3 Reasons to Consider a Daily Probiotic

3 Reasons to Consider a Daily Probiotic

When you go to the doctor’s office for a bacterial infection such as strep throat, you’ll likely receive a prescription for antibiotics to clear up the illness. Yet, if you’ve been down the vitamin aisle lately, chances are you’ve come across probiotics. What are these new supplements, and why are so many people taking them?

While antibiotics are used to zap the bad bacteria in your body, probiotics are used to promote the helpful bacteria that support intestinal, and ultimately, whole-body health. When we take antibiotics, these medications also naturally take away some of the good bacteria our body needs to thrive. Probiotics help to restore the essential balance in our intestinal tract. Moreover, aside from antibiotics, there are many other dietary, environmental, and medical factors which can affect our population of good bacteria. Thus, probiotics can be a healthy choice for many populations – with a doctor’s permission, of course.

If you’re not already doing so, here are three reasons to consider discussing a probiotic supplement with your healthcare provider:

Prevent Gut Dysbiosis

Because probiotics help to maintain a healthy population of microorganisms in the intestines, they could help to prevent against a serious condition known as gut dysbiosis. When factors such as age, diet, stress, and disease diminish the abundance and diversity of healthy gut bacteria, it can impact the homeostasis, or stable state, of the gut. Gut dysbiosis occurs when this imbalance happens consistently. The condition is linked not only to intestinal issues such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but also central nervous system disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. Fortunately, probiotics have been shown to help regulate these bacteria for improved intestinal health.

Support Immune System Health

The intestinal immune system encounters more foreign and harmful substances than any other system in the body, making it a key player in disease prevention. In fact, as much as 70% of the body’s entire immune system is located in the intestines. Yet, to provide the right immune responses when needed, the intestinal tract needs a healthy balance of bacteria. Taking probiotics can help to promote that balance, and use of these supplements has even been linked to prevention of the common cold.

Aid in Weight Management

Losing weight and keeping it off can be challenging. While eating a diet rich in lean protein, whole grains, and nutrient-rich fruit and vegetables is essential to maintaining a healthy weight, probiotics could also play a beneficial role in weight management. Specifically, the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium lactics B-420 appears to help control body fat and assist with the regulation of body weight.

7 Natural Options for Boosting Libido

7 Natural Options for Boosting Libido

Sex drive can be notoriously difficult to measure. Most people experience surges in libido that come and go naturally, but what’s considered normal may be very different from one person to the next.

Oftentimes, men and women tend to experience a decline in sex drive with age. While this may be due in part to hormonal changes, it can also result from contributing factors such as stress and certain physical conditions. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help rekindle your desire again. If you’re looking to explore some natural libido-enhancing remedies first, however, here are some options to consider.

Get Ample Sleep

It’s no surprise that feeling exhausted and being in the mood are often at odds with one another. Yet, the link between quality sleep and a healthy sex drive has even been backed by research, so make it a priority to clock your seven to eight hours each night.

Alleviate Stress

Stress and libido are closely related. When the stress hormone cortisol is elevated, it can reduce the production of sex hormones like testosterone. Fortunately, you can control your stress with management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, talking about your concerns with your partner, and therapy, if needed. 

Focus on Your Relationship

Sometimes, issues surrounding sexual desires could stem from larger relationship challenges. Whether there seems to be little romance or you’re experiencing increased bickering, many relationship issues can be solved through open, ongoing communication. You might also consider instituting date nights, cuddle sessions, and similar methods for shifting the focus back towards your partnership.

Eat a Nutritious Diet

Diet influences many aspects of health – including your sexual wellbeing. A heart-healthy diet, in particular, can improve sex health by minimizing the risk of metabolic syndrome, which is associated with erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular issues. To promote both heart health and a strong libido, be sure fill your plate with plenty of fruits and vegetables, seafood, whole grains, and healthy oils.

Exercise Regularly

Similar to diet, exercise can also play a role in libido. Physical activity increases activity within the sympathetic nervous system, and can therefore promote sexual stimulation. It can also minimize stress by increasing endorphins, thereby kicking off a two-fold effect to support sex drive. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. 

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese could alter hormone levels, which can have a direct impact on libido. Of course, there are also secondary effects of carrying excess weight: for one, being at an unhealthy weight could lead to reduced body confidence, which may thwart sexual desires. Fortunately, the diet and exercise strategies above can lead to both weight loss and healthy, long-term weight management.

Consider Herbal Supplements

While research is limited, one study suggests that certain herbs could enhance sexual function. Maca, ginko, ginseng, and tribulus have been associated with the benefits, but be sure to speak with your physician before introducing any herbal supplements into your daily routine.

7 Beauty Tips for Naturally Vibrant Skin

7 Beauty Tips for Naturally Vibrant Skin

Maintaining healthy, luminous skin isn’t impossible, but it does require some self-care. Fortunately, many of these steps are quick, simple, and can be introduced easily into your daily routine. And, because many of the strategies to boost skin wellness also go hand-in-hand with overall healthy habits, you may even see some other benefits as a result. Here are some of the most powerful ways to improve your skin’s health naturally.

Always Remove Your Makeup

Your skin needs to breathe while you’re resting, but makeup can clog your pores and prevent it from getting the air it needs. To keep imperfections like blackheads and blemishes at bay always remove your makeup every night before bed – no exception. If you don’t have time to wash your face entirely, at least use a cotton pad and olive oil to gently remove lingering cosmetics.

Get Plenty of Wholesome Nutrients

Every system in your body requires proper nutrition to function its best, and your skin is no different. Foods rich in healthy fats, including fatty fish, avocadoes, and nuts, are especially powerful for keeping skin hydrated and supple. Nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, fruit, and lean protein will also help round out a skin-healthy diet.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise increases blood flow, which helps to boost skin health. When you get active, circulation increases, which carries essential nutrients to the skin. Plus, increased blood flow also helps to carry away waste such as free radicals, which could otherwise exacerbate the signs of aging.

Stay Hydrated

Every single cell in your body requires water – especially your skin cells. Your skin is an organ made up of water, and without enough hydration, it can begin to look flaky, dull, and aged. Be sure to get at least glasses a day to keep your skin looking its best.

Sleep Soundly

The signs of a poor night’s sleep are likely to show up on your skin immediately, in the form of puffy eyes or undereye bags. Yet, a pattern of bad sleep can also take its toll on your skin. Because cells regenerate during sleep, getting ample rest is essential to fighting the signs of aging. Aim for at least eight hours of shut-eye each night to promote a natural glow.

Keep Your Skin Moisturized

Dry skin loses its elasticity and makes it easier to spot fine lines and wrinkles. For this reason, you should be applying a gentle moisturizer every morning and evening. Look for one with natural, non-irritating ingredients, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Never Skip Sunblock

The final but most important rule for maintaining healthy skin is to apply sunblock each and every day. Even if you’re only outdoors briefly, UV damage can add up, and will eventually lead to wrinkles, sun spots, and other signs of aging. Make sure your moisturizer has an SPF of 30 or higher, and that it can block out both harmful UVA and UVB rays to keep your skin not only safe, but healthy-looking.

How Does the Weather Influence Your Health?

How Does the Weather Influence Your Health?

Whether it’s a migraine or a foul mood, many people believe that certain weather patterns can trigger wellness issues. If you have arthritis, for instance, you might find that your joint pain seems to flare up with certain temperatures or conditions. But does the weather really impact our health, or is it just in our heads? Let’s take a look at some research to find out.

Colds & Flus

The CDC states that flu activity peaks from December to February, with the full season stretching from October to May. Is it a coincidence that these months also see the chilliest temperatures? Not according to 2015 research, published in Viruses. The study shows a correlation between plummeting temperatures and humidity levels and the uptick in infections. The theory is that breathing in poorly humidified air – hot or cold – can dry the nasal passages, thus decreasing resistance to viruses. Of course, colder season also tends to restrict us to indoor activities, where we might be more likely to pick up germs from others. Even if chilly, dry weather does impact resistance, germs are still the culprit behind flus and colds, so try to avoid direct contact with anyone who is sick and wash your hands frequently.

Migraines

The triggers for migraines have long been debated, but those who experience them often cite weather patterns as a causative agent. While the verdict is still out on whether cold temps could affect these severe headaches, research has indicated that cluster headaches appear more frequently during transitions from winter to spring and spring to summer.

Mood Changes

Feeling gloomy as a result of less sunshine? You’re not alone. More than 3 million people in the U.S. experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) each year, a condition characterized by depression which typically starts in the fall and persists through the winter. Reduced sunlight can affect the body’s circadian rhythm, serotonin levels, and melatonin, all of which influence mood. Symptoms of SAD include feeling sluggish, losing interest in your favorite activities, and feeling depressed most of the day, almost every day. Of course, dreary weather can also lead to some of these feelings on a less intense scale. If you think you could have SAD, however, don’t feel as if you have to “tough it out;” doctors can offer treatments such as light therapy to help you address the condition.

Chronic Pain

Pain from conditions like osteoarthritis is believed to be worsened by damp, cold weather. Some studies suggest cloudy, rainy weather indeed increases severe discomfort, but other research debunks this theory. Persistent pain caused by arthritis and other chronic conditions tends to wax and wane to begin with, which makes it challenging to establish a definitive link between weather patterns and aches. Still, the Cloudy with a Chance of Pain project, which aims to correlate chronic pain with weather, suggests planning any burdensome activities around any weather patterns you believe to influence your pain levels.

5 Benefits of Getting the Flu Vaccine

5 Benefits of Getting the Flu Vaccine

The CDC recommends everyone over the age of six months receives a flu vaccination, with the exception of people who are allergic to the vaccine or its ingredients. For individuals who are at a high risk for flu-related complications, including pregnant women, seniors, and children under the age of five, it’s especially important to be vaccinated. Aside from simply complying with general health recommendations, however, there many benefits to receiving the flu vaccine. Flu season spans the fall, winter, and spring with activity peaking from December through February, so here’s why you should get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so.

Avoid the Flu Entirely

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary from person to person based on factors like age and current health. Yet, in many cases, it can prevent the flu altogether. For instance, during the 2016-2017 season, it’s estimated that the vaccination prevented more than 5 million cases of the flu.

Experience Fewer or Reduced Symptoms

If you do contract the flu despite receiving the vaccine, it’s possible that your symptoms will be less severe than those of a person who wasn’t vaccinated. Typically, symptoms include fever and chills, muscle or body aches, fatigue, headaches, cough, sore throat, and runny nose. Yet, in at-risk populations as well as people with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, and diabetes among others, flu-like complications can become deadly. The vaccine can minimize symptom severity and therefore decreases the risk of death in populations like young children and people 65 and older.

Prevent Flu-Related Hospitalization

Because the vaccine can reduce the risk of the flu and its complications, it can also help you stay out of the hospital. Within recent years, immunizations have helped reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization by 40%. Of those who do require hospitalization, vaccinated parties may be 82% less likely to be admitted to ICU.

Save Your PTO

While it may not be a health-related reason, saving your paid time off (PTO) is still a compelling incentive for getting vaccinated. Since many employees receive just 10 to 15 days of PTO each year, it’s important to use them wisely. Staying at home with the flu is certainly not anyone’s idea of a fun day off.

Reduce Risk of Cardiovascular Events

Recently, researchers discovered individuals with high blood pressure who receive the flu shot are 16% less likely to experience a deadly cardiovascular event, and 18% less likely to die from any cause. Medical experts have long suspected that the flu puts stress on the body, which could trigger stroke or heart attack. Because patients with high blood pressure are already at an elevated risk for these conditions, it’s critically important for them to be vaccinated.

In addition to these benefits, there’s even more good news to consider. Most local pharmacies now offer convenient flu shot services right at their locations, so you don’t even have to schedule an appointment. And, chances are your insurance will cover the cost of the shot, too. You can always discuss your candidacy for the vaccination with your physician, but unless you have a known allergy to the shot or its ingredients, they’re likely to give you their approval.

How Does High-Intensity Step Training Help Stroke Survivors?

How Does High-Intensity Step Training Help Stroke Survivors?

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain becomes blocked. When the brain cells cannot get sufficient oxygen, they may die off, resulting in lasting symptoms such as difficulty walking and speaking. Although some challenges may be permanent, there are a number of rehabilitative therapies that can help stroke survivors recover as much function as possible.

One form of rehabilitation which has recently emerged as an effective therapy for boosting walking skills is high-step training. While rehabilitative measures typically focus on low-intensity walking to help stroke survivors restore balance and walking skills, experts believed this approach isn’t challenging enough to help patients navigate real-world scenarios. To test their theory, a research team at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis compared the patient outcomes in low-impact training programs against those from a higher-intensity stepping program.

Participants were involved in one of three programs: high-intensity steps with variable tasks, such as steps on uneven surfaces, inclines, or over obstacles while moving forward; high-intensity steps only moving forward; or low-intensity steps with variable tasks. Stroke survivors in both high-intensity groups were able to walk faster and farther than those in the low-intensity group.

In the high-intensity groups, the majority of participants (57% to 80%) made noteworthy clinical gains, but less than a third of participants made the same improvements in the low-intensity group. Participants in the high-intensity group also reported improved balance and confidence.

Although rehabilitative walking programs have historically taken a more gradual approach, these findings suggest that pushing patients to walk further, faster, and across a variety of conditions could challenge the nervous system more effectively. In doing so, stroke survivors may improve mobility and witness noticeable improvements in a shorter amount of time.

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