6 Ways Camping Improves Health & Circadian Rhythm

Albert Einstein famously said: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

In today’s fast-paced world of screens and schedules, we often miss the importance of reconnecting with nature and its many benefits. A few minutes in nature on a hike or even just sitting outside can be beneficial. Yet, the most pronounced benefits come from longer exposure to nature’s beauty, and camping is one of the best ways to get them.

Camping … for Health?

Camping may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ways to improve your health, but perhaps it should!

The Benefits of Camping

Besides being a great budget-friendly family activity, going camping offers a unique way to reconnect with nature. Surprisingly, research has now found several proven benefits to this simple and fun activity:

1. Light Therapy for Circadian Rhythm

A 2013 study from the University of Colorado Boulder examined how camping affects circadian rhythm. They found that participants who camped for a week noticed major improvements in sleep patterns in circadian biology.

In fact, sleep researcher Dr. Michael Breus explains that camping for one week (away from artificial light) resets circadian clocks. More specifically, the study found that:

The melatonin levels (of subjects of the study) rose two hours earlier when camping than on regular nights around artificial light.
Study participants sleep schedules all normalized during the camping week. In fact, early birds and night owls all adjusted to the same schedule.
Major health problems (from heart disease to cancer) are often linked to poor sleep quality or lack of sleep. A simple activity like camping may help the body normalize sleep patterns and improve health.

2. Forest Bathing Stress Relief

The Japanese have a national practice called “Forest Bathing” or shinrin-yoku which has been a national public health practice for them since the 1980s. The Japanese have spent millions of dollars studying the effects of this time in nature with surprising findings:

A weekend in the woods naturally increased the presence of natural killer (NK) cells in the body. This increase lasted for up to a month after a single weekend exposure to nature.
Forest air contains phytoncide, a natural compound from plants and trees. Some research shows that inhaling phytoncide can improve immune system function.
Another study found reduced cortisol, blood pressure, pulse, and other measures improved with just 30 minutes a day in nature. In fact, comparing metrics from a person spending a day in the city and a day in nature, it found: “Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.”

3. Improved Sleep

As mentioned above, camping away from artificial light improves the circadian clock. Logically, it also improves sleep.

Sure, sleeping on the ground in a thin sleeping bag doesn’t sound like the perfect way to relax, but studies show that people achieve deeper and more restorative sleep in nature. One factor may be just that people are not staying up as late watching TV while camping. This alone improves sleep and increases melatonin production.

You may not be the most comfortable while camping, but you are likely getting biologically better sleep.

4. Time to Disconnect & Family Time

One of my personal favorite parts of camping is just the time to disconnect from technology and spend time with family. Sure, we all know we should put down the phone and spend more time with the real people we live with, but this can be hard to do when wrapped up in the business of daily life.

We got each of our children a good quality hiking backpack with their own gear (here’s a good list if you are interested) and they love going camping and getting a chance to use it all.

5. A Breath of Fresh Air

Another tangible benefit of camping is the abundance of fresh air. Experts warn that indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air. They encourage opening windows and ventilating our homes often. Spending time outdoors, especially overnight, is a great way to get the benefits of fresh air. Areas with a lot of trees have a higher oxygen concentration in the environment, and therefore it’s easier to breathe and relax.

6. Exercise in Natural Beauty

One of the best things about camping? The natural boredom. Without TVs, video games, and the many distractions of home, we naturally tend to want to walk around and explore. This naturally leads to exercise in a high oxygen, natural light environment that makes movement even more beneficial!

Tips for Camping

Ready to spend some time in the great outdoors? Here are a few tips to get the maximum benefits:

Ditch the artificial light: The studies all noted the biggest benefit from camping away from all artificial light, including flashlights. Stick to natural light sources like a campfire, candles, and natural lanterns to avoid the bright LED flashlights.
Cook natural foods: Don’t use camping as an excuse to eat marshmallows (unless they’re made like this, of course 😉 ) and other junk food. Campfires are wonderful for roasting natural foods like meat, vegetables, and even fruit. (My kids love roasted apples on the campfire.)
Stay for the long haul: The studies all showed the most benefits from three or more days of camping. Plan a week long family trip once a year and enjoy all of the benefits!
Get good gear: Few things are worse than being caught in a tent that leaks during a rainstorm. Invest in some good camping gear and it will last for years.
Ways to Get (Some) of the Benefits of Camping While at Home

Despite all of the benefits, I know a few people who adamantly refuse to camp and even hate the idea of braving the great outdoors! If a team of wild horses couldn’t tear you away from the comforts of home, there are a few things you can do to get some of the benefits while at home.

Reduce the artificial light: One of the biggest benefits to being outdoors is the break from artificial lighting. Even if you aren’t ready to sleep in the woods, you can still manipulate the blue light in your home for better health. We now have lamps with only natural orange spectrum light for at night and I also wear blue blocking orange glasses after dark to reduce blue light exposure.
Clean the air: Another benefit to being outside is the abundance of fresh air. Keep your indoor air clean with these tips.
Get enough sleep: Many of the benefits attributed to camping come from sleeping more! This is one health tip every expert seems to agree on, and a free one for the most part. Make sleep a priority and make time to get enough of it. Here are some tips to improve sleep.

Source: Wellness Mama | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

Why Has the American Approach to Heart Disease Failed?

by CHRIS KRESSER

A recent New York Times article correctly suggests that diet and lifestyle changes are far more effective ways to prevent and treat heart disease than statins and stents. But what diet, and what lifestyle? Is it as simple as avoiding “artery-clogging saturated fat,” as the author suggests? Read on to find out why the American approach to heart disease has really failed.

Jane Brody wrote an article in The New York Times called “Learning from Our Parents’ Heart Health Mistakes.” She argues that despite decades of advice to change our diet and lifestyle in order to reduce our risk of heart disease, we still depend far too much on drugs and expensive procedures like stents.

She says:

Too often, the American approach to heart disease amounts to shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped.

To support this argument, she refers to a recent paper published on the Tsimane, an indigenous population in the Bolivian Amazon. The study found that the rate of coronary atherosclerosis in the Tsimane was one-fifth of that observed in the United States (and the lowest that has ever been measured). Nearly nine in 10 Tsimane had unobstructed coronary arteries and no evidence of heart disease, and the researchers estimated that the average 80-year-old Tsimane has the same vascular age as an American in his mid-50s.

I certainly agree with Ms. Brody so far, and her analogy that the American approach to heart disease amounts to shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped is spot on.

The problem is what comes next, as she attempts to answer the question of why the Tsimane have so much less heart disease than Americans:

Protein accounts for 14 percent of their calories and comes primarily from animal meats that, unlike American meats, are very low in artery-clogging saturated fat. [emphasis mine]

Does saturated fat “clog” your arteries?
Artery-clogging saturated fat? Are we still using that phrase in 2017?

As I’ve written before, on average, long-term studies do not show an association between saturated fat intake and blood cholesterol levels. (1) (I say “on average” because individual response to saturated fat can vary based on genetics and other factors—but this is a subject for another article.)

If you’re wondering whether saturated fat may contribute to heart disease in some way that isn’t related to cholesterol, a large meta-analysis of prospective studies involving close to 350,000 participants found no association between saturated fat and heart disease.

Does saturated fat really “clog” your arteries?

Are “clogged arteries” the cause of heart disease?
Moreover, as Peter Attia eloquently and thoroughly described in this article, the notion that atherosclerosis is caused by “clogged arteries” was shown to be false many years ago:

Most people, doctors included, think atherosclerosis is a luminal-narrowing condition—a so-called “pipe narrowing” condition. It’s true that eventually the lumen of a diseased vessel does narrow, but this is sort of like saying the defining feature of a subprime collateralized debt obligation (CDO) is the inevitable default on its underlying assets. By the time that happens, eleven other pathologic things have already happened and you’ve missed the opportunity for the most impactful intervention to prevent the cascade of events from occurring at all.

To reiterate: atherosclerosis development begins with plaque accumulation in the vessel wall, which is accompanied by expansion of the outer vessel wall without a change in the size of the lumen. Only in advanced disease, and after significant plaque accumulation, does the lumen narrow.

Michael Rothenberg also published an article on the fallacy of the “clogged pipe” hypothesis of heart disease. He said:

Although the image of coronary arteries as kitchen pipes clogged with fat is simple, familiar, and evocative, it is also wrong.

If heart disease isn’t caused by “clogged arteries,” what does cause it?
The answer to that question is a little more complex. For a condensed version, read my article “The Diet-Heart Myth: Why Everyone Should Know Their LDL Particle Number.” For a deeper dive, read Dr. Attia’s article.

Here’s the 15-second version, courtesy of Dr. Attia:

Atherosclerosis is caused by an inflammatory response to sterols in artery walls. Sterol delivery is lipoprotein-mediated, and therefore much better predicted by the number of lipoprotein particles (LDL-P) than by the cholesterol they carry (LDL-C).

You might think that I’m splitting hairs here over terminology, but that’s not the case. It turns out that this distinction—viewing heart disease as caused by high LDL-P and inflammation, rather than arteries clogged by saturated fat—has crucial implications when it comes to the discussion of how to prevent it.

Because while it’s true that a high intake of saturated fat can elevate LDL particle number in some people, this appears to be a minority of the population. The most common cause of high LDL-P in Americans—and elsewhere in the industrial world—is almost certainly insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. (I explain why in this article.)

And what is one of the most effective ways of treating insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome? That’s right: a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet!

News flash: diets high in saturated fat may actually prevent heart disease
Perhaps this explains why low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets (yes, including saturated fat) have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

For example, a meta-analysis of 17 low-carb diet trials covering 1,140 obese patients published in the journal Obesity Reviews found that low-carb diets were associated with significant decreases in body weight, as well as improvements in several CV risk factors, including decreases in triglycerides, fasting glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, abdominal circumference, plasma insulin, and C-reactive protein, as well as an increase in HDL cholesterol. (3)

(In case you’re wondering, low-carb diets in these studies had a null effect on LDL cholesterol: they neither increased nor decreased it.)

Saturated fat is a red herring
Instead of focusing so much on saturated fat intake, which is almost certainly a red herring, why not focus on other aspects of the Tsimane’s diet and lifestyle that might contribute to their low risk of heart disease? For example:

They are extremely active physically; Tsimane men walk an average of 17,000 steps a day, and Tsimane women walk an average of 15,000 steps a day—and they don’t sit for long periods. Ms. Brody does mention this in her article.
They don’t eat processed and refined foods. We have been far too focused on calories and macronutrient ratios and not enough on food quality. We now know that hunter–gatherers and pastoralists around the world have thrived on both high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets (like the Tsimane, who get 72 percent of calories from carbohydrate) and low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets (like the Masai and Inuit). But what all hunter–gatherer diets share in common is their complete absence of processed and refined foods.
Perhaps if we stopped focusing so much on the amount of fat and carbohydrate in our diet and started focusing more on the quality of the food we eat, we’d be better off.

And of course we also need to attend to the many other differences between our modern lifestyle (which causes heart disease) and the ancestral lifestyle (which prevents it), including physical activity, sleep, stress, light exposure, play/fun, and social support.

The Tsimane study illustrates exactly why an evolutionary perspective on diet, lifestyle, and behavior is so important. It helps us to generate hypotheses on what aspects of our modern way of life may be contributing to chronic diseases like atherosclerosis and gives us ideas about what interventions we need to make to prevent and reverse these diseases.

Source: ChrisKresser.com | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

Are There Home Treatments for Neuromas of the Feet?

By RONI CARYN RABIN

Neuromas of the foot, a painful condition caused by an inflamed nerve in the ball of the foot, can be effectively treated at home with daily massage and stretches and over-the-counter painkillers, said Dr. Jacqueline Sutera, a doctor of podiatric medicine and surgery.

“Of all the patients with neuromas I see in the office, I would say that ultimately only two of 10 might need surgery,” said Dr. Sutera, who practices in New York City and New Jersey.

Neuromas of the foot, also known as Morton’s neuromas, typically cause sharp, stabbing pain in the second, third and fourth toes. The goal of massaging and stretching is to open up the space between the bones — the metatarsals — in the ball of the foot and increase circulation, which can help reduce the pain and inflammation. Focus on the ball of the foot, not the toes, since the pain in the toes is referred pain from the ball of the foot.

Dr. Sutera recommends placing the thumbs at the top of the foot and the other fingers on the bottom of the foot — or vice versa — and pressing and massaging the bones of the ball of the foot, “creating pressure on both sides, top and bottom.” Follow massages with stretches, using your hands to “grab your forefoot and pull it apart so you’re stretching the spaces between the metatarsals in the ball of the foot.”

Massages and stretches are most effective at the end of the day, she said, ideally after a hot shower, bath or other heat application. After the massage and stretching, the area should be iced.

Since neuromas can be caused or aggravated by narrow, tight and pointy shoes or high heels, you may want to invest in comfortable, supportive footwear that has a wide toe box to help with healing and prevent recurrences, Dr. Sutera said. If you must wear high heels on occasion, wedges or platforms may be better for your feet, she said. Pads or cushioned inserts are also available to place in your shoes under the ball of your foot to help lift and separate the metatarsals.

A podiatrist can prescribe other treatments, such as physical therapy, cortisone injections for pain or custom-made orthotics.

But consult a physician before doing anything. “It’s important to get the right diagnosis,” Dr. Sutera said. “And if your symptoms get worse or persist, you should definitely go to a doctor for an X-ray and evaluation.”

Source: NY Times | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

How walking benefits the brain

You probably know that walking does your body good, but it’s not just your heart and muscles that benefit. Researchers at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) found that the foot’s impact during walking sends pressure waves through the arteries that significantly modify and can increase the supply of blood to the brain. The research will be presented today at the APS annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2017 in Chicago.

Until recently, the blood supply to the brain (cerebral blood flow or CBF) was thought to be involuntarily regulated by the body and relatively unaffected by changes in the blood pressure caused by exercise or exertion. The NMHU research team and others previously found that the foot’s impact during running (4-5 G-forces) caused significant impact-related retrograde (backward-flowing) waves through the arteries that sync with the heart rate and stride rate to dynamically regulate blood circulation to the brain.

In the current study, the research team used non-invasive ultrasound to measure internal carotid artery blood velocity waves and arterial diameters to calculate hemispheric CBF to both sides of the brain of 12 healthy young adults during standing upright rest and steady walking (1 meter/second). The researchers found that though there is lighter foot impact associated with walking compared with running, walking still produces larger pressure waves in the body that significantly increase blood flow to the brain. While the effects of walking on CBF were less dramatic than those caused by running, they were greater than the effects seen during cycling, which involves no foot impact at all.

“New data now strongly suggest that brain blood flow is very dynamic and depends directly on cyclic aortic pressures that interact with retrograde pressure pulses from foot impacts,” the researchers wrote. “There is a continuum of hemodynamic effects on human brain blood flow within pedaling, walking and running. Speculatively, these activities may optimize brain perfusion, function, and overall sense of wellbeing during exercise.”

“What is surprising is that it took so long for us to finally measure these obvious hydraulic effects on cerebral blood flow,” first author Ernest Greene explained. “There is an optimizing rhythm between brain blood flow and ambulating. Stride rates and their foot impacts are within the range of our normal heart rates (about 120/minute) when we are briskly moving along.”

Source: Science Daily | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

NYC Foot Doctors Discuss Causes of Big Toe Pain and Treatment Options

Big toe pain is a big problem in New York City. The big toe’s function is to provide leverage to the foot during the push-off phase of the gait cycle. Along with the little toe, the health of the big toe is essential in maintaining balance while you stand. It is impossible to walk without a limp if your big toe hurts, and most people with big toe pain cannot run or even stand for long periods of time. There are many different issues associated with big toe discomfort, according to the best foot doctors in NYC at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine.

How Serious Is Big Toe Pain?

Do not delay in seeking treatment if your big toe is hurting; after all, pain is your body’s warning signal that trouble is brewing. We offer many non-invasive treatments to take the edge off immediately. At a minimum, big toe pain stems from an obvious injury—such as stubbing the toe and activating a bundle of pain receptors or digging your toe into the turf, causing tiny tears in the ligament. At worst, you could have an underlying structural deformity, disease, or a vascular issue that could worsen, require amputation, or become life-threatening.

Big Toe Warning Signs

Look out for…

  • Swelling, bruising, AND pain: There is a good chance a traumatic injury has occurred.
  • Sudden onset of swelling, redness, and excruciating pain: You may be having a gout attack.
  • Pain and swelling, but no bruising: You may have an overuse injury.
  • Stiffness, burning, or throbbing: You may have arthritis pain.
  • A big lump: It could be a ganglion cyst, neuroma, lipoma, fibromatosis, a bunion, or (rarely) a bone tumor.
  • Sudden discoloration or coldness: There may be a circulation issue like a blood clot or arterial blockage.
  • Nail pain accompanied by drainage, redness, and swelling: You may have an infected ingrown nail.

Seeing a foot and ankle specialist in the early stages of pain can help you get the correct diagnosis from the start to reduce your chances of progression, surgical intervention, and unnecessary complications.

Diagnosing Big Toe Pain

Pain and swelling generally appear together when a patient complains of problems with the big toe. Other symptoms may include redness, discoloration, burning, warmth, bruising, stiffness, numbness, and nail pain. Sometimes there is pain even with rest, or the pain is most acutely felt in the morning. Patients may have difficulty wearing their favorite shoes. Keep in mind that the feeling of physical pain can vary greatly from person to person; it can be sharp or a dull ache, shooting like electrical pulses, or a burning warmth.

NYC foot doctors at The Center For Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine may be able to tell what’s wrong simply by conducting a basic physical examination and asking you a few questions about your symptoms, recent activities, diet, and medical history. Other times, we may request a urine or blood sample to rule out conditions like infection or gout. Biopsies and cultures can be tested to look for specific pathogens or diseases. X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans can be used to rule out bone and tissue damage. Accurate diagnosis is of utmost importance to our foot specialists, so we have all the diagnostic tools we need right here.

Why Does My Big Toe Hurt?

The most common causes of big toe pain we treat are:

  • Arthritis: Wear-and-tear or an immune system disorder causes degradation of cartilage, stiffness, inflammation, and debilitating pain.
  • Blue toe syndrome: Blood vessel damage causes reduced blood and oxygen flow to the toe, causing changes in color and sudden pain.
  • Bunions: A combination of heredity and ill-fitting shoes causes the big toe joint to drift out of alignment.
  • Capsulitis: Stress and improper footwear cause the fluid-filled sac surrounding the toe joint to inflame.
  • Diabetes: Blood vessel damage can cause pain, deformity, and sensitivity changes in the toe joint.
  • Fractures: Broken bones in the big toe can occur if a heavy object is dropped on the toe, the toe is stubbed with significant force against a hard object, or from overuse during sports activity.
  • Gout: An excessive amount of uric acid build-up in the body causes the formation of urate crystals in the blood, which pools in the toe joint, causing excruciating pain, inflammation, redness, and tenderness.
  • Ingrown toenail: Injury, improper clipping technique, or heredity causes the nail to grow into the flesh rather than upward and outward.
  • Sesamoiditis: Inflammation of the two bones beneath the toe occur with sports that involve a lot of toe work and jumping (like dancing) or with a lot of high heel wearing.
  • Tennis toe: Repeat damage from hard stops while running causes blood to accumulate beneath the nail, causing a throbbing pain and discoloration beneath the nail.
  • Turf toe: Hyperextension as the toe bends too far backward causes strain and damage in the ligaments, which is accompanied by pain along the bottom of the foot, inflammation, and tenderness. 

Treatment for Toe Pain in NYC

Naturally, your treatment will depend upon your diagnosis. Most conditions can benefit from PRICE treatment (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). Your prescription could be as minimal as easy at-home therapies, over-the-counter ibuprofen, careful monitoring for signs of progression, and stretching. In some cases, a change in footwear and custom orthotics can help.

In the office, we offer a number of advanced pain therapies beyond the typical cortisone shot. Advanced injection therapies include biopuncture, platelet rich plasma, and stem cells. Pain lasers, cryotherapy tools, ultrasonic debridement, ultrasound therapy, and shockwave therapy can all be used to trigger natural healing mechanisms in an area that typically features reduced circulation (and, as a result, slower healing).

We can refer you to another specialist to help with the treatment of vascular issues or complex disease like diabetes. We can prescribe you medication to treat a number of conditions or antibiotics/antifungals for infections. Dietary changes are necessary for the management of gout. Some conditions—such as bunions—can only be completely healed through surgery. Our team of board-certified podiatric surgeons brings the most up-to-date techniques, methods, tools, and training to the operating room. Those same doctors guide you through rehabilitation, so you won’t need to visit a different facility to recover. Contact us for the best big toe pain treatment NYC has to offer.

Source: Dr. Geldwert | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

The Purse Apothecary

BY Robyn Prescott

Does your busy lifestyle sometimes throw unexpected challenges your way—a restaurant menu sure to cause you digestive grief, a stressful business meeting, or a tickle in your throat forecasting an impending cold? Prepare for these and other nasty surprises with natural remedies you can carry in your purse.

As a practising naturopath with a busy life, I long ago discovered a useful trick for meeting unanticipated challenges: quick on-the-go remedies I can carry in my purse. Along with some natural vanilla-scented lip balm and a tub of homemade healing calendula cream for accidental cuts, I carry a selection of natural remedies in my purse and use them as needed.

Having these items in my purse gives me a sense of personal power and allows me to take action to prevent colds, eat out comfortably, and mediate anxiety in situations where I need to perform. Use the following tips to create your own purse apothecary so you too can face adversity with strength.

HERBAL TINCTURES TO BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Stressful situations such as work deadlines or constantly feeling overwhelmed in your life can dramatically affect your immune system’s function. Extended periods of stress can suppress the immune system’s fighting abilities, leaving you more vulnerable to infections such as colds and flus.

When combatting the initial cold symptoms, it is important to ward off unwanted viruses and bacteria by killing them and stimulating your immune system’s defences. One of the first signs of a cold is a sore throat, often due to the start of an infection. To quickly combat the viruses or bacteria your throat and mouth may be harbouring, you can use a potent herbal antimicrobial (germ-killing) tincture.

Here are a few herbs to look for that are excellent for boosting immune function when you start feeling those cold or flu symptoms coming on.

WHAT IS A TINCTURE?

A tincture is a combination of herbs extracted with the appropriate alcoholic percentage best suited to remove the active ingredient from the desired herb. Generally, tinctures contain a variety of herbs with different actions for maximum benefit.

Tinctures are usually sold in 100 mL, 250 mL, or 500 mL dark brown bottles to avoid light damage to the herbs. The bottle is topped with a squeeze dropper allowing you to administer the appropriate dose accurately to the drop.

Tinctures are often prescribed as either a dropperful two to three times per day or 20 to 60 drops per day (there are approximately 20 drops or 1 mL in a dropper) or as directed by the prescribing health care practitioner.

The tincture is often taken alone but can also be taken in a glass of water if needed.

Here are a few herbs to look for that are excellent for boosting immune function when you start feeling those cold or flu symptoms coming on.

ANTIMICROBIAL HERBS: ANDROGRAPHIS AND MYRRH

Two very potent antimicrobial herbs are andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) and myrrh (Commiphora spp.).

Andrographis has been shown to reduce frequency and severity of cough while also clearing mucus.

Myrrh has been used traditionally to inhibit the growth of bacteria and decrease inflammation.

SOOTHING AND HEALING MARSHMALLOW

Another very important herb to help heal and soothe the mucosal lining of your throat is marshmallow (Althea officinalis). Because of its therapeutic properties, this herb is called a demulcent (it coats and lines organs, allowing them to heal and be protected from damage). The tincture works best if it can be taken preventively, starting as soon as the undesired symptoms begin.

DIGESTIVE ENZYMES FOR GAS AND BLOATING

It is easy to find ourselves in situations where food choices are less than optimal. This is where digestive enzymes in your portable apothecary can come in handy. Although there are many types of digestive enzymes, a complex of enzymes derived from plant sources may be best.

Usually, this type of supplement consists of a spectrum of different enzymes that each help digest a particular food group. For example, lactase digests dairy products and lipase helps digest fats. Digestive enzymes help break down the food we eat, which reduces the likelihood that we will experience the negative side effects of gas and bloating.

TIP: Keep in mind that digestive enzymes are not a permanent solution if you experience persistent gas and bloating. Useful for occasional situations that you cannot avoid, digestive enzymes in your purse may come in handy.

PASSION FLOWER FOR ANXIOUS MOMENTS

If you suffer from anxiety in social situations, experience stage fright before public speaking, or generally feel anxious, it may be helpful to have some passion flower on hand to help you get through these stressful moments.

Passion flower has been used for many years as a mild sedative, relaxation, and calming medicine. In recent animal studies it has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve memory through potentially affecting GABA receptors in our brain (which are thought to control fear and anxiety).

Although passion flower is considered a mild sedative, it is important to make sure this is the right herb for you based on allergies you may have or the type of job you do. Some people can have an allergic reaction or feel more sedated than normal.

Please consult your health care practitioner for proper dosing and safety instructions prior to taking any new herbs or supplements. Many herbs and supplements can interact with medication, and it is important to ensure they are safe for you.

WHAT CAN BUSY MEN CARRY IN THEIR BACKPACK?

WITCH HAZEL can be used as a topical cleanser that closes up open hair follicles after shaving and protects the skin. It can also help avoid redness after shaving, as it reduces inflammation and cools the skin.
A NATURAL DEODORANT STICK containing sage extract can be used to kill unwanted odour-producing bacteria naturally and also reduce the risk of skin irritation.
GINSENG (Panex ginseng) can be used to help increase mental capacity when you need to perform at a big presentation or meeting.

Source: Alive.com | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

Study ties Mediterranean diet to larger brain volume

Can eating a Mediterranean diet help you hold on to more brain cells in older age? A study published online Jan. 4, 2017, by Neurology suggests there’s an association. Scientists measured the brain volumes of about 400 dementia-free people, taken when participants were age 73 and again at age 76. Researchers then compared the changes in brain volume over the three years to questionnaire answers about how well participants stuck to a Mediterranean-style diet. The diet includes lots of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes, and whole grains; moderate amounts of fish, dairy foods, and red wine; and limited amounts of red meat and poultry.

Sticking to the diet was associated with a lower amount of total brain shrinkage over the three-year study period. The finding is only observational and doesn’t prove that eating a Mediterranean diet slows age-related brain shrinkage. But other studies have linked eating a Mediterranean diet to larger brain volumes. The diet is also associated with better thinking skills, a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and a reduced risk of dying from heart disease or cancer.

Source: Harvard Health Publications| Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

The Best Swim Workouts + 8 Key Benefits of Swimming

Swimming is a sport that we seem to do often when we’re young and then slack off on as we age. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in fact, 36 percent of children aged 7–17 years old swim at least six times a year, compared to only 15 percent of adults. (1)

But if you haven’t hit the pool in some time or find yourself swimming only during warmer months, you’re missing out. That’s because swim workouts are one of the best activities you can do for your body year-round. Read on to discover why it might be time to grab your goggles and swim cap.

8 Benefits of Swimming

There’s no such thing as a miracle workout but, if there was, swimming would be pretty high on the list. With both physical and mental benefits, swimming workouts can really improve your overall health in a short amount of time. And, luckily, you don’t need to be the next Michael Phelps to reap the effects either.

1. Your brain will work better. You’ll get more than just a swimmer’s body when you take up swim workouts; your brain will get a boost, too. Swimming has been found to increase blood flow to the brain, which leads to more oxygen. That means you’ll experience more alertness, better memory and cognitive function. (1)

One interesting study found that just being in a pool of warm water that’s at least chest-level can have a positive effect on blood flow to the brain; participants increased blood flow to their cerebral arteries by 14 percent. (2)

2. Swimming helps kids achieve. It turn out that getting little ones in the water early is a good idea as well. A study of 7,000 children under 5 years old found that children who participated in swimming at a young age achieved skills and reached physical milestones earlier than their non-swimming peers, regardless of socio-economic background. (3) Their literacy and numeric skills were better, too. Better get the floaties!

3. You’ll get a mood boost. If you only swim during the summer months, it’s time to break out your swimsuit during the winter. That’s because, despite the lower temperatures, one study found that swimmers who hit the pool regularly between October and January reported less fatigue, tension and memory loss. (4)

Not only that, but the swimmers who suffered from ailments like rheumatism, fibromyalgia or asthma found that wintertime swimming eased their aches and pains.

4. You’ll lower blood pressure. If you suffer from hypertension, swim workouts are an excellent way to lower resting blood pressure. One study found that, over a 10-week period, men and women who had previously been sedentary but had hypertension decreased their resting heart rate significantly. This is particularly useful for people who struggle with other exercises because of their weight, asthma or injuries. (5)

Another study found that after a year of swimming regularly, patients with hypertension lowered their blood pressure while also improving their insulin sensitivity, which is key to avoiding type 2 diabetes. (6)

5. You’ll live longer. If you’ve been comparing life extenders, swimming is another one to add to your list. One study of more than 40,000 men between 20–90 years old found that those participants who swam or did other pool exercises like water jogging or aqua aerobics lowered their risk of dying from any cause by nearly 50 percent than those men who were sedentary, walked regularly or were runners. (7)

6. You can reduce your risk of heart disease. In a study of patients with osteoarthritis, researchers found that swimming just as effective — and sometimes more so — as cycling in increasing cardiovascular function and reducing inflammation. (8)

7. You’ll reduce lower-back pain. Skip the painkillers and hit the pool instead. One study found that patients with lower back pain who did aquatic exercises at least twice a week showed significant improvement in pain. And after 6 months, 90 percent of the study’s participants felt they’d improved after their time in the program, no matter what their swimming ability was at the start of the study. (9)

8. It serves as an ideal alternative to high-impact exercise. Swimming uses muscles you don’t normally engage, is easy on the joints, making it a great alternative to high-impact activities and allows you to zone out without the fear of tripping on something like running.

In short, swimming is pretty darn awesome!

Does Swimming Work for Weight Loss?

Those other benefits are great, you say, but “I want to lose weight.” Does swimming work for weight loss? The answer is probably.

Like any other exercise, how effective swimming is for weight loss depends on a variety of factors: how long you’re swimming for, what you’re eating throughout the day and what you’re doing once you’re in the pool. If you spend most of your time adjusting your bathing suit instead of moving or swim dozens of laps but subsist on a fast food diet, chances are you’re not going to lose weight.

But let’s assume that you’re just a regular Jane or Joe who wants to incorporate swimming into your normal workout routine. Will swimming help you lose weight? This is where things can get a bit complicated. Studies about this are contradictory.

One study examined the effects of swimming and walking on body weight, fat distribution, lipids, glucose and insulin in older women. The study found that after six months, swimmers had reduced their waist and hip sizes more than walkers and had increased how far they could swim in 12 minutes; walkers hadn’t increased how far they could walk. And after a year, swimmers had reduced their body weight and cholesterol levels more than the walkers had. (10)

But other studies have found that swimming can increase people’s food consumption. And sometimes, swimmers haven’t lost any weight at all. But if you focus less on the numbers on the scale and instead on your body, you might find that swimming is the ideal workout for you, even if you aren’t dropping pounds.

For starters, swimming at a moderate pace also burns about 270 calories in just half hour. (11) Increase the intensity and you’re looking at about 700 calories an hour.

And unlike other workouts, like running or cycling, swimming isn’t only a cardio activity. Because water is denser than air — by nearly 800 times — every swimming workout becomes a strength training session, where you’re building muscle and tone along with burning calories with each stroke. Plus, you’re likely using muscles that you normally wouldn’t, meaning you’ll start to see definition in new places.

Another bonus is that swimming is gentle on your joints, so you’re unlikely to get injured in a pool. Unlike other exercises, unless you’re doing some seriously intense swimming, you don’t really need recovery time after pool exercises. And if you are recovering from an injury, swim workouts are an excellent way to keep moving while you recover

3 Swim Workouts for Different Levels

So you’re ready to hit the pool? It’s important to keep a few things in mind. For starters, swim workouts can be way more intense than you’d originally expect, because working out in the water is completely different than on land. You’re constantly in motion to keep yourself from sinking, your lungs are adjusting to breathing differently and muscles you didn’t know you had are in motion. In short, it’s tough!

When you’re first starting out, the best way to keep from feeling too winded too soon is by divvying up your workout into a few short intervals. You’ll want to vary the strokes, the intensity and rest periods as well. You can also add some pool toys to change things up, like using a kickboard to tone thighs or play water sports with friends.

For each workout below, the goal will be given along with expected strokes and distances. Why do more strokes than just the crawl? Variety plus gives your muscles a break. Remember, an Olympic-sized swimming pool is 50 meters long, so one “lap” would be 100 meters.

Remember, please consult your doctor before beginning any type of training program.

1. Beginner Swim Workout

The principal goal is to learn the four major strokes — the crawl or freestyle, the backstroke, the breaststroke and the butterfly — and swim continuously without taking breaks, aided by breathing properly.

Workout distance: 700 meters

Beginner workout (rest between each set):

2 x 50 meter crawl (warmups)
2 x 50 meter backstroke (focus on swimming straight)
2 x 50 meter breaststroke (focus on technique)
2 x 50 meter butterfly (if you can’t do butterfly, then do crawl)
2 x 100 meter IM (25 meters of each: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, crawl)
2 x 50 meter crawl (cool-down)
2. Intermediate Swim Workout

Until you’ve mastered the butterfly, you shouldn’t advance to this workout. Here the goal is to improve your swim technique for all four strokes and develop excellent breathing.

Workout distance: 1500 meters

Intermediate workout (rest after each 100 meters or lap if need):

300 meters warmup (alternate the four strokes)
4 x 100 meters IM (“sprint” 1st and 3rd lap, swim easy on 2nd and last IM)
4 x 50 meters breaststroke
4 x 50 meters butterfly
4 x 50 meters backstroke
200 meters cool-down (alternate the four strokes)
3. Advanced Swim Workout

Advanced swim workouts includes more challenging swimming drills and breathing technique. These drills will develop into a very strong swimmer with outstanding stamina.

Workout distance:

300 meters crawl warmup
4 x 200 meters with alternate breathing (50 meters every 6th stroke; 50 meters every 5th; 50 meters every fourth; 50 meters every 3rd)
3 x 100 meters (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke)
8 x 50 meters sprints (swim each without taking a breath; rest briefly after each)
8 x 25 meters sprints (swim each without taking a breath; rest briefly after each)
4 x 100 meters IM (rest 30–60 seconds after each 100)
300 meters cool-down (alternate the four strokes)
Swimming Precautions
Happily, swimming is one of the sports where you’re least likely to injure yourself. However, it does require an adjustment from the way you operate on land so, if you’re not an experienced swimmer or have health issues, particularly cardiovascular disease, you should contact your doctor to ensure that striking up a swimming routine is safe. And if you’re unsure about how to swim, full stop, well, now is the time to get a lesson! Most community pools offer adult swimming lessons throughout the year.

Easy on your wallet, swimming doesn’t require any gear except for a swimsuit. If you’re hitting the pool regularly, you should get a pair of swimming goggles so that you don’t have to worry about chlorine flying in your eyes. And ladies, you might want to invest in a swim cap — although it’s not particularly stylish looking, it’ll protect your hair from the chemicals from the water so it doesn’t start feeling rough or get discolored (if you dye your hair, this is a must!).

Finally, giving yourself time to adjust in the pool is crucial to sticking to your swim workouts. Because it’s so different from working out on land, it might take you a bit to get the hang of how your body feels while moving in water, and that’s totally okay! Swim workouts are some of the most forgiving.

Final Thoughts
While swimming is popular with children and tapers off as we age, it’s one of the best workouts we can give our body.
The benefits of swimming workouts are vast and range from improving your brain function and mood to reducing your risk of heart disease and living longer.
While the jury is still deciding on whether swimming is the best workout for weight loss, it’s excellent for keeping in shape and building muscle tone.
Not only is swimming a cardio workout, but it’s strength training as well. Hello, muscles!
Ease into pool workouts to ensure you feel comfortable and maintain them.

Source: Dr. Axe | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide