory diet and a low-impact exercise routine can support joint health and keep your body moving for years to come.

Joints Articulated

Joints are the places where your bones meet. Most joints are mobile, which allows your body to move in all sorts of ways thanks to cartilage—that protective layer of specialized cells that covers the ends of bones where they come together to form joints. Cartilage not only cushions bones and helps them glide smoothly over one another, it also produces collagen and proteoglycans, two necessary components of healthy joints.

Your Joints on Inflammation

With all the moving around that your bones do over time, the cartilage in your joints is bound to take a beating. When injuries do happen, inflammation plays a crucial part in the healing process. It’s the body’s way of telling the immune system to repair the damaged area by creating new collagen and proteoglycan cells. Once this process is complete and the damaged cartilage is repaired, the inflammation subsides. However, issues arise when inflammation lingers even after the problem has passed. This type of chronic low level inflammation is called metaflammation. Instead of helping to restore distressed tissue, persistent inflammation can become destructive, eroding the cartilage in your joints while inhibiting the creation of new cells.1 To make matters worse, an aging body naturally produces fewer and fewer cartilage cells to replenish the vital bumper between your bones. As cartilage continues to break down, bones can begin to rub together, and that can lead to the pain and stiffness you can feel during activity.

Curcumin to the Rescue

When joint pain hits, all you want is relief. That usually means reaching for ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to ease the pain so you can get through your day. However, extended use of these medications poses significant health risks, especially in older individuals. Fortunately, nature has already provided an effective alternative in the form of curcumin.

The active ingredient in the curry spice turmeric, curcumin boasts powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities. Used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, this natural herb has been shown to reduce inflammation-related symptoms just as well as the common anti-inflammatory pain medications ibuprofen and diclofenac.2  But, while these NSAIDs just mask the symptoms of joint pain temporarily, evidence suggests that curcumin supports joint health on a deeper level by limiting runaway inflammation and preventing the deterioration of cartilage cells.3

Best of all, curcumin is safe for long-term use and carries none of harmful side effects that NSAIDs do. But keep in mind that the body has a hard time absorbing curcumin. That’s why it’s critical to look for a supplement that contains a clinically-studied form of curcumin like Meriva that provides enhanced absorption and bioavailability for the best results.

Joint Ventures

In addition to fostering joint health with curcumin, it’s also important to support your joints with diet and exercise.

Diet. For strong and flexible joints, opt for inflammation-fighting foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids like wild-caught salmon and walnuts. Choosing non-starchy vegetables, antioxidant-rich fruits, and whole grains is another smart way to tame inflammation. It’s also wise to stop inflammation before it starts by reducing the amount of red meat you eat and avoiding caffeine and alcohol—two substances that can amplify inflammation. Following this type of anti-inflammatory diet not only keeps joint inflammation at a minimum in those with osteoarthritis, it may also reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.4

Exercise. Despite the common misconception that exercise is hard on your joints, there’s really no evidence supporting this belief. Unless you’ve suffered an injury in the past, exercise actually appears to have positive health benefits for joints. If you do have concerns that some activities might be too hard on your joints, opt for movements that create as little impact as possible. Walking, cycling, swimming,  water aerobics, and riding the elliptical machine are all activities that are easy on the joints. Gentle stretching is another great way to make sure your joints stay healthy and flexible.

When choosing a workout routine, take into consideration the intensity of the exercise and the impact it will have on your joints. Your body weight and any family history of osteoarthritis should also be taken into account.5  To be on the safe side, it’s always a good idea to consult with your physician before undertaking any new physical endeavor.

Joint inflammation can limit your ability to do the things you love. But you shouldn’t wait until debilitating pain disrupts your life to do something about joint health. Adopting these natural approaches can allow you to maintain durable joints for a lifetime.

Podcast: Doctors Hoffman and LaValle Discuss 6 Ways to Support a Strong Immune System

Dr. LaValle also talks about Aged Garlic Extract and how it can help to support healthy immunity, and also how it is well-studied/has many published scientific articles supporting it. Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract is mentioned at the 24:32 minute mark.

For part 1 of the podcast, click here.

For part 2 of the podcast, click here.

About Dr. James LaValle

Jim LaValle, R.Ph., C.C.N, a nationally recognized clinical pharmacist, author, board-certified clinical nutritionist, and founder of Metabolic Code Enterprises, Inc. a web platform and practice solution enterprise, launching AIR Support and the Metabolic Code Assessment.

About Dr. Ronald Hoffman

Dr. Ronald Hoffman is one of New York’s pioneering Integrative Medicine practitioners. He obtained his MD from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and has been practicing for 34 years. His radio program, Intelligent Medicine, is the longest-running physician-hosted health program on the air.

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Let’s Talk Congestive Heart Failure

Author: Jane Jansen of the Tree of Life Wellness Center

Congestive heart failure (CHF) (also called heart failure) is a serious progressive condition in which the heart muscle is less able to contract or is structurally limited in its ability to fill with blood. As a result, the heart’s pumping action can’t keep up with the body’s demand. Blood returns to the heart faster than it can be pumped out resulting in not enough oxygen-rich blood getting circulated to the body’s other organs.

To compensate the heart beats faster to take less time for refilling after it contracts—but over the long run, less blood circulates, and the extra effort can cause heart palpitations. The heart chamber enlarges to make room for the extra blood, or the chamber walls become stiff and thickened. The lungs fill with fluid, causing shortness of breath. The kidneys typically respond by causing the body to retain fluid (water) and salt. If fluid builds up in the arms, legs, ankles, feet, or other organs, thus the body becomes congested.

In heart failure, the release of hormones causes the blood vessels to constrict or tighten. The heart must work hard to pump blood through the constricted vessels. Angiotensin converting enzyme, or ACE, is a natural enzyme in the body that activates the hormone angiotensin, which causes blood vessels to constrict, thus increasing blood pressure. Inhibiting ACE can return blood pressure to lower levels. It’s important to keep your blood pressure controlled so that your heart can pump more effectively without extra stress.

It may become necessary to keep track of the amount of fluid you drink and how often you go to the bathroom. The more fluid you carry in your blood vessels, the harder your heart must work to pump excess fluid through your body. Limiting your fluid intake to less than 2 liters per day will help decrease the workload of your heart and prevent symptoms from coming back.

Limit how much salt (sodium) you eat. Sodium is found naturally in many foods we eat. It’s also added for flavoring or to make food last longer. If you follow a low-sodium diet, you should have less fluid retention, less swelling, and breathe easier.

People who have already have heart failure should consume no more than one to two cups of coffee per day, according to the American Heart Association.

Do not take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen, Motrin or Aleve, Class I sodium channel-blocking drugs, antacids that contain sodium (salt), and decongestants such as Sudafed.

Don’t overdo! Plan your activities and include rest periods during the day. Certain activities, such as pushing or pulling heavy objects and shoveling may worsen heart failure and its symptoms.

Beneficial Supplements include:

Hawthorn Berry: According to Mount Sinai Medical many studies conclude that hawthorn significantly improved heart function. Studies also suggest that the herb can enhance a person’s ability to exercise following heart failure. Participants in studies have reported that hawthorn significantly improved symptoms of the disease (such as shortness of breath and fatigue). One study found that hawthorn extract (900 mg/day) taken for 2 months was as effective as low doses of captopril (a prescription heart medication) in improving symptoms of heart failure.

Another large study found that a standardized hawthorn supplement was effective in 952 people with heart failure. The study compared conventional methods of treating heart failure (with different medications) with hawthorn alone and in addition to the drugs. After 2 years, the clinical symptoms of heart failure (palpitations, breathing problems, and fatigue) decreased significantly in people taking the hawthorn supplement. People taking hawthorn also took less medication for their condition.

Resveratrol: is a compound in the skin of red grapes, blueberries and other botanicals. Research suggests, “Resveratrol (RES) may have ACE-inhibitory capabilities, adding to its potential for maintaining healthy blood pressure. Additionally, resveratrol may suppress some of the adverse effects of angiotensin II, such as vascular smooth muscle cell overgrowth (hypertrophy). It is clear that the mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects of RES on HFpEF-induced cardiac remodeling are completely complex and various. A study published in the Frontiers in Pharmacology, March 18, 2022 also states, “The nutritional agent RES may exert protective effect in the setting of HFpEF by combining anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-fibrotic actions coupled with improved cardiac stiffness. ACE inhibitors dilate the blood vessels to improve your blood flow. This helps decrease the amount of work the heart has to do. They also help block a substance in the blood called angiotensin that is made as a result of heart failure”.

Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) Beta-blockers are prescribed for heart failure because they reduce the hormones that cause heart failure symptoms. Beta-blockers stop the effects of epinephrine (adrenaline), and this causes the heart to beat slower and lowers your blood pressure. Research published in the February 19, 2020, Journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine showed Kyolic aged garlic extract significantly lowered central blood pressure, pulse pressure, pulse wave velocity and arterial stiffness.

Clinical research shows that AGE also reduces oxidation and inflammation, and increases the production of nitric oxide (a molecule that dilates blood vessels for better blood flow).

AGE also works on the microcirculatory system—that network of tiny capillaries, arterioles, and venules that moves blood from larger blood vessels to your cells. This was shown in a recent study published in the International Wound Journal. Among 122 people who took part in the study, those who supplemented with AGE for a year had better microcirculation than those taking a placebo.

Beet Root: increases levels of nitric oxide (NO), which serves multiple functions related to increased blood flow, gas exchange, mitochondrial biogenesis and efficiency, and strengthening of muscle contraction. Nitric oxide (NO) is produced from virtually all cell types composing the myocardium and regulates cardiac function through both vascular-dependent and -independent effects.

Published in the 2018 journal Molecular Cell, researchers confirmed their findings in human tissue samples, collected from hearts involved in transplants. In nearly two-thirds of failing heart samples, they found that nitric oxide determined signaling balance to the arrestin pathway. Many hearts showed evidence of nitric oxide deficiency (arrestin activation). Dr. Jonathan Stamler, MD stated, “Without nitric oxide, heart rate and contractility can’t increase, and thus hearts fail,”

There are many other supplements that are helpful, however always consult with your health practitioner before taking any supplements.

At the Tree of Life Wellness Center we have helped numerous patients with Congestive Heart Failure with healthful dietary changes and supplementation that won’t interfere with their current medications.

CHF is a serious health concern and there are numerous considerations including health history, medications and medical treatments that need to be taken into consideration before making any recommendations. For more information or to schedule an appointment call 508-336-4242. Telephone appointments are available too!

Jane Jansen Holistic Practitioner, Tree of Life Wellness Center Inc.

Host, Holistic Healthline Radio

Holistichealthline.com

This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

 

 

The Stress-Immunity Connection

Since April is Stress Awareness Month, we thought it would be the perfect time to take a look at the effects of stress and how it interacts with your immune system. We’ll also spotlight six simple yet powerful ways to decompress your stress when life gets to be a bit too much.

How Does Stress Affect Immunity?

Believe it or not, stress can be a good thing. For example, short-term stress can boost immuno-protective functions like wound healing by increasing the number of immune cells in the blood and changing the way they circulate.1 That’s great when you’re injured since stress then kickstarts an immune response that instigates healing. Once the problem is resolved, your immune system is designed to return to normal.

But if you’re constantly stressed to the max, your immune system can become compromised. Whether it’s the pressures of a demanding job or a rocky relationship, prolonged periods of stress can suppress the immune response, leaving your body less equipped to deal with harmful intruders.2  There are also several signs that you may have a weakened immune system too. This is because unrelenting stress impairs the activity of your white blood cells, which are key to helping the body fight infections and other diseases.3  This not only sets you up to catch whatever happens to be going around that year, it can also result in more severe illness. Adding insult to injury, people who are stressed often resort to unhealthy behaviors like snacking, smoking, and drinking alcohol to get through those rough patches. These indulgences may feel good in the moment but they can further weaken your immune system and actually make the impact of stress worse in the long run.

Ways to Relieve Stress

Learning to let go of stress probably won’t happen overnight. But with practice and as little patience, you’ll be well on your way to better coping with the challenges of modern life. Here are some tips to help you deal with whatever stressors life brings:

Get your zen on. Stepping back and clearing you mind for 10 to 20 minutes each day can positively influence not only your mental state but your immune system as well. Meditation has been shown to fortify white blood cells and reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can prematurely age your immune cells. Chill out with a meditation app like Calm, Meditopia, or Headspace.

Clean up your diet. What you eat has been shown to play a big role in how your body handles stress.4  That’s why it’s important to pack your plate with stress-busting foods like salmon, eggs, artichokes, and kimchi. At the same time, be sure to clear your cabinets of stress-promoting fare like ultra-processed snacks, sugary treats, coffee, and alcohol.

Supplement this! When it comes to stress, even a healthy diet can use a little support. A daily supplement regimen can work wonders to reduce stress, strengthen your immune system, and improve overall well-being. For example, Aged Garlic Extract has been shown to decrease the stress-related hormones cortisol and corticosterone.5 The B vitamins are also effective at combating stress. In one trial, participants taking a combination of B vitamins for a month reported significant improvements in self-perceived stress, overall health, and energy levels.6

Work it out. Exercise is a great way to put stress in its place. But regular workouts also have the added benefit of improving immune function. But you don’t have to dial up the intensity too much to get the stress-busting benefits of exercise. Activities like tai chi and yoga may not require the same fervor as CrossFit or Zumba, but they’re just as helpful at releasing tension and helping you find calm. Even an easy bike ride or lazy stroll around the neighborhood can help melt stress away.

Develop social connections. Social isolation and feelings of loneliness can undermine your immune response.7 That’s why having a social network that you interact with on a regular basis can be so important. Laughing and having fun can elevate mood, lessen stress, and even ease pain. So make it a point to spend time with family and friends—or make new connections through volunteering or via local Meetup groups.

Start growing. Exercising your green thumb is another way to bury stress and foster immunity. Gardening helps reduce anxiety, depression, stress, and even your body mass index (BMI), all while boosting your quality of life, physical activity levels, and cognitive function. Bonus? Spending a little time in the sun will give your body that necessary hit of immune-supporting vitamin D, too.

While stress may be an unavoidable part of life, you don’t have to let it get the better of you or your health. Understanding the risks long-term stress can pose—and practicing ways to minimize its impact—can give your immune system a fighting chance whenever life throws a stressful situation your way.

How-to Guide to Keeping Your Bladder Healthy

The good news, is that by taking an active role in your bladder health, you can avoid infections and reduce the risk of developing several medical problems. We will discuss several ways you can improve your bladder’s health, but first we would like to talk a little more about the bladder in general.

The bladder is a muscular sac in the pelvis, just above and behind the pubic bone. When it is empty, the bladder is about the size and shape of a pear. Urine is made in the kidneys are travels down two tubes called ureters to the bladder. The bladder then stores the urine, allowing urination to be infrequent and controlled. The bladder is lined by layers of muscle tissue that stretch to hold the urine, and the normal capacity of the bladder is about 400-600 mL. When you urinate, the bladder muscles squeeze, and two sphincters (valves) open to let the urine flow out. The urine leaves the bladder into the urethra, which carries the urine out of the body. Now that we know more about how the bladder works, how can we keep our bladder healthy?

This is an easy one…drink water! Staying hydrated is very important to the health of your bladder. Aim to drink half you body weight in ounces, per day. Drinking water throughout the day helps to dilute urine and prevent kidney stones. If you don’t drink enough fluids throughout the day, it can cause your urine to become highly concentrated, dark yellow in color, foul smelling, and can ultimately irritate the bladder. This can cause you to use the bathroom more frequently and also affect your ability to control your urine. Not drinking enough water also causes dehydration, which encourages the growth of bacteria. This can cause a urinary tract infection or the formation of stones in the urinary tract.

Another tip is to make sure you eat your veggies! Adding more vegetables to your diet is great for many reasons, one of which is improved bladder health. Vegetables like kale and cauliflower are high in vitamin C and calcium to support kidney function while corn and potatoes are high in magnesium which can help your bladder to fully empty. If you struggle with getting in your recommended servings of veggies per day, especially green veggies, we recommend trying a high-quality powdered green drink mix. We recommend looking for one containing barley grass, wheat grass, brown rice, chlorella, and kelp, to really pack the most healthy “punch” possible. Suffice to say, a powdered green drink is the perfect vehicle for boosting your daily greens intake.

Consider practicing pelvic floor muscle exercises. Pelvic floor exercises, also known as kegel exercises, can help to hold urine in the bladder. Daily exercises can strengthen these muscles which can help keep urine from leaking when you sneeze, cough, laugh, or have a sudden urge to urinate. These exercises also may help to avoid infections by strengthening the muscles that help empty the bladder.

Trouble with UTI’s? Try a supplement containing cranberry. UTI’s are one of the most common types of infection in older adults, especially women (though men can get them too!). UTI’s often result when urine pools in the bladder, making it the perfect spot for bacteria to grow. Now, how can we ward off UTI’s? We recommend investing in a quality probiotic geared towards urinary tract health – then you can support both healthy digestion as well as urinary health. Probiotics contain certain colonies of “good” bacteria, and some evidence suggests that probiotics may help prevent UTIs by keeping the “bad” bacteria from going in the vagina. It is even better if the probiotic contains cranberry, since cranberry may help to keep bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract.1 Just make sure the probiotic contains 100% cranberry fruit extract, and doesn’t use any solvents, preservatives, sugar, water, or added flavorings.

Our last tip is to avoid bladder irritants. Certain foods and fluids can cause bladder irritation, which can cause an overactive bladder, leading to leakage and increased urgency and frequency. To support the health of your bladder, it helps to avoid spicy foods, caffeinated and carbonated beverages, vinegar, and tomato-based foods when possible. Try to cut these from your diet or dilute them with water to reduce the impact on your bladder. If this is too challenging, consider avoiding these possible bladder irritants for one week to see if it causes a favorable impact on your bladder. Then gradually, every one to two days, add one back into your diet, noting any changes in urinary urgency, frequency, or incontinence.

Although bladder problems are not likely to come up over brunch with friends, they are more common than you might think, and it is important that you take an active role in your bladder health to keep it healthy for years to come. If you have questions about maintaining your bladder health, we recommend consulting your primary care physician or urologist.