Natural Treatments for Depression

Depression is a wide epidemic in the modern world. Estimates show that approximately 19 million adults in the United States are affected by depression, close to 10% of the population! Additionally, depression affects millions of adolescents and children, with an estimated 23% being affected. Depression in our culture, while common, is still taboo for many. Upwards of 70% of individuals are unlikely to seek treatment, and for those that do, they are mostly commonly prescribed anti-depressants as the ‘fix.’ There is no quick fix for depression, however, and its root causes can stem from lifestyle challenges, nutritional deficiencies, chemical/hormonal imbalances, and emotional struggles that must be addressed. Antidepressants have been shown to work for only 30-40% of the population, and many are prescribed a cocktail of numerous antidepressant and anxiety drugs when a single drug fails to be of benefit. Unknown to many, there are numerous natural treatments that can be used as an alternative to, or in conjunction with, antidepressant drugs.

*As always, please consult your medical physician before starting any new routine or supplements, especially if you are utilizing them in conjunction with other medications or supplements.

Exercise is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for treating depression, and it’s also the most economical! It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do, whether it’s aerobic (cardio) or anaerobic (strength training), it’s getting it in that counts. As little as 15-30 minutes a day of exercise can substantially increase the mood elevating hormones in your brain, as well as help you to reduce stress. This process is largely attributed to your body creating a direct pathway for the amino acid Tryptophan to your brain while engaged in physical activity. You don’t have to give it your all to reap the benefits of exercise; even a brisk 20 minute walk, cleaning the house, or finding a group exercise class will help you on your way! Aim for 30 minutes of mild activity a day, or start with whatever you are comfortable and able to get in.

Diet, along with exercise, is the other crucial component in changing your lifestyle for helping to treat depression. It is critical to reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet as they lack the substantial nutrients your body requires to function at an optimal level. Replace processed foods with whole foods, those that you make yourself. Keep the food your put in your meals as simple as possible, as close to their natural form. Additionally, add a fully array of fruits and vegetables to your meals and snacks. Fruits and vegetables are packed with the antioxidants and nutrients your body craves. Try adding vegetables to every meal, especially dark leafy greens. You’ll also want to try reducing the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume — both can overtax your body’s hormonal systems.

Controlling your blood sugar is also especially important in conjunction with diet, and can additionally be helped with exercise. This includes reducing the overall sugar content of your diet, be it from white sugar or even sources such as honey and maple syrup. You’ll also want to check out how food combining will help maintain a steady blood sugar over a longer period of time, and how to control your sugar cravings. When you’re blood sugar is peaking wildly again and again, it puts an enormous strain on your body’s hormonal system, especially involving the hormone insulin. Control your blood sugar and you’ll be on an even keel, able to function and think more clearly.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids have been widely shown to benefit individuals that suffer from depression, especially in conjunction with another form of treatment (be it antidepressants or a supplement). You can choose to supplement Omega 3s in the form of krill/fish oil, flax oil, chia seed oil, or hemp oil. Additionally, you can also add foods rich in Omega 3 to your diet, such as fatty fish (such as salmon), or by adding various seeds rich in Omega 3 to your diet (flax, chia, hemp). While many studies suggest the benefit of Omega 3 for depression lies in the combination of EPA and DHA, adding any Omega 3 to your diet can help tremendously. We will have a followup article specifically for Omega 3 soon!

St. John’s Wort
is a widely utilized herb for treating depression. It is also one of the few herbs where clinical trials have shown it to be as effective, if not more so, than antidepressants for those that have used it for at least 4-6 weeks. As with antidepressants, the effectiveness of St. John’s Worst can vary widely depending on the individual. Additionally, it may have interactions with other supplements and medications, so it is especially important to discuss this herb with your physician. St. John’s Wort
is widely available, from health food stores to your local drug store.

Vitamin B -Complex are the vitamins your body utilizes primarily to create energy, and include a whole host of various B vitamins. However, there are two specific B vitamins shown to help with depression: vitamin B6 and Folate. Taking various medications, such as aspirin, birth control, and other medications, have shown to reduce your body’s B6 and folate. While taking such drugs may not put you in a state of deficiency, even being on a borderline deficiency can reduce your body’s ability to produce neurotransmitters, such as seratonin and dopamine. Eating a diet rich in whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, will help you to get the B vitamins your need. You can also choose to supplement with a B vitamin complex, which can be found at all health food stores. Another natural alternative is to add brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast to your food, a natural byproduct of alcohol fermentation loaded with B Complex Vitamins!

5-HTP is a free-form amino acid supplement, known as 5-hydroxytryptophan. 5-HTP is the precursor to serotonin, one of the many feel good chemicals in your brain, and so can help boost the overall level of serotonin in your body. The dosage of 5-HTP varies depending the individual, and I highly suggest looking into the book The Mood Cure by Julia Ross for determining your individual dosage. As an individual that has suffered from depression for many years, I have found significant benefit in my life by taking 5-HTP, such as feeling more calm, relaxed, at ease, with a great mental focus. 5-HTP can be readily tracked down and almost any health food store, or online.

Healing depression can be a difficult road, and the road is drastically different for each individual. Finding and experimenting with the right supplement routine for you, be antidepressant or natural alternatives, will do wonders for your life. But again, there is no quick fix, especially for those who suffer from major depression. Couple these alternatives with a new lifestyle, including adequate rest, good food, moderate exercise, dealing with stuck emotions, and reducing stress, and you’ll be on your path!

Solutions to the 3 Most Common Causes of Back Pain

Complaints of chronic back pain are not uncommon. Whether it stems from an old injury Spineor you don’t know the cause, over 80% of Americans suffer from it. In some cases, it may be extreme and need medical attention. But most back pain can be prevented or alleviated by the following three techniques. (Remember, always get permission from your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you’ve had an injury or sharp pain).

Problem: Tightness
Solution: Stretching! If you suffer from back pain, odds are you have tension somewhere. The most common form of stretching today is yoga. But there are oMeditation on Lakether  options…there’s Somatic Stretching, (gentle stretch and small, isolated strengthening exercises), and simple gym stretches. There are also different types of yoga and different types of stretches: dynamic stretching, active stretching, passive stretching, etc. So how do you know where to start, especially when you have a specific types of tightness or pain? It’s best to see someone one-on-one, especially to start out with. A yoga or fitness expert can give you specific stretches to do, since every body is unique, and your tight area is probably different than the person next to you in yoga class. Then you can take a group class, and even do yoga videos from home.

Problem: Weakness in certain muscles
Solution: Personal Training and strengthening exercises. No one wants to admit they have a weaknpersonal traineress. But if you’re tight one place, it means your weak in another. For every yin there is a yang, so if one muscle is working over-time, another muscle is slacking off. The tight muscle pulls on other muscles, over lengthening them and causing weakness. Strenghtening these mucles is equally important to stretching-you have to work on both sides of an imbalance. Again, working one-on-one with someone can pinpoint weaknesses and give you a road-map to your strength training. If you can’t afford to continue working with a personal trainer, you can use their suggestions at the gym or in fitness classes.

Problem: Lifestyle
Solution: Awareness. This may sound cheesy, but you have to be aware of your daily activities. How’s your posture at the computer? While your driving? When you’re at work? You can’t slouch for 12 hours a day, then expect your 1 hour workout to fix it. You have to Healthy lifestylesbecome aware of your spine in everything you do. Use the things you learn from yoga and training, and apply it to everyday life. Even be aware of your posture as you lay down to sleep-8 hours can make a big difference in your spinal health.
So remember these three elements when you have back problems, whether it be: stiffness, lack of mobility, soreness or chronic pain. Just please see your doctor before starting any program, especially if you’ve had an injury or sharp pain.

Should You Go Gluten Free? And What is Gluten Anyway?

Gluten and BreadThere is a new movement in the health world: going gluten free. Gluten free is becoming mainstream, it’s no longer just for the devout health conscious among us. New gluten free products abound on the shelves, new items popping up weekly. But what is ‘gluten free’ exactly? For that matter, what’s gluten?

Gluten is a complex protein molecule found in many of the most commonly available grains. Wheat is the primary grain associated with gluten, but it can also be found in rye, barley, and ancient varieties of wheat (such as triticale, spelt, and einkorn). Gluten is the molecule responsible for the chewiness in bread products, and is in part responsible for trapping the gasses that make bread rise. Because of gluten’s sticky nature, it is also commonly used as a filler or binder in processed food, and is frequently used to make imitation meat products or boost the protein content of foods.

Going gluten free means avoiding any and all products that have gluten, be it whole wheat or barley, or any processed products that contain the flours of the gluten grains (such crackers, pasta, etc.). The reasons for going gluten free deal specifically with your overall health and your sense of well being. The major disorder associated with gluteWheatn is Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder caused by the ingestion of gluten. Symptoms of Celiac disease can be broad, but can include: bloating, diarrhea, headaches, depression, joint pain, and a multitude of others. However, it is becoming more widely accepted that Celiac disease may be the most extreme of gluten sensitivities, and that a broad range of sensitivities from the mild to the extreme exists.

The only way to be sure you have Celiac disease is to get tested by your doctor. However, many people will test negative for the condition. That doesn’t mean you aren’t sensitive to gluten, however. Many of the common symptoms of Celiac disease are also experienced by those who test negative. One of the best ways to test your sensitivity is to self-test for a gluten allergy or intolerance. Try removing gluten from your diet for a week if you suspect you may be sensitive, and note how you feel.

Many people find that by removing gluten from their diet they have increased physical energy, increased mental energy, better sleep, less joint and body aches, less headaches, better physical recovery, better digestion (including bowel movements), less skin issues (including acne and skin blemishes), and even better mood. Many of these benefits have been reaped in my own life since removing gluten from my diet, especially increased mood and body aches. Additionally, I have found that by eliminating wheat and barley specifically from my diet, many seasonal allergies that I once thought ‘normal’ have either minimized or disappeared.

CookieNote that not everyone is sensitive to gluten. Many individuals find that they tolerate gluten just fine and receive no benefit by removing it from their diet. Cutting gluten from your diet also doesn’t automatically mean your diet will be healthier than if you did include gluten. With the numerous products being released, gluten free varieties of over-processed foods are also in the mix. A gluten free cookie is still a cookie filled with sugar and excess calories – it just doesn’t have wheat or barley. However, they are numerous excellent products abound that are gluten free and healthful – choose your products wisely.

Testing positive for Celiac disease or self-testing and finding you have a gluten sensitivity is not the end of your food world. There are numerous alternatives to the common gluten grains, such as cutting out grains entirely, or including the non-gluten grains in your diet: rice, corn, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, and oats (Note: many oats are produced on equipment that also process gluten grains. If you are extremely sensitive to gluten, buy gluten-free oats, or oats processed in a gluten-free facility). While a life without bread may seem difficult, it is quite doable. You’ll want to experiment with your foods, find the dishes that best suit your tastes, and learn to incorporate them into your lifestyle. For example, try making this gluten free sunflower cake! It is especially important to read all food labels if you find you cannot tolerate gluten, as it is added to numerous products. Read carefully, and select products that do not include gluten.

As with gluten sensitivity itself, there is a spectrum of how much gluten some people can tolerate. Some will find they will be able to tolerate small amounts, while some may find they cannot tolerate any. Continue self-testing for your sensitivity and see where you lie on the spectrum! And again, if you suspect you might be at all sensitive to gluten, try cutting out all gluten products for 7 days and see how you feel!

What is Yoga? And is it for me?

Yoga. Everybody’s talking about it, studio’s are popping up everywhere, and yoga clothes are more trendy than celebrity designers. But exactly is yoga, anyway? Is it a bunch of people twisting themselves into pretzels, or some kind of religious sect? And how will it help me?

Well, there’s a few different answers. Below, we’ll review some of the basic yoga facts: The definition of yoga, the different types of yoga, and how to start.

Where did yoga come from? In short, it originated in India. The earliest evidence dates back to 3,000 B.C., over 5,000 years ago. There’s evidence of yogic meditation practice in the Vedas (the sacred text of modern-day Hinduism), and in Buddhist scripture. The word “yoga” was coined in Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras, written in the 2nd century B.C.. Yoga became a practice in many Eastern religions, including: Jainism, Sikhism, Hari Krisha, Buddhism and Hinduism. Even certain Christian communities have integrated yoga and meditation into prayer. It came to the West in the 1890’s, but really gained attention in the 1960’s and beyond. Nowadays, it’s usually a straight exercise and stretch class, and although the teachers may mention “spirituality,” it doesn’t usually contain any religious elements.

What is yoga? In the West, yoga is only known for it’s physical practice. (The yoga poses, or “asanas.”) However, these poses are only one of 8 branches of yoga. This has caused some confusion in modern day classes, as a teacher may start doing some breathwork or meditation practices. I’ve heard many students complain, “What is this, and when are we going to start doing yoga?” Technically, the purpose of the poses is to prepare your spine for long periods of meditation. So the poses themselves were not technically “spiritual” or “religious;” they were a means to meditate longer, and the meditation is supposed to create a stronger union with the “source.”
Here are the 8 Limbs of Yoga:

1. “5 Abstentions” or social values (Yama)
2. “5 Observances” which include purity and study (Niyama)
3. “Pranayama” or breathwork/breath control 
4. “Pratyahara,” withdrawal of sense organs in preparation for meditation
5. “Dharana,” or concentration. Fixing attention on a single object.
6. The physical yoga poses, or “Asanas.” Literally translated it means “seat,” the seated position used for meditation.
7. Meditation, or “Dhyana”
8. Liberation, or “Samadhi.” It’s a state of ecstasy, or union of consciousness.

So any one of these practices, including non-violence or mediation, is technically practicing yoga.

What should I expect from a modern-day yoga class? If you take class in your hometown yoga studio, it’s very likely it will be an exercise class. The West has embraced the physical form of yoga, so that is the most common practice. Many people have formed their own “types” of yoga practice which may be therapeutic, stretchy, or calorie burning. Expect it to be a physically challenging workout. But, there are some teachers that embrace the other aspects of yoga. There are classes that include chanting, breathing techniques, meditation, or even dancing. It varies from teacher to teacher and from studio to studio, so my best advice is: ask! Find your local studios, and ask questions. They should be able to explain the different classes and teachers, and find a great fit.

Yoga in Big Sur

Photo by devonbrowningart.com

Who should do yoga? Is yoga right for me? If you have any kind of injury or medical condition, always check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. There have been many studies and testimonies showing the benefits of yoga, but certain injuries and conditions can be worsened. Studies have shown the benefits of yoga can include: alleviation of back pain, reduced blood-pressure, reductions of anxiety and depression, weight-loss, and stress relief.

What are the different types of yoga? There are endless types of yoga, but I will explain the most popular. Some types of yoga are derived from ancient Hindu practices, some are branded practices by different teachers.

Hatha: One of the more ancient forms of yoga, the popular “Vinyasa Flow Yoga” comes from this, although Hatha is usually a slower pace. Every class will probably vary, and it could include many poses, cleanings practices and breathing techniques.

Vinyasa Flow/ Ashtanga/ Power Yoga: Also called “Flow Yoga,” it’s a more physically demanding, fast-paced style of yoga. The poses are timed by the speed of your breath, and it usually includes many Sun Salutations (a specific series of poses). Power Yoga is a branded form of Vinyasa Yoga. It’s the most popular form of yoga in America, but be careful if you suffer from many injuries, the fast pace may not be a good fit for you. Good for: weight-loss, calorie-burning, and static muscle strength.

Therapeutic Yoga: Usually a more slow-paced class, the teacher usually uses a knowledge of muscles and joints to bring people into “therapeutic” poses. It’s often geared to help injuries, back-pain, or older clientele. Good for: relaxation, people with pain, and senior citizens.

Yin Yoga: Power Yoga is often considered “Yang Yoga,” so Yin is it’s opposite. Most poses are down lying down, and the poses are held for an extended period of time. Muscles are allowed to stretch and open slowly, instead of being “forced” to stretch with a more vigorous class. Good for: relaxation, people with pain, senior citizens, and lowering blood-pressure.

Bikram Yoga: Bikram is a guy, who branded his own type of yoga. The class is done in a heated room, usually 105 degrees. You do the same series of poses, and teachers memorize a script. Some people enjoy the repetition, as it allows them to master the poses. The body supposedly “detoxes” while you sweat, and the heat loosens the muscles and can deepen a stretch. There is also many forms of Hot Yoga, which can be any yoga class taught in a heated room. Good for: weight-loss, calorie-burning, and flexibility.

Iyengar Yoga: Iyengar is also a guy. His type of yoga focuses heavily on alignment, and uses props to assist the limitations of the body and assure proper alignment in every pose. He revolutionized the use of these yoga props (straps, blocks, cushions, bridges, etc.) An Iyengar teacher often talks a lot about anatomy and the technical aspects of each pose. This can be  great way to learn the basics of yoga, so that you take the anatomical knowledge to other classes. Good for: flexibility, injuries, and knowledge.

Forrest Yoga: This type of yoga was started by a women named Ana Forrest. Instead of warming up with Sun Salutations (as you would in a “flow” class), you warm up with breathing techniques and abdominal exercises. The rest of the class includes deep stretches and poses focused on alignment. Good for: Core strength, flexibility, learning anatomy.

Prenatal/ Mommy and Me Yoga: A prenatal class is specifically designed for pregnant women. The room is often cooler, and the teacher often leads you poses that are safe for pregnancy. Sometimes it’s combined with Postnatal Yoga, or Mommy and Me. Women bring their babies to class and practice with the baby on the mat. This can be a great community builder for parents! Good for: Keeping in shape while pregnant, stretching and feeling good while pregnant, meeting other parents and pregnant moms.

There are many other types of yoga, (Jivamukti, Anusara, Yoga Tune Up, etc.) and more are being developed every day. Classes also vary greatly from teacher to teacher, as each person creates their own sequence. You may have to experiment to find the right class for you. As a bodyworker, I love anatomy, so Iyengar and Forrest work for me. Some people love the fast pace of a Vinyasa class. And everyone needs some relaxation, so an evening Yin class can feel just right. If you don’t like yoga the first time around, try different teachers and different types until you find the right fit.

How do I start?  There are a few different options for starting your practice. I would suggest starting out with the beginner’s workshop or private lesson, so you get a basic understanding of the main names and postures. Here are the most common places you can find yoga:

  • Find a studio near you! Google the closest one and pay them a visit.
  • Check out classes at your local gym or fitness center.
  • Find an outdoor class, on the beach or in a park. You can often find them at www.meetup.com
  • Yoga DVD’s
  • Take private, one-on-one lessons from a yoga teacher.
  • Take a “yoga beginner” workshop.

What tools do I need? Usually, you just need yourself. You can often rent equipment at your local studio, but it’s good to have your own mat. (People sweat a lot in yoga, and I don’t want to think about that while I’m using a rental mat. The yuckiness interups the relaxation.) You can find mats almost anywhere (athletic stores, sports stores, target, etc.) but there are some brands that work a looooot better. I like to save money, but if you buy a cheap yoga mat, you may spend the class slipping all over the place. Here are my suggested items and brands that will get you started:

Yoga Mats: Not all mats are created equal. For high-end (non-slip, biodegradable, made from natural rubber) I recommend the Jade Harmony Natural Yoga Mat, or the Manduka PROlite Yoga Mat.
The top-of-the-line, heavy-duty swanky mat is definitely the Manduka BlackMatPRO 71-Inch Yoga Mat.
For the, er, non-natural ones…Hugger Mugger and Gaiam makes decent, economically priced mats that are also very beautiful.

Blocks: Blocks are used for proper alignment and helping you if you’re a bit tight in certain muscles. I like the Hugger Mugger 4-Inch Foam Yoga Block, but any of these cheaper blocks will do as well: YogaAccessories (TM) 4” Foam Yoga Block

Yoga Straps: Straps can be used to aid in proper alignment, hamstring stretches, restorative poses and the like. most straps are very affordable, although my favorite is the Manduka Cotton Yoga Strap.

Yoga Non-Slip Towel: For those yogis that sweat a lot, slipping and sliding on your mat can be a consistent problem (even with a great mat). You can just use any old towel and lay it on your mat, but some companies do make a towel for just this purpose. It has small rubber nubs on one side to prevent the towel from moving, and the other side is absorbent synthetic material. You can throw it in the wash, and keep your mat from getting, you know…icky. The standard is the Yogitoes Skidless Mat-Size Yoga Towel.

So now that you have a little more information, hopefully you will give yoga a try. If you don’t like it, try a different class! Stretching is so good for so many reasons…it can decrease pain, increase flexibility, help keep joints healthy, and lower your blood pressure. So go cleanse some toxins and open up those hips!

Top 7 Foods to Help Lower Blood Pressure

Estimates now show that 1 in 3 people living in the United States have high blood pressure, making it one of the most common ailments among us. High blood pressure medication is also the third most prescribed medications. Yet, lowering your blood pressure is one of the easiest conditions to treat yourself. Creating a new lifestyle for yourself that includes adequate amounts of exercise to keep you energized, reducing stress, as well as changing the foods you eat to include less processed products and more whole foods will work wonders in lowering your blood pressure. One of the many causes of high blood pressure is not maintaining a healthy electrolyte-to-sodium ratio within your body (primarily the essential minerals potassium, magnesium, and calcium), and is extremely easy to skew on a diet of processed foods. Incorporating more foods into your diet that help maintain this balance, and also foods that help to reduce inflammation, is a vital first step to take.

Try introducing the following 7 foods into your diet if they aren’t already apart. Try to incorporate more if you already include them.

1. Almonds

AlmondsAlmonds are an excellent option as a snack for anyone on the go, but especially for those looking to lower their blood pressure. An ounce of almonds contains respectable amounts of both potassium and calcium, but also a significant amount of magnesium. Almonds also contain a hefty amount of Vitamin E (around 35% of your recommended daily intake), a vital antioxidant that helps curb the inflammation in your body. Keep your almond intake in moderation, however, as they are heavy hitters when it comes to caloric density. Additionally, eating too many almonds can skew your Omega 6-to-Omega 3 fatty acid ratio in your body, which can increase inflammation if it is too drastic (consider adding an Omega 3 supplement).

2. Bananas

Like almonds, bananas are an excellent on the go food to use as a snack, or even include in some of your meals. Bananas are widely touted for their potassium – they do contain a significant amount. It is the potassium-sodium ratio in our blood that is believed most to contribute to Bananahigh blood pressure. But it is the combination of the banana’s easy digestibility, convenience, and their potassium content that makes the list. Most people should easily be able to include 1 banana a day, and their extremely wide availability makes them the perfect convenience food.

3. Potatoes

The potato is has become a villain among food, but it’s actually one of the most nutritious foods around. The little (or big) spud is typically deep fried and covered with salt, and is frequently discouraged because of its relatively high Glycemic Index. But when was the last timPotatoese you had a good baked potato as part of a whole meal? As with all foods, most people don’t eat mono-meals composed of a single food, and this will help mitigate the influx of blood sugar in your body. Potatoes are a very good source of both potassium and magnesium, and a good source of vitamin C (another crucial antioxidant), especially if you eat them with the skins. Potatoes are also revered for their ability to be easily digested by most people, making them an ideal starch to add to your repertoire. In fact, if we compared potatoes in nutrient content to other foods, we’d find they similarly resemble bananas in their nutrient composition.

4. Spinach

SpinachSpinach makes the list for its ease of access and mild flavor. But really, all dark leafy greens are included in this category. Like all dark leafy greens, spinach is a good source of potassium, magnesium, calcium, as well as trace amounts of Omega 3 fats (covered at the end of this article). Additionally, all leafy greens are an excellent source of Vitamin K, and antioxidant utilized by our bodies for helping to thing blood. When it comes to lowering blood pressure, a combination of vital minerals, Omega 3 fats, and Vitamin K are a potent mix. Whether your steam it, throw it in a salad, or mix it into just about any dish, spinach is one of the best food sources to add to your repertoire.

5. Oats

OatsThis common breakfast food has two major nutrients benefits that help it make this list. Oats are a very good source of magnesium, one of those crucial minerals to maintaining homeostasis in our bodies. But perhaps the more beneficial aspect of oats is that it contains a unique fiber profile among almost all grains. Oats contain a very high ratio of soluble fiber to insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is what you might imagine when you thing of twigs, or even the stalks of vegetables. The majority of grains contain a large portion of their fiber as this type. Oats, on the other hand, contain over 50% of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber differs from insoluble fiber in that it absorbs water, creating a ‘gel.’ This gel can help to create more consistent bowel movements, important healthy blood pressure and overall health. Some even argue this gel helps to remove excess bile as it passes near the gallbladder in your intestine, helping to maintain consistent bile production and aid the health of the liver, in turn also helping to maintain the health of your body as a whole.

6. Zucchini

Zucchini!Along with many other vine fruits from the Americas, zucchini is a very unique fruit in its nutrient profile. This squash contains ample amounts of all the aforementioned mineral electrolytes that are so important in helping your body maintain healthy blood pressure; it is especially high in potassium, but also contains a good amount of magnesium and calcium. Zucchini is also a good source of Vitamin C, and a decent source Vitamin K and Beta-Carotene.

7. Omega 3

It may be impossible now to not have heard the benefits of increasing omega 3 fatty acids in your diet. Omega 3 and omega 6 fats are responsible for maintaining the balance of inflammation in our bodies. However, the typical diet has a large skew towards omega 6 over omega 3, which can lead to increased inflammation, increasing you chance of all diseases and disorders, including high blood pressure. While there are numerous arguments as to what and where to source your omega 3 from, whether from plant or animal sources, the benefits can be reaped from both. Sources of animal omega 3 fatty acids include fish, fish oil, krill oil, grass fed and free range meats and dairy, and especially the organ meaFlax Seedts of large animals. Plant sources of omega 3 fatty acids include flax and flax oil, hemp seeds and hemp oil, macadamia nuts, chia seeds, and all leafy greens. Walnuts are largely touted for their omega 3 content, and while they do contain some omega 3, they also contain a decent amount of omega 6. For those looking to increase their omega 3 intake, walnuts are best kept in great moderation.

Remember, utilizing these foods will help you on your both towards lower your blood pressure, but they will not do it alone. Couple these excellent foods with a greater whole foods diet (limiting processed foods), along with a lifestyle that includes a healthy amount of physical activity for you, limit stress, and be sure you’re getting adequate amounts of rest/sleep, and you’ll be on the path to lowering your blood pressure!

The Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut!Saturated fats have been villainized in  as the definitive root of heart disease and the many other degenerative ailments so common in our culture. Yet, cultures throughout the world have eaten saturated fats throughout their histories. Coconut oil has been a victim of this treatment, being composed of nearly 90% saturated fats. Has it received an unfair treatment?

The coconut hails from the Pacific Islands, where it has been a food staple for thousands of years among the islands’ inhabitants. Coconut oil is the product of pressing the meat of the coconut to extract the pure fat. Similar methods are used to produce coconut cream (a pressing of the meat, but keeping a whole product and not merely extracting the oil) and coconut milk (a pressing/pureeing of the meat with a liquid, frequently the coconut’s own water). Various cultures throughout the Pacific Islands, such as the Trobriand Islanders, derive a large percentage of the calories from the coconut, from which nearly all their fat calories derive. And yet, these people have a near absence of heart disease or other degenerative diseases as our culture.

Research into the benefits and structure of coconut oil have produced surprising results. Such benefits include: improved immune system, boosted thyroid, more efficient digestion and metabolism, and increased weightloss. Additionally, coconut oil has been used in the tropics for skin conditions, and simply as a beauty aid for skin and hair. Coconut sports a unique profile of fat molecules, unique in almost all the plant kingdom. It is from its unique molecular structure that its benefits can be attributed.

Coconut TreeOther than mothers milk, coconut oil the most dense source of lauric acid known. Lauric acid is an important fat molecule for our bodies, especially as infants, as it helps to build our immune systems. Lauric acid converts in our bodies into monolaurin, a substance known to be anti-bacterial and anti-viral. This fact alone has led coconut oil to be proscribed to individuals with severely compromised immune systems, such as HIV patients.

Coconut oil’s other unique attribute is that is composed of mostly mono-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are a saturated fat, and compose about 50% of the fat found in coconut oil. MCTs vary significantly from other fats in how our bodies metabolize them, whether this be saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, or polyunsaturated fats. Commonly, other fatty acids are considered to be long-chain fatty acids, which are large molecules that take a significant amount of energy for our bodies to break down. As such, they are much more likely to be stored as fat within our bodies. MCTs on the other hand, are efficiently broken down by our liver, and almost immediately utilized for energy. Benefits attributed to coconut oil such as increased metabolism, energy, and athletic stamina can be traced back to this fact. Additionally, coconut oil is now frequently recommended for Alzheimer and dementia patients because of its potential ability to help with cognitive function – a fact that can also be traced back to how it is metabolized.

Another benefit of coconut oil is simply that it is composed primarily of saturated fats. This in beneficial when it comes to cooking, as many commonly used oils for cooking are polyunsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats break down quickly when exposed to heat, and thus become rancid. This can occur even at seemingly light heat. Saturated fats break down much more slowly when exposed to heat, especially the more saturated they are by nature. Coconut oil’s 90% saturated nature makes it ideal for cooking, even at heats high enough for frying. Additionally, coconut oil is ideal for baking, as its highly saturated structure makes it ideal for prolonged exposure to heat. You may even want to consider using coconut oil exclusively for your cooking needs!

Liquid Coconut OilCoconut oil is again becoming a mainstream oil, and is now relatively easy to find. While you can find it numerous health food stores, it is now being offered at many more ‘conventional’ locales. When buying coconut oil, look for virgin cold-pressed unrefined oil. While other varieties can also be beneficial to your health, cold-pressed and unrefined oils are extracted at lower temperatures to maintain the integrity of the fat’s molecular structure, and unrefined to not contain chemical agents to help the extraction (which can be harmful to your health). Coconut oil is typically hard a room temperature because of its saturated nature, but can also be a clear liquid at above 70°F.

Give coconut oil a try, you’ll be wonderfully surprised, even if only for its flavor!