7 Tips for Beating the Bloat

For women who experience uncomfortable bloating during PMS, certain foods seem to make things worse. These 7 food cures can help.

Don’t overdo it on fiber.

It’s not often that you hear a nutritionist tell you to cut back on your fiber intake. But while fiber is incredibly important, too much can exacerbate bloat in people who are sensitive. When experiencing PMS it’s best to monitor your intake of high–fiber foods, especially bran cereals, beans, lentils, and high–fiber bars. When you do eat these foods, drinking plenty of flat water can help wash them all down and promote smoother digestion.

Avoid large meals.

Consuming high volumes of food at one time will inevitably distend the stomach, making you feel even puffier. Large meals also tend to be heavy in carbohydrates and fat, which will exacerbate any uncomfortable bloating. Instead spread low-volume meals and snacks throughout the day (three meals and 1–2 snacks will do the trick), and aim to eat every 4–5 hours. Low–volume, PMS–friendly meal options include 6 ounces of nonfat yogurt and a cup of fresh berries, a 4–egg white spinach and mushroom omelet with one slice of whole wheat toast, and 2 cups of vegetable salad with grilled shrimp or chicken.

Avoid carbonated beverages.

Drinks like soda and seltzer contain carbon dioxide, which causes the fizzing we see in our glass. These bubbles enter our digestive track, and can sometimes make our stomach feel distended and uncomfortable, not to mention gassy. If you suffer from bloating as a symptom of PMS, it’s best to stick to flat water, which hydrates sans bubbles.

Avoid salty foods.

Salty foods cause water retention and can make your usual PMS bloat worse. To reduce overall distention, you’ll want to avoid the saltiest offenders in your diet, including deli and processed meats (like bacon, sausage, and hot dogs), canned soup, pickles, many frozen entrées, and salty condiments like soy sauce, ketchup, and bottled salad dressing. You should also lay off salty snacks like chips and pretzels. Instead opt for low–sodium foods like yogurt, fresh fruit, vegetables, and unsalted nuts and seeds.

Beat the bloat.

Feeling heavy and bloated is one of the most unpleasant symptoms of PMS. This monthly annoyance is caused by water retention or gas — a buildup of air in the intestines and stomach — which can leave us running towards the closest pair of sweatpants. Luckily there are ways to reduce puffiness and feel more comfortable in your skin. Here are my top 7 food cures to help you beat the bloat.

Limit gas–producing foods.

Certain foods are harder for your body to break down and digest. A by–product of this tough digestion is gas. If gas tends to be a personal issue, minimize foods such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, beans and cabbage during the most problematic week in your monthly cycle.

Limit sugar alcohols.

Sorbitol and maltitol are sugar alcohols which are frequently found in sugar–free foods and sugarless gum. These sugar alcohols are poorly digested by some people and can exacerbate gas and discomfort in those who are super sensitive. To beat the bloat (especially when you’re experiencing PMS), it’s best to leave sugar–free candy and gum, diet drinks and other foods that contain sugar alcohols off the menu.

Incorporate protein in every meal.

Including protein in each meal and snack will do wonders for reducing puffiness. Protein can act like a natural diuretic and help your body get rid of extra water (which is in no short supply when you’re experiencing PMS!). For breakfast, avoid carb–centric meals like bagels, corn muffins, pancakes and waffles — and opt for protein–rich scrambled egg whites with a side of fresh fruit. To incorporate protein into your snacks try an apple with a handful of almonds, a part–skim string cheese, or a container of nonfat yogurt.

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Role of Iron in the Body

Iron is an essential element for most life on Earth, including human beings.

Iron is needed for a number of highly complex processes that continuously take place on a molecular level and that are indispensable to human life, e.g. the transportation of oxygen around your body!

Iron is required for the production of red blood cells (a process known as haematopoiesis), but it’s also part of haemoglobin (that is the pigment of the red blood cells) binding to the oxygen and thus facilitating its transport from the lungs via the arteries to all cells throughout the body.

Once the oxygen is delivered the iron (as part of haemoglobin) binds the carbon dioxide which is then transported back to the lung from where it gets exhaled.

Iron is also involved in the conversion of blood sugar to energy. Metabolic energy is crucial for athletes since it allows muscles to work at their optimum during exercise or when competing.

The production of enzymes (which play a vital role in the production of new cells, amino acids, hormones and neurotransmitters) also depends on iron, this aspect becomes crucial during the recovery process from illnesses or following strenuous exercise or competing.

The immune system is dependent on iron for its efficient functioning and physical and mental growth require sufficient iron levels, particularly important in childhood and pregnancy, where the developing baby solely depends on its mother’s iron supplies.

Iron is lost by the body through a variety of ways including urination, defecation, sweating, and exfoliating of old skin cells. Bleeding contributes to further loss of iron which is why women have a higher demand for iron than men.

If iron stores are low, normal haemoglobin production slows down, which means the transport of oxygen is diminished, resulting in symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, lowered immunity or reduced ability for athletes to keep up with their training programs.

Since our bodies can’t produce iron itself, we need to make sure we consume sufficient amounts of iron as part of our daily diet.

Spatone, natural liquid iron supplement can provide your body’s daily absorbed iron needs whilst being extra gentle on the stomach.

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Do You Need a Daily Vitamin Supplement?

Most Americans don’t get enough vitamins and minerals in their daily diet. In fact, less than 5 percent of Americans follow all of the recommendations in the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It’s small wonder, then, that one in three adults takes a multivitamin.

But dietitians say it’s better to get all of your vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and other nutrients from food, if possible. That’s because foods such as vegetables and fruits have benefits that a pill can’t offer. They include fiber, phytochemicals (plant chemicals), and a balance of nutrients and disease-fighting antioxidants. Also, unless you have certain diseases, it’s difficult to hurt yourself by absorbing too many vitamins from food. Taking too much supplemental iron or vitamin A, though, can be toxic—that’s an important reason to check with your doctor before taking any supplements.

Even if you’re trying to control calories, you can choose from these nutrient-dense foods that will help you meet your daily requirements for nutrition:

Fruits

Vegetables

Whole grains

Low-fat dairy

Seafood

Eggs

Low-fat meat and poultry

Beans

You can learn more about the basic details of your daily nutritional needs from the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 (www.choosemyplate.gov). Exact nutrition needs vary by age and gender. So when you’re trying to figure out if you need a supplement, you first need to know how much of a given nutrient you need, as well as how much you’re getting from your diet. You can visit the Office of Dietary Supplements (ods.od.nih.gov) to determine how much of each nutrient you should be getting for your age and gender.

You can figure out whether you are taking in the right amount of needed nutrients each day in several ways:

Find out which nutrients are in the foods you already eat. Add up portions through the day to find out how much of any given nutrient you are eating. Many online resources can help you find out what’s in each serving if the food item does not have a nutrition label.

Blood tests. In some instances, you might need a blood test to find out if your body has enough of key nutrients like iron and vitamin D.

Why you might need a supplement

Daily vitamin and mineral supplements are an option for people who don’t get enough essential nutrients through the foods they eat. Not getting enough nutrients can happen for a variety of reasons:

You skip meals. Skipping meals won’t affect your nutrition if, over the course of each day, you get enough calories and nutrients to meet your daily requirements. The amount you need varies with your age, gender, weight, and how active you are. Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to develop a personalized plan that will tell you how many servings of different types of foods to eat at your calorie level. You may also need a daily multivitamin supplement.

You eat few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The USDA guidelines emphasize the importance of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to meet nutritional needs, as well as fiber requirements. If you are low on these food groups, you should probably take a multivitamin, but also consider improving your diet.

You’re on a low-calorie diet. You might not be getting enough nutrients if you’re severely restricting calories. Make sure that the foods you do eat are nutrient-dense. Most nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are also lower in calories per serving than other foods. You might also want to take a multivitamin to supplement across the board.

You’re a vegetarian. Generally, vegetarians eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and have lower-fat diets. But you may be missing out on calcium, especially if you also avoid dairy products. If you’re between 19 and 50, you should get at least 1,000 mg of calcium from green leafy vegetables and other foods and 600 IUs of vitamin D daily, or consider taking supplements to make up the deficiency. Women older than 50 and men older than 70 should get at least 1,200 mg of calcium daily, and both men and women older than 70 should get 800 IUs of vitamin D every day. Vegans, who give up all animal products including milk and eggs, may also need vitamin B12 supplements—2.4 mcg for adults, 2.6 mcg for pregnant women, and 2.8 mcg for nursing mothers.

You can’t drink milk. Even though low-fat dairy is a cornerstone of nutrition recommendations, drinking milk is difficult for people with lactose intolerance. If you can’t (or just don’t) drink milk, you can find other dietary sources of calcium and vitamin D, such as yogurt, cheese, non-dairy “milks”, calcium-fortified orange juice or tofu, and dark, leafy green vegetables. You might also consider a calcium and vitamin D supplement as outlined above if you’re falling short of your needs.

You get limited exposure to sunlight, wear long robes and head coverings for religious reasons, or are dark-skinned. The body needs sunlight to develop vitamin D on its own, and people who have limited sun exposure or who are dark-skinned are less likely to have sufficient vitamin D levels. You can correct this imbalance by getting your recommended daily allowance of vitamin D through food or vitamin D supplements.

You’re pregnant. During pregnancy, your body has increased nutritional needs. Pregnant women often need to get additional folic acid, iron, and calcium; folic acid, in particular, helps prevent devastating neural tube birth defects. Take a prenatal vitamin before you get pregnant and during your pregnancy to ensure that you and your baby get enough of the nutrients you both need; it should contain at least 600 mcg of folic acid.

You’ve had weight-loss surgery. Changes in the intestinal tract from weight-loss surgery make it virtually impossible to absorb sufficient proteins, vitamins, and minerals from food. You will need to take nutritional supplements every day for the rest of your life; these may include a multivitamin, special versions of vitamins A, D, E, and K, and supplemental iron and calcium. Check with your doctor to see which supplements you should be taking.

You have new nutrition needs. This can happen at different stages of life. For instance, women have a greater need for calcium and vitamin D after menopause.

The decision to take a multivitamin is highly individual. Your need for supplements depends on your diet, as well as any health conditions you have that increase the demand for certain nutrients or affect their absorption. Check with your doctor if you have any concerns.

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The benefits of raw honey

(NaturalNews) When we look at the word “raw”, we associated it with the preservation of important vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Just as raw vegetables are preferable because of their nutritional content, the same is true of honey. Raw honey is honey that has not been heated, pasteurized or processed in any way. The differences between raw and pasteurized honey are substantial. Raw honey is an alkaline-forming food that contains natural vitamins, enzymes, powerful antioxidants and other important natural nutrients. These are the very nutrients that are destroyed during the heating and pasteurization process. In fact, pasteurized honey is equivalent to and just as unhealthy as eating refined sugar.

Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It promotes body and digestive health, is a powerful antioxidant, strengthens the immune system, eliminates allergies, and is an excellent remedy for skin wounds and all types of infections. Raw honey’s benefits don’t stop there. Raw honey can also stabilize blood pressure, balance sugar levels, relieve pain, calm nerves, and it has been used to treat ulcers. Raw honey is also an expectorant and anti-inflammatory and has been known to effectively treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma.

Raw honey purchased from a local source is an excellent way of treating seasonal allergies. Local honey is preferred for treating allergies because the likelihood is great that it will contain small amounts of the specific pollens an individual may be allergic to.

Raw Honey is an effective natural remedy for a variety of conditions
For centuries, honey has been used to treat all sorts of ailments. It can be applied topically to heal wounds and rashes, or it can be taken internally to treat infections and address other health concerns. Although there are numerous remedies, the following are popular remedies for common everyday conditions.

For skin burns, rashes, and abrasions, place a honey poultice over the affected area.

Raw honey is also an effective treatment for acne. A small amount placed on blemishes and acne nightly will often clear the skin in a short period of time. Washing your face with honey will also leave you with sparkling, clean, soft skin.

Raw honey’s antibiotic properties are effective in treating colds and sore throats. Raw honey coats the throat and reduces irritation. For blocked sinuses, mix a teaspoon of honey in a pot of hot water, put a towel over your head, and just inhale the steam.

To treat allergies, take a teaspoon of raw honey a couple of times a day starting a few months prior to allergy season.

The many varieties of honey
There are many varieties of honey, some of which are used to treat specific health conditions. Manuka honey has strong anti-bacterial properties and is used to treat a variety of conditions which include colds, sore throats, indigestion, stomach ulcers, and acne.

Acacia honey cleanses the liver, promotes intestinal health, and reduces inflammation in the respiratory tract.

Buckwheat honey, a strong tasting and dark honey, has strong antioxidant properties. Unfortunately, Buckwheat Honey is very scarce, especially in the United States. An alternative would be Red Gum Honey that also has strong antioxidant properties.

Eucalyptus honey can be used to prevent colds and headaches.

Heather honey has been used since ancient times for its medicinal properties. This honey contains a high level of protein.

Linden honey is known for its sedative and antiseptic properties. It is used to treat anxiety, insomnia, colds, coughs, and bronchitis.

Neem honey is highly esteemed in Ayurveda for its medicinal properties. Neem Honey is used to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, skin conditions, periodontal infections, throat infections and allergies.

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Hemorrhoids and what to do about them

Many women have a passing encounter with hemorrhoids during pregnancy. But by midlife, hemorrhoids often become an ongoing complaint. By age 50, about half the population has experienced one or more of the classic symptoms, which include rectal pain, itching, bleeding, and possibly prolapse (hemorrhoids that protrude through the anal canal). Although hemorrhoids are rarely dangerous, they can be a recurrent and painful intrusion. Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do about them.

What are hemorrhoids?

In one sense, everyone has hemorrhoids, the pillow-like clusters of veins that lie just beneath the mucous membranes lining the lowest part of the rectum and the anus. The condition most of us call hemorrhoids (or piles) develops when those veins become swollen and distended, like varicose veins in the legs. Because the blood vessels involved must continually battle gravity to get blood back up to the heart, some people believe hemorrhoids are part of the price we pay for being upright creatures.

There are two kinds of hemorrhoids: internal ones, which occur in the lower rectum, and external hemorrhoids, which develop under the skin around the anus. External hemorrhoids are the most uncomfortable, because the overlying skin becomes irritated and erodes. If a blood clot forms inside an external hemorrhoid, the pain can be sudden and severe. You might feel or see a lump around the anus. The clot usually dissolves, leaving excess skin (a skin tag), which may itch or become irritated.

Internal hemorrhoids are typically painless, even when they produce bleeding. You might, for example, see bright red blood on the toilet paper or dripping into the toilet bowl. Internal hemorrhoids may also prolapse, or extend beyond the anus, causing several potential problems. When a hemorrhoid protrudes, it can collect small amounts of mucus and microscopic stool particles that may cause an irritation called pruritus ani. Wiping constantly to try to relieve the itching can worsen the problem.

What causes hemorrhoids?

Experts are divided on exactly what causes hemorrhoids, but probably several mechanisms are at work. Traditionally, hemorrhoids are associated with chronic constipation, straining during bowel movements, and prolonged sitting on the toilet — all of which interfere with blood flow to and from the area, causing it to pool and enlarge the vessels. This also explains why hemorrhoids are common during pregnancy, when the enlarging uterus presses on the veins.

More recent studies show that patients with hemorrhoids tend to have a higher resting anal canal tone — that is, the smooth muscle of the anal canal tends to be tighter than average (even when not straining). Constipation adds to these troubles, because straining during a bowel movement increases pressure in the anal canal and pushes the hemorrhoids against the sphincter muscle. Finally, the connective tissues that support and hold hemorrhoids in place can weaken with age, causing hemorrhoids to bulge and prolapse.

Diagnosing hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids can usually be diagnosed from a simple medical history and physical exam. External hemorrhoids are generally apparent, especially if a blood clot has formed. Your clinician may perform a digital rectal exam to check for blood in the stool. She or he may also examine the anal canal with an anoscope, a short plastic tube inserted into the rectum with illumination. If there’s evidence of rectal bleeding or microscopic blood in the stool, flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy may be performed to rule out other causes of bleeding, such as colorectal polyps or cancer, especially in women over age 50.

Home treatment

Most hemorrhoid symptoms improve dramatically with simple, at-home measures. To avoid occasional flare-ups, try the following.

Get more fiber. Add more fiber to your diet from food, a fiber supplement (such as Metamucil, Citrucel, or Fiber Con), or both. Along with adequate fluid, fiber softens stools and makes them easier to pass, reducing pressure on hemorrhoids. High-fiber foods include broccoli, beans, wheat and oat bran, whole-grain foods, and fresh fruit. Fiber supplements help decrease hemorrhoidal bleeding, inflammation, and enlargement. They may also reduce irritation from small bits of stool that are trapped around the blood vessels. Some women find that boosting fiber causes bloating or gas. Start slowly, and gradually increase your intake to 25–30 grams of fiber per day. Also, increase your fluid intake.

Exercise. Moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking 20–30 minutes a day, can help stimulate bowel function.

Take time. When you feel the urge to defecate, go to the bathroom immediately; don’t wait until a more convenient time. Stool can back up, leading to increased pressure and straining. Also, schedule a set time each day, such as after a meal, to sit on the toilet for a few minutes. This can help you establish a regular bowel habit.

Sitz. A sitz bath is a warm water bath for the buttocks and hips (the name comes from the German “sitzen,” meaning “to sit”). It can relieve itching, irritation, and spasms of the sphincter muscle. Pharmacies sell small plastic tubs that fit over a toilet seat, or you can sit in a regular bathtub with a few inches of warm water. Most experts recommend a 20-minute sitz bath after each bowel movement and two or three times a day in addition. Take care to gently pat the anal area dry afterward; do not rub or wipe hard. You can also use a hair dryer to dry the area.

Seek topical relief. Over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams containing a local anesthetic can temporarily soothe pain. Creams and suppositories containing hydrocortisone are also effective, but don’t use them for more than a week at a time, because they can cause the skin to atrophy. Witch hazel wipes (Tucks) are soothing and have no harmfu l effects. A small ice pack placed against the anal area for a few minutes can also help reduce pain and swelling. Finally, sitting on a cushion rather than a hard surface helps reduce the swelling of existing hemorrhoids and prevents the formation of new ones.

Treat the clot. When an external hemorrhoid forms a blood clot, the pain can be excruciating. If the clot has been present for longer than two days, apply home treatments for the symptoms while waiting for it to go away on its own. If the clot is more recent, the hemorrhoid can be surgically removed or the clot withdrawn from the vein in a minor office procedure performed by a surgeon.

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Natural Remedies For Psoriasis

Psoriasis may be one of the oldest recorded skin conditions. It was probably first described around 35 AD. Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis. About 80% of people who develop psoriasis have plaque psoriasis, which appears as patches of raised, reddish skin covered by silvery-white scale. These patches, or plaques, frequently form on the elbows, knees, lower back, and scalp. However, the plaques can occur anywhere on the body. While this condition is not life threatening, it has a profound effect on the peoples lives, self esteem and confidence.

Unlike skin conditions that are the result of external causes, psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder, and runs in families (like it does in mine). Drug treatments are much the same as for rheumatoid arthritis, and include steroids and biologics that depress the immune system. These treatments come with a high risk of side effects, and the prohibitive cost puts them out of reach of many people.

Detoxify your system with herbs Regular use of purifying herbs addresses an underlying cause of chronic skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne. oregon grape, sarsaparilla, and licorice are used in herbal medicine as a blood purifiers. Oregon grape is a muscular antioxidant and contains substances that help deter the formation of certain skin cells, which is why it is useful against psoriasis. Sarsaparilla soothes psoriasis and eczema most likely by disabling bacterial components called endotoxins that show up in the bloodstreams of people with psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. (Duke,James, Ph.D.) Burdock and dandelion are also recommended to flush out your system. These cleansing herbs work by helping to rid the body of toxins that may be making your immune system react and help keep plaque psoriasis skin cells from forming. (Dawson,Adele) Cleavers and figwort both act as diuretics and blood purifiers. 3 Root teas can be used as a skin washs or taken internally to protect and support the liver.

One of the hardest things to deal with is the constant itching of the dry, scaling plaques as they are constantly forming over new skin. Menthol works better than anything else I have ever tried to stop itching. Menthol is used in many OTC psoriasis remedies, and is often combined with cortisone. For home remedies, you can get menthol from peppermint oil, or purchase menthol crystals in bulk. I like to combine it with cayenne infused in organic olive oil. This simple home remedy has been more effective than anything else we have tried. Capsasin, the most potent constituent of cayenne, has been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of psoriasis. 4

Diet supplements for psoriasis: Borage Seed Oil is a good choice for skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema, and can be taken as a supplement or mixed with other skin care oils for topical releif. It is regenerating and stimulating for all skin types. In Ayurveda, the ancient medical system of India, turmeric has long been used to acheive glowing, healthy skin. Modern studies confirm that those with psoriasis can especially benefit from daily supplementation and the liberal use of turmeric in cooking. The curcumin in turmeric acts to disrupt the cycle of skin plaque formation, working in a similar manner to the new biologic TNF inhibitors. Curcumin has been reported to be active in alleviating a host of inflammation-related conditions including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and others. 1, 2

Sunshine I know many dermatologists recoil in horror at the thought of exposing skin to sunshine without first applying sunscreen, but 15 minutes of daily sun does so much to keep psoriasis under control, that for my family the benefits outweigh the risks. You need to weigh the benefits and risks of any sort of light therapy before making a decision on whether it is right for you.

Bath and body care for psoriasis: Herbal tea baths work to keep your troubled skin in good repair, but remember the hotter the water, the more drying it is. It is important to re-hydrate your skin with herbal oils during and after hot baths and showers. Rich, tropical tamanu oil is healing to serious skin problems such as psoriasis and is a luxurious treat for dry, irritated skin. Juniper oil makes a very good aromatic water for cleansing and toning the skin. Juniper stimulates the circulation and acts as a blood purifier, making it useful for eczema, dermatitis, and perhaps psoriasis. Shampoos containing coal tar also help the dandruff and dry scales that form on the scalp.

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Why Do We Sleep, Anyway?

Hunger and Eating; Sleepiness and Sleep

While we may not often think about why we sleep, most of us acknowledge at some level that sleep makes us feel better. We feel more alert, more energetic, happier, and better able to function following a good night of sleep. However, the fact that sleep makes us feel better and that going without sleep makes us feel worse only begins to explain why sleep might be necessary.

One way to think about the function of sleep is to compare it to another of our life-sustaining activities: eating. Hunger is a protective mechanism that has evolved to ensure that we consume the nutrients our bodies require to grow, repair tissues, and function properly. And although it is relatively easy to grasp the role that eating serves— given that it involves physically consuming the substances our bodies need—eating and sleeping are not as different as they might seem.

Both eating and sleeping are regulated by powerful internal drives. Going without food produces the uncomfortable sensation of hunger, while going without sleep makes us feel overwhelmingly sleepy. And just as eating relieves hunger and ensures that we obtain the nutrients we need, sleeping relieves sleepiness and ensures that we obtain the sleep we need. Still, the question remains: Why do we need sleep at all? Is there a single primary function of sleep, or does sleep serve many functions?
An Unanswerable Question?

Scientists have explored the question of why we sleep from many different angles. They have examined, for example, what happens when humans or other animals are deprived of sleep. In other studies, they have looked at sleep patterns in a variety of organisms to see if similarities or differences among species might reveal something about sleep’s functions. Yet, despite decades of research and many discoveries about other aspects of sleep, the question of why we sleep has been difficult to answer.

The lack of a clear answer to this challenging question does not mean that this research has been a waste of time. In fact, we now know much more about the function of sleep, and scientists have developed several promising theories to explain why we sleep. In light of the evidence they have gathered, it seems likely that no single theory will ever be proven correct. Instead, we may find that sleep is explained by two or more of these explanations. The hope is that by better understanding why we sleep, we will learn to respect sleep’s functions more and enjoy the health benefits it affords.

This essay outlines several current theories of why we sleep. To learn more about them, be sure to check out the “Bookshelf” feature at the end of this essay. There you’ll find links to articles by researchers who are studying this fascinating question.

Theories of Why We Sleep

Inactivity Theory

One of the earliest theories of sleep, sometimes called the adaptive or evolutionary theory, suggests that inactivity at night is an adaptation that served a survival function by keeping organisms out of harm’s way at times when they would be particularly vulnerable. The theory suggests that animals that were able to stay still and quiet during these periods of vulnerability had an advantage over other animals that remained active. These animals did not have accidents during activities in the dark, for example, and were not killed by predators. Through natural selection, this behavioral strategy presumably evolved to become what we now recognize as sleep.

A simple counter-argument to this theory is that it is always safer to remain conscious in order to be able to react to an emergency (even if lying still in the dark at night). Thus, there does not seem to be any advantage of being unconscious and asleep if safety is paramount.

Energy Conservation Theory

Although it may be less apparent to people living in societies in which food sources are plentiful, one of the strongest factors in natural selection is competition for and effective utilization of energy resources. The energy conservation theory suggests that the primary function of sleep is to reduce an individual’s energy demand and expenditure during part of the day or night, especially at times when it is least efficient to search for food.

Research has shown that energy metabolism is significantly reduced during sleep (by as much as 10 percent in humans and even more in other species). For example, both body temperature and caloric demand decrease during sleep, as compared to wakefulness. Such evidence supports the proposition that one of the primary functions of sleep is to help organisms conserve their energy resources. Many scientists consider this theory to be related to, and part of, the inactivity theory.

Restorative Theories

Another explanation for why we sleep is based on the long-held belief that sleep in some way serves to “restore” what is lost in the body while we are awake. Sleep provides an opportunity for the body to repair and rejuvenate itself. In recent years, these ideas have gained support from empirical evidence collected in human and animal studies. The most striking of these is that animals deprived entirely of sleep lose all immune function and die in just a matter of weeks. This is further supported by findings that many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep.

Other rejuvenating aspects of sleep are specific to the brain and cognitive function. For example, while we are awake, neurons in the brain produce adenosine, a by-product of the cells’ activities. The build-up of adenosine in the brain is thought to be one factor that leads to our perception of being tired. (Incidentally, this feeling is counteracted by the use of caffeine, which blocks the actions of adenosine in the brain and keeps us alert.) Scientists think that this build-up of adenosine during wakefulness may promote the “drive to sleep.” As long as we are awake, adenosine accumulates and remains high. During sleep, the body has a chance to clear adenosine from the system, and, as a result, we feel more alert when we wake.

Brain Plasticity Theory

One of the most recent and compelling explanations for why we sleep is based on findings that sleep is correlated to changes in the structure and organization of the brain. This phenomenon, known as brain plasticity, is not entirely understood, but its connection to sleep has several critical implications. It is becoming clear, for example, that sleep plays a critical role in brain development in infants and young children. Infants spend about 13 to 14 hours per day sleeping, and about half of that time is spent in REM sleep, the stage in which most dreams occur. A link between sleep and brain plasticity is becoming clear in adults as well. This is seen in the effect that sleep and sleep deprivation have on people’s ability to learn and perform a variety of tasks.

This theory and the role of sleep in learning are covered in greater detail in Sleep, Learning, and Memory.

Although these theories remain unproven, science has made tremendous strides in discovering what happens during sleep and what mechanisms in the body control the cycles of sleep and wakefulness that help define our lives. While this research does not directly answer the question, “Why do we sleep?” it does set the stage for putting that question in a new context and generating new knowledge about this essential part of life.

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The Best Sugar Substitutes

There are so many alternative sweeteners available now that they seem to be elbowing sugar right off the supermarket shelf. But what’s so wrong with sugar? At just 15 calories per teaspoon, “nothing–in moderation,” says Lona Sandon, R.D., an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “The naturally occurring sugar in an apple is fine, but if we can reduce some of the added sugar in our diet, we can remove some of the empty calories.” Less than 25 percent of your daily calories should come from the added sugar in foods like cookies, cereal, and ketchup, she says. To satisfy your sweet tooth–especially if you’re counting calories, limiting carbs, or dealing with diabetes–try these options:

SWEETLEAF AND TRUVIA

What they are: These sugar alternatives are the latest made from stevia, an herb found in Central and South America that is up to 40 times sweeter than sugar but has zero calories and won’t cause a jump in your blood sugar. Stevia was slow to catch on because of its bitter, licorice-like aftertaste, but makers of Truvia and SweetLeaf have solved this problem by using the sweetest parts of the plant in their products.

Where to find them: In grocery stores and natural-food stores throughout the country and online at sweetleaf.com and truvia.com.

How to use them: Both work well in coffee and tea or sprinkled over fruit, cereal, or yogurt. You can’t substitute stevia-based products for sugar in baked goods, though, because these products are sweeter than sugar and don’t offer the same color and texture. Makers of SweetLeaf promise to come out with a baking formulation soon.

Health Rx: “Truvia’s one of the most promising alternatives out there,” says nutritionist Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., author of The Healthiest Meals on Earth . “Right now, it looks safe. It tastes just like sugar and has almost no glycemic index, which means it won’t spike your blood sugar.”

WHEY LOW

What it is: Three naturally occurring sugars–fructose, the sugar in fruit; sucrose, or table sugar; and lactose, the sugar in milk–are blended to create this sweetener. While individually the sugars are fully caloric, when blended in Whey Low they interact in such a way that they aren’t completely absorbed into the body. As a result, at four calories per teaspoon, Whey Low has one quarter of the calories and less than one third of the glycemic index of sugar, so you’re less likely to crash after consuming it. It’s available in varieties similar to granular sugar, brown sugar, maple sugar, and confectioners’ sugar.

Where to find it: At grocery stores, like Whole Foods Market, online at wheylow.com, and in some baked goods at bakeries around the country.

How to use it: “Whey Low’s flavor and texture are very similar to sugar’s and it’s easy to use,” says Yasmine Sandhu, the pastry chef at Rock Creek, a restaurant in Washington, D.C., which uses Whey Low to keep calorie counts down. “I’ve substituted it into all my recipes as if it were sugar. The only product I’ve had trouble with is meringue–it browns a little quicker and doesn’t set quite as well.”

Health Rx: “Whey Low’s creator argues that the way the sugars interfere with each other means that you get all of the sweet but many fewer calories than sugar,” says Thomas Castonguay, Ph.D., a professor of food science at the University of Maryland in College Park. “We’re testing that process here in the lab, and the preliminary results look promising.”

XYLITOL

What it is: This naturally occurring sugar alcohol is found in foods such as beets, berries, and corn. Xylitol tastes almost as sweet as sugar but is only partially absorbed by the body, so it has only about nine calories per teaspoon and a lower glycemic index.

Where to find it: Natural-food stores and online at vitaminshoppe.com.

How to use it: Substitute it for sugar in small amounts in tea or coffee. If you use it for baking, it’s recommended that you substitute it for only half of the sugar called for in a recipe.

Health Rx: Xylitol prevents bacteria from causing plaque to stick to teeth, which is why it’s often used in sugar-free gum and can help prevent tooth decay. It can also cause stomachaches, gas, and diarrhea if you have too much of it. “Sugar alcohols aren’t digested well by the body,” says Bowden. “That’s what keeps xylitol from raising blood sugar, but it’s also what can give you gas.”

AGAVE NECTAR

What it is: Several types of agave, the plant that’s used to make tequila, are blended to create this liquid sweetener.

Where to find it: At natural-food stores, in some grocery stores, like Whole Foods Market, and in various baked goods.

How to use it: “It’s great for teas and coffee, but it’s a little difficult to bake with,” says Sandhu. “I use it at about a third of the capacity of sugar–agave nectar is far sweeter than sugar or honey, so you have to reduce the amount a recipe calls for. I look for recipes that use another liquid sweetener, like honey, as the base. I also tend to lower my oven temperature when I use it because agave nectar browns a bit more. It’s probably not the best option out there for beginner bakers.”

Health Rx: Agave nectar’s benefits are still under debate. “It doesn’t raise the blood sugar as rapidly as sugar,” says Sandon. “And although it has more calories than sugar–about 20 calories per teaspoon–agave nectar is sweeter, so you can use less of it.” There is some concern about agave’s high fructose content, however; some experts wonder if it will have the same metabolic effect as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which has been blamed for increasing rates of obesity. But experts still don’t know whether the large quantities of HFCS we’re consuming are partly responsible for America’s obesity problem, or whether HFCS just happened to enter the American diet at the same time as negative lifestyle changes that led to weight gain.

The bottom line, say experts: We all could afford a little less sweet in our lives. “If you’re eating a lot of foods that have these alternative sweeteners in them, that means you’re still probably eating a lot of cookies, cakes, and other processed foods that aren’t good for you,” says Sandon. “We need to get back to eating more whole foods. Sugar substitutes are not a substitute for a healthy diet.”
The Scoop On the Most Popular Sweeteners

Rumors persist about the health hazards of artificial sweeteners such as Sweet’N Low, Splenda, and Equal, but several food-safety groups and regulatory bodies, including the FDA, have consistently deemed them safe for consumption.

Sweet’N Low (saccharin) has fewer than four calories in each 1⁄4-teaspoon packet, which is as sweet as two teaspoons of sugar. It’s best used in tea, coffee, or other drinks as it reacts differently to baking than sugar does, leading to differences in the volume and texture of foods.

Splenda (sucralose) is 600 times as sweet as table sugar; one packet is as sweet as two teaspoons of sugar. Though sucralose is made from a sugar molecule, it’s chemically altered in a lab so it passes through the body unmetabolized. Splenda has no calories and is heat stable, so it’s ideal for use in baking.

Equal (aspartame) has the sweetness of two teaspoons of sugar in each 1⁄4-teaspoon packet. Use it only in recipes designed specifically for Equal.

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Fitness and Health in the office

Health, vitality and fitness!

Work on the computer is not ideal from a health perspective. The lack of exercise, poor diet, or even the wrong attitude can lead to health problems.Obesity and lack of fitness are not only offside work a problem, but can also adversely affect one’s work performance.

Therefore, the topic plays an important role in me. In this blog carnival, I would like to know from you what you think about it. ”

The theme concerns certainly not only internet self-employed, but most office stool and therefore I would like to present my favorite measures for better fitness and health.

The radiation of the computer

I have developed in recent years a good perception of energies that do not like my body and the radiation of my computer is one of them. It weakens my body significantly, especially since the iMac computer and screen form a unit.

Lack of exercise

If I concentrate really am on to something, then it may be that I almost motionless sitting two hours at a stretch and actually scurry only the fingers on the keyboard. This brings a whole lot of health challenges. Movement is life, standing still means death – this is a simplified truth.

Cellular stress

In addition to the radiation of the computer, of course, is the whole issue to bear radiation, whether from smartphones, tablets, etc.

There cellular stress builds up and electrostatic charge puts us in the truest sense of the word tension.
Durable tension and stress burn out of us, especially at the cellular level.

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The health consciousness of the German

The health consciousness of the people in Germany is growing and more and more people realize that you can increase your endurance, strength and power through sports and fitness, and so gets a better life.

Meanwhile train around eight million people in over 6,000 fitness and health clubs in this country alone. The biggest step in the right direction is the jump over his own shadow. If you are in his every day life, it is extremely hard to get back out because most lack the inner drive.

Should be to motivate yourself to set goals. It is important that the target is a serious and you can reach it in small steps. Sport, too, can not perform miracles. Are the first steps in the right direction done, of course, one must reward. Be it with a delicious meal, or a new piece of clothing ( perhaps even one size smaller ).

One should not be too hard on yourself, because in sports there are bad days. So do not be equal to hang the head when times no progress.

After reaching its final destination, it is important not to stop, but to put the same the next target.

Nutrition & Sports

Not only for losing weight but also for muscle building diet plays a major role. Who does not adjust his diet to his training, is significantly less success.

The most important role in strength training take a protein and carbohydrates. The protein daily requirement of a non- exercisers amounts to 0.8 g -1, 0g/kg body weight. This need increases to up to 2.5 g / kg body weight, when operating strength training. Speak with a 70kg person, the daily requirement increases from 56g to 175g. Protein can be obtained from many products : meat, fish, oatmeal, egg, cheese, cottage cheese and much more.

The drawback is that these products often contain cholesterol and fat, so you should also dietary supplements, such as protein shakes / bolt, fall back. The greatest need for protein, the muscles immediately after training while shouting begs. Thus, the protein is also used as a building material and not as energy, is also to ensure adequate carbohydrate and fat intake. In strength training, the body primarily uses carbs for energy supply.

The supply should be chosen increasingly long chain carbohydrates. These can be in pasta, potatoes, rice, whole grain products and more. Find. Short-chain carbohydrates (sugars ) only make sense immediately before training, and then only in small doses. The last meal before exercise should be taken 1-3 hours (depending on quantity ) before.

To advance to come effectively in training, so you should both pay attention to his daily protein requirements as well as enough energy, out in the form of carbohydrates and fats.

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Breathing as a pillar of our health

Breathing is something elemental to our body. Without the supply of oxygen is as good as nothing, neither a long-term energy, nor a thought process in the brain. A good example of this can be the feeling of fatigue that affects us when we work long hours in confined spaces and in which we do to fix it, open the windows or go for a walk. What we want to achieve?

Basically two things are thus addressed:

a) Normalization of the breathing sequence that is under tension during strenuous work and more and more flatten and

b ) A targeted improvement of oxygen supply, so that the ” head clearer again ” (maybe also run remedy headaches) and our thought processes better.

And precisely these processes also aims forest walk or Nordic walking tour. All the more it amazes me when I walk in the forest smoking people see. That’s what I see for me is always with the driver who give the gas the handbrake attracts.

The same can be perceived even when the rest breaks in the cottages. When you see which portions gets expected of so many hikers stomach, then you wonder highest that this stomach even still allows some breathing. So a belly but can not help but say “ouch” when still breathing additional pressure is applied to it.

And the reaction of the body who wants to avoid a disruption of its operations, is simply a shift to the chest breathing – a reduction in the pressure feeling in the stomach. Thank you, one can only say.

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