Posts tagged: natural health

Uses And Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil

Uses And Health Benefits Of Coconut Oil
Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com

Here is a list of some of the astonishing array of benefits of coconut oil, as reported by scientific studies.

Antibacterial And Antifungal Effects: Coconut oil has antibacterial properties. A study has found that coconut oil stopped the growth of Clostridium difficile bacteria in the intestine [1]. Another study has found it effective in fighting yeast that was attributed to lauric acid, the main fatty acid in coconut oil [2].

Increase In Metabolism: Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) fatty acids that are quickly absorbed. Coconut oil can significantly boost metabolic rate and a study has found that 15-30 grams of (MCTs) increased the number of calories burned on an average of 120 [3].

Protects Skin: Coconut oil can be applied topically on the skin to protect from ultraviolet rays of the sun, which can cause skin cancers. According to one interesting study, coconut oil can block 20% of the sun’s rays! [4] It also avoids potential toxic ingredients common to many sunscreen products, though we cannot of course make a medical recommendation to avoid the use of sunscreen.

Eczema: Coconut oil can improve dermatitis and other skin disorders. In a study that involved children with eczema, 47% of children treated with coconut oil reported improvements [5].

Improves Brain Function: Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil are broken down into ketones, which are a “fuel” source for the brain. Several studies have found benefits of coconut oil in brain disorders including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s [6].

Increase Good Cholesterol: Multiple studies have confirmed that coconut oil increases the level of good ‘HDL’ cholesterol and reduces weight [7].

Improves Bone Health: Coconut oil is rich in antioxidants, that can protect bone from free radicals damage.

Dental Health: Coconut oil kills bacteria in the mouth and significantly reduces inflammation and plaques in teenagers with gingivitis [8].

Note On Quality Of Coconut Oil: Not all coconut oil is the same! A good quality coconut oil will typically be cold-pressed and organic. However the age of the oil matters, as do factors such as storage conditions. Cool, dark and dry is the mantra. A good coconut oil should smell and taste fresh and ‘coconutty’. Comparing different brands will reveal that some have better taste than others. Of course it’s unlikely that you can open it until purchased, but you can compare brands once purchased and then settle on a good one to become your ‘staple’.

Learn More:

107 Uses Of Coconut Oil: https://herbshealthhappiness.com/107-everyday-uses-for-coconut-oil/

The Truth About Coconut Oil & 10 Facts You Need To Know: https://herbshealthhappiness.com/the-truth-about-coconut-oil-10-facts-you-need-to-know/

Scientific Study Finds Coconut Oil Decreases Obesity: https://herbshealthhappiness.com/scientific-study-finds-coconut-oil-decreases-obesity/

References:

[1] Shilling, M., et al., Antimicrobial effects of virgin coconut oil and its medium-chain fatty acids on Clostridium difficile. J Med Food, 2013. 16(12): p. 1079-85. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24328700/

[2] Shino, B., et al., Comparison of Antimicrobial Activity of Chlorhexidine, Coconut Oil, Probiotics, and Ketoconazole on Candida albicans Isolated in Children with Early Childhood Caries: An In Vitro Study. Scientifica (Cairo), 2016. 2016: p. 7061587. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27051559/

[3] Dulloo, A.G., et al., Twenty-four-hour energy expenditure and urinary catecholamines of humans consuming low-to-moderate amounts of medium-chain triglycerides: a dose-response study in a human respiratory chamber. Eur J Clin Nutr, 1996. 50(3): p. 152-8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8654328/

[4] Korać, R.R. and K.M. Khambholja, Potential of herbs in skin protection from ultraviolet radiation. Pharmacogn Rev, 2011. 5(10): p. 164-73. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22279374/

[5] Evangelista, M.T., F. Abad-Casintahan, and L. Lopez-Villafuerte, The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. Int J Dermatol, 2014. 53(1): p. 100-8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24320105/

[6] Neal, E.G., et al., A randomized trial of classical and medium-chain triglyceride ketogenic diets in the treatment of childhood epilepsy. Epilepsia, 2009. 50(5): p. 1109-17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19054400/

[7] Liau, K.M., et al., An open-label pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of virgin coconut oil in reducing visceral adiposity. ISRN Pharmacol, 2011. 2011: p. 949686. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22164340/

[8] Peedikayil, F.C., P. Sreenivasan, and A. Narayanan, Effect of coconut oil in plaque related gingivitis – A preliminary report. Niger Med J, 2015. 56(2): p. 143-7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25838632/

15 Ways To Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

15 Ways To Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally
15 Ways To Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally. Graphic © herbshealthhappiness.com. Photos – Pixabay / Pexels (PD)

Are you hypertensive? According to the AHA, an estimated 100 million adults in the United States were affected by hypertension in 2018. That’s half of the adults in the United States living with hypertension. Because of aging, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and various co-morbidities, this number is expected to get even higher in 2019. Updated guidelines on how to diagnose hypertension were released in November 2017, bringing the threshold lower to either a systolic pressure of 130 and/or a diastolic pressure of 80 (previously, the lower limit of a hypertension diagnosis was 140/90). That means a blood pressure of 120/80 already makes a person pre-hypertensive and should be adjusting his or her lifestyle to get the blood pressure within normal limits. [1]

Pediatric Hypertension

These days, kids are growing up with a diet of junk food and severely sedentary lifestyles. Your child might be hypertensive, a diagnosis typically made for adults, and you wouldn’t know it. Statistics say that 3.5 percent of children and teenagers have hypertension (a rise from previous data reports of 1 to 2 percent). Congenital problems with the kidneys or the heart can cause hypertension but otherwise, the hypertension is completely lifestyle-related. The diagnostic guidelines for adults also apply to children. [2]

How do you lower your blood pressure the natural way? Barring severe hypertension which will require you to take anti-hypertensive medication, there are different healthy lifestyle choices you can make in order to lower your blood pressure naturally:

1. Regular Exercise: Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the most effective ways to keep your blood pressure at bay. Healthy adults should typically have 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week; that’s 30 minutes for five out of seven days a week. Moderate exercise includes brisk walking and dancing while vigorous intensity exercise includes running, cycling, and aerobics. If you opt for vigorous exercise, you can decrease the number of minutes of activity you do each week to 75 minutes. A mixture of these two types of activities will work as well. [3]

2. Cut Back On Salt: Aside from exercise, a healthy diet can also help you lower your blood pressure. A diet high in sodium causes fluid retention, which in turn causes your blood pressure to rise. An estimated 86 percent of hypertensive adults have a high sodium diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans means reducing your sodium intake to less than the recommended 2,300 milligrams per day (the American Heart Association actually recommends an ideal amount of 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day). Instead of using salt to flavor your meals, opt for herbs and spices instead when you cook. [4]

3. The DASH Diet: A better diet than one that has low sodium is the DASH diet — Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet significantly lowers sodium, but also increases your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products – food that is high in calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Like previously mentioned, the standard DASH diet recommends 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day while a lower sodium DASH diet recommends 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. Being on this kind of diet can lower your systolic blood pressure by 8 to 14 points. The DASH diet is composed of 6 to 8 servings of grains, 4 to 5 servings of vegetables, 4 to 5 servings of fruits, 2 to 3 servings of dairy, 6 or less servings of lean meat, poultry, and/or fish, 4 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes, and 2 to 3 servings of fats and oils per day. Sweets, if you really can’t avoid them, should be 5 servings or less per week. [5]

4. Probiotics: Probiotics are as healthy as the advertisements say. In a study published in 2014 found that involving probiotics in the diet can help lower blood pressure. Over nine trials and more than 500 participants were involved in the study and the results concluded that probiotics lowered their systolic blood pressure by 3 to 4 points and diastolic blood pressure by 2 to 3 points. The study recommends that probiotic intake should be done over 8 weeks or more to show significant changes in blood pressure. [6]

5. Avoid Eating Out: Fast food is not only high in sodium but fat as well. Even non-fast food restaurants can have high sodium in their dishes. Remember, high sodium food doesn’t always taste salty. In 2016, the CDC reported that restaurants used a lot of salt, which in turn largely affected the sodium intake of the American population. The best option is to cook your own meals; do meal-prep if you can so you can bring home-cooked meals to work or school. [4]

6. Monitor Your Blood Pressure At Home: If you’re blood pressure is on the fence, say 120/80 to 130/90, you can start monitoring yourself at home. Digital blood pressure monitors or sphygmomanometers are widely available, either online or in stores, and can either run on batteries or electricity. If you are already a diagnosed hypertensive, it is a must that you monitor yourself at home. Ideally, blood pressure is monitored in the morning and in the evening, before eating, drinking, or partaking in moderate to vigorous activity. This kind of monitoring is ideal so you can gauge yourself and the adjustments you need to make to your lifestyle.

7. Stop Smoking: Nicotine plays a big role in blood pressure elevation, especially among chronic smokers. Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors in cardiovascular disease because it affects the blood vessels in the body, causing arterial stiffness, inflammation, and lipid modification, which in turn can raise blood pressure (and even cause a heart attack). You should also take into consideration that the mere act of smoking, even just one stick, causes the body to activate the sympathetic nervous system, which is the fight or flight response and causes a sudden increase in blood pressure; prolonged smoking, in conclusion, can increase your risk for, if not directly cause, hypertension. [7]

8. Cut Calories: Aside from exercise, an additional way you can use to help you lose weight and decrease your risk for hypertension is to reduce the amount of calories you include in your diet. While the DASH diet is specifically targeted towards people who are already diagnosed hypertensives, simple dieting or cutting carbs and calories may be an effective way to fend of hypertension among healthy adults. Avoid white carbs like rice, pasta, and white bread and opt for their whole-grain counterparts instead to help you lose weight.

9. De-Stress: Stress is one the contributory risk factors for hypertension. In fact, the Mayo Clinic cites stressful situations as a direct cause of acute hypertensive emergencies. However, studies that link long-term stress to hypertension are still unclear. In 2010, a study published by Spruill focused on stress and its link to hypertension. The study found that various psychosocial factors such as occupational stress and racial discrimination, especially among high risk groups. To combat this, the study encourages stress reductions activities like muscle relaxation and meditation in order to help combat the effects of stress on blood pressure. Remember to take a break when you feel stressed or overwhelmed. [8]

10. Include Strength Training: While regular aerobic exercise is an excellent way to lose weight and keep your blood pressure within the normal range, adding regular strength training can help diversify your exercise regimen and improve these benefits. While lifting weights could make your blood pressure increase acutely, long-term benefits outweigh the risks if the exercise is done properly. Stronger muscles and longer stamina from strength training reduces stress and demands on the heart, which can help reduce blood pressure. [9]

11. Cut Back On Drinking: Lowering your blood pressure includes a lot of cutting back — and that includes drinking alcohol. Moderate alcohol consumption, which means one drink a day for women and two drinks for men, could have potential benefits on blood pressure. However, any more than this can be quite detrimental to your health. Different studies have focused on alcohol-induced hypertension but the mechanism on how it causes high blood pressure is still something to be studied further. A study done on women in 2018 found that women who had more drinks per day had higher baseline blood pressure than those who didn’t. [10] [11]

12. Don’t Drink Too Much Coffee: Actually, avoid caffeinated drinks in general. Coffee, however delicious it may be, contains caffeine, a substance that works very similar to nicotine. While your cup of joe may give you your need energy boost, it may also be boosting your blood pressure and contributing to hypertension. Moderate coffee intake may not have immediate effects on your blood pressure, but prolonged drinking of caffeinated beverages (including tea and chocolate) may be a deciding factor in whether or not you become diagnosed with hypertension in the future. [12]

13. Get Your Daily Dose Of Sunlight: Did you know that vitamin D deficiency, the vitamin that you get from sunlight, is linked to hypertension? A 2017 study focused on the associations between blood pressure, sunlight, and vitamin D and concluded that there was an inverse relationship between vitamin D levels in the body and blood pressure. While this association still needs to be researched further, it wouldn’t hurt to get your daily dose of vitamin D each day by taking a walk in the sunlight. [13]

14. Good Quality Sleep: Good quality sleep doesn’t mean sleeping for longer hours, but rather sleeping that is uninterrupted for a set period of time, not necessarily eight hours. When you’ve had good quality sleep, you will feel well-rested instead of tired, despite the number of hours you’ve managed to get some shut eye. Aside from good energy levels and better productivity at work or school, good sleep can also help reduce your risk for hypertension. A 2016 study reported that short sleep duration among insomniacs in particular was associated with an increase risk of comorbid hypertension. [14]

15. Build A Good Support System: As with any healthy lifestyle, having a good support system is the best way to make sure you maintain good health habits. Exercising, dieting, and laying off bad habits like smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating fast food is easier (and more fun!) when you have your friends and family supporting (or doing those things with) you! Fighting hypertension is better in numbers; you help yourself and you help your loved ones as well.

References:

[1] American Heart Association (2018). More than 100 million Americans have high blood pressure, AHA says. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/05/01/more-than-100-million-americans-have-high-blood-pressure-aha-says

[2] Scutti, S. (2017). Many more children will suddenly be diagnosed with high blood pressure. https://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/21/health/new-pediatric-hypertension-guidelines/index.html

[3] American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults

[4] Salt. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/salt/index.htm

[5] DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

[6] Khalesi, S., et. al. (2014). Effect of Probiotics on Blood Pressure. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.114.03469

[7] Virdis, A., et. al. (2010). Cigarette smoking and hypertension. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20550499

[8] Spruill, T. (2013). Chronic Psychosocial Stress and Hypertension. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3694268/

[9] World Health Organization. What is Moderate-intensity and Vigorous-intensity Physical Activity? https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/physical_activity_intensity/en/

[10] Husain, K., Ansari, R. & Ferder, L. (2014). Alcohol-induced hypertension: Mechanism and prevention. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4038773/

[11] Fisher, N., Orav, E. & Chang, G. (2018). Effects of alcohol consumption on blood pressure in hypertensive women. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28806102

[12] Chei, C., et. al. (2018). Coffee, tea, caffeine, and risk of hypertension: The Singapore Chinese Health Study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28251341

[13] Rostand, S., et. al. (2017). Associations of Blood Pressure, Sunlight, and Vitamin D in Community-Dwelling Adults: The Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (Regards) Study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5341698/

[14] Bathgate, C., et. al. (2016). Objective but Not Subjective Short Sleep Duration Associated with Increased Risk for Hypertension in Individuals with Insomnia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4835301/

Broccoli Sprout Extract Found By USA Study To Control Blood Sugar Levels

Broccoli Sprout Extract Found By USA Study To Control Blood Sugar Levels
Image © shutterstock.com (under license)

Facts About Diabetes

Diabetes is characterized by persistently high post-prandial blood glucose (post-prandial means after eating). For people who are not affected by diabetes, their metabolism typically works like this:

1. Food enters the gastrointestinal tract, where glucose from food enters the bloodstream;
2. Glucose in the blood then stimulates the production of insulin;
3. Glucose is then taken in by cells, lowering blood glucose levels;
4. The cells use the glucose to produce energy which is needed by the body to function.

Diabetes has two types: Type 1 (previously known as juvenile diabetes because it typically appears among children and adolescents) and Type 2 (which is lifestyle-induced).

In Type 1 diabetes, the body has a physiologic problem: it doesn’t produce enough insulin to meet the needs of the body. Without insulin to stimulate glucose-uptake by the cells, blood glucose levels remain high despite a healthy diet. People affected by type 1 diabetes would need regular insulin injection to manage their blood glucose levels. [1]

Type 2 diabetes is much more common, because it is caused entirely by bad diets and lifestyle choices. People who eat too much sweets and carbohydrates, basically a diet that constantly keeps their blood sugar levels high, can be diagnosed with this type of diabetes. Your unhealthy diet causes persistently high blood sugar levels which can cause the body’s cells to become resistant to insulin (or to stop producing it altogether). [2]

The global burden of diabetes affects millions of people, from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014, according to the World Health Organization. The prevalence of the disease among adults aged 18 years and older has almost doubled since 1980, from 4.7% to 8.5% in 2014. The WHO also notes that prevalence is higher in middle and low-income countries.However, the numbers don’t stop there. In 2016, an estimated 1.6 million mortalities all over the world were directly attributed to diabetes, with 2.2 million mortalities directly attributed to high blood glucose (not necessarily diabetes) in 2012. [3]

Typically, diabetes is managed with two ways: lifestyle adjustments which involve diet and exercise and medication. Doctors will typically prescribe either oral hypoglycemic agents (OHAs) like metformin and/or insulin injections. But like every other medication on the market, these medications have side effects to watch out for. So what choice do we have?

Broccoli Sprouts And Diabetes

In 2017, a study was published in the American Association for the Advancement of Science that focused on diabetes and what could be used to manage it aside from conventional medications. The researchers delved into the genetic expression of diabetes, using 50 genes against 3800 drug signatures. They zoned in on a substance called sulforaphane (taken from broccoli), which was able to suppress glucose products from liver cells, reversing the disease in diabetic animals who suffered from increased glucose production and glucose intolerance. [4]

Out of the thousands of drugs included in the study, sulforaphane ranked first. However, the researchers emphasized that sulforaphane was unable to improve insulin signaling in the subjects, but instead was able to target glucose production specifically in affected cells. It was able to reduce the expression of genes involved in glucose production, not only reducing the risk for diabetes, but also reversing it.

The researchers who published the study found positive results in a trial they conducted on people who were affected by type 2 diabetes. A total of 97 subjects were able to complete the study; out of the 97, 60 had well-managed diabetes and 94 subjects were taking metformin. After baseline tests for fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, and OGTT were taken from the subjects, they were given oral broccoli extract once a day for 12 weeks, against a control group that was given a placebo. The results were conclusive; the extract was able to significantly improve fasting blood glucose in the experimental group. In fact, the subjects who benefited the most from the treatment were obese patients with poorly managed diabetes.

Other related studies: An earlier study was published by Gu, et. al. in 2016, which also focused on sulforaphane and diabetes, specifically diabetic cardiomyopathy. One of the major complications that could arise from diabetes is the development of diabetic cardiomyopathy, wherein the persistently high glucose levels damage the muscles of the heart, causing cardiac dysfunction and even failure. The study found that sulforaphane was able to protect the heart from diabetic cardiomyopathy through the upregulation of antioxidants like metallothionein which in turn protected cardiac tissue. [5]

A recent publication by Mazarakis, et. al. in 2019 focused on the significant anti-inflammatory abilities of l-sulforaphane, which could treat various chronic inflammatory disease affecting the world’s population. After reviewing clinical studies and trials on l-sulforaphane, the researchers found that the substance was able to significantly improve conditions like breast cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, and diabetes. [6]

References:

[1] Mayo Clinic. Type 2 diabetes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20351193

[2] World Health Organization. Diabetes. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes

[3] American Diabetes Association. Type 1 Diabetes. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/type-1/

[4] Axelsson, A., et. al. (2017). Sulforaphane reduces hepatic glucose production and improves glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes. https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/9/394/eaah4477

[5] Gu, J. et. al. (2017). Metallothionein Is Downstream of Nrf2 and Partially Mediates Sulforaphane Prevention of Diabetic Cardiomyopathy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27903744

[6] Mazarakis, N. et. al. (2019). The potential use of l-sulforaphane for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases: A review of the clinical evidence. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261561419301360?via%3Dihub