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7 Best Natural Supplements & Vitamins to Boost Energy

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increase boost energy levels natural remedies

Modern hectic lifestyles often leave people feeling worn-out and drained. Fast food, sedentary lifestyles, poor sleep quality and chronic stress all contribute to day-time exhaustion.

Trying to balance work, family responsibilities and relationships can lead to mental, emotional and physical fatigue. When you’re feeling sluggish and unenergetic, routine tasks become daunting and you may lack the motivation to participate in activities you enjoy.

Fortunately, there are several natural remedies that can recharge your batteries and help to give you sustained energy and focus throughout the day.

7 Science-Backed Ways to Boost Your Energy

1. Rhodiola Rosea

rhodiola rosea increase boost energy levels natural remedies.

Rhodiola rosea is a medicinal herb that grows in cold climates. It is most commonly used to alleviate fatigue and physical and mental stress.

Rodent research indicates that that rhodiola interacts with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the body’s stress system, and reduces levels of stress-related hormones, enzymes and proteins. Laboratory studies have shown that rhodiola inhibits the action of monoamine oxidases, enzymes that break down neurotransmitters involved in regulating mood and energy.

A pilot study published in Phytomedicine investigated the stimulating effect of rhodiola rosea in students.  The participants were randomized to receive either 50 mg of rhodiola extract or a placebo daily for 20 days during a stressful examination period. Their physical and mental performance were assessed before and after the trial.

Compared to the control group, the rhodiola group showed significant improvements in mental energy, physical fitness and neuro-motor test performance. They also reported significantly better general well-being.  The researchers note that the 50 mg dose level was probably suboptimal.

A crossover study published in Phytomedicine examined the effect of rhodiola rosea on fatigue during night duty among a group of 56 healthy physicians. Before and after night shifts the doctors took 5 different tests to measure their overall level of mental fatigue. The tests measured aspects of cognition such as short-term memory, concentration, calculation, associative thinking and perception.

In a double-blind trial the physicians were randomized to receive either a 175 mg of rhodiola extract supplement or a placebo for 2 weeks. After a two-week break they were given the alternative treatment.  Rhodiola supplementation significantly improved cognitive testing performance following night shifts.

A clinical trial published in Planta Medica assessed the efficacy of rhodiola rosea in the treatment of individuals suffering from stress-related fatigue. A total of 60 men and women diagnosed with fatigue syndrome were randomized to receive either 576 mg of rhodiola extract tablets or placebo tablets daily for 4 weeks. Before and after the trial the participants took a series of tests measuring mood, attention and symptoms of fatigue. They also took saliva tests to determine levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Compared with the placebo group, the rhodiola group had significant improvements in symptoms of fatigue and in mental performance, particularly the ability to concentrate. They also had significantly reduced levels of cortisol.

Method: Rhodiola rosea root extract supplements come in capsules or tablets in strengths that range between 100-500 mg. The standard dose is a 200 mg supplement taken twice daily.

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2. Asian Ginseng

asian ginseng roots boost increase energy

Asian ginseng, also known as panax ginseng or Korean ginseng, is thought to reduce fatigue and improve cognitive performance due to its antioxidant properties.

One study found that participants with unexplained chronic fatigue had a 4-fold greater level of malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidative stress, in comparison with healthy subjects. Treatment with Asian ginseng significantly reduced levels of oxidative stress markers after 4 weeks.

A randomized controlled trial published in Alternative and Complementary Medicine investigated the anti-fatigue effects of a ginseng extract in healthy adults. A total of 52 subjects were allocated to one of two groups. The treatment group received 2 grams per day of a ginseng extract modified with enzymes to intensify biological activity. The control group received a placebo. Before and after the trial all of the participants rated their fatigue level using a standardized survey. After 4 weeks, the ginseng extract group’s fatigue score decreased significantly compared to the control group.

A clinical trial published in PLOS One investigated the antifatigue effects of Asian ginseng in 90 men and women with medically unexplained chronic fatigue. Participants were randomized into 3 groups and assigned to receive ginseng extract capsules in a dose of 1 or 2 grams daily or placebo capsules for 4 weeks. At the start and end of the study, participants rated their fatigue on a scale of 1-10 and also completed a questionnaire about severity of mental and physical symptoms of fatigue.

Subjects in the high-dose ginseng group had a significant drop in their 1-10 fatigue rating from an average of 7.3 down to 4.4. Severity scores for symptoms of mental fatigue were significantly improved for both ginseng groups compared the placebo group, falling by approximately 25%.

A crossover study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology examined the effect of ginseng on cognitive performance during mentally demanding tasks. Researchers recruited 27 healthy young adults and gave them a 10-minute test that involved mental subtraction and rapid visual information processing.

Each participant took a 200 mg ginseng supplement, a 400 mg ginseng supplement or a placebo in random order on different test days. One hour after taking the ginseng or placebo, they completed the cognitive demand test 6 times in immediate succession and rated their level of mental fatigue each time.

Compared to placebo, ginseng enhanced performance on the mental arithmetic task and reduced the increase in feelings of mental fatigue during the later stages of the cognitively demanding task performance.

Method: Choose a Panax ginseng root extract tablet standardized to 4-8% gingenosides. Take 200-400 mg daily for an energy boost. Alternatively, take a ginseng supplement an hour before attempting a stressful mental task.

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3. Tyrosine

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Tyrosine is an amino acid used by the body to make proteins. It is naturally found in dairy products and a variety of protein foods. (Its name comes from the Greek word for cheese.)

Research has shown that tyrosine facilitates the production of stimulatory neurotransmitters in the brain which can be depleted by stress and fatigue. In particular, it increases levels of norepinephrine which mobilizes the body and brain for action by releasing energy stores and increasing arousal and alertness.

A double-blind study published in the Brain Research Bulletin examined the effects of tyrosine on cognitive performance during a demanding combat training course. A total of 21 military cadets were randomized to receive 5 daily doses of either a protein-rich drink containing 2 grams of tyrosine or a carbohydrate rich drink with the same amount of calories.

Before starting the combat course, the cadets completed cognitive tests. When they were retested on the 6th day of training, the group given tyrosine performed significantly better on tasks that tested alertness and memory. The researchers conclude that, in circumstances characterized by psychosocial and physical stress, supplementation of tyrosine may reduce the effects of stress and fatigue on cognitive performance.

A randomized controlled trial conducted by the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory examined the behavioral effects of tyrosine during an episode of continuous night-time work. The workers remained awake throughout the day on which the experiment began. They performed a battery of performance tasks and mood assessments at 9 intervals starting at 7:30 PM and ending at 8:20 AM. All of the participants were awake for more than 24 hours by the end of testing.

After 6 hours, half of the subjects received 150 mg of tyrosine per kilogram of body weight and half received a placebo. As the night went on, the tyrosine group had significantly less decline in performance on tasks designed to measure sustained attention and vigilance.  The cognitive improvements lasted approximately 3 hours.

A study published in Nutrients investigated the cognitive and mood effects of a nutrient enriched breakfast bar containing tyrosine. A total of 95 healthy adults were randomized to receive either breakfast bars containing 279 mg of tyrosine, vitamins and other nutrients or placebo breakfast bars matched in terms of calories, fiber, sugars and protein. They were instructed to eat one bar daily for 8 weeks.

At the beginning and end of the trial, cognitive function and mood were assessed before consuming the bars and at 40 minutes and 2 hours afterwards. The selection of 14 cognitive tasks was chosen to provide a broad assessment across different domains. They also completed a standardized depression, anxiety and stress questionnaire.

The effect of the tyrosine breakfast bars on mood was apparent 40 minutes after consumption with a significant increase in alertness. Performance was enhanced on tasks that tested attention, long-term and short-term memory, concentration and rapid information processing. The effect of the bars was immediate, rather than cumulative, with similar improvements on day 1 and day 56.

Method: Meat (beef, lamb, pork, poultry) is the best dietary source of tyrosine. Other good sources are fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, beans and peanuts.

If you have a relatively low-protein diet or are regularly subject to physical or psychological stress, L- tyrosine supplements could help reduce fatigue and increase alertness. Take a 500 mg capsule daily.

An L- tyrosine supplement capsule taken 40 minutes before a demanding, stressful task can help enhance your performance.

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4. Peppermint Oil Aromatherapy

peppermint oil aromatherapy leaves increase boost energy levels natural remedies.

Many people find the aroma of peppermint invigorating and there appears to be a biological basis for this.

Studies suggest that components of peppermint oil act as central nervous system stimulants. Other research has also shown that inhaling peppermint improves lung capacity, supplying more oxygen to the brain.

A preliminary study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology investigated the effect of peppermint oil on daytime sleepiness. Changes in pupil size in darkness can be can be used as a reliable objective measure of sleepiness. Researchers analyzed pupillary fatigue oscillations in subjects during 11 minutes spent in a darkened room with or without the aroma of peppermint oil. Compared with a no-odor condition, peppermint oil significantly limited the increase in sleepiness.

Another study published in the International Journal of Technology investigated the effects of peppermint aromatherapy on performance and fatigue in complex air traffic control tasks. A total of 16 participants performed tasks using air traffic control simulation software for 2 hours with and without peppermint aroma.

The subject’s performance was recorded by the software. Their fatigue levels were measured using a heart rate monitor, electroencephalograph (EEG) and a reaction-time testing device. Peppermint aroma significantly improved simulation performance. It also significantly inhibited fatigue development according to all measures.

A third study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience examined the impact essential oils on  cognition and mood in healthy participants. A total of 144 participants were randomly assigned to a peppermint aromatherapy group, a ylang-ylang aromatherapy group or a control group.

Before and after treatment with essential oils the participants took a battery of computer-based cognitive tests and a mood assessment. Peppermint was found to enhance memory and increase alertness. Ylang-ylang decreased memory and alertness, but increased calmness.

A small pilot study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine examined the effectiveness of a mixture of peppermint, basil and helichrysum essential oils on mental exhaustion. Researchers recruited 14 participants and randomized them to receive personal inhalers containing either the essential oils mixture or a rosewater placebo.

The subjects used the inhalers at home and at work for 5 days. Throughout the study they rated their feelings of mental fatigue or burnout on a 10-point scale 3 times a day.  The aromatherapy group had a much greater reduction in perceived level of mental fatigue and burnout than the control group.

Method: To fill a room with peppermint aroma, add a few drops of peppermint essential oil to a reed diffuser, candle diffuser or electric diffuser.

Essential oil personal nasal inhaler sticks are available online from shops that stock aromatherapy supplies. Simply add 5 drops of peppermint oil and seal. Keep the inhaler in your pocket or purse and breathe in peppermint aroma whenever you need an energy boost.

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5. Magnesium

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According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), dietary surveys of Americans consistently show that the majority of people get less than the recommended amounts of magnesium from their diet.

Magnesium is required to activate ATP, the fundamental unit of energy within cells, and to metabolize nutrients into energy. Some of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency, such as weakness, tiredness and muscle pain are similar to those found in chronic fatigue syndrome.

A clinical trial published in the Lancet tested magnesium treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The researchers started with a case-control study to determine whether patients with CFS were deficient in magnesium. They found that CFS patients had significantly lower magnesium levels in their red blood cells compared to healthy controls matched for age and sex. They then randomly allocated 32 CFS patients to receive magnesium sulphate injections or placebo water injections once a week for 6 weeks. Before and after treatment the patients filled in a health profile questionnaire.

Patients treated with magnesium reported improved energy levels, less pain and better emotional state. In half the patients the energy score improved from the minimum to the maximum. In the magnesium group, 80% of patients said that they had benefited from the injections compared to 18% of those in the placebo group.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition examined the effects of dietary magnesium restriction on physiologic responses during exercise in postmenopausal women. Older women often consume less than the required amount of magnesium. Researchers recruited 10 women aged 45–71 y old and put them on a low magnesium diet.

After 93 days of magnesium depletion, their heart rate, oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide output were monitored while they pedaled an exercise bike until they reached 80% of the peak heart rate for their age. They then were supplemented with 200 mg of magnesium per day for 49 days to restore normal magnesium levels and the exercise test was repeated.

Magnesium intake affected cardiovascular and metabolic responses during exercise. Oxygen utilization and heart rate increased significantly during magnesium restriction compared with adequate magnesium intake. When women were magnesium deficient they required significantly more energy to perform the same amount of physical activity.

A pilot study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine evaluated the effect of magnesium on fatigue symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Researchers recruited 23 patients with seasonal fatigue symptoms and gave them 4-5 weekly injections of a solution containing 40% magnesium hydroxide.

Before and after treatment, the patients completed questionnaires about physical and mental fatigue symptoms. Of the 22 patients who completed the final questionnaire, 82% reported an improvement in fatigue symptoms and 41% reported a strong improvement.

Method: Good sources of dietary magnesium include dark leafy greens, seeds and nuts. Magnesium can also be found in fish, dark chocolate, avocados and bananas. A good way to get more magnesium on a regular basis is to substitute almonds, brazil nuts or pumpkin seeds for unhealthy snacks like potato or corn chips.

The least expensive magnesium supplements contain magnesium oxide, but research has shown that this type is poorly absorbed from the intestinal tract. According to the NIH, magnesium in the citrate, lactate, aspartate and chloride forms is absorbed more completely and is more bioavailable than magnesium oxide or magnesium sulfate.

Take one 200 mg tablet or capsule of magnesium per day.

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6. Vitamin D

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Fatigue and low energy are symptoms of inadequate Vitamin D. Data from the National Health and Examination Survey indicates that approximately 42% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient.

Research has shown that Vitamin D is important for mitochondrial function within muscle cells. Mitochondria use glucose and oxygen to make energy and low Vitamin D levels can interfere with this process.

An Iranian study examined the relationship between fatigue and circulating Vitamin D levels in female nurses. Researchers randomly selected 200 out of 526 nurses working in a hospital to participate in the study. The nurses rated their fatigue levels on a 10-point scale and completed a fatigue questionnaire. Blood tests showed that 89% of the nurses were Vitamin D deficient.

Analysis of the data showed a significant correlation between Vitamin D levels and fatigue. Vitamin D level accounted for 13% of the fatigue based on data from the questionnaire. There was no significant relationship between fatigue and other variables including number of shift per month, age and work history. When researchers analyzed data from the 10-point scale rating alone, vitamin D deficiency accounted for 18.6% of fatigue.

A therapeutic study published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences examined the effect of normalization of Vitamin D levels on fatigue. Researchers recruited 174 adult patients between the ages of 18-75 who visited a primary care office with fatigue as their chief complaint. The volunteers completed a fatigue scale assessment questionnaire called the MFSI-SF. Blood tests revealed that 77% of the fatigue patients had low levels of Vitamin D.

All patients with low Vitamin D (less than 30 ng/ml) received high dose oral Vitamin D supplements three times per week for 5 weeks or until their Vitamin D levels reached the normal range. They then repeated the fatigue questionnaire. Normalization of Vitamin D levels significantly improved scores in all sub-scale categories of the fatigue assessment including general, emotional, mental and physical symptoms.

A randomized controlled trial published in Medicine examined the effect of vitamin D on fatigue. A total of 120 adults who reported fatigue symptoms and had low levels of Vitamin D were enrolled in the study. The participants all completed a standard fatigue assessment scale (FAS). The treatment group received a single dose of 2 capsules containing 50,000 IU Vitamin D. The control group received identically packaged placebo capsules.

After 4 weeks the participants repeated the FAS. Average scores decreased significantly more in the Vitamin D group compared with the placebo group and improvement in fatigue score correlated with the rise in Vitamin D levels. Self-perceived improvement of fatigue was also reported more frequently in the Vitamin D group than in the placebo group.

Method: The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for Vitamin D is 600-800 IU per day, but most people get less than this from their diets. The best food sources are oily fish, egg yolks and beef liver.

While the sun converts a substance in the skin to Vitamin D, many people don’t get adequate year-round sun exposure to produce recommended levels.

The Endocrine Society clinical practice guidelines state that adults may require at least 1,500-2,000 IU per day of Vitamin D supplements to consistently reach healthy levels.

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7. Exercise

exercise boost increase energy levels natural remedies

Regular exercise increases lung capacity and helps the heart to work more efficiently. This allows more oxygen to circulate in your bloodstream and energize your brain and muscles. Physical activity also promotes the release of endorphins.

These ‘feel good’ chemicals boosts mood and helps to combat energy-draining stress. Another benefit of exercise is improved quality of sleep, which helps you to feel more alert throughout the day.

A study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics examined the effects of exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary young adults. A total of 36 participants who reported persistent feelings of fatigue were randomly assigned to either a no-exercise control group, a low-intensity exercise group or a moderate-intensity exercise group.

The participants attended exercise sessions for 3 days a week for 6 weeks. They completed weekly questionnaires about vigor and fatigue. Their aerobic fitness was measured before and after the trial.

Both the low and moderate intensity groups showed beneficial effects on feelings of energy. The low intensity group showed a better improvement in feelings of fatigue. These changes were unrelated to changes in aerobic fitness.

Hormonal shifts, sleepless nights and childcare duties often cause new mothers to experience stress and low energy. An Iranian study assessed the effect of Pilates home exercise on postpartum maternal fatigue. Researchers recruited 80 women attending health centers for prenatal care. Half of the women were assigned to an exercise group and half were assigned to a control group. Each woman’s level of fatigue was evaluated at hospital discharge and at four and eight weeks after delivery.

The exercise group were given a video, a training booklet and an audio CD to use during home exercise. The Pilates exercises focused on deep breathing, whole-body stretching and core strengthening. The women performed the exercises for 30 minutes, 5 days a week beginning 72 hours after giving birth. After 8 weeks, the exercise group had significantly better scores than the control group in areas of general fatigue, physical fatigue, mental fatigue, activity and motivation.

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology compared the effect of a sugar snack versus moderate exercise on energy, tiredness and tension. On 12 selected days, 18 volunteers were randomly assigned to eat a candy bar or walk briskly for 10 minutes. Afterward, they rated their energy and mood over a 2-hour period.

Significant increases in energy and decreases in tension were observed for 2 hours after walking. The sugar snack initially increased energy and reduced tiredness, but one hour after eating it, the participants reported reduced energy, increased tiredness and significantly higher tension.

Method: It’s easy to find excuses not to exercise when you’re feeling tired or stressed, so choose a type of exercise you enjoy and build it in to your daily routine. If you make a habit of jogging every morning, cycling to work, or taking a walk at lunchtime you’ll feel more energetic after just a few weeks.

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Final Word

Here are a few more words of advice for feeling energized throughout the day:

  • It may seem obvious, but poor sleep is a major cause of low energy. If you have trouble drifting off or wake frequently during the night, you’ll probably feel exhausted the next morning. Try these 7 Tips on How to Get Better Sleep or these Remedies & Sleep Aids to Cure Insomnia.
  • Coffee is an instant pick-me-up that has many health benefits. Just don’t drink it after 5 PM, as it could affect your quality of sleep.
  • Avoid sugary snacks and soft drinks. Sweet foods cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels that can give you an energizing ‘sugar rush’. However, this burst of energy doesn’t last long and when your blood sugar drops you may feel tired, weak and irritable.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast that includes some form of protein such as eggs, cheese or yogurt. Protein will help to reduce the blood sugar spikes and midmorning slumps that come along with carbohydrate breakfasts such as cereal or toast.

7 Best Natural Remedies to Improve Memory, Focus & Concentration

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memory loss forgetfulness natural remedies

Everyone experiences forgetfulness at times and episodes of absent-mindedness tend to become more common as we get older.

Occasional memory lapses can be frustrating, but in most cases, they are part of the normal aging process and not an early warning sign of dementia. Younger people can also experience difficulties with retaining or recalling information due to a variety of biological and psychological factors.

Common Causes of Memory Loss

  • Age: The hippocampus, a brain region involved in the retrieval of memories, often deteriorates with age and cognitive processing begins to slow down.
  • Menopause: Estrogen influences a number of brain functions including verbal memory. As a woman’s estrogen levels begin to drop during menopause, she may find it more difficult to recall names and words.
  • Pregnancy: Hormone fluctuations during pregnancy can affect memory, resulting in ‘baby brain’.
  • Depression: People with depression experience invasive thoughts that can interfere with their ability to take in new information, categorize it and recall it later.
  • Thyroid Disease: Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause cognitive problems such as poor concentration, memory lapses and brain fog.
  • Medication: Some prescription medications can cause memory loss as a side effect. These include sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, antihistamines and drugs for depression and anxiety.

Other common causes including stress, lack of sleep and nutritional deficiencies are discussed in detail below.

Normal Memory Lapses

The following types of ‘senior moments’ are normal and usually not warning signs of serious cognitive impairment or dementia:

  • Forgetting names of acquaintances or people to whom you’ve recently been introduced
  • Not being able to retrieve a word or fact but feeling that it is ‘on the tip of your tongue’
  • Walking into a room and forgetting why you went there
  • Opening the refrigerator when you intended to get something from a cupboard
  • Becoming distracted and forgetting what someone just told you or what you just read
  • Forgetting where you left a frequently used object

The supplements and techniques described below could help improve your memory and overall cognitive function. They may also help to prevent age-related memory problems from developing.

7 Science-Backed Remedies for Memory Loss

1. Asian Ginseng

asian ginseng roots memory loss natural remedies

Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to combat the effects of aging. Ginseng contains active components known as ginsenosides.

Ginsenosides increase internal antioxidant enzymes, helping to decrease brain cell damage due to oxidative stress. They also protect neurons from damage caused by excessive stimulation by neurotransmitters such as glutamate.

Research has shown that ginsenosides such as panaxydol and panaxynol can protect brain cells and prevent neurodegeneration. Rodent studies have also shown that ginsenosides reduce the accumulation of the Alzheimer’s amyloid beta peptide in the brain.

A crossover study published in Nutritional Neuroscience investigated whether ginseng had any consistent effect on aspects of cognitive performance. Researcher recruited 20 healthy young volunteers who were given four different supplements in random order: 200, 400 or 600 mg of ginseng capsules or a placebo capsule.

The participants took a battery of computerized cognitive tests under each condition between 1-6 hours after taking the capsule. There was a significant improvement in scores for quality of memory and episodic memory at all time points following 400 mg of Ginseng.

A study published in the Journal of Ginseng Research investigated the effects of 8-weeks administration of ginseng on cognitive performance.  A total of 16 healthy young participants were treated with ginseng extract capsules and placebo capsules for 8-weeks in random order with a 4-week wash-out between treatments.

On days 1, 29, and 57, the participants were given a battery of computerized cognitive tests and completed mood questionnaires. Ginseng treatment significantly improved performance on working memory tasks. It also improved subjective ratings of quality of life and mood.

A clinical study published in Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders investigated the efficacy of ginseng in the cognitive performance of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Researchers randomly assigned 58 Alzheimer’s patients to receive 4.5 grams per day of ginseng powder. Another 39 patients served as a control group. Both groups also continued conventional therapy.

Patients’ cognitive performances were monitored using the standardized Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and Alzheimer disease assessment scale (ADAS) during the 12-week ginseng treatment and at 12 weeks following discontinuation of ginseng.

After ginseng supplementation, both the cognitive subscale of ADAS and the MMSE score began to show improvements which continued up to 12 weeks. At 12 weeks after ginseng discontinuation, the improved cognition scores declined to the levels of the control group. Researchers concluded that ginseng treatment was clinically effective for improving cognitive function in Alzheimer disease patients.

Method: When choosing an Asian ginseng (also known as Korean ginseng) supplement, keep in mind that the weight of ginseng root extract in milligrams doesn’t tell you how much of the active ingredients it contains. Compare labels and look for a supplement containing at least 24mg of ginsenosides.

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2. Ginkgo Biloba

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Gingko biloba is currently among the most popular supplements for boosting memory and preventing dementia.

Gingko biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree, is one of the oldest species of tree in the world. Its leaves were used in ancient Chinese medicine to promote energy flow through the body.

Research has shown that compounds in Gingko including terpene trilactones and flavonoids cross the blood–brain barrier and enter the central nervous system. These substances improve oxygen-rich blood flow to the brain, promoting healthy growth of neural connections. They also help protect against neurodegenerative diseases.

A population-based study published in PLOS One investigated the effect of Ginkgo biloba on long-term cognitive decline within a cohort of 3,612 non-demented participants aged 65 and over. The researchers analyzed data collected over 20 years of follow-up during home visits by trained psychologists. Cognitive function was assessed with the standardized Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and separate tests for visual memory and verbal fluency. Participants were asked about their physical health and all medications consumed.

Within the cohort, 589 subjects reported taking Ginkgo biloba extract and 149 reported taking piracetam, a memory enhancing ‘smart drug’. Data from these groups were compared with each other and with data from the 2,874 subjects who did not report use of either supplement.

The decline in MMSE scores was significantly lower in the group who used Ginkgo biloba. At the end of the 20-year follow-up, the gingko group scored about 5 points better on the 30-point MMSE, which the researchers considered an important and clinically relevant difference.  Surprisingly, the piracetam group did not perform as well as the Gingko group and the ‘neither treatment’ group all along the follow-up period in the three tests studied.

A Chinese study tested the efficacy of Ginkgo biloba in improving episodic memory in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). A total of 120 MCI patients aged 60-85 were randomized into 2 groups. The treatment group took 19.2 mg of Ginkgo biloba leaf tablets 3 times a day. The control group received their usual care. At the beginning and end of the study, the patients were assessed with a picture recognition test and a logical memory test.

After 6 months, the scores on both memory tests increased significantly in the Ginkgo biloba group. There was no statistically significant difference in test scores for the control group. The positive rate of picture recognition in the Ginkgo group was 55% compared to 33% in the control group and the efficacy rate of logical memory was 59% in the treatment group, compared to 38% in the control group.

A controlled trial published in Neurology assessed the efficacy of Ginkgo biloba extract on delaying the progression to cognitive impairment in the elderly. A total of 118 people over age 85 with normal memory function were randomized to receive either daily supplements containing 240 mg of Ginkgo biloba extract or a placebo.

Over 3 years, the participants underwent 6-month follow-up visits to assess health status changes and MMSE scores. Researchers also conducted a pill count to determine whether the subjects were taking their supplements as instructed.  Annual visits included extensive cognitive testing and clinical examinations.

During the study twice as many people in the placebo group developed mild cognitive impairment compared to the gingko group, but because of the small sample size, the difference was not statistically significant. When the researchers re-analyzed the data using only subjects who took their pills as instructed in the proper dosage, the results showed that the ginkgo biloba takers had a 67% lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.

Method: Look for an extract of Gingko biloba supplement standardized to contain 24% flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones. Take 120 mg daily.

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3. DHA

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DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 essential fatty acid that is an integral component of neurons and plays an important role in brain function.

Dietary DHA is deposited in the brain’s hippocampus where it enhances synaptic transmission. Memory cells communicate and transmit messages more easily when there are higher levels of DHA in this region of the brain.

Rodent studies have shown that DHA accumulates in areas of the brain involved in memory and attention and that low levels of DHA can reduce memory-related learning ability. DHA deficiency is common among vegetarians and people who rarely consume fish or seafood.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition tested potential associations between omega-3 fatty acids and cognitive functioning in middle-aged adults. Researchers recruited 280 volunteers aged 35-54 who were not taking fish oil supplements. All of the participants had their blood tested for levels of ALA, EPA and DHA. They then took a 75-minute battery of neuropsychological tests. Higher DHA levels were related to better performance on tests of nonverbal reasoning, vocabulary, mental flexibility, working memory. Neither EPA nor ALA was significantly related to any dimensions of cognitive performance.

A double-blind trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated whether DHA supplements improve cognitive performance in healthy young adults. A total of 176 participants aged 18-45 who had a low intake of dietary DHA were randomized to receive either 1.15 grams of DHA per day or a placebo for 6 months.

Before and after supplementation, participants took a battery of computerized tests including word recall, picture recognition and letter-number sequencing. Compared with the placebo, DHA supplementation significantly improved reaction times on tasks associated with episodic and working memory.

A randomized controlled trial published in Psychopharmacology investigated the effects of fish oil supplementation on mild cognitive impairment (MCI). A total of 36 elderly subjects with MCI were assigned to receive either concentrated DHA fish oil supplements or placebo capsules for 12 months. Cognitive tests before and after supplementation assessed changes in memory. The fish oil group showed significant improvement in short-term and working memory, immediate verbal memory and delayed recall capability.

A meta-analysis published in PLOS One examined the effect of DHA intake on specific memory domains in healthy adults. Researchers combined data from 15 trials in which subjects with mild memory complaints or no cognitive complaints were treated with fish oil or DHA supplements. The trials averaged 4-6 months and most enrolled at least 100 subjects. The data showed that supplementation with at least 1 gram per day of fish oil significantly improved episodic memory (memory of personally experienced events) regardless of cognitive status.

Method: Aim to eat at least two servings per week of oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, fresh tuna or swordfish.

There are several types of DHA supplements available including fish oil, cod liver oil and krill oil. Vegetarians can obtain DHA from algae oil supplements.

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4. Curcumin

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Curcumin is a polyphenolic compound found in the curry spice turmeric. It may help boost memory and reduce cognitive decline through three different mechanisms.

In addition to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, it increases the expression of enzymes which degrade beta-amyloid proteins. Beta-amyloid proteins build up at brain synapses and interfere with communication between cells.

Research has shown that curcumin’s potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, both of which have been linked to memory impairment. Rodent studies have demonstrated that curcumin can also help to protect against Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.

A cohort study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined the association between usual curry consumption and cognitive performance in elderly Asians. Researchers interviewed 1,010 subjects aged 60–93 about their frequency of curry consumption and assessed their cognitive function using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE).

The data revealed that participants who consumed curry occasionally, often or very often had significantly better MMSE scores than subjects who never or rarely consumed curry. The difference in scores between curry-eaters and non-curry eaters was equivalent to a 10-year age difference.

A study published in Psychopharmacology investigated the effects of curcumin on cognition and mood in an older population. Researchers recruited 60 healthy volunteers aged 60-85 and randomized them into two groups.  The treatment group received 400 mg of curcumin capsules formulated for increased bioavailability. The control group received placebo capsules.

One hour and 3 hours after taking the capsules, the participants completed computerized cognitive tasks such as mental subtraction, word and picture recall and reaction time tests. They repeated the cognitive tasks after taking the supplements for 4 weeks. After 1 hour, curcumin significantly improved performance on working memory and sustained attention tasks compared with the placebo. After 4 weeks of treatment, working memory and vigilance were significantly better and mood was improved. Participants also reported reduced fatigue, less stress and improved calmness and contentedness.

An 18-month trial published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry studied the effect of curcumin on memory in healthy, non-demented older adults. A total of 40 subjects aged 51–84 were randomized to receive 90 mg of a bioavailable form of curcumin or placebo capsules twice daily.

At the start and end of the trial, the participants performed standardized cognitive assessment tasks. After 18 months the curcumin group showed significant improvements in verbal memory, visual memory and sustained attention and also had mild improvements in mood. The placebo group did not have significant improvements in any cognitive domain.

The researchers also performed PET scans on a subgroup of 30 subjects at the start and end of the study to determine the level of proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease. After 18 months brain scans of the curcumin group showed significantly less accumulation of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in brain regions modulating mood and memory.

Method: If you cook curries with turmeric you can increase the bioavailability of curcumin by adding ground black pepper.

When choosing a curcumin supplement, look for ones containing at least 700 mg of active curcuminoids in a bioavailable formula.

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5. Vitamin B-12

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Vitamin B-12 deficiency is a surprisingly common cause of memory loss symptoms. It is essential for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system.

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the maintenance of the myelin sheaths that cover and protect the nerves, ensuring effective nerve-impulse transmission. People tend to become less efficient at absorbing vitamin B-12 from food as they age, so vitamin B-12 insufficiency often occurs in older people.

Because there are no plant-derived foods that supply a sustainable amount of vitamin B-12, vegetarians and vegans of any age can suffer a deficiency unless they take supplements or eat fortified processed foods. Research has shown that even adolescents following a vegan diet can suffer from neurologic disorders and impaired cognitive performance.

A study published in Neurology investigated the interrelations of vitamin B-12 markers with cognitive performance.  Researchers took blood samples from 121 people aged 65 and over enrolled in the Chicago Health and Aging Project and tested them for metabolites that can indicate a B12 deficiency. The participants took neuropsychological tests measuring their memory and other cognitive skills and, 4-5 years later, MRI scans were taken to measure their total brain volume.

The data showed that high concentrations of four markers for vitamin B-12 deficiency were associated with lower global cognitive function and smaller brain volume. High levels of B-12 deficiency markers were specifically linked to poorer episodic memory, semantic memory and perceptual speed.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined whether levels of vitamin B-12 within the normal range were linked to memory functions in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Researchers recruited 100 patients who had been diagnosed with MCI and measured their blood levels of vitamin B-12. Their cognitive performance was assessed with a word learning and word recall test. Participants also underwent MRI scans to reveal brain structures associated with memory.

MCI patients with vitamin B-12 concentrations in the low-normal range showed significantly poorer memory performance, learning ability and recognition scores in comparison with MCI patients with high-normal vitamin B12 concentrations. MRI scans showed that the low-normal B-12 group also had reduced structural integrity of the hippocampus.

A 2-year controlled trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated whether folic acid and vitamin B-12 supplementation could reduce cognitive decline in the older population.  A cohort of 900 adults aged 60-74 with depressive symptoms were randomized to receive supplement tablets containing oral 400 ug of folic acid and 100 ug of vitamin B-12 or placebo tablets.

At the start of the study, and at 12 and 24 months, researchers assessed participants’ cognitive function using a standardized screening test called the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status–Modified (TICS-M). After 24 months, the supplementation group showed significantly greater improvements in overall cognitive functioning scores compared to the placebo group. They also showed significant improvements in immediate and delayed memory performance.

Method:  Foods rich in vitamin B-12 include fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.

Vegans and people over aged 50 should take a daily 1,000 mcg of B-12 supplement.

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6. Stress Management

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In stressful situations, the adrenal glands produce the hormone cortisol as part of the ‘fight or flight’ response.

High levels of cortisol in the bloodstream associated with chronic stress have been linked to impaired memory and cognitive function. An excess of cortisol can impair the ability of the hippocampus to both encode memories and retrieve information.

Chronic stress can also trigger an immune response which causes inflammation in the brain, leading to short-term memory loss.

Research on rodents has shown that repeated, long-term exposure to cortisol can lead to the gradual loss of synapses in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that stores short-term memories.

A Danish study examined whether work-related stress can cause impaired concentration and memory. Researchers matched 59 outpatients on sick leave due to work-related stress with 59 healthy controls of the same age, sex and educational level. The participants were all assessed with a battery of neuropsychological tests.

Compared to controls, the stressed patients showed reduced performance across all the measured cognitive domains. Significant differences between patients and controls were seen on tests of complex working memory, prospective memory and processing speed.

A longitudinal study published in Psychology and Aging examined the association between stress, memory problems and cognitive decline. A cohort of 112 men and women aged 34-83 took a battery of 7 cognitive tests which measured working memory, reasoning and speed of processing. They repeated the same tests 10 years later to give an indication of age-related cognitive degeneration.

Over 12 weeks following the second cognitive assessment, the participants filled in surveys about daily stressors such as spousal disagreements and everyday memory failures such as difficulty dividing attention between two activities. The participants also provided saliva samples to assess levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Participants with greater cognitive decline reported more memory problems, but they had greater increases in memory problems during times of stress as measured by both their weekly self-reports and their cortisol profiles.

Obesity can lead to elevated cortisol responses to stress. A study published in the journal Stress explored stress-induced cognitive impairment in centrally obese individuals. Researchers divided 66 middle-aged adults into groups according to their waist-to-hip ratio.

The participants underwent a stress protocol that required them to prepare and deliver a speech and verbally respond to a challenging arithmetic problem while being judged by an audience. Their post-stress cognitive performance was evaluated using a battery of computer-based neuropsychological tests. Exposure to stress and increasing waist-to-hip ratio were specifically associated with poorer performance on declarative memory tasks including spatial recognition memory and paired associates learning.

Method: To keep your cortisol levels under control, learn to relax with various stress management techniques and find a stress-relieving activity that you enjoy doing on a regular basis.

You can try mindfulness, meditation, yoga, Tai Chi or nature walks. Make it a point to work ‘me time’ into your daily schedule.

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7. Sleep

sleep memory loss natural remedies.

Sleep is vital for memory and learning. During the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, newly acquired information is consolidated in memory.

Slow brain waves generated during deep sleep plays a key role in transporting memories from the short-term storage area in the brain’s hippocampus to long-term storage area in the prefrontal cortex.

Sleep disruption in the elderly is a contributing factor to age-related cognitive decline. As people age, grey matter in the prefrontal cortex gradually shrinks, causing a reduction in slow wave activity during non–rapid eye movement sleep.

In addition, many older people experience disrupted sleep due to chronic medical conditions such as arthritis, gastric reflux disorder or sleep apnea.

A prospective study published in Sleep examined whether sleep duration was associated with memory decline or development of memory impairment. A cohort of 13,888 participants aged 50 and over with no memory impairment at the start of the study were followed up for an average of 4 years.

All of the participants were interviewed about lifestyle factions and sleeping habits including night-time sleep duration and day-time napping. Their memory was assessed using a standardized word recall test. A subset of 6,020 participants also had their cognitive function assessed with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE).

Over the follow-up period, 980 participants developed memory impairment. Compared to those who slept an average of 7 hours per day, participants with sleep duration of 5 hours or less had significant declines in MMSE scores. This association remained after adjusting for factors such as smoking, physical activity and health status.

A study published in PLOS One examined the impact of a daytime sleep opportunity on working memory. A total of 80 healthy students aged 17-23 were randomized to a nap group or a wake group. At 1 pm the participants spent an hour taking a variety of tests that measured vigilance, attention and working memory.

Then the nap group were allowed to sleep for 90 minutes while monitored by polysomnography. Meanwhile, the wake group spent time using electronic devices or doing homework. At 5:30pm, all the participants completed another session of cognitive tests.

The nap group had significantly higher accuracy on the working memory task and fewer lapses on the vigilance test. Unsurprisingly, they also reported less sleepiness than the wake group. Within the nap-group, working memory scores were positively correlated with duration of rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and total sleep time.

A crossover study published in Sleep investigated the effects of sleep duration on the ability to recall learned information during periods of stress. Researchers invited 15 healthy young men to a sleep laboratory and randomized them to a 4-hour or 8-hour sleep condition. At 10 pm, the participants completed a declarative memory task similar to the game ‘concentration’ in which they learned the locations of matching pairs of cards. The long sleep group went to bed at 11 pm and the short sleep group went to bed at 3 am.

Both groups were woken at 7 am and repeated the declarative memory task at 8:30 am. The participants then underwent a 30-minute stress protocol which involved intense and demanding tasks such as memorizing words while a loud beeping noise played through their headphones. They then repeated the ‘concentration’ task.

Following the stress protocol, participants who got only 4 hours of sleep were unable to maintain their pre-stress performance on the declarative memory task. In contrast, those who got a full night’s sleep recalled card locations just as well after being subjected to stress.

Method:  Aim to get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Follow these 7 Tips on How to Get Better Sleep and try these Remedies to Cure Insomnia.

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Final Word

If you find yourself experiencing minor memory lapses or ‘senior moments’, use these coping strategies to help prevent them from disrupting your daily routine.

  • When someone gives you important information, repeat it back to them to help cement it in your mind.
  • Write down appointments, meetings and social functions in a diary or on a calendar.
  • Make shopping lists and ‘to do’ lists.
  • Have specific places to keep frequently used items such as keys or glasses and always return them there.
  • If you’re busy multitasking, set an alarm to help remind you to do something at a particular time.
  • Put items you need to deal with later in plain sight. For example, if you need to return a library book, leave it on the coffee table, not in the book shelf.
  • Don’t agree to do something when you’re busy and distracted. Discuss the request when you have time to focus on it.

7 Best Remedies to Lower High Cholesterol Levels Naturally

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high cholesterol blocked remedies foods

High blood cholesterol is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A report from the American Heart Association estimates that 16% of American adults have high total cholesterol.

The Interheart Study of heart disease in 52 countries reports that people with abnormal cholesterol levels have three times the risk of heart attack compared to those with normal cholesterol levels.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat produced by the liver. It is a vital component of cell membranes and is needed for the synthesis of vitamin D. It is required for the production of hormones in the adrenal glands and the production of sex hormones. Cholesterol also plays a role in brain and immune system function.

Cholesterol is carried in the blood wrapped in substances called lipoproteins. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), carries cholesterol toward the tissues. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), gathers it from the tissues and transport it to the liver.

LDL is known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol because it is found within the arterial plaques that causes atherosclerosis. Heart attack or stroke may occur if a blood clot blocks an artery narrowed by plaque deposits.

HDL is known as the ‘good’ cholesterol because it scavenges cholesterol from the tissues and may help to prevent it from building up in the linings of the coronary arteries.

Cholesterol Testing

A standard blood cholesterol test will show levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and a form of fat called triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides indicate low levels of HDL. LDL cholesterol is usually not measured directly, but is calculated based on total cholesterol, HDL and triglycerides.

Most health care professionals in the U.S. use the following guidelines:

Total Cholesterol:

  • 200 mg/dL or less is normal
  • 201 to 240 mg/dL is borderline
  • 240 mg/dL or more is high

HDL Cholesterol:

  • 60 mg/dL or higher is protective
  • 40 to 59 mg/dL is normal
  • Less than 40 mg/dL is low

LDL Cholesterol:

  • Less than 100 mg/dL is ideal for people at risk of heart disease
  • 100 to 129 mg/dL is good
  • 130 to 159 mg/dL is borderline (high)
  • 160 to 189 mg/dL is high

High levels of cholesterol, especially in people with other risk factors for heart disease, are often treated with statin drugs which reduce the production of LDL cholesterol by the liver.

Stains can have side effects including muscle pain, digestive problems, liver inflammation, high blood sugar and cognitive impairment.

Statins also are not beneficial for everyone with high cholesterol. A meta-analysis of clinical trials publish in JAMA concluded that for women without cardiovascular disease, cholesterol-lowering drugs do not affect mortality rates from coronary heart disease. Even in women with known cardiovascular disease, statins do not affect overall mortality rates.

Fortunately, several foods have been shown to lower cholesterol in randomized controlled trials. Incorporating more of these into your diet could help to lower your cholesterol naturally.

7 Super Foods that Lower Cholesterol

1. Tomatoes

high cholesterol red ripe tomatoes natural remedies

Lycopene is a carotenoid responsible for the distinctive red colour in tomatoes and watermelon. It is also found in pink grapefruit, papaya, guava and rosehip.

Laboratory research has shown that lycopene inhibits cholesterol synthesis through a mechanism similar to that of the statin drug Fluvastatin. It also has antioxidant effects and can help to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol which is associated with atherosclerosis.

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition examined the relationship between lycopene intake and incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Researchers analyzed data from 10 years of food frequency questionnaires completed by 5,135 participants in the Framingham Heart Study offspring cohort.

Consumption of tomato products was measured as servings per week of tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice and pizza. Lycopene intake was calculated from food sources and multivitamins. Incidents of CVD were obtained from hospital records.

There were 314 cases of CVD over the study period. Both consumption of tomato products and total lycopene intake were found to be inversely related to coronary heart disease, such that the more lycopene consumed, the lower the risk.

A dietary intervention study investigated the effects of tomato products on cholesterol and LDL oxidation. Researchers recruited 21 healthy participants and asked them to abstain from consuming tomato products for 3 weeks. Next the participants went on a 3-week diet including 400 ml of tomato juice and 30 mg of tomato ketchup daily.

Both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol were significantly reduced on the tomato diet compared to the tomato-free diet. The changes in cholesterol concentrations correlated significantly with the changes in blood levels of lycopene. The tomato diet also significantly increased LDL resistance to oxidation.

A pilot study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology Research examined the potential of a lycopene supplement as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for the prevention of coronary artery disease in postmenopausal women. A total of 41 healthy postmenopausal women were randomized to receive either combined HRT or supplements containing 2,000 µg of lycopene.

After 6 months HRT reduced total cholesterol by 24% and LDL cholesterol by 20%. It increased HDL cholesterol by 39%. Lycopene supplements reduced total cholesterol by 24% and LDL cholesterol by 15%. They increased HDL cholesterol by 26%. The researchers concluded that lycopene supplements can be used as an alternative to HRT to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis in postmenopausal women.

A meta-analysis examined the protective effect of lycopene on LDL cholesterol levels. When researchers analyzed the combined results of 8 trials with lycopene doses ranging from 4-44 mg daily, there was only a borderline significant reduction of LDL cholesterol in the lycopene group compared with the control group.

However, when the analysis focused on 4 trials using a lycopene dose at or above 25 mg a day, they found that it reduced LDL cholesterol by an average of 10%. The researchers note that this decrease is comparable to the effect of low doses of statin drugs and is clinically significant.

Method: The best dietary source of lycopene is red ripe tomatoes. Cooking and processing them further increases the lycopene content and bioavailability. Fresh tomatoes contain 3-5 ml of lycopene per 100 grams, whereas concentrated tomato paste contains 49-94 mg per 100 grams.

Lycopene capsules and tablets are available from health product suppliers. Take a daily dose containing 25-40 mg of lycopene to benefit from its cholesterol-lowering properties.

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2. Walnuts

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Walnuts are a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3.

Research has shown that alpha-linolenic acid from walnuts stimulates LDL receptor activity in the cells and promotes the removal of LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream, thereby decreasing LDL cholesterol concentrations.

In light of increasing evidence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a labelling health claim that daily consumption of 1.5 ounces of walnuts reduces the risk of heart disease.

A crossover trial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine assessed the effect of a walnut-enriched diet in men and women who had high cholesterol levels. Researchers randomly assigned half of the patients to eat a cholesterol-lowering Mediterranean diet with an emphasis on vegetables, fish and olive oil. Nuts were not allowed. The other half ate a similar Mediterranean diet with walnuts making up 35% of the fat content.

The patients followed their assigned diet for 6-weeks, then switched to the other type of diet for a further 6-weeks. Cholesterol levels were measured at the start and end of each diet. The Mediterranean diet alone decreased cholesterol levels by approximately 5%. Adding walnuts to the diet reduced total and LDL cholesterol by an additional 5%.

A clinical trial published in Metabolism assessed the effect of a walnut-enriched diet on cholesterol levels in 40 men and women aged 50 and over. Subjects were randomized to one of two diets: a Western-type diet consisting of 35% fat, 15% protein and 50% carbohydrates or a walnut-enriched diet which replaced 30 grams of saturated fat with 43 grams of walnuts. Subjects followed each diet for 8-weeks with a 2-week washout period in between.

Compared with the control diet, the walnut diet significantly reduced non-HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein-B, the primary protein component of LDL particles. Both non-HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein-B are strongly associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

A systematic review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of walnut consumption on cholesterol and other cardiovascular risk factors. Researchers analyzed data from 13 dietary intervention studies lasting 4-24 weeks with 365 participants. When compared with control diets, high-walnut-enriched diets resulted in a significantly greater decrease in total cholesterol and in LDL-cholesterol.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition aimed to discover which components of walnuts were responsible for lowering cardiovascular disease risk. Researchers recruited 15 overweight adults with moderately high cholesterol and asked them to consume whole walnuts, walnut skins, defatted walnut meat and walnut oil.

The walnut components were consumed in random order in 4 weekly sessions. Blood samples were taken at various intervals following the walnut meal and an endothelial function test was conducted measure blood flow through the arteries.

Analysis of the results showed that walnuts protect against cardiovascular disease in two ways. Consumption of the whole nut significantly lowers cholesterol and consumption of walnut oil significantly improves blood vessel function.

Method: Substitute walnuts for unhealthy snacks like potato or corn chips and substitute omega-3 walnut oil for omega-6 vegetable oils.

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3. Cocoa & Dark Chocolate

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The cacao bean is rich in oleic acid, the same monounsaturated fat found in heart-healthy olive oil. It also contains flavonoids, polyphenols which act as powerful antioxidants and helps to protect LDL from dangerous oxidation.

Research has shown that polyphenols can also inhibit cholesterol absorption and biosynthesis. In addition to lowering cholesterol, cocoa or dark chocolate can help to protect against cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation.

An Australian study published in the BMJ concluded that providing people at high risk of cardiovascular disease with a daily bar of dark chocolate would be an effective and cost-effective disease-prevention strategy.

A population study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine evaluated whether cocoa intake was inversely related to cardiovascular mortality in elderly men. A cohort of 470 Dutch men aged 65-84 were followed up for 15 years. Every 5 years they were interviewed by a dietitian about their food intake over the previous month. The intake of cocoa from 24 individual foods was used to yield actual cocoa in grams per day for each subject.

Over the course of the study, 314 men died, and 152 of those deaths were due to cardiovascular diseases. Compared to those who consumed the least cocoa, those who consumed the most had a 45-50% lower risk of cardiovascular and all-cause death.

The researchers theorized that cocoa-containing foods could reduce cardiovascular risk due to their beneficial effect on blood pressure, cholesterol levels and prevention of LDL oxidation.

A trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined whether long-term intake of cocoa powder alters cholesterol profiles. Researchers recruited 25 healthy male participants and divided them into two groups matched for BMI and cholesterol levels. One group consumed 12 grams of sugar dissolved in hot water daily. The other consumed hot chocolate made up of 12 grams of sugar and 26 grams of cocoa powder.

Blood samples were taken at the start of the study and after 12-weeks. In the cocoa group, there was a 23% increase in HDL cholesterol and a 13% decrease in LDL cholesterol. In the control group, HDL increased by 5% and LDL decreased by 5%. Consumption of cocoa powder also significantly increased the resistance of LDL to oxidation.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition evaluated LDL cholesterol and oxidized LDL concentrations following the consumption of different amounts of cocoa powder. Researchers divided 160 healthy men and women into 4 groups with similar cholesterol levels. One group got a placebo cocoa-flavored drink. The other 3 groups received beverages containing 13, 19.5 or 26 grams of cocoa powder daily for 4 weeks.

Blood tests showed favorable results for all 3 cocoa groups compared to the placebo group. Consumption of cocoa powder at a dosage of 13 grams per day or more decreased levels of LDL cholesterol, raised levels of HDL cholesterol and reduced oxidized LDL.

A meta-analysis published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of dark chocolate/cocoa product consumption on cholesterol. Researchers analyzed data from 10 randomized controlled trials from 6 countries with 320 participants. The studies compared dark chocolate or cocoa with a placebo or white chocolate and treatment ranged from 2-12 weeks.

The combined data showed that consumption of dark chocolate/cocoa products resulted in a statistically significant reduction in LDL and total cholesterol. The dark chocolate/cocoa effect was strongest in subjects with higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Method: Choose a dark chocolate bar with at least 70% cocoa. Four squares or 1.4 ounces of 70% dark chocolate contain about 250 calories.

If you are watching your weight don’t simply add a daily dose of dark chocolate to your usual diet, substitute it for another treat with a similar number of calories.

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4. Oats/Beta Glucan

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A type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan gives oatmeal porridge its pasty texture. When it reaches the gut, beta-glucan forms a thick gel which sticks to cholesterol and reduces its absorption. The gel and cholesterol are then excreted as part of the body’s waste.

Research has shown that beta-glucan also boosts the excretion of bile acids, which are needed for digestion. The body then uses cholesterol to make more bile acid, which results in a reduction in cholesterol circulating in the blood.

The US Food and Drug Association has approved a labelling claim associating beta glucan soluble fiber from oat bran, rolled oats or whole oat flour with reduced risk of heart disease.

A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics evaluated a whole-grain, ready-to-eat oat cereal as part of a weight loss program. A total of 144 overweight and obese adults were put on a low calorie, low fat diet. Half the participants were instructed to eat two portions of oat cereal a day. The other half ate low fiber foods containing the same number of calories. Cholesterol levels, waist circumference and body weight were measured every 4-weeks. After 12-weeks, both groups lost approximately the same amount of weight. However, the oat cereal group had significantly greater reductions in LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and non-HDL cholesterol levels.

A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the effects of oat bran and wheat bran on cholesterol levels. A total of 20 men admitted to a metabolic ward with high cholesterol were put on a diet that was identical in calories and nutrients but differed in the amount of soluble fiber. Half the men received oat bran and half received wheat bran. After 21 days, oat bran significantly decreased total cholesterol by 13%, LDL cholesterol by 12 %, triglycerides by 10% and apolipoprotein B by 14%. Wheat bran had no significant effect.

A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effect of oat beta-glucan on cholesterol concentrations in humans. Researchers compiled data from 28 randomized controlled trials comparing food products containing oats to similar products without soluble fiber. The trials included used doses of oat beta-glucan ranging from 3-12 grams per day and durations of treatment between 2–12 weeks.

The analysis concluded that any dose of oat beta-glucan over 3 grams per day significantly reduced LDL and total cholesterol. There was no evidence that higher doses of oat beta-glucan reduced cholesterol more than lower doses. There was a significantly greater cholesterol lowering effect in subjects with diabetes compared with those without.

Method: To get 3 grams of beta-glucan, aim to eat 2-4 portions of oat-based foods every day.

Start the day with a bowl of hot oatmeal or cold oat-based breakfast cereal. Use oat bread for toast or sandwiches. Top yogurt with toasted oats or granola.

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5. Green Tea

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Green tea contains polyphenols known as catechins, including a powerful antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).

Research has shown that that green tea catechins, particularly EGCG, interfere with the intestinal absorption of dietary fat and cholesterol and increase LDL receptor activity in the liver. Catechins also possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties activities which effectively inhibit LDL oxidation and help to prevent atherosclerosis.

A population-based study published in Annals of Epidemiology investigated the association between green tea consumption and deaths from cardiovascular disease. A cohort of 14,000 Japanese men and women aged 65-84 completed questionnaires that included items about frequency of green tea consumption.

During 6 years of follow-up there were 1,224 deaths. Those who drank the most green tea were 76% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those who drank the least. Green tea consumption was also associated with reduced mortality from all causes.

Another Japanese study investigated the preventive effects of green tea against cardiovascular disease in 1,371 men aged over 40. The participants all gave blood samples during an annual health screening. They also completed surveys about lifestyle factors including green tea consumption. Increased consumption of green tea was associated with decreased blood concentrations of total cholesterol and triglyceride and an increased proportion of HDL cholesterol together with a decreased proportion of LDL cholesterol.

A clinical trial published in the Archives of Internal Medicine examined the effect of a green tea extract supplement on cholesterol levels. A total of 240 patients with mild-to-moderately elevated cholesterol were randomized to receive either capsules containing 150 mg of green tea catechins or placebo capsules. They were instructed to take one capsule daily for 12-weeks. The catenin extract capsules lowered total cholesterol by 11%, LDL cholesterol by 16% and triglycerides by 4%. HDL was raised by 2%. There were no significant changes in cholesterol in the placebo group.

A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effect of green tea on cholesterol levels. Researchers collected data from 14 randomized controlled trials with 1,136 subjects. Trials used either green tea beverages or green tea extract and ranged in duration from 3 weeks to 3 months.

The analysis showed that both green tea beverages and green tea extract supplementation significantly reduce total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol concentrations. The cholesterol changes were not influenced by treatment doses of green tea catechins, health status of participants or study duration.

Method: If you drink black tea or coffee on a regular basis, try switching to green tea. Alternatively, take a daily green tea supplement containing at least 175 mg of EGCG.

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6. Avocados

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Avocados are a good source of oleic acid, the same monounsaturated fat found in heart-healthy olive oil.

Research has shown that oleic acid can inhibit cholesterol synthesis. One Hass avocado contains approximately 13 grams of oleic acid, which is approximately the amount in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Other nutrients in avocados may boost their cholesterol-lowering effects.

A crossover trial published in the Journal of the American Heart Association investigated the effect of avocados on cholesterol levels in 45 overweight and obese adults. The participants were assigned to a sequence of 3 different 5-week diets presented in random order: a low-fat diet, a moderate‐fat diet with oleic acid oils, or a moderate‐fat diet which included one fresh Hass avocado per day.

All 3 diets significantly decreased LDL and total cholesterol. However, the reduction was significantly greater in the avocado diet than either the low-fat or moderate-fat group. Avocado consumption reduced LDL cholesterol by 10%, total cholesterol by 8% and non‐HDL cholesterol by 9%.

Since the avocado diet was better at lowering cholesterol than the moderate-fat diet which included the same amount of oleic acid, the researchers concluded that the health benefits of avocados must be partly due to other nutrients or bioactives beside fatty acids.

A trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the effects of an avocado-enriched diet and a high-complex-carbohydrate diet on cholesterol concentrations. Researchers assigned 15 women to two 3-week diets in random order. The AHA-III diet was similar to that recommended by the American Heart Association. The avocado-enriched diet was high in monounsaturated fatty acids.

Both diets lowered total cholesterol, but the avocado diet was more effective, with an 8% decrease compared to a 5% decrease for the AHA-III diet. LDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B decreased significantly on the avocado diet, but not on AHA-III. HDL cholesterol did not change on the avocado diet, but decreased by 14% on the AHA-III diet.

A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology examined the impact of avocado-enriched diets on cholesterol levels. Researchers extracted data from 10 randomized clinical trials with 229 participants in which avocados were added to the diet or substituted for other sources of fat. The analysis showed that avocado consumption significantly reduced total cholesterol by 18.80 mg/dL, LDL cholesterol by 16.50 mg/dL and triglycerides by 27.20 mg/dL.

Method: Avocados are great when eaten whole or in sandwiches, salads or smoothies.

The hollow pit made when you remove the stone makes them ideal for stuffing with seafood or mixed vegetables. You can even use avocado in baking.

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7. Garlic

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Garlic contains a variety of organosulfur compounds such as allicin that have beneficial effects in the body.

Animal studies have shown that compounds in garlic inhibit enzymes that help to produce cholesterol in the liver, lowering concentrations of cholesterol in the blood.

A clinical trial published in the American Journal of Medicine assessed the effects of garlic powder tablets on cholesterol levels. A total of 42 men and women with total cholesterol over 220 mg/dL were randomized to receive 900 mg of garlic supplements daily or a placebo. After 12-weeks, supplementation with garlic reduced LDL cholesterol by 11%. It also produced a significantly greater reduction in total cholesterol compared to the placebo.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effects of garlic and fish-oil supplementation on cholesterol levels. Researchers assigned 50 men with moderately high cholesterol to one of four groups: 2 placebo capsules; placebo + 12 grams fish oil; 900 mg garlic + placebo; 900 mg garlic + 12 grams fish oil. The men took the capsules daily for 12-weeks.

There was no change in cholesterol in the placebo group. Total cholesterol was reduced by 12% in the garlic group and the garlic and fish oil group but was not significantly reduced in the group that had fish oil alone. LDL-cholesterol was reduced by 14% in the garlic group and 10% in the garlic and fish oil group. The garlic groups also had significantly lower ratios of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol.

A meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine assessed garlic’s effect on total cholesterol in people with cholesterol levels greater than 200 mg/dL. The pooled data showed that patients treated with garlic had a consistently greater reduction in total cholesterol levels compared with those given a placebo. The researchers concluded that one half to one clove of garlic daily decreased total cholesterol by about 9%.

Method: To get the most benefit from garlic, finely chop or crush it to release the sulfur compounds and combine it with cooked food shortly before serving.

Alternatively, take a 900 mg of a garlic supplement daily.

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Final Word

To lower your cholesterol naturally, cut out junk food, fast food and processed foods and cook simple dishes with fresh ingredients.

Replace unhealthy choices with cholesterol-lowering foods. Don’t rely on one single food from those listed above. If you consume oatmeal for breakfast, avocado salad for lunch and baked chicken in tomato and garlic sauce for dinner, you’ll benefit from the combined effects of their different cholesterol-lowering properties.

5 Natural Remedies & Supplements for Leaky Gut Syndrome

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leaky gut stomach natural remedies

Leaky gut syndrome is a controversial subject. Naturopaths and functional medicine practitioners tend to view leaky gut as a disorder in its own right, which, if untreated, can play a role in the development of a wide range of diseases.

More conventional physicians tend to see increased intestinal permeability as a symptom, rather than a cause, of conditions such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel diseases.

What is Leaky Gut?

The surface cells in the mucosal lining of the small intestine (epithelium) are joined by structures called desmosomes. These tight junctions between cells form a protective barrier which allows nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream while at the same time preventing the passage of harmful microorganisms and toxins into the body.

Leaky gut syndrome, or intestinal hyperpermeability, occurs when the cell junctions loosen, allowing pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, yeast or undigested food particles to pass out of the digestive system and circulate in the bloodstream. The immune system reacts to these foreign substances by triggering inflammation which can result in a wide range of symptoms.

According to a review published in BMC Gastroenterology, intestinal permeability is related to intestinal diseases including gastric ulcers, infectious diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, colorectal cancer and esophageal cancer. It is also associated with non-intestinal inflammatory and autoimmune diseases including allergies, dermatitis, respiratory infections, arthritis, diabetes and coronary vascular disease.

Causes of Leaky Gut

Anything which irritates, damages or inflames the mucosal barrier that lines the intestines could result in leaky gut. Some possible causes include:

  • Gluten, gliadin and lectins in wheat and other grains or legumes
  • Refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup
  • Industrial food additives
  • Hormones and antibiotics used in intensively farmed meat
  • Chronic stress
  • Microbial imbalance
  • Environmental chemicals including pesticides and herbicides
  • Excess alcohol
  • Aspirin, ibuprofen and other NSAIDS
  • Antibiotics

Symptoms of Leaky Gut

Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating and gas might be related to a leaky gut, but aren’t necessarily an indication of increased intestinal permeability.

Some other symptoms often attributed to leaky gut such as ‘brain fog’ and fatigue could have a wide variety of causes. In most cases, leaky gut cannot be definitively diagnosed based on symptoms alone.

Diagnosing Leaky Gut

The most widely used test for intestinal permeability is the lactulose-mannitol test.

Mannitol is a sugar-alcohol often used as a sweetener in chewing gum. Lactulose is a type of sugar found in pasteurized milk which is used to treat constipation. Lactulose molecules are larger than mannitol molecules and are less able to permeate the mucosal lining of a healthy gut.

In the lactulose-mannitol test, the patient drinks a solution containing both sugars. Urine samples are collected over the next 5-6 hours. The amount of mannitol and lactulose present in the urine reflects how much of each was absorbed by the body.

High levels of mannitol and low levels of lactulose indicate a normal intestinal lining. A similar level of both sugar molecules indicates a leaky gut.

5 Evidence-Based Treatments for a Leaky Gut

1. Probiotics

probiotics leaky gut yogurt kimchi cheeses sauerkraut miso natural remedies

Laboratory and animal studies have shown that certain bacteria in the gut release signals that increase the expression of genes involved in strengthening the mucosal barrier.

Bacteria also synthesize fatty acids from fiber that have been shown to enhance intestinal epithelial barrier function and protect against pathogens. Manipulation of the gut microflora with probiotics can simultaneously restore normal gut permeability and improve symptoms of inflammatory diseases.

A cross-over study published in the Journal of Pediatrics tested whether probiotics could alleviate intestinal inflammation and strengthen intestinal barrier function in children with atopic dermatitis. A total of 41 children aged 1-13 with moderate or severe dermatitis were randomized to receive either a probiotic supplement containing two strains of Lactobacillus or a placebo for 6-weeks.

After a 6-week wash-out period, the placebo group was switched to the active treatment and the probiotic group was switched to placebo for a further 6-weeks. Before and after each testing period the patients’ gastrointestinal symptoms were recorded and they were given a lactulose-mannitol test for intestinal permeability.

Frequency of gastrointestinal symptoms was significantly reduced during Lactobacillus supplementation from 39% down to 10%. The lactulose-to-mannitol ratio was also significantly lower after probiotic treatment than after placebo.

Following Lactobacillus supplementation 56% of patients experienced improvement in dermatitis compared to 15% when taking the placebo. There was a positive association between the lactulose-to-mannitol ratio and dermatitis severity.

Researchers concluded that impairment of the mucosal barrier appears to cause the development of atopic dermatitis. Probiotic supplementation decreased gastrointestinal symptoms and led to a clinical improvement in severity of dermatitis.

A study published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics examined the effect of probiotics on intestinal permeability in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A total of 30 patients with diarrhea‐predominant IBS were randomized to receive a probiotic fermented milk drink containing 4 types of bacteria or a placebo milk beverage. Permeability of the small intestine was measured with a lactulose-mannitol test and clinical symptoms of IBS were scored on a standard scale.

After 4-weeks of probiotic treatment, small intestine permeability was significantly reduced. The proportion of patients with leaky gut syndrome decreased from 64% to 29%. Treatment with probiotics also significantly decreased IBS symptom scores.

A trial published in Clinical Infectious Diseases examined the effect of a probiotic supplement on immune response and intestinal permeability in children with acute gastroenteritis. A total of 124 Indian children with diarrhea who tested positive for rotavirus or Cryptosporidium bacteria were enrolled in the study.

The children were randomized to receive either probiotic capsules containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus or placebo capsules daily for 4-weeks. At the beginning and end of the study they took a lactulose-mannitol test and their blood was tested for antibodies to the virus or harmful bacteria.

Children with rotavirus and cryptosporidial gastroenteritis both showed improvement in intestinal permeability after treatment with the probiotic. Children with rotavirus who were given probiotics had significantly fewer repeated episodes of diarrhea compared to those who took the placebo. They also had a significant increase in antibodies to the virus.

Method: Unpasteurized, naturally fermented foods are a good source of probiotics. They include yogurt, raw cheeses, sauerkraut, tempeh, natto, miso and kimchi.

If you choose to take probiotic supplement capsules, make sure they contain at least 15 billion colony forming units (CFUs) and at least 10 different strains of bacteria.

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2. Glutamine

glutamine leaky gut amino acid powder natural remedy

Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the blood and is required for a number of metabolic functions. It is a major source of energy for intestinal epithelial cells and immune cells.

Research has shown that glutamine is an essential nutrient for gut mucosal epithelial cell growth and for regulating tight junction integrity and mucosal barrier function.

Glutamine is considered a conditionally essential amino acid. Under normal circumstances the body can manufacture adequate amounts.

However, when the body is subject to catabolic stress due to illness, infection, injury, malnutrition, prolonged exercise or environmental factors, extra glutamine is required to fight disease, repair cells or rebuild tissues. In these circumstances the epithelial cells may be starved of glutamine resulting in increased intestinal permeability.

A trial published in Clinics examined the impact of glutamine in undernourished Brazilian shantytown children with stunted growth. All of the 120 participants who were at risk for intestinal infections and diarrhea all had urinary lactulose-mannitol tests at the beginning and end of the study. They were randomized to receive either a glutamine supplement, a supplement containing glutamine, vitamin A and zinc or a placebo supplement for one year.

Glutamine, with or without vitamin A and zinc, significantly improved intestinal barrier function. Glutamine treatment also significantly enhanced physical growth compared to the placebo as measured by scores of weight and height for age. The researchers theorized that by improving gut barrier function, glutamine enhanced nutrient absorption, triggering weight gain and growth.

A clinical study published in Burns examined the effect of glutamine supplementation on intestinal mucosal barrier function in patients with severe burns. A total of 48 patients were randomly divided into two groups. The treatment group received oral glutamine supplements and the control group received a placebo. All of the patients took a lactulose-mannitol test at the beginning and end of the trial. In addition, their blood was tested for diamine oxidase, a marker for the status of the gut mucosa.

After 14 days, the glutamine group had significantly improved levels of diamine oxidase activity and a better lactulose-mannitol ratio than the placebo group, showing reduced intestinal permeability. Glutamine treatment also significantly accelerated wound healing and reduced the length of time patients stayed in hospital by approximately 10 days.

A pilot study published in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition evaluated the effects of glutamine on tight junction proteins in the colonic mucosa of patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D). Patients with IBS-D have decreased tight junction function and increased intestinal permeability.

Researchers took biopsy samples from the colons of 12 IBS-D patients and incubated them in test tubes with increasing concentrations of glutamine. The samples were then analyzed for specific tight junction proteins. Glutamine increased the synthesis of claudin-1, an integral membrane protein which is a component of tight junction strands.

Method: Most high protein foods are good sources of glutamine including meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Plant sources of glutamine include legumes, nuts, red cabbage and green leafy vegetables.

Glutamine (or L-Glutamine) supplements are available as capsules, tablets or a powder that can be mixed into shakes or juice. The recommended dosage of glutamine for leaky gut is 1,000 mg taken twice daily.

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3. Soluble Fiber

leaky gut soluble fiber psyllium husk natural remedies

Dietary fiber plays an important role in gastrointestinal health. Research indicates that fiber helps to maintain the normal epithelial barrier function and reduce intestinal permeability.

Soluble fiber promotes the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria which help to sustain a healthy mucus layer in the colon.

When bacteria in the intestines ferment dietary fiber, they produce butyrate. This fatty acid is an important energy source for the epithelial cells.

A review article published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutic concluded that butyrate has multiple effects including reinforcing colonic barrier function, inhibiting inflammation, decreasing oxidative stress and protecting against colon cancer.

A laboratory study published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases investigated whether beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber found in oats, could improve intestinal barrier function in Crohn’s disease. Researchers took segments of the epithelium from 8 patients with Crohn’s disease and 9 controls. These were mounted in an apparatus used for measuring epithelial membrane properties and barrier functions.

Beta-glucan inhibited the harmful effects on the epithelium produced by a stress-inducing chemical compound. It also reduced hyperpermeability in epithelial cells from both the Crohn’s patients and the controls.

A rodent study published in Cell Host and Microbe investigated whether fiber protects against deterioration of the colonic mucus layer. Researchers fed mice a low-fiber Western style diet (WSD) and found that it altered their colonic microbiota, increased intestinal penetrability and reduced the growth rate of the colonic mucus layer. Feeding the mice inulin, a type of soluble fiber found in vegetables, prevented mucosal barrier defects associated with the WSD.

A randomized controlled trial published in the BMJ compared the effectiveness of increasing the dietary content of soluble fiber or insoluble fiber in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.  Researcher recruited 275 patients aged 18-65 years who had been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome in the previous two years.

Patients were randomly allocated to receive either 10 g of psyllium (soluble fiber), 10 g of bran (insoluble fiber), or a placebo (rice flour) twice daily mixed with food. Patients kept weekly diaries during the 12-weeks of treatment and filled in questionnaires about the severity of their symptoms.

After three months of treatment, symptom severity scores in the psyllium group were reduced by 90 points, compared with 49 points in the placebo group and 58 points in the bran group. A significantly greater proportion of patients in the psyllium group reported adequate relief of symptoms compared with the placebo group. Bran showed no clinically relevant benefit.

Method: The best dietary source of inulin is chicory root. Other foods containing inulin include Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, onions and garlic. The best dietary sources of beta-glucan are oats, barley and shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

Inulin, beta-glucan and psyllium husk supplements are all available in capsule form or as a powder that can be mixed into smoothies or used in home baking.

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4. Vitamin A

leaky gut vitamin a orange milk eggs broccoli carrots natural remedies

Vitamin A is needed to repair the mucus membranes in the intestine and maintain the health of epithelial cells. It also supports the immune system and protects against bacterial and viral infection.

Research has shown that alterations in the epithelial lining occur early in vitamin A deficiency, suggesting an important role for vitamin A in maintaining intestinal barrier function.

Studies done on vitamin A and gut barrier integrity center around young children with poor diets who are susceptible to diarrhea and infections associated with a leaky gut.

A report published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases described studies done on gut integrity and vitamin A in Gambian and Indian infants. In Gambia, 119 children were given a lactose-mannitol test every month between the ages of 2 months and 15 months. The data showed that gut barrier function was least impaired during the mango season, the time of maximum vitamin A intake.

Two randomized controlled trials in India tested the effects of vitamin A supplementation on gut barrier function. In one 80 infants attending a community health center received 16,700 IU of vitamin A weekly or placebo. In another, 94 hospitalized infants were given 200,000 IU of vitamin A or a placebo. Lactose-mannitol tests conducted before and after supplementation showed that groups treated with vitamin A had more rapid improvement in gut integrity than the placebo groups.

A pilot study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases investigated the actions of vitamin A on gut integrity in 30 mildly malnourished Brazilian children. The children all took a lactulose-mannitol urine test. Blood tests showed that 2 of the children were moderately vitamin A deficient and 17 were mildly deficient.

The data indicated that intestinal barrier function was inversely correlated with vitamin A levels. Children with poorer vitamin A nutritional status were more likely to have impaired intestinal integrity.

In a follow-up study published in the Journal of Health Population and Nutrition, the same researchers examined whether supplementation with vitamin A and zinc would improve intestinal function. A group of 20 children who had experienced at least one episode of persistent diarrhea or had a low weight for their age were selected to receive supplements. Age-matched children were used as a control group.

All of the participants had their blood tested for levels of vitamin A and zinc and took a lactulose-mannitol test to determine intestinal permeability. The supplement group were given a single high dose of oral vitamin A. They also received a two-week course of 20 mg of zinc sulphate per day. Increased blood levels of vitamin A following supplementation were significantly correlated with decreased intestinal permeability.

Method:  The best dietary sources of vitamin A are liver, cod liver oil, eggs, dairy products, dark-green leafy vegetables and deep-orange fruits and vegetables.

Be sure to read the label when taking vitamin A supplements. Some forms of vitamin A can be toxic in large doses. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for preformed vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) is 10,000 IU for adults. Large amounts of beta-carotene and other provitamin A carotenoids are not associated with major adverse effects.

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5. Stress Management

leaky gut stress management natural remedies

Most people know from personal experience that stressful situations can cause gastrointestinal symptoms ranging from ‘butterflies in the stomach’ to nausea or diarrhea.

According to a review published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, the major effects of stress on the gut include an increase in intestinal permeability, negative effects on regeneration of gastrointestinal mucosa and negative effects on intestinal microbiota.

A review published in Cell and Tissue Research found evidence that stress hormones such as norepinephrine interact with protective bacteria on the mucosal surface of the gut, shift microbial colonization patterns and alter susceptibility to infection.

Research has shown that defects in intestinal barrier function are associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGDs) such as constipation, diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. A study published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease investigated the association between stress and FGDs in 668 apparently healthy students.  The participants completed an online questionnaire that asked about gastrointestinal symptoms and assessed subjective experience of stress, coping strategies and stress reactivity.

The data showed that FGD symptoms were significantly predicted by increased perceived stress levels, reactivity to stressful situations and maladaptive coping strategies. Researchers concluded that stress-reducing interventions may be beneficial for patients with FGDs.

A prospective study published in Biopsychosocial Medicine examined the factors that lead to a change from non-patient irritable bowel syndrome to IBS patient status. Researchers used a questionnaire to screen individuals for IBS and identified 136 subjects with IBS symptoms which were not severe enough to cause them to seek medical attention.

These non-patient IBS subjects were followed up for 3 years and completed surveys at 3-month intervals. The surveys included items on IBS symptoms and any medical consultations associated with IBS. They also covered biological, psychological, life-style and environmental risk factors for IBS.

Over the course of the study, 37 non-patient IBS subjects went on to become IBS patients under medical care. IBS symptoms disappeared in 26 on the non-patient subjects. In the group that progressed to IBS, psychosocial stressor (daily hassles) score and IBS symptoms score both significantly increased just before onset. Analysis of the survey data showed that stressors, stress coping, response to stress and lifestyle play more important roles in IBS onset than biological factors.

Method: If you have symptoms relating to intestinal, inflammatory or autoimmune diseases that tend to flare up or worsen on certain occasions, it can be helpful to keep a daily diary of symptoms and stressful events. Once you establish a connection, learning stress management techniques and coping strategies could help reduce any symptoms associated with leaky gut.

Stress-relieving practices include mindfulness, yoga, nature walks, meditation and laughter-therapy (watching comedy routines or sitcoms that make you laugh out loud). If you have intestinal problems accompanied by depression or anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy may help both the physical and emotional symptoms.

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Other Treatments for Leaky Gut

The remedies listed below are often recommended by complementary or alternative medicine practitioners. They may be helpful, but their effectiveness in treating leaky gut has not been tested on humans in large-scale controlled trials.

1. Quercetin

leaky gut quercetin red onions kale natural remedies

Quercetin is a plant flavanol found in foods such as red onions and kale. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Laboratory research has shown that when human intestinal cells are incubated with quercetin in a test tube, their barrier function is enhanced.

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2. Ginkgo Biloba

Leaky gut ginkgo biloba green leaves tea natural remedies

Ginkgo biloba extract is derived from the leaf of the Chinese ginkgo tree. It is a popular supplement due to its antioxidant properties.

In one study, rats were pretreated with oral ginkgo biloba extract before being injected with acetic acid to simulate ulcerative colitis. Ginkgo reduced the inflammatory response and reduced damage to the colonic mucosa.

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3. Digestive Enzymes

leaky gut digestive enzymes natural remedies

Digestive enzymes break down foods into individual nutrients.

Plant or fungal-based enzymes do much of this breakdown in the stomach before the food even enters the intestines. This prevents large undigested food particles from irritating the intestinal lining. It also makes nutrients more readily available to be used for upkeep and repair of epithelial cells.

Supplements containing protease, amylase, lipase and lactase will help to digest proteins, starches, fats and lactose.

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4. DGL Licorice Root 

leaky gut licorice root natural remdies

Licorice root has a history of use as a folk remedy for digestive problems. However, it contains a sweet substance called glycyrrhizin that can cause high blood pressure and other issues.

Deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) licorice has the glycyrrhizin removed. While DGL has not been studied as a treatment for intestinal permeability, one study found that it worked as well as an over-the-counter medication for treating peptic ulcers.

N-acetyl glucosamine is a chemical that comes from the outer shells of shellfish. Researchers have hypothesized that it may contribute to the biosynthesis of the mucosal lining and augment epithelial defenses.

In a pilot study on 12 children with severe inflammatory bowel disease, 8 children given oral N-acetyl glucosamine showed clear improvement.

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5. Zinc

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Zinc is an essential trace element required for multiple cellular functions. The cells of the intestinal mucosa have a rapid turnover, so zinc is important for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining.

A small study on 12 patients with Crohn’s disease in remission found that 8-weeks of zinc supplementation restored normal intestinal permeability.

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The 4 R’s

Many alternative health care practitioners recommend the 4 R’s process for healing a leaky gut.

  1. REMOVE foods and medicines that may damage the intestinal barrier or disturb the microbial balance. These may include processed foods, sugar, grains, alcohol, NSAIDs and unnecessary antibiotics.
  2. REPLACE these with a diet rich in vegetable fiber, vitamin A foods, fermented foods and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.
  3. REPAIR the gut with supplements such as glutamine.
  4. REBALANCE the gut microbiome with probiotic foods and supplements.

Final Word

If you have been diagnosed with an intestinal disease, an autoimmune disease or an inflammatory disease, consider seeking out a functional medicine practitioner, naturopath or nutritionist to request a lactulose-mannitol test for leaky gut. Restoring intestinal barrier integrity might improve your symptoms.

Even if you do not have increased gut permeability, you can improve your overall well-being by eating a nourishing, fiber-rich diet to ensure that you maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system and gut microbiome.

7 Natural Remedies & Treatments to Stop Hair Loss & Thinning

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hair loss balding thinning natural remedies

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), male and female pattern hair loss affects an estimated 50 million men and 30 million women in the United States.

More than 50% percent of men over age 50 have some degree of hair loss. For women, hair loss is most likely after the menopause. Although hair loss may be a symptom of an underlying condition, such as thyroid disease, in most cases it the result of heredity, hormonal changes or aging.

The Hair Growth Cycle

At any time, about 90% of the hair on a person’s head is actively growing. A long growth period is followed by a resting phase that lasts about 2-3 months.

At the end of the resting phase, the hair naturally falls out and new hair grows in to replace it. At any one time different hair follicles are in different stages of the growth cycle, so hair is continuously lost and replaced.

It is normal to shed up to 100 individual hairs in a day. Excessive hair loss occurs when hair regrowth is inhibited or when the normal growth cycle is disrupted.

Common Types of Hair Loss

  • Male pattern baldness or androgenetic alopecia is a genetic condition. It creates a bald spot on the top of the scalp, causing a horseshoe-shaped pattern of hair. Common patterns seen in men include a receding hairline, thinning crown or general thinning.
  • Female pattern hair loss, also called androgenetic alopecia, is a hereditary condition that causes thinning hair, evenly spread over the crown of the head.
  • Alopecia areata affects both men and women and is characterized by circular bald patches. It is thought to be caused by an autoimmune disease which targets the hair follicles.
  • Telogen effluvium is temporary hair shedding all over the scalp. It occurs when metabolic or physiological stress alters the hair growth cycle so that a large number of hairs enter the resting phase at the same time. It can be triggered by illness, medications, rapid weight loss or childbirth.

Pharmaceutical treatments for hair loss can be expensive and success is not guaranteed. The two most common treatments are foams or lotions containing minoxidil, branded as Regaine, and prescription finasteride tablets, branded as Proscar or Propecia.

Side effects of minoxidil include an itchy, dry or flakey scalp. Side effects of finasteride include a loss of libido or erectile problems. Fortunately, there are many natural alternatives that may work equally well.

7 Evidence-Based Natural Remedies for Hair Loss

1. Saw Palmetto

saw palmetto green plant hair loss balding thinning natural remedies

Androgenetic alopecia is a common hereditary form of hair loss in both men and women. An enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase (5-AR) converts testosterone into the androgen hormone DHT. DHT attaches to receptors on hair follicles and inhibits hair growth.

Saw palmetto extract is thought to work by the same mechanism as the hair-loss medication finasteride. It blocks the 5-AR enzyme, decreases DHT uptake by hair follicles and decreases binding of DHT to follicle receptors.

A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine tested the 5AR inhibitors liposterolic extract and beta sitosterol derived from saw palmetto for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia. Researchers recruited 20 men aged 23-64 with mild-moderate male pattern baldness and randomized them to receive saw palmetto supplements or placebo supplements.

Their hair loss before and after treatment was rated by investigators who did not know which men had taken the active substance. The results showed a highly positive response to treatment, with 60% in the saw palmetto group rated as improved.

A study presented at the fourth intercontinental meeting of hair research societies tested saw palmetto extract in lotion and shampoo base on 34 men and 28 women. After 3 months, hair density had increased by 35% accompanied by a 67% reduction in sebum production.

Method: Take a 160 mg saw palmetto extract capsule twice daily with meals.

If you wish to use the extract topically, saw palmetto shampoos are available.

Alternatively, follow the basic recipe for homemade shampoo and add 12 drops of liquid saw palmetto extract.

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2. Rosemary

rosemary hair loss thinning balding natural remedies

Rosemary extract promotes hair growth in two ways. Hair loss can be caused by a decrease in blood flow to the hair follicles, which reduces oxygen and nutrients needed for hair to thrive.

Research has shown that rosemary oil increases vasodilation and blood flow in the areas where it is applied. Minoxidil, the active ingredient in the commercial hair loss solution Regaine, also stimulates hair follicles by increasing blood flow.

In addition, Rosemary works like saw palmetto by inhibiting the binding of DHT to androgen receptors in the follicles. In a study published in Phytotherapy Research, researchers shaved mice and gave them testosterone, the precursor of DHT, to interrupt hair regrowth. Mice that were then treated with topical rosemary leaf extract showed improved hair regrowth compared to untreated mice.

A clinical trial published in SKINmed compared rosemary oil to minoxidil for the treatment of androgenetic alopecia. A total of 100 patients with male pattern baldness were randomly assigned to use rosemary oil or a topical treatment containing 2% minoxidil. A professional microphotographic assessment of each volunteer’s scalp was taken at the initial interview and after 3 and 6 months of the trial.

Both groups experienced a significant increase in hair count after 6 months compared with hair counts at the start of the trial and at 3 months. Minoxidil and rosemary oil were both equally effective, with no significant difference between treatments. However, the minoxidil group experienced more frequent scalp itching.

Method: To stimulate new hair growth, add 5 drops of rosemary oil to one tablespoon of carrier oil such as grapeseed oil or jojoba oil. Massage into the scalp and leave for at least 30 minutes before shampooing.

You can also make your own rosemary shampoo with an infusion of the fresh chopped herb. You’ll find the recipe here.

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3. Lavender Oil

lavender oil balding hair loss thinning natural remedies

Lavender oil is thought to stimulate hair growth in the same way as minoxidil — by increasing blood circulation to the areas where it is applied.

Lavender has also been shown to reduce stress, and research has shown that emotional or physiological stress is a common cause of hair loss.

A study published in Toxicological Research tested the hair growth effects of lavender oil in mice. Researchers shaved the backs of mice and divided them into 5 groups of 18 mice each: a salt-water control group, a jojoba oil control group, a 3% minoxidil treatment group, a 3% lavender oil treatment group and a 5% lavender oil treatment group. Each substance was applied topically to the mice daily, 5 times a week, for 4 weeks.

At weeks 1, 3 and 4, the backs of the mice were photographed to evaluate the darkening of skin color. Hair growth in each group was rated on a score ranging from 0-100%. Skin samples were examined by fluorescent microscopy.

As the experiment progressed, the hair follicle number and depth in the 3% minoxidil, 3% lavender oil and 5% lavender oil groups increased markedly compared to the control groups. At 4 weeks, all of the 3 treatment groups showed a significantly increased number of hair follicles, deepened hair follicle depth and thickened dermal layer. The minoxidil group showed 100% hair regrowth compared to 95% hair regrowth for the 5% lavender oil group.

Method: Add 5 drops of lavender essential oil to one tablespoon of jojoba oil. Massage into the scalp and leave on for at least 30 minutes before shampooing.

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4. Onions and Garlic

garlic onions hair loss thinning balding natural remedies

Garlic and onions are both part of the allium family and contain many of the same beneficial substance including organosulfur compounds.

Sulfur is a structural part of keratin, the protein hair is made of. Thus, garlic and onions can help strengthen hair by contributing to keratin synthesis.

In addition, they may promote hair regrowth by increasing blood flow to the scalp to stimulate hair follicles. Research has shown that garlic dilates capillaries and enhances blood circulation in the skin.

A study published in the Journal of Dermatology tested the effectiveness of topical onion juice in the treatment of alopecia areata. Also known as spot baldness, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease which causes patchy hair loss. A treatment group of 23 patients were advised to apply crude onion juice to bald spots twice daily for two months. A control group of 15 patients applied tap water.

Onion juice gave significantly better results than tap water. In the onion-juice group, hair re-growth was seen in 74% of patients at 4 weeks and 87% of patients at 6 weeks. In the tap-water group, only 13% of patients showed hair regrowth by the end of the 8-week study.

A clinical trial performed by dermatologists from the Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences in Iran examined the efficacy of topical garlic gel in the treatment of alopecia areata. Researchers recruited 40 patients with up to 3 bald patches and randomly assigned them to a garlic group or a placebo group.

In the treatment group, an odorless gel containing 5% garlic extract was rubbed on the bald spots and left for an hour twice daily. The same procedure was carried out in the control group with a non-garlic gel. Both groups also received the standard treatment of a topical corticosteroid.

After 3 months, 95% of patients in the garlic group had moderate or good hair regrowth. Hair count numbers were significantly higher in the garlic group than in the control group. The garlic group also had a significant decrease in size of bald spots.

Method:

  • To make an onion juice hair treatment, peel and roughly chop an onion. Use a blender or food processor to reduce the onion to a pulp. Pass the onion through a fine sieve to separate out the juice. Massage the onion juice into the scalp and leave on for 20 minutes before shampooing.
  • To make a hair oil from a head of garlic, peel the cloves and squeeze them in a garlic press over a bowl. Strain the garlic pulp through a fine sieve to separate out the pure juice. Mix the juice with a tablespoon of carrier oil such as grapeseed oil, jojoba oil or melted coconut oil. Massage the mixture into the scalp and leave it on for an hour before shampooing.

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5. Pumpkin Seed Oil

pumpkin seed oil hair loss thinning balding natural remedies

Pumpkin seed oil works to combat hair loss in much the same way as saw palmetto. Research has shown that phytosterols in pumpkin seeds inhibit the 5-alpha-reductase (5-AR) enzyme which converts testosterone into the follicle-blocking androgen hormone DHT.

A trial published in Evidenced-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine examined the effect of pumpkin seed oil on hair growth in men with androgenetic alopecia. Researchers recruited 76 men with mild-moderate male pattern baldness and randomized them into 2 groups. The treatment group took four 100 mg pumpkin seed oil capsules per day for 24 weeks. The control group took identical placebo capsules.

Change in scalp hair growth was evaluated by 4 outcomes: scalp hair counts; scalp hair thickness; patient self-assessment scores; and assessment of clinical photographs by an investigator who did not know which photos belonged to the treatment group and which belonged to the control group.

The pumpkin seed oil group had significantly more hair regrowth after treatment than the placebo group. Average hair count increased by 40% in the pumpkin seed oil group compared an increase of 10% in the placebo group. Self-rated improvement score and self-rated satisfaction scores in the pumpkin seed oil group were also significantly higher than in the placebo group.

Method: Pumpkin seed extract (curcurbita pepo) supplement capsules are available in formulas ranging from 300-1,000 mg.

It’s unclear whether a higher dose than the 400 mg per day used in the study above would be more effective for hair regrowth.

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6. Aromatherapy Massage

aromatherapy head massage hair loss thinning balding natural remedies

Hair loss can be caused or aggravated by stress. Research has shown that aromatherapy is an effective stress-reliever. In addition, as we have seen with rosemary and lavender, some essential oils have chemical properties that promote hair regrowth.

A study published in JAMA Dermatology investigated the efficacy of aromatherapy in the treatment of patients with alopecia areata. A total of 84 patients with alopecia areata (spot baldness) were randomized into 2 groups. The active group received a solution containing 20 ml grapeseed oil, 3 ml jojoba oil, 2 drops thyme oil, 3 drops rosemary oil, 3 drops lavender oil and 2 drops cedar oil. The control group received the same carrier oils (grapeseed and jojoba) without the added essential oils.

A trained aromatherapist demonstrated the technique of scalp massage with the oils. Patients were instructed to massage the oils into the scalp for a minimum of 2 minutes every night and to then wrap a warm towel around their head.

Before-and-after photographs of the scalp were scored independently by 2 dermatologists who were not told which patients received the essential oils. A computerized image analyzer was used to map the areas of alopecia at the beginning and end the study.

After 7 months 44% of the patients in the essential oil group showed improvement compared to 15% of patients in the control group. The essential oil group also had a significant reduction in the area affected by alopecia. One patient showed an excellent response to essential oil therapy with more than 80% hair regrowth in all areas.

Method: Make your own scalp massage oil using the formula described in the study or add a few drops of peppermint oil to the recipe:

  • 20 ml grapeseed oil
  • 3 ml jojoba oil
  • 2 drops thyme oil
  • 3 drops rosemary oil
  • 3 drops lavender oil
  • 2 drops cedar oil

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7. Iron

iron nuts red liver hair loss thinning balding natural remedies

Iron deficiency is very common, especially in premenopausal women and vegetarians. Iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells which carries oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.

If you are iron-deficient, oxygen will be sent to the vital organs, and non-essential tissues such as the hair follicles will be oxygen-deprived. This is why hair loss is a common symptom of iron-deficiency anemia. However, research has shown that low iron levels can cause hair loss in people with or without anemia.

A study published in the Journal of Korean Medical Science evaluated the relationship between iron and hair loss. Researchers collected medical data from 210 patients who visited a hospital clinic and were diagnosed with female or male pattern hair loss and compared it to data from 210 patients who visited the clinic for a regular check-up and did not suffer from hair loss. All patients underwent screening for serum ferritin (SF), an iron-binding protein in the blood which is a marker for total body iron stores. SF decreases from the very early stages of iron deficiency.

Serum ferritin concentration was significantly lower in patients with female pattern hair loss, compared with normal healthy women. Premenopausal hair loss patients showed much lower SF than age and sex-matched controls. Over 80% of female hair loss patients had an SF level lower than 70 ug/L, compared to less than 20% of controls. Among male pattern hair loss patients, 23% had an SF level lower than 70 ug/L, whereas no one in the control group of age-matched males did.

A study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology evaluated serum ferritin and vitamin D levels in women with chronic telogen effluvium (hair shedding) or female pattern hair loss. Researchers took blood samples from 80 women diagnosed with hair loss and compared the results with 40 age-matched females with no hair loss. SF and vitamin D levels were determined for each participant.

Both serum ferritin levels and vitamin D levels in the women with hair loss were significantly lower than in the controls. Both of these levels were lowest in the women with the most severe hair loss. The researchers note that screening to establish SF and vitamin D levels and supplementing deficient patients may be beneficial in the treatment of hair loss.

Method: If you suffer from hair loss, make sure you’re eating plenty of iron-rich foods. Meat, poultry and fish contain heme iron, which is much more efficiently absorbed than non-heme iron from plants.

Vegetarians and vegans should carefully plan meals to include a good source of iron such as legumes or dark leafy greens and pair it with a good source of vitamin C to boost absorption.

Although iron supplements are widely available, they can cause gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea or constipation, and overdoses can be dangerous. If you are considering taking iron supplements for hair loss, see a doctor to get a serum ferritin test and determine the right dose.

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Final Word

Here are a few simple tips to help you avoid preventable hair loss:

  • Eat a diet with plenty of protein and mineral-rich foods.
  • Use a conditioner after washing your hair to make it more elastic and less prone to breakage.
  • Use a wide-toothed detangling comb on wet hair.
  • Avoid hairstyles that pull your hair tight, such as cornrows, buns or ponytails.
  • Avoid harsh chemical treatments such as permanents or hair dyes containing ammonia.
  • Avoid exposing hair to excessive heat from hot rollers, curling irons, straighteners or hot oil treatments.
  • Avoid compulsively pulling, twisting or rubbing your hair.

7 Natural Remedies & Treatments for Diabetes (Prediabetes & Type 2)

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diabetes sugar prediabetes natural remedies

According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), approximately half the US adult population has diabetes or prediabetes.

The estimated prevalence of type 2 diabetes among U.S. adults is 12-14% and the prevalence of prediabetes is 37-38%. The same data indicates that around 35% of those who have type 2 diabetes have not been diagnosed and 93% of those with prediabetes do not know they have a potential health problem.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes develops when the cells becomes resistant to the hormone insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. When a healthy person eats carbohydrate or sugar, glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream.

The pancreas then secretes insulin which allows glucose to enter the cells. Insulin lowers the level of sugar in the bloodstream. As blood sugar levels drop, the pancreas stops secreting insulin.

In type 2 diabetes, the cells become resistant to the action of insulin and are less able to absorb sugar from the blood. As blood sugar levels rise, beta-cells in the pancreas release increasing amounts of insulin. Eventually, the beta-cells become impaired and can’t make enough insulin to lower blood sugar to healthy levels.

The high levels of blood sugar in type 2 diabetes can eventually lead to heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, vision problems and foot or leg amputations.

Prediabetes

People are diagnosed with prediabetes if blood tests show that their blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not in the type 2 diabetes range. According to the CDC, 15-30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years. They are also at higher risk of heart disease and stroke. There are no clear symptoms of prediabetes, so you may be one of the many who have it and may not even know it.

Type 2 diabetes is usually treated with lifestyle changes, oral medications and/or insulin injections. People with prediabetes are usually advised to lose weight, exercise and eat a healthy diet.

There are many natural ways to help keep your blood sugar levels in the normal range and increase your insulin sensitivity. The methods detailed below can help to lower the risk of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes or to reduce the need for medication in those already diagnosed.

Diagnostic Tests

Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes are diagnosed with blood sugar tests. The Mayo Clinic recommends diabetes screening every 3 years for overweight people with additional risk factors and anyone over the age of 45.

Normal Blood Sugar (non-Diabetic)

  • 70-99 mg/dL
  • A1C (average blood sugar levels over 2-3 months) levels below 5.7 percent

Prediabetes

  • Fasting blood sugar level between 100-125 mg/dL
  • A1C between 5.7-6.4 percent

Diabetes

  • Fasting blood sugar level above 125 mg/dL
  • A1C above 6.5 percent

Fasting Plasma Glucose Test (FPF) measures blood sugar levels after an overnight fast.

  • Normal – less than 100 mg/dl
  • Prediabetes – 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl
  • Diabetes – 126 mg/dl or higher

A Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) is used to measure how blood sugars rise and fall after consuming carbohydrates. Blood sugar is measured after an overnight fast. Then blood sugar is measured again 2 hours after drinking a sugary liquid.

  • Normal – less than 140 mg/dl
  • Prediabetes – 140 mg/dl to 199 mg/dl
  • Diabetes – 200 mg/dl or higher

A Glycated Hemoglobin (A1C) test measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to the hemoglobin in red blood cells to determine your average blood sugar level for the past 2-3 months.

  • Normal – less than 5.7%
  • Prediabetes – 5.7% to 6.4%
  • Diabetes – 5% or higher

7 Evidence-Based Ways to Prevent or Control Diabetes

1. Coffee

coffee diabetes prediabetes natural remedies

Coffee contains several phenolic compounds that may help to prevent or treat metabolic disorders. Rodent studies have shown that a major component of coffee, chlorogenic acid, reduces insulin resistance.

Another compound in coffee, quinine, has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in human diabetics and non-diabetics. Trigonelline, a plant alkaloid found in coffee, has been shown to improve glucose tolerance and insulin resistance in human and rodent studies.

A blood protein called sCD163 is a biomarker for inflammation. Research has shown that higher concentrations of sCD163 predict increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the general population.

A Spanish case-control study published in PLoS One examined the influence of diet on sCD163 levels. Researchers compared data from blood samples and food frequency questionnaires collected from 514 type 2 diabetes patients and 517 controls with normal glucose tolerance.

Concentrations of sCD163 concentrations were 11% higher in type 2 diabetes patients than in controls. Researchers analyzed the link between sCD163 and the intake of 30 different foods and beverages. Coffee and red wine were the only dietary items associated with significantly lower levels of sCD163.

A Meta-analysis published in Diabetes Care pooled data from 28 prospective studies with 1,109,272 study participants and 45,335 cases of type 2 diabetes. Duration of follow-up ranged from 10 months to 20 years. The analysis showed that the more coffee participants consumed per day, the lower the risk for type 2 diabetes compared with non-coffee drinkers.

The risk for type 2 diabetes was reduced by:

  • 8% for 1 cup of coffee
  • 15% for 2 cups of coffee
  • 21% for 3 cups of coffee
  • 25% for 4 cups of coffee
  • 29% for 5 cups of coffee
  • 33% for 6 cups of coffee

Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee were associated with reduced diabetes risk.

A prospective study published in Diabetologia examined the associations between changes in coffee and tea consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers analyzed data from 3 large cohort studies including 95,974 women and 27,759 men. These studies used questionnaires to collect detailed information on diet, lifestyle and medical conditions every 2-4 years for over 20 years.

Participants were asked how many times per day (on average) they had consumed caffeinated coffee, decaffeinated coffee or tea during the previous year. Over the course of the study, participants who reported having type 2 diabetes were followed up to confirm the diagnosis.

The data revealed that participants who increased their coffee consumption by more than 1 cup per day over a 4-year period had a 12% lower risk of type 2 diabetes in the subsequent 4 years compared to those who made no changes in consumption. Participants who decreased their coffee intake by more than 1 cup per day had an 18% higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Changes in tea consumption were not associated with type 2 diabetes risk.

Method: In addition to protecting against diabetes, coffee has many other health benefits. So, if you enjoy it, drink up.

If too much caffeine makes you anxious or keeps you awake at night, switch to decaf. Most of the disease-fighting properties in coffee come from the antioxidants and phenolic compounds, not the caffeine.

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2. Magnesium

magnesium nuts seeds avocado green leafy vegetables diabetes prediabetes natural remedies

Magnesium is required for the action of enzymes involved in glucose metabolism. Research has shown that magnesium deficiency may cause disorders of insulin signaling and insulin secretion, leading to impaired insulin sensitivity in muscle cells and fat cells.

In rodent studies magnesium supplementation protects against insulin resistance and reduces the development of diabetes.

A meta-analysis published in Diabetes Care examined the association between magnesium intake and risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers pooled data from 13 prospective cohort studies involving 536,318 participants. All of the studies assessed magnesium intake using dietary or food frequency questionnaires.

Over a follow-up period ranging from 4-20 years, 24,516 participants developed type 2 diabetes. Analysis of the data showed that type 2 diabetes risk was reduced by 14% for every 100 mg per day increment in magnesium intake.

A longitudinal study followed participants in the Framingham Heart Study to assess associations between magnesium intake and type 2 diabetes. A cohort of 2,582 non-diabetic adults aged 26-81 completed 126-item food frequency questionnaires at three different intervals and this data was combined to determine average magnesium intake from food and supplements. Metabolic impairment was measured with glucose tolerance and fasting blood insulin tests.

In the total study population, there were 179 cases of diabetes over 7 years of follow-up. Participants with the highest magnesium intake had a 53% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those with the lowest intake. In those who had prediabetes or some level of metabolic impairment at the start of the study, higher intake was associated with 32% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A randomized controlled trial published in Diabetes Care tested oral magnesium supplementation for improving insulin sensitivity and metabolic control in type 2 diabetics. Researchers recruited 65 patients with type 2 diabetes who had blood levels of magnesium below the normal range. The subjects were randomly allocated to receive either a magnesium chloride solution or a placebo daily.

At the start and end of the trial, the patients’ blood was tested for blood sugar concentrations, insulin, cholesterol levels and magnesium levels. After 16 weeks, patients who received magnesium had significantly lower fasting blood glucose and significantly lower insulin resistance than the control group.

Method: The best sources of dietary magnesium are fiber-rich plant foods such as nuts, beans and leafy greens. Unfortunately, if intensive farming has depleted the soil of its mineral content, plants grown in it may not provide adequate amounts of magnesium to meet the 400 mg recommended daily value.

Magnesium supplements come in a variety of forms. According to the NIH, magnesium powders and tablets that dissolve in liquid are better absorbed in the gut. Magnesium in the citrate, lactate, aspartate and chloride forms is more bioavailable than magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate.

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3. Curcumin

curcumin turmeric orange spice diabetes prediabetes natural remedies

Curcumin is a polyphenol found in turmeric, the bright yellow spice used in curries and other Asian dishes.

Research has shown that curcumin can protect against type 2 diabetes in several ways. It improves pancreatic cell function, stimulates the release of insulin and reduces insulin resistance. It lowers blood sugar levels by reducing glucose production in the liver. It also activates enzymes that promote cellular uptake of glucose.

A randomized controlled trial published in Diabetes Care assessed the efficacy of curcumin in delaying development of type 2 diabetes. Researcher recruited 240 participants aged 35 and older who had been diagnosed with prediabetes and were not on any medication. Half of the subjects received 250 mg of curcumin capsules and half received placebo capsules. They were instructed to take 3 capsules twice a day.

After 12 months, 19 (16.4%) of subjects in the placebo group had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. In contrast, none of the subjects in the curcumin group developed type 2 diabetes over the course of the study. Blood tests showed that the curcumin group had significantly better overall function of insulin-producing pancreatic beta-cells.

Blood levels of free fatty acids (FFAs) are elevated in obese individuals and are associated with decreased increased insulin resistance and pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction. A study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research investigated whether curcuminoids benefit type 2 diabetic patients by reducing FFAs. A total of 100 overweight or obese type 2 diabetes patients were randomly assigned to receive 300 mg of curcuminoids per day or a placebo.

After 3 months, patients in the curcuminoids group had significantly lower fasting blood glucose and insulin resistance compared to the placebo group. Curcuminoids also led to a significant decrease in blood levels of FFAs.

A clinical trial at the Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Iran, tested the effect of a highly bioavailable curcumin supplement on patients with type 2 diabetes. A total of 70 type 2 diabetic patients were randomized to receive 80 mg of nanocurcumin capsules or placebo capsules for 3 months.

Blood sugar and cholesterol levels were checked before and after the trial. The curcumin group had a significant decrease in blood glucose levels, fasting blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and body mass index.

Method: Choose a turmeric/curcumin supplement which is standardized to contain 95% curcuminoids.

Curcumin alone is poorly absorbed, so look for supplements with special formulations or added black pepper extract (piperine or bioperine) to increase bioavailability.

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4. Walking

walking exercise diabetes prediabetes natural remedies

Most people are aware that exercise can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes by helping people to maintain a healthy weight. But it also lowers the risk by reducing blood sugar levels.

Muscle contractions simulate the muscle cells to take in circulating glucose. Research has shown that even time spent doing light-intensity activity reduces overall metabolic risk compared to time spent sedentary. Walking is an easy way to protect against type 2 diabetes that can fit in with a busy lifestyle.

A Japanese cohort study examined the relationship between walking to work and the development of type 2 diabetes. Study participants consisted of 8,576 non-diabetic men aged 40–55 who were involved in sedentary jobs. At the start of the study, subjects completed questionnaires regarding several risk factors for diabetes. They were also asked how many minutes a day they spent walking to work.

The men were followed up for four years, during which time 878 developed type 2 diabetes. After adjusting for age, BMI, parental history of diabetes, fasting blood glucose level, smoking habits, daily alcohol consumption and leisure-time physical activity, researchers found that participants who spent more than 21 minutes walking to work had a 28% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who spent less than 10 minutes walking to work.

A study by researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health examined the effectiveness of three 15-minutes bouts of post-meal walking on 24-hour glycemic control in older persons. Researchers recruited 10 inactive, overweight adults aged 60 or older who had high fasting glucose concentrations. Participants completed three exercise protocols spaced 4 weeks apart in random order. Their blood sugar levels were measured with a continuous glucose monitor fitted under their abdominal skin.

In the control condition, subjects were instructed to remain inactive. In the second condition they walked on a treadmill for 15 minutes and 30 minutes after each meal, for a total of 45 minutes per day. In the third condition, they walked on the treadmill for a continuous 45 minutes and 2 hours after breakfast or in the late afternoon.

Both sustained morning walking and post-meal walking significantly improved 24-hour glycemic control compared to inactivity. Moreover, post-meal walking was significantly more effective than 45 min of sustained morning or afternoon walking in lowering blood glucose 3 hours after dinner.

A study published in Diabetes Care tested whether breaking up prolonged sitting with short bouts of standing or walking improved metabolic health in women at high risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers recruited 22 overweight or obese postmenopausal women with impaired glucose regulation. Each participated in two of the following treatments: unbroken sitting for 7.5 hours; prolonged sitting broken up with standing for 5 minutes every 30 minutes; or prolonged sitting broken up with walking for 5 minutes every 30 minutes.

All subjects were fed the same breakfast and lunch and blood samples were taken at regular intervals. Compared with prolonged sitting, standing reduced the post-meal rise in blood sugar by 34% and walking reduced it by 28%. Standing reduced the post-meal rise in insulin by 20% and walking reduced it by 37%. These effects persisted into the following day.

Method:

  • If you tend to use the car for errands or shopping within a mile of your home, aim to walk instead.
  • If you commute to work by car, consider parking further away and walking the remaining distance. If you commute by bus, consider getting off at an earlier stop.
  • If you work at a desk job, try to get up out of your seat every 30 minutes.
  • When watching TV, get up and do something during commercial breaks. If you record shows and fast-forward through the ads, pause the recording and get up.
  • Get an activity tracker, step counter or a walking app so you can monitor your progress.

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5. Moderate Drinking

moderate drinking alcohol diabetes prediabetes natural remedies

Research has shown that low to moderate amounts of alcohol improve insulin sensitivity and lower plasma insulin concentrations when taken on a regular basis. Alcohol has also been shown to reduce blood markers of inflammation. These two effects combined can help to lower diabetes risk.

A meta-analysis published in Diabetes Care examined the relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers analyzed data from 15 prospective cohort studies involving 369,862 individuals who were followed for an average of 12 years. A total of 11,959 subjects developed type 2 diabetes.

The pooled data revealed a highly significant 30% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes in alcohol consumers of 6–48 grams per day (up to 3 drinks) compared with heavier consumers or abstainers. Those who drank less than 6 grams of alcohol per day on average has a 13% lower risk compared to non-drinkers.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined whether the association between alcohol use and lower risk of type 2 diabetes can be explained by the fact that moderate drinkers have a healthier lifestyles in general. A cohort of 35,625 non-diabetic men and women filled in questionnaires about risk behaviors for chronic diseases. They were also weighed and measured at the start of the study.

Researchers compiled data about alcohol consumption and 4 lifestyle factors: body mass index, physical activity level, smoking and a healthy diet. Participants were followed up for 10 years, over which time 796 developed type 2 diabetes.

In subjects already at lower risk of type 2 diabetes due to multiple low-risk lifestyle behaviors, moderate alcohol consumption were associated with a 40% lower risk compared with abstention. Researchers concluded that alcohol appears to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes independently of other lifestyle factors.

A clinical investigation published in JAMA examined the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on fasting insulin and insulin sensitivity. Researchers recruited 63 healthy postmenopausal women and put them on a controlled diet with all food and beverages prepared at the clinic. Participants received either 15 grams of alcohol (1 drink), 30 grams of alcohol (2 drinks) or a non-alcoholic drink daily for 8 weeks each, in random order.

Blood samples were analyzed at the end of each dietary period. Consumption of 30 grams of alcohol per day reduced fasting insulin concentration by 19%, increased insulin sensitivity by 7% and reduced triglyceride concentration by 10% compared to no alcohol.

Method: Although moderate amounts of alcohol appear to be protective against diabetes, beware of the sugar and calories in many liquors and cocktails.

Choose low-sugar drinks such as red wine or spirits mixed with soda water.

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6. Omega-3

sardines avocado shrimp nuts tofu omega 3 fatty acid fish oil diabetes prediabetes natural remedies

Research has shown that omega-3 essential fatty acids reduce the risk for metabolic syndrome. They also help to reduce multiple risk factors for diabetes including obesity, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, oxidative stress and inflammation.

A population-based study published in Diabetes Care investigated the associations between different types of omega-3 fatty acids and risk of type 2 diabetes in middle-aged and older Finnish men. A total of 2,212 men aged 42–60 years and non-type 2 diabetics were enrolled in a heart disease risk factor study and followed up for an average of 19 years. At the start of the study, blood samples were taken and analyzed for fatty acids.

Over the course of the study, 422 men developed type 2 diabetes. Researchers divided the men into 4 groups according to their blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Participants with the highest levels of EPA, DHA and DPA (a type of omega-3 found in fish) had a 33% lower risk for type 2 diabetes than those with the lowest levels.

A clinical trial at the Tehran University of Medical Science examined the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a type of omega-3 essential fatty acid, on overweight patients with type 2 diabetes. A total of 67 patients were randomized to receive either 2 grams of EPA daily or a placebo containing 2 grams of corn oil for 3 months.

Blood tests were performed before and after treatment. The EPA group showed significant decreases in fasting blood glucose, insulin levels and insulin resistance compared to the placebo group.

A study published in the Singapore Medical Journal examined the effects of omega-3 supplementation on inflammation in type 2 diabetes patients. A total of 84 subjects aged 45-85 with at least a two-year history of type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to a treatment group or control group. The treatment group took omega-3 (EPA and DHA) capsules and the control group took placebo sunflower oil capsules daily for 8 weeks.

Comparison of blood tests before and after treatment showed that levels of 2 markers of inflammation, serum IL-2 and TNF-alpha, were significantly reduced in the omega-3 group compared to the control group.

A clinical trial published in Diabetologia investigated the effects of omega-3 consumption on insulin resistance in overweight participants on a low-calorie diet. Researchers recruited 324 overweight participants from 3 European countries and randomly assigned them to one of 4 diets which differed only in omega-3 content.

Diet 1 contained no seafood and included placebo sunflower oil supplements; diet 2 included 150 grams of cod 3 times a week; diet 3 included 150 grams of salmon 3 times a week; and diet 4 contained no seafood and included fish oil capsules.

Blood samples taken before and after the 8-week diets revealed that the fish oil capsules significantly reduced fasting insulin and insulin resistance compared to placebo capsules. This effect was independent of weight loss. The salmon diet also improved fasting insulin, but the results were not statistically significant. The cod diet was no more effective than the placebo diet.

Method: Oily fish containing omega-3 include salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, swordfish and fresh tuna.

To obtain higher levels take omega-3 supplements which provide at least 250 mg per day of DHA and EPA. Choose from cod liver oil, fish oil, algae oil or krill oil.

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7. Ketogenic Diet

ketogenic diet fish oil egg nuts avocado green leafy diabetes prediabetes natural remedies

The ketogenic diet is high in healthy, natural sources of fats, low in carbohydrates and contains adequate amounts of protein. Carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels, whereas dietary fats have no effect on blood sugar.

The ketogenic diet helps to keep blood glucose levels low and reduces the body’s demand for insulin. In one study, 94% of type 2 diabetic patients who were prescribed insulin reduced or stopped their insulin use after one year of being on a ketogenic diet.

A parallel-group trial run by researchers at the University of California compared the effectiveness of a low-fat, low-calorie diet versus a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet in overweight adults with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. The 34 participants were randomized into two groups. Both groups attended 19 classes over 12 months and were taught about the importance of exercise, sleep and mindful eating.

The participants on the ketogenic diet were instructed to eat 20-50 grams of carbohydrate per day and taught to measure their blood levels of ketones (energy molecules from fat) twice a week. The participants on the low-fat diet were instructed to consume approximately 50% of their calories as carbohydrates, to reduce their fat intake and to eat 500 fewer calories than needed for weight maintenance.

After 12 months, the ketogenic group had lost an average of 8.3% of body weight, whereas the low-calorie group had lost only 3.8% on average. Interestingly, although the ketogenic group were not instructed to restrict calories, by the end of the study they were eating an average of 1,480 per day compared to 1,590 in the low-calorie group.

Results for diabetes improvement were also better with the ketogenic diet. A blood marker for long-term blood sugar levels, HbA1c, was reduced by 0.5% in the ketogenic group compared to 0.2% in the low-calorie group. This difference occurred despite significantly greater reductions in the use of glucose-lowering medications in the ketogenic group.

A study published in Nutrition and Metabolism tested the effect of a ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control. A total of 84 obese volunteers with type 2 diabetes were randomized to a ketogenic diet or a low-glycemic diet. Both groups received group meetings, diet books and handouts.

A dietitian instructed participants in the ketogenic group to restrict intake of dietary carbohydrate to fewer than 20 grams per day without explicitly restricting caloric intake. The low-glycemic group were taught to follow a low-glycemic index with approximately 55% of calories from carbohydrate and to eat 500 fewer calories per day than needed for weight maintenance.

After 24 weeks, both interventions led to improvements in in glycemic control. However, the ketogenic diet group had significantly greater improvements in a number of measures. Body weight was reduced by an average of 11 kg in the ketogenic group compared to 7 kg in the low-glycemic diet group. HbA1c was reduced by 1.5% in the ketogenic group versus 0.5% in the low-glycemic diet group. Diabetes medications were reduced or eliminated in 95% of the ketogenic group compared to 62% of the low-glycemic diet group.

Method: There are many books, websites and on-line videos which detail which foods are allowed and prohibited on a ketogenic diet and provides meal plans and recipes.

Note: If you are currently using insulin or any medication to lower your blood sugar, only attempt the ketogenic diet under a doctor’s supervision. Your medication will need to be adjusted as you reduce carbohydrate intake.

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Final Word

You are at greater risk for type 2 diabetes if you are overweight or obese, physically inactive, aged over 45, have high blood pressure or have a family history with type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association provides an online 60-Second type 2 diabetes risk test.

If you have one or more risk factors, it’s important to get your blood glucose levels checked. The earlier prediabetes is diagnosed, the better chance you have of preventing the development of type 2 diabetes though diet and lifestyle changes.

9 Health Benefits of Vitamin C and What It’s Good For

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vitamin c fruits orange grapefruit lemons lime health benefits

Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin required for growth and repair of tissues, wound healing and maintenance of gums, bones and teeth.

It is also a powerful antioxidant which helps to prevent cell damage caused by unstable oxygen molecules known as free radicals. Oxidative damage contributes to a variety of diseases including cancer, heart disease and dementia.

A report published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that, while most of the US population had sufficient levels of  vitamin C, 24% were at risk for vitamin C inadequacy and 8% were at risk for deficiency.

Even if you already get the recommended 75-90 mg of vitamin C from your daily diet, higher amounts might help to protect you against chronic illnesses.

Best Food Sources of Vitamin C

Most people associate vitamin C with oranges and orange juice. While oranges are a good source, with about 70 mg per medium fruit, they are certainly not the best.

Orange juice is not a particularly good way to up your daily intake. A 12-ounce glass of unsweetened juice contains around 9 teaspoons of sugar, about the same as a 12 ounce can of soda.

The following fruits and vegetables are all better sources of vitamin C than an orange and provide 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C in a single serving:

  1. Guava
  2. Kiwifruit
  3. Papaya
  4. Red bell pepper
  5. Green bell pepper
  6. Black currents (1 cup)
  7. Strawberries (1 cup)
  8. Fresh pineapple (1 cup)
  9. Broccoli (1 cup)
  10. Kale (1 cup)

9 Scientifically Backed Health Benefits of Vitamin C

1. Beats the Common Cold

common cold sick vitamin c health benefit cough fever runny nose

The common cold is caused by respiratory viruses and dozens of animal studies have shown that vitamin C reduces the incidence and severity of viral infections.

The practice of taking vitamin C supplements to ward off colds dates back to 1970 when Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling wrote a popular book on the subject.

Since then, numerous studies of vitamin C and cold prevention have been carried out. A Cochrane Review of 31 studies concluded that regular vitamin C supplementation had a consistent effect in reducing the duration of common cold symptoms.

A double-blind trial published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal tested whether vitamin C substantially reduces the frequency and duration of colds. Researchers recruited 818 volunteers and gave them identical bottles of 500 tablets.  Half of the bottles contained 250 mg vitamin C and half contained an orange-flavored placebo.  Participants were instructed to take four tablets per day, increasing to 16 tablets per day for the first 3 days of any illness. Only those who continued to take tablets for at least 2 months were included in the final results.

Subjects were provided with record sheets and instructed to note each day whether they were sick or well and the total number of tablets taken. One each day of illness, they filled in a check-list of symptoms and severity.

Participants who took vitamin C were significantly more likely to remain free of illness throughout the study period. The subjects receiving the vitamin also experienced approximately 30% fewer days confined to the house or off of work than those receiving the placebo.

Strenuous physical exercise also leads to an increased risk of colds and flu. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition tested whether vitamin C would reduce upper-respiratory-tract infections in ultramarathon runners. Researchers recruited 92 volunteers who were enrolled to run a 90-km marathon and 92 age-matched, non-runner controls. Half of the runners and half of the non-runners took 600 mg of vitamin C daily for 21 days before the race. The rest took identical looking and tasting placebo tablets.

Symptoms including runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough and fever were monitored for 14 days after the race. Runners in the placebo group were twice as likely to report cold symptoms compared to runners who had taken vitamin C before the race.  Among the non-runners, the duration and severity of symptoms in the vitamin C-supplemented group was also significantly less than in the placebo group.

A systematic review published in Military Medicine investigated whether vitamin C supplementation affects respiratory infections in military personnel. The researchers identified 11 vitamin C trials with military recruits or subjects living under comparable conditions.

Five small controlled trials, in which the participants were under heavy exertion, found a 45-91% reduction in common cold incidence in the vitamin C group, compared to the placebo group. A further 3 trials found an 80-100% reduction in the incidence of pneumonia in the vitamin C group.

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2. Increases Mood and Libido

mood libido anxiety depression vitamin c natural health benefits

A prospective study involving 1,007 elderly participants found that low blood levels of vitamin C was a risk factor for depression.

Research has shown that vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood and improve energy and alertness.

Vitamin C also stimulates secretion of oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’ which regulates social interaction, pair bonding and sexual reproduction. In addition to its effect on hormones, the antioxidant properties of vitamin C may help to ward off depression and anxiety by reducing oxidative stress in the brain.

An Iranian clinical trial tested the efficacy of vitamins C and E on anxiety in patients with type 2 diabetes. A total of 45 patients were randomly divided in 3 groups.  They received either: 400 IU of vitamin E, 1000 mg of vitamin C or a placebo daily for 6 weeks.  Before and after treatment, the participants were assessed with a 21-item depression, anxiety and stress questionnaire (DASS-21).

The results showed a significant decrease in anxiety scores in the vitamin C group compared to other groups. While there was no statistically significant change in stress scores for the vitamin C group, stress levels significantly increased in the placebo group.

A clinical trial published in Nutrition investigated whether vitamin C or D could improve the mood state of acutely hospitalized patients. Patients were randomly assigned to take either 500 mg of vitamin C twice daily or 1,000 IU of vitamin D twice daily.

Patients’ mood was assessed on the Profile of Mood States (POMS) before and after vitamin therapy. The POMS is a validated questionnaire that measures depression, tension, anger, fatigue, confusion and vigor. While vitamin D had no significant effect on mood, vitamin C was associated with a 34% reduction in mood disturbance.

A German study published in Biological Psychiatry examined the effect of vitamin C on sexual behavior and mood. A total of 81 healthy young adults were randomized to receive either 3,000 mg of sustained-release vitamin C daily or a placebo.

Before and after the trial, participants completed a psychometric test called the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Subjects with partners kept diaries of sexual activity.

After 14 days, the vitamin C group, but not the placebo group, experienced a decrease in BDI scores. The vitamin C group also reported more sexual intercourse.  The effect was most prominent in women and participants not living with their sexual partner.

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3. Decreases High Blood Pressure

high blood pressure vitamin c natural health benefits

Vitamin C could help to lower high blood pressure in several ways.

Laboratory tests have shown that ascorbic acid promotes the synthesis of nitric oxide and improves nitric oxide bioactivity. Nitric oxide widens blood vessels and helps to maintain their elasticity.  Vitamin C also improves the function of the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels and arteries. In addition, the antioxidant properties of vitamin C can help to combat oxidative stress, which is thought to contribute to high blood pressure.

In stressful situations, the body releases the hormone cortisol which narrows blood vessels and causes a temporary rise in blood pressure. A randomized controlled trial published in Psychopharmacology investigated the effect of vitamin C on stress, cortisol and blood pressure.  A total of 120 healthy young adults were divided into 2 groups.  The treatment group received a high (3,000 mg per day) dose of sustained-release vitamin C.  The control group received a placebo.

After 14 days, the participants underwent the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), which was designed to induce a reliable stress response. The test involves preparing and giving a speech and preforming mental arithmetic out loud in front of a panel of observers while being filmed. Blood pressure readings, saliva samples and subjective stress ratings were taken before, during and after the TSST.

Compared to the placebo group, the vitamin C group had lower systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and subjective stress responses to the TSST. Their raised cortisol levels also took less time to return to normal.

A trial published in Clinical Science tested the hypothesis that the antioxidant properties of vitamins C and E are associated with a decrease in blood pressure.  Researchers recruited 110 men aged 35-60 who had high blood pressure with none of the usual risk factors such as obesity, diabetes or smoking.  Participants were randomly assigned to receive either a combination of vitamin C and E or a placebo daily.

Before and after the 8-week trial, participants’ blood pressure was monitored over 24 hours. Their blood was tested for markers of oxidative stress, antioxidant enzymes and vitamin C and E levels. Patients who took the vitamins had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure and higher blood antioxidant capacity compared with both the placebo-treated patients and their own measurements prior to treatment.

Researchers concluded that oxidative stress played a role in the development of hypertension with no identifiable cause and that antioxidant vitamins could be used as a therapy for hypertension.

A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed 29 randomized controlled trials to determine the effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure. The trials were conducted between 1982-2010 and included 1,407 participants aged 22-74.  The average dose given was 500 mg per day for 8 weeks.  The pooled results showed that vitamin C supplementation significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

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4. Fights Against Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

coronary artery disease cad vitamin c natural health benefits

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is associated with stiffening and narrowing of arteries and inappropriate platelet adhesion. The normal function of platelets in the blood is to stop bleeding by clumping and clotting blood vessel injuries.

In CAD, the platelets form a blood clot (thrombosis) within the artery, obstructing the flow of blood to the heart.  Nitric oxide has a variety of protective effects on blood vessels and platelets. Vitamin C increases the bioavailability of nitric oxide through its antioxidant activity.

A clinical study published in Circulation examined the effects of vitamin C treatment on dilation of the brachial artery in patients with CAD. A total of 46 patients visited a clinic where their vital signs were recorded and blood and urine samples were taken. Ultrasound was used to measure how much the brachial artery widened in response to an increase in blood flow.

The subjects were then randomized to receive either 2 grams of vitamin C or matched placebo tablets. Two hours later, their brachial artery dilation was remeasured.  Subjects continued to take either 500 mg per day of vitamin C or placebo tablets for the next month, then returned to the clinic for repeat measurements.

After a single dose of vitamin C, artery dilation improved from approximately 6% to 10%. The effect was sustained after a month of vitamin C treatment.  In the placebo group, measurements of dilation remained unchanged in the short and long term.

A small study published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology examined whether vitamin C could reduce arterial stiffness and platelet aggregation. Researchers recruited 8 healthy male volunteers aged 20-42 and subjected them to several clinical tests.  A non-invasive technique called pulse-wave analysis recorded pressure waveforms from the radial artery in the non-dominant arm to measure arterial stiffness.  Blood was taken and analyzed for platelet aggregation.

Subjects then received either 2 grams of vitamin C orally or a matching placebo. All measurements were repeated after 6 hours.  The vitamin C group had a significant reduction in both arterial stiffness and platelet aggregation. The placebo group showed no change in these parameters.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition tested the effect of a nutritional supplement program on the progression of coronary artery calcification in 55 CAD patients aged 44-67.  The patients were given a high (2,700 mg) daily dose of vitamin C along with other vitamins and minerals.  They were instructed not to change their diet or lifestyle other than taking the nutritional supplements.

At the start of the study and after 6 and 12 months, the extent of coronary artery calcification was measured non-invasively with a computed tomography (CT) scanner. A Coronary Artery Scanning (CAS) score was calculated based on the area calcified and the density of calcium deposits.

The average monthly changes in the total CAS score for all 55 patients had decreased by 11% after one year on the nutritional supplement program. For a subset of patients with early coronary artery disease, the average monthly growth of the CAS score decreased by as much as 65%.

In one 51-year-old patient with early, asymptomatic, coronary artery disease, the initial scan revealed small calcifications in the left and right coronary arteries. When CT scans were taken after one year on the nutritional supplement program, coronary calcifications were not found.

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5. Protects Against Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

alzheimer's disease dementia vitamin c natural health benefits

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the accumulation of amyloid-beta proteins in the brain. Amyloid-beta can induce oxidative stress in neurons and deplete the protective reserves of antioxidants in brain cells.

Studies have shown that antioxidants are neuroprotective and dietary antioxidants such as vitamin C may help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

A Dutch cohort study published in JAMA investigated the relationship between dietary intake of antioxidants and risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  A total of 5,395 participants aged at least 55 and free of dementia were followed up for 6 years.

At the start of the study, participants completed a checklist of foods and drinks they had consumed at least twice a month during the preceding year and were interviewed by a dietitian. The data was fed into a computer program that calculated intake of vitamin A, flavonoids, vitamin C and vitamin E. Cognitive function was assessed with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), a standard diagnostic tool for dementia.

Over the course of the study, 197 participants developed dementia, of whom 146 had Alzheimer’s disease. After adjusting for factors such as age, initial MMSE score, smoking, alcohol intake and BMI, high dietary intake of vitamin C and vitamin E were both associated with an 18% lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  The protective effect was strongest among smokers, were vitamin C reduced Alzheimer’s risk by 35% and vitamin E reduced it by 42%.

A prospective study published in the Archives of Neurology examined the relationship between antioxidant supplement use and risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Researchers analyzed data from 4,740 elderly participants in a population study held in Cache County, Utah.

At the start of the study, residents were tested to determine their cognitive status. They were also interviewed about suspected risk factors for dementia.  The interview included a question about vitamin supplements taken during the preceding 2 weeks.  Approximately 17% of participants reported taking vitamin E or vitamin C supplements.

After 3 years, the participants were reassessed for cognitive status. A total of 304 cases of Alzheimer’s disease were identified over the course of the study. After controlling for factors such as age, sex and general health, researchers found a trend toward reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease in those taking a combination of vitamin E and C supplements.

There was no notable significant reduction in Alzheimer’s risk with vitamin E or vitamin C alone or with multivitamins, which contain far less E and C than individual supplement capsules.

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6. Fights Type 2 Diabetes

type 2 diabetes obesity vitamin c natural health benefits

Obesity is associated with high levels of the proinflammatory protein TNF-alpha, which plays a direct role in insulin resistance and diabetes.

Vitamin C decreases TNF-alpha, causing an increase in the uptake of glucose in response to insulin. Most type 2 diabetics have low levels of vitamin C and supplementation has been shown to lower fasting blood sugar.

A school-based study published in Diabetic Medicine examined whether low circulating vitamin C concentrations were associated with type 2 diabetes risk in children.  A multi-ethnic group of 2,025 children aged 9-10 provided researchers with blood samples after an overnight fast and were interviewed by a nutritionist about foods eaten on the previous day.

The blood samples were tested for vitamin C concentrations, circulating insulin, insulin resistance, cholesterol levels and other type 2 diabetes risk markers. Analysis showed that higher concentrations of vitamin C were consistently associated with lower insulin resistance, lower blood sugar and higher HDL ‘good’ cholesterol.

A pilot study published in Nutrients investigated the correlation between blood concentrations of vitamin C and metabolic health. Study participants included 35 individuals with normal blood sugar levels, 25 with prediabetes and 29 with type 2 diabetes. Participants completed 4-day food diaries and lifestyle questionnaires. Blood samples were taken following a 12-hour fast and analyzed for vitamin C levels, glucose levels and inflammation markers.

Vitamin C levels were significantly lower in the individuals with type 2 diabetes compared to those with normal blood sugar. Vitamin C levels were inadequate in 58% of participants with prediabetes and 52% of diabetics compared to 21% of the normal blood sugar group.

Excess body fat is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation which can lead to the development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. A study published in Drug Design, Development and Therapy evaluated the effect of vitamin C on inflammatory markers in obese adults.

A total of 64 obese patients with high blood pressure and/or type 2 diabetes were randomized into a treatment group and a control group. The treatment group took 500 mg of vitamin C tablets twice a day. After 8 weeks, the vitamin C treatment achieved clinical significance for reducing markers of inflammation and fasting blood sugar levels.

A systematic review published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences examined the influence of vitamin C supplementation on type 2 diabetes. Researchers analyzed pooled data from 5 randomized placebo-controlled trials and concluded that vitamin C significantly lowers fasting blood sugar in type 2 diabetics.

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7. Cancer Prevention

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According to a review article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, there is strong evidence that vitamin C or vitamin-C-rich foods protect against cancers of the esophagus, oral cavity, stomach, and pancreas.

There is also substantial evidence of a protective effect in cancers of the cervix, rectum, and breast. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C help to neutralize free radicals before they can damage DNA and initiate tumor growth.

A meta-analysis published in Scientific Reports investigated the association between vitamin C intake and the risk of pancreatic cancer. The researchers reviewed 4 cohort studies and 13 case-control studies involving 4827 pancreatic cancer cases.  The pooled results showed that the highest vitamin C intake was associated with a 30% lower risk of pancreatic cancer compared to the lowest intake. The associations were significant in Caucasian, Asian and mixed populations.

A systematic review published in PLOS One examined the association between vitamin intake and gastric cancer. The researchers combined data from 47 studies including randomized placebo-controlled trials as well as prospective and observational studies. The pooled data showed a 23% reduced risk for gastric cancer in the highest vitamin intake group relative to the lowest vitamin intake group. When the researchers conducted a dose-response analysis on different types of vitamins they found that vitamin C intake of 100 mg per day was associated with a 26% reduced risk of gastric cancer.

A case-control study published in the International Journal of Cancer assessed the relation of diet to the risk of invasive cervical cancer. Researchers compared the diets of 189 Seattle women diagnosed with cervical carcinoma with those of 227 randomly selected women in the same area. The women were interviewed about their intake of 66 food items over the preceding year.

Analysis of the data showed that the more vitamin C the women consumed, the lower their risk for cervical cancer. Those with the highest intake of dietary vitamin C reduced their risk by 50% compared to those with the lowest intake.

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8. Cancer Treatment

cancer treatment vitamin c natural health benefits

Research has shown that very high doses of vitamin C can kill cancer cells without harming normal tissue.

When vitamin C breaks down in the body, it generates hydrogen peroxide. Normal cells use an enzyme called catalase to remove hydrogen peroxide before it can cause damage. Cancer cells with lower amounts of catalase activity are susceptible to damage and death when exposed to the hydrogen peroxide generated by vitamin C.

In a clinical trial, 11 brain cancer patients who were undergoing radiation therapy and chemotherapy were given intravenous infusions of vitamin C to create blood concentrations up to 500 times higher than levels seen with oral supplements. The infusions were administered 3 times a week for 2 months, then twice a week for 7 months. The patients given high dose vitamin C therapy survived 4-6 months longer than the average survival time for patients undergoing conventional treatment. The researchers noted only minor side-effects including dry mouth and occasional high blood pressure.

A German cohort study published in In Vivo evaluated the safety and efficacy of intravenous vitamin C for women with breast cancer.  All of the subjects received standard tumor therapy. Researchers compared data from 53 patients who were treated with intravenous vitamin C for at least 4 weeks with data from a control group of 72 similar patients who did not have vitamin treatment. Intravenous vitamin C significantly reduced the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy such as nausea, fatigue and loss of appetite. The intensity score of symptoms was nearly twice as high in the control group compared to the study group.

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9. Beautiful Skin and Hair

vitamin c beautiful shiny hair skin

Collagen is a structural protein essential for firm, young-looking skin. Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen. It also leads to the growth of shiny, healthy and beautiful hair.

In fact, research has shown that treating human skin with vitamin C stimulates collagen synthesis. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C also help to protect the skin from free-radical damage caused by exposure to UV radiation from the sun. While dietary vitamin C helps to protect and repair the skin, vitamin C can also be applied topically in the form of serums, creams and lotions.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated the associations between dietary nutrients and skin-aging appearance in 4,025 women aged 40-74. The participants were interviewed about all foods and beverages consumed over a 24-hour period and researchers estimated nutrient intake for each food and beverage reported. Dermatologists conducted clinical examinations of participants’ skin and rated 3 signs of aging: wrinkles, dryness and skin thinning.

Higher vitamin C intakes were associated with a lower likelihood of a wrinkled appearance and dryness caused by aging. These associations were independent of age, sunlight exposure and menopausal status. The only other nutrient associated with better skin-aging appearance was linoleic acid (found in vegetable oils).

A study published in Experimental Dermatology tested a cream containing 5% vitamin C on sun‐induced skin aging. Female volunteers with photoaged skin applied the vitamin C cream to one side of their lower neck and one arm. They applied the same cream, but without the vitamin C, to the opposite side and arm. The volunteers weren’t told which cream was active and which was the control.

After 6 months, clinical examination by a dermatologist and self‐assessment by the volunteers revealed a significant improvement on the vitamin C‐treated side. Skin biopsies examined under the microscope showed that vitamin C treatment significantly increased the density of skin, decreased deep furrows and promoted elastic tissue repair.

Male pattern baldness occurs when the dihydrotestosterone hormone activates the production of a protein called DKK-1 which inhibits the function of papilla cells. A Korean study investigated the effect of L-ascorbic acid 2-phosphate (Asc 2-P), a derivative of vitamin C, on dermal papilla cells taken from a balding scalp. Asc 2-P stopped the production of DKK-1.

In another study, the scientists found that Asc 2‐P led to an increase in the production of the growth factor IGF-1 in papilla cells. It promoted elongation of hair shafts in human hair follicles and induced hair growth in mice.

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Final Word

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is 90 mg per day for men and 75 mg per day for women. The Institute of Medicine estimates that the average dietary intake of vitamin C for American adults is 102 mg per day.

That means that, if you eat reasonable amounts of fruit and vegetables, you’ll get enough vitamin C to naturally obtain antioxidant protection.

However, if you’re concerned about any of the health conditions discussed above, you may choose to take supplements.

Research has shown that liposomal-encapsulated vitamin C supplements produce higher circulating concentrations of vitamin C in the body than standard oral supplements. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of vitamin C for adults is set at 2 grams per day. Higher amounts can cause stomach upset and diarrhea.

7 Best Natural Remedies & Sleep Aids to Cure Insomnia

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insomnia sleep disorder natural remedies sleep aids

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 50–70 million US adults have chronic sleep and wakefulness disorders. People experiencing insufficient sleep are at higher risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression.

Sleeping pills such as benzodiazepines are not recommended as a long-term solution because they can cause a number of side effects and some people become dependent on them. Luckily, certain herbs, foods and natural compounds have sleep-promoting properties. Some have even been shown to be just as effective as prescription drugs with fewer side effects.

Symptoms of Insomnia

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) reports that about 30% of Americans have symptoms of insomnia. Middle-aged and older adults are more prone to having poor sleep than younger people and women are more likely to develop insomnia than men.

Signs of Insomnia:

  • Difficulty initiating sleep and lie awake in bed
  • Struggle to maintain sleep and wake up frequently throughout the night
  • Wake up too early and are unable to go back to sleep
  • Feel tired after waking in the morning
  • Feel fatigued and irritable during the day
  • Find it difficult to concentrate due to tiredness

Primary insomnia is sleeplessness that cannot be attributed to an existing medical, psychiatric or environmental cause. Secondary insomnia is sleeplessness associated with a physical or mental illness.

7 Evidence-Based Natural Remedies for Insomnia and Poor Sleep

1. Melatonin

melatonin decrease blue light electronics natural light hormone

Melatonin is a hormone produced nocturnally by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin is naturally released in response to darkness and falls to very low levels during daylight hours. Research has shown that it primes brain activation patterns in anticipation of sleep.

Melatonin supplements are a popular remedy for jet lag or sleep problems associated with shift work due to the hormone’s ability to reset the internal body clock. Several studies have also found that melatonin can be an effective treatment for poor sleep or insomnia.

A clinical trial published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment examined the effects of melatonin supplementation in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors. A total of 95 women who had completed cancer treatments were enrolled in the study, 52% of whom reported poor sleep. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either 3 mg of oral melatonin or a placebo daily for 4 months.

All of the women were assessed with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PQSI) before and after the trial. The group who took melatonin had significantly improved sleep quality, less daytime dysfunction and better PSQI total scores when compared with the placebo group.

Participants in the melatonin group who began the trial as poor sleepers also showed greater improvement in overall sleep quality. Of the poor sleepers in the melatonin group, 20% no longer had poor sleep after 4 months, compared to only 8% of poor sleepers in the placebo group.

An Italian study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society investigated the effect of melatonin on long-term care facility residents. A total of 43 patients with primary insomnia were randomized to receive either a food supplement containing 5 mg of melatonin (along with magnesium and zinc) or a placebo one hour before bedtime, every day for 8 weeks.

The participants were evaluated using the PSQI, the Short Insomnia Questionnaire (SDQ) and two additional sleep questionnaires before and after the trial. Total sleep time was measured with a wearable armband sensor.

The melatonin group had significantly better improvement in total sleep time and overall PSQI and SDQ scores compared to the placebo group. They also had significant improvements in ease of getting to sleep, quality of sleep, sleepiness on awakening and morning alertness.

Natural melatonin production declines with age. A clinical trial published in BMC Medicine investigated whether older age or low melatonin excretion in the brain is a better predictor of response to melatonin supplementation. A total of 791 patients with primary insomnia were randomized to receive a 2 mg prolonged release melatonin tablet or a placebo tablet 2 hours before bedtime for 3 weeks. The placebo group was then re-randomized with half switching to melatonin tablets for the next 26 weeks of the trial.

The patients kept sleep diaries and were assessed with the PSQI. Physical examination and laboratory tests were performed at the initial screening, week 3, week 29 and at the end of the trial.

PSQI global scores improved in the melatonin group throughout the study. After 3 weeks, time taken to fall asleep significantly decreased in elderly patients (aged 65-80) taking melatonin tablets regardless of their initial melatonin levels. On average, they fell asleep 19 minutes faster compared to an improvement of just 2 minutes in the placebo group. The researchers concluded that low melatonin production is not useful in predicting responses to melatonin therapy in insomnia.

Method:

  • Take one 5 mg melatonin supplement tablet 20-30 minutes before bedtime.
  • You can help your body to naturally increase melatonin levels by exposing your eyes to bright light when you wake up in the morning and avoiding exposure to bright light 2-3 hours before bedtime. Blue light from LED bulbs, smart phones, computer screens and televisions mimics sunlight and can reduce or delay melatonin production.

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2. Valerian

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The herb valerian causes sedation by increasing levels of GABA in the brain. GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that regulates depressive and sedative brain signals and is critical for relaxation. Research has shown that valerian extract promotes the release of GABA from brain nerve endings and inhibits an enzyme that destroys GABA.

A study published in Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior evaluated the effect of valerian on the sleep quality of 128 volunteers. Each participant received 400 mg of valerian extract, a commercial supplement containing 60 mg of valerian, and a placebo. The samples were identified only by a code number.

Participants took each one of the formulations three times in random order on 9 non-consecutive nights. They filled in a sleep questionnaire the morning after each treatment.

Compared with the placebo, 400 mg valerian extract significantly improved sleep quality and decreased the time it took to fall asleep. The effect was most notable among participants who considered themselves poor or irregular sleepers. The only significant change associated with the 60 mg of valerian supplement was an increase in reports of feeling sleepier than usual the next morning.

A small study published in Planta Medica investigated the effect of valerian on sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) in 8 volunteers with mild insomnia. The participants were all given sleep/activity meters to wear on their wrists in bed. Time of sleep onset was defined as the first period of 5 minutes without movement. Each volunteer was randomly assigned to receive one test sample each night for 12 nights: either 450 mg of valerian extract, 900 mg of valerian extract or a placebo.

Both doses of valerian extract significantly reduced average sleep latency from about 16 minutes down to 9 minutes. This is a similar reduction to that seen with prescription benzodiazepine sedatives. While the higher dose of valerian did not improve sleep latency more than the lower dose, it did cause an increase in sleepiness the next morning.

A German clinical study compared the efficacy and tolerability of valerian with that of oxazepam, a benzodiazepine medication used for the treatment of anxiety and insomnia. A total of 75 patients diagnosed with insomnia were randomized to receive either 600 mg of a valerian extract supplement or 10 mg of oxazepam.

The patients took the medication 30 minutes before going to bed over a period of 28 days. Before treatment, after 2 weeks and at the end of the study, patients were assessed and given a sleep rating by a physician.

Sleep quality improved significantly in both the valerian and oxazepam groups, and no statistically significant difference could be found between effectiveness of the herb and the drug. However, the valerian group reported fewer side effects.

Method:

Valerian supplements come in a variety of forms. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends the following doses to treat insomnia:

  • Tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoonful of dried root, steep 5-10 minutes.
  • Tincture: 1 to 1 and 1/2 teaspoon
  • Fluid extract: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
  • Dry powdered extract: 250 to 600 mg

Valerian may be taken up to 3 times daily, with the last dose near bedtime.

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3. Lavender

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Lavender has long been used as a folk remedy for insomnia. Research has shown that, like valerian, lavender promotes relaxation by regulating GABA receptors and enhancing the inhibitory tone of the nervous system. Studies of lavender as a sleep aid have focused on the use of lavender essential oil in aromatherapy.

A Taiwanese study published in Evidenced-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine examined the effect of lavender aromatherapy in middle-aged women with insomnia. A total of 67 female insomniacs aged 45-55 were randomized into two groups. The experimental group inhaled lavender essential oil from an aromatherapy diffuser for 20 minutes, twice a week, for 12 weeks. The control group were educated in sleep hygiene.

Participants’ sleep quality was assessed at the beginning and end of the trial using a standard questionnaire. The total sleep quality score of study subjects significantly improved in the experimental group, while no significant difference was observed in the control group.

A study published in Chronobiology International examined the effects of lavender aromatherapy on sleep. Researchers recruited 31 young healthy men and women to spend 3 nights in a sleep laboratory with their brain waves monitored by polysomnography.

On the second night, they were randomized to receive a vial containing either lavender oil or distilled water. They smelled the vials intermittently for a half hour before bedtime. On the third night, the vials were swapped over and the process was repeated.

Polysomnographic data showed that lavender increased the percentage of deep or slow‐wave sleep. In addition, all subjects reported feeling more vigorous the morning after lavender exposure.

A Japanese study published in Sleep and Biological Rhythms investigated the effects of essential oil inhalation on objective and subjective sleep quality. Participants wore wrist sleep/activity meters for 15 nights as they inhaled either lavender or sweet orange essential oil. They also completed sleep quality questionnaires. Midway through the study they crossed over to the other essential oil.

The objective actigraphy data showed that aromatherapy improved sleep measures in participants whose sleep quality was poor in the control condition, with lavender being more effective than orange.

The subjective sleep data from questionnaires also showed that the essential oils improved sleep for participants who started out with poor sleep quality. Interestingly, the participants believed that sweet orange was more effective than lavender. The researchers note that the difference between the objective and subjective interpretation of the effectiveness of the two oils suggests that expectancy bias did not influence the effect of lavender on sleep.

Method:

There are several ways to use lavender essential oil as a sleep aid:

  • Add a few drops of oil to an aromatherapy diffuser to fill your bedroom with fragrance.
  • Add 15 drops of lavender essential oil to 1 ounce of almond oil and massage into your skin before sleep.
  • Put a few drops of lavender oil on a handkerchief, hold it near your nose and breath in the scent every few minutes starting 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Mix a few drops of lavender oil with water in an atomizer and lightly mist onto your pillow.

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4. Cherries

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When researchers conducted a study to test whether tart cherry juice could prevent the symptoms of exercise induced muscle damage, several participants reported that the drink helped them sleep better. Since then, a number of studies have been carried out confirming that cherries or cherry juice can improve sleep quality. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.

A pilot study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food investigated the effectiveness of a cherry juice drink for the treatment of insomnia. Researchers recruited 15 elderly adults with insomnia and randomized them to receive a commercial tart cherry and apple juice blend or an identically packaged placebo drink.

Each participant drank one 8-ounce serving in the morning and one before bedtime. After 2-weeks of treatment and a 2-week break, the participants switched beverages for a further 2-weeks. Sleep quality was assessed from daily sleep diaries and rated on the Insomnia Severity Index. The cherry juice drink was associated with modest, but significant, improvements in sleep continuity and significantly reduced insomnia severity when compared to the placebo.

A crossover trial published in the European Journal of Nutrition investigated whether cherry juice would increase urinary melatonin levels and improve sleep quality in healthy adults. A total of 20 volunteers were randomized to consume either a tart cherry juice concentrate or a placebo for 7 days. They were then given the other beverage for a further 7 days. The participants all wore sleep/activity meters on their wrists in bed and completed sleep questionnaires. They were also asked to provide urine samples.

A urine analysis showed that total melatonin content was significantly elevated when participants drank cherry juice. Supplementation with cherry juice also significantly increased total sleep time and sleep efficiency (the ratio of time spent asleep compared to the time spent in bed). Researchers concluded that tart cherry juice provides an increase in melatonin that is beneficial for improving sleep duration and quality.

A study published in the Journals of Gerontology evaluated whether cherry consumption influences the sleep/wake cycle and melatonin. Researchers recruited 12 volunteers aged 35-85. Twice a day, after lunch and dinner, the participants ate 200 grams of cherries from 7 varieties grown in the Jerte Valley of Spain. They wore sleep/activity meters on their wrists throughout the study period. Morning urine samples were collected at the start and end of the 3-day trial.

Consumption of each of the cherry varieties produced beneficial effects on actual sleep time and total nocturnal activity. All of the cherry cultivars also significantly increased urine melatonin levels. However, some of the sleep parameters measured, such as night-time awakenings and sleep latency, only improved after eating particular types of cherries.

Method:

For the most melatonin, choose a cherry variety such as Montmorency or Balaton or a juice made from tart cherries. Tart cherry juice concentrate is available from health food stores.

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5. Kiwi and Tropical Fruits

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Kiwi fruit is high in serotonin, a neurotransmitter which is associated with REM sleep. Kiwi is also rich in folate (vitamin B12). Low serotonin levels or a folate deficiency can result in insomnia.

A Taiwanese study evaluated the effects of kiwifruit on sleep patterns. Researchers recruited 24 participants (aged 20-55) with self-reported sleep disturbances. They were all given Actigraph sleep/activity logger watches and instructed to consume 2 kiwifruits 1 hour before bedtime. Participants were assessed with the Chinese version of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (CPSQI) before and after kiwi therapy. They also kept sleep diaries.

After 4 weeks of kiwifruit consumption, CPSQI scores improved by 42%. Time taken to fall asleep decreased by 35%. Night waking time decreased by 29%, and total sleep time increased by 13%.

A clinical study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry assessed the melatonin content of 6 tropical fruits and its absorption in the human body. Most of the fruits showed moderate melatonin content when analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography. Researchers recruited 30 healthy volunteers to consume each of the 6 fruits one at a time, with a 1-week wash-out period between fruits. Their urine samples were then tested for aMT6-s, a marker of circulating melatonin in the body.

Three fruits showed significant increases in urine aMT6-s concentrations. Pineapple was the best source of dietary melatonin with an increase of 266%, followed by banana with an increase of 180% and orange with an increase of 47%. The researchers note that further study is needed regarding the effect of fruit consumption in people with age-related melatonin reduction problems such as sleeplessness.

Method:

The studies above suggest that daily consumption of a pineapple, banana and kiwi smoothie might help improve sleep.

6. 5-HTP

5-htp tryptophan high protein foods meat fish dairy beans nuts seeds insomnia sleep disorder natural remedy aid

5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a chemical compound that the liver makes from the essential amino acid tryptophan (found in protein-rich foods). 5-HTP travels through the bloodstream to the brain where it is converted into the calming, mood-enhancing neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin can subsequently be converted into melatonin, the hormone which regulates the sleep/wake cycle.

While 5-HTP is naturally produced in the body, 5-HTP supplements, made from the African climbing shrub, Griffonia simplicifolia are a popular sleep aid. Research has shown that oral 5-HTP supplements are well absorbed with about 70% of the compound ending up in the bloodstream. 5-HTP easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and effectively increases synthesis of serotonin.

A randomized controlled trial published in the American Journal of Therapeutics tested a supplement containing 5-HTP and GABA in patients with sleep disorders. A total of 18 patients were randomized to receive either the supplement or a placebo. All of the patients filled out daily sleep questionnaires. Autonomic nervous system function was measured using electrocardiographic recordings.

Time taken to fall asleep was significantly reduced from 32 minutes to 19 minutes after taking the 5-HTP supplement. There was no significant difference in sleep latency time in the placebo group. Duration of sleep increased significantly from 5 hours to nearly 7 hours in the supplement group, compared to no significant difference in the placebo group. Ease of falling asleep, night time awakenings and morning grogginess also improved for the supplement group, along with objective measurements of autonomic nervous system function.

A pharmacological trial published in the European Journal of Pediatrics tested 5-HTP for the treatment of sleep terrors in children. Sleep terrors (or night terrors) are episodes of intense panic, screaming, flailing and bolting upright while still asleep.

Researchers recruited 45 children aged 3-10 who had been referred to a sleep center for sleep terrors. All subjects underwent a neurological examination and EEG recording while awake and sleeping. A treatment group of 31 patients were given 5-HTP to take at bedtime.

After 1 month of 5-HTP treatment, 94% of patients showed a positive response. After 6 months, 84% of children treated with 5-HTP were sleep terror-free. In contrast, 71% of the untreated children continued to experience sleep terrors at the 6-month follow-up.

Method:

  • Take one 200 mg of 5-HTP supplement capsule daily. Do not exceed the recommended dose.
  • You can also modestly increase your levels of 5-HTP by adding more tryptophan to your diet. Tryptophan is present in most protein-rich foods. High protein foods that are good sources include: meat, fish, dairy products, beans, nuts and seeds.

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7. Magnesium

magnesium bananas seeds nuts green leafy vegetables almonds yogurt dark chocolate avocado insomnia sleep disorder natural remedies aid

Research has shown that approximately 50% of Americans consume less than the estimated average requirement for magnesium. Magnesium is vital for the functioning of GABA to ease the brain into a calm, relaxed state. Magnesium also decreases cortisol, a stress hormone that helps to keep you alert. Magnesium deficiency can lead to agitated sleep with frequent nighttime awakenings.

A clinical trial published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences evaluated the efficacy of magnesium supplementation for treating insomnia in the elderly. A total of 46 adults aged 60-75 diagnosed with insomnia were randomly allocated to receive 500 mg of magnesium or a placebo daily for 8 weeks. Before and after the trial, participants completed sleep logs and insomnia severity questionnaires. Their blood samples were tested for magnesium, melatonin and cortisol.

Dietary magnesium supplementation brought about significant increases in sleep time, sleep efficiency and concentrations of melatonin. It also resulted in significantly lower insomnia scores, shorter sleep onset time and decreased cortisol concentration.

A pilot study published in Sleep assessed the efficacy of magnesium therapy for insomnia and restless legs syndrome. Researchers gave oral magnesium supplements to 10 patients suffering from insomnia related to periodic leg movements during sleep. Their sleep was monitored with polysomnography.

After 4-6 weeks of magnesium treatment, leg movements associated with night-time waking significantly decreased from an average of 17 to an average of 7. Leg movements without arousal were moderately reduced. Sleep efficiency also significantly improved.

Method:

  • Magnesium supplements are available in many forms. Magnesium gluconate, magnesium citrate and magnesium lactate are the most easily absorbed. The level of vitamin B6 in the body also determines how much magnesium will be absorbed into the cells. Magnesium may increase the risk of negative side effects with certain medications. If you are taking any prescription drugs, talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking magnesium.
  • Foods naturally rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, seeds, nuts, beans, fish, nuts and dark chocolate. However, the amounts of magnesium in plant foods will vary depending on the mineral content of the soil they were grown in. Processed or refined foods may be depleted of magnesium.

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Final Word

In addition to adding more sleep-promoting foods to your diet or taking supplements, ensure that you practice good sleep hygiene.

  • Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.
  • If your mattress, pillows or covers are uncomfortable, consider an upgrade.
  • Don’t drink caffeinated beverages after 5 PM (or earlier if you are sensitive to caffeine).
  • Get sufficient exercise during the day.
  • Relax with calming activities such as reading for 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

For more information, read these 7 Tips on How to Get Better Sleep.

12 Healthy Snack Ideas & Recipes That Are Easy to Make

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low carb low sugar avocados veggies chickpeas tomatoes healthy snack ideas

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that between 2005-2010, the average American consumed 13% of daily calories from added sugar. World Health Organization guidelines recommend that adults limit their intake of added sugars and those found in honey and fruit juices to below 5% of total calories or approximately 6 teaspoons per day.

Research has linked excess sugar consumption to the epidemic of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. Refined carbohydrates, which breaks down into sugar in the digestive tract, also contributes to the problem.

One simple way to cut down on empty calories from sugar and refined carbohydrates is to choose healthier snacks and cut out sweet drinks. See below for ideas and recipes for healthier sweet treats and savory snacks.

Sugar, Carbs & Weight Gain

When you eat foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates, your blood sugar rises. Since sustained high blood sugar is dangerous, your pancreas produces the hormone insulin to promote the absorption of blood glucose into the cells.

Any sugar that is not quickly used as energy or stored in the muscles is stored in fat cells. As long as insulin is circulating, the fat cells remain essentially ‘locked’ and do not release fat for use as energy.

Most processed snack foods are high in refined carbohydrates, sugar or both. If you eat foods like corn chips, cookies or candy bars between meals, not only are you taking in empty calories, you’re also ensuring that your insulin levels remain high.

This means that most of the calories you take in will be stored as fat and the fat already stored in your cells won’t be burned off. Over time, especially when combined with a sedentary lifestyle, consuming processed snack foods can easily lead to weight gain.

Sugar, Carbs & Disease

A high intake of sugar and carbohydrates combined with low levels of activity can cause insulin levels to remain high over a prolonged period of time. When this happens, the cells become less sensitive to insulin, requiring ever higher levels of the hormone to absorb glucose.

Insulin resistance leads to pre-diabetes, where blood sugar levels are raised. Pre-diabetes can be reversed but if left untreated, it can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes, in which blood sugar levels become dangerously high.

Research has shown that increased carbohydrate and sugar consumption is associated with lower HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels, higher triglyceride levels, and higher LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels. Studies have also shown that higher sugar intake results in raised blood pressure. High cholesterol and blood pressure are both risk factors for heart disease.

A 15-year study published in JAMA Internal Medicine investigated the link between sugar and heart disease. It found that US adults who took in 25% of their daily calories from added sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease than those who got less than 10% of their calories from sugar. The odds of a participant dying from heart disease rose along with the percentage of sugar in their diet regardless of age, sex, physical activity level or body weight.

Tips for Healthy Snacking

  • Don’t buy processed snack foods or keep them in your cupboard or desk drawer.
  • Do keep healthy snacks on hand to reach for when hunger and sugar cravings strikes.
  • If you often have cravings for specific types of unhealthy snacks, find low-sugar, low carb foods that will satisfy those cravings.
  • Choose snack foods that add nutrients to your diet, not just empty calories. For example, nuts are a good source of fiber and minerals, dairy products good source of calcium, berries are full of antioxidants, eggs are rich in protein and vitamins.

Quick Snack Ideas

  • Celery sticks or apples and peanut butter, almond butter or hummus
  • Half a tomato filled with tuna and organic mayonnaise
  • Organic cream cheese rolled into salmon slices
  • Fresh bell peppers and homemade guacamole
  • Unsweetened yogurt mixed with strawberries, blueberries or blackberries
  • 1-2 teaspoons of raw organic honey over organic plain yogurt or greek yogurt
  • Organic trail mix
  • Organic air-popped popcorn lightly seasoned with freshly grounded peppercorns and himalayan salt
  • Low-fat cottage cheese or other cheeses with fresh fruits
  • Dark chocolate with at least 50-80% cocoa
  • Lightly salted edamame
  • Hard boiled eggs

Savory Snack Recipes

1. Spicy Mixed Nuts

spicy mixed nuts pecans walnut cashew healthy snacks

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of any combination of raw almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts or macadamia nuts
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Line a baking tray with foil or use a silicon baking tray.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
  3. Mix the seasonings together in a small bowl.
  4. Spread the nuts on the baking tray and pour the oil over and stir to coat.
  5. Sprinkle the seasoning mix over the nuts and stir until they are evenly coated.
  6. Bake for 6 minutes, then stir the nuts and rotate the pan.
  7. Bake for another 6 minutes, then remove the pan and do a taste test. It should be toasted and crunchy. If still raw, return the pan to the oven for a couple of minutes and taste again.
  8. When the nuts are done, allow them to cool, then transfer them to an airtight container.

Tips:

  • Nuts can quickly go from roasted to burnt, so keep an eye on the oven.
  • Experiment with different spice blends to create your favorite flavors.

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2. Crudités with Crab Dip

crab dip crudites tomatoes celery carrots healthy snacks idea

Ingredients:

  • 1 can shredded crab meat
  • 2 cups non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fat-free of low-fat mayonnaise
  • sprinkle of Paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • Your choice of low carb (non-root) vegetables such as celery, cucumber, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower or jicama

Method:

  1. Cut the raw vegetables into batons or dipping-size pieces.
  2. In a bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay seasoning, lemon juice, and paprika.
  3. Drain the crab meat and mix into the dip.
  4. Transfer the spread to a small bowl and serve with the crudités

Tips:

  • Spoon the spread onto cucumber slices, celery sticks or pepper halves.
  • You can also make this spread with baby shrimp.

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3. Mini Stuffed Peppers

mini stuffed peppers cheese spinach brown rice healthy snacks ideas

Ingredients:

  • 12 mini bell peppers
  • 1 cup of brown rice
  • 2 cups of spinach
  • 1 cup of marinara sauce
  • 3/4 cups of low fat shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon of freshly grounded black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)

Method:

  1. Cook brown rice.
  2. Cut bell-peppers lengthwise and scoop out the core.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. In a skillet, mix in rice, chopped spinach, marinara sauce, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper. Cook until spinach is fully cooked. Mix in mozzarella cheese and simmer until cheese is melted.
  5. Stuff peppers with rice mix and top each pepper with a pinch of mozzarella cheese.
  6. Place peppers on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes or until peppers are soft.

Tips:

  • You can add cooked chicken breast for some protein
  • Try adding fresh herbs such as oregano, cilantro, thyme or basil

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4. Roasted Brussels Sprouts 

roasted brussels sprouts salt pepper ham healthy snack ideas

Ingredients:

  • 2 dozen small brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grounded black pepper
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut off ends of brussels sprouts, then cut each sprout in half.
  3. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together.
  4. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cut side down.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes or until crispy.

Tips:

  • Try adding small bits of low-sodium and lean ham and sliced onions if you cannot handle brussels sprouts on its own

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5. Roasted Kale Chips

roasted kale chips salt pepper vegan cheese turmeric healthy snack ideas

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of fresh kale
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grounded black pepper
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Cut off thick stems from kale and rip into bite size pieces.
  3. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together.
  4. Arrange a single layer of the mixed kale onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until crispy.

Tips:

  • Add some vegan cheese, turmeric or any of your favorite spices.

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6. Roasted Cauliflower

parmesan roasted cauliflower cheese healthy snack ideas

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grounded black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into bite size pieces.
  3. In a bowl, mix the cauliflower, salt, olive oil, black pepper and garlic powder together.
  4. Arrange in a single layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 40 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.

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7. Turkey Spinach Roll-ups 

turkey spinach roll up wrap healthy snack ideas

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces of sliced deli turkey
  • 1 cup of fresh baby spinach or basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons of honey mustard sauce
  • 1 medium size sweet peppers
  • 4 fat-free or low-fat string cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Spread the honey mustard evenly over the turkey slices.
  2. Divide the spinach or basil leaves evenly on each turkey slice.
  3. Cut and deseed the sweet pepper into thin strips. Place the strips over the spinach or basil leaves.
  4. Cut each string cheese into 4 strips, lengthwise and place on top of the peppers.
  5. Roll up each turkey slice from the edge and cut in half.

Tips:

  • These can be prepared in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a convenient finger-food snack.
  • Use lettuce leaves instead of bread. Roll turkey into lettuce to make lettuce wraps.

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8. Mini Quiches

mini quiches eggs zucchini carrots cheese healthy snack ideas

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup of grated zucchini (packed)
  • 3/4 cup of grated carrots (packed)
  • 6 ounces of fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • 2 green shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup of grated cheddar cheese (or any cheese)
  • 2 teaspoons of your choice of  oil (coconut, olive, etc)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease 2 mini cupcake pans (24 holes total).
  3. In a skillet, cook grated zucchini, carrots and shallots until veggies are tender. Add in spinach and cook until greens are wilted. Remove from heat and let mix cool to room temperature.
  4. In a bowl whisk the eggs, then add the room temperature cooked veggies, cheese, and salt.
  5. Evenly distribute mix into muffin pan (making sure the egg is evenly distributed).
  6. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until top slightly browns. Allow the mini quiches to cool down before removing them from the tin.

Tips:

  • You can use any sort of grated hard cheese in these and any ingredients you would commonly find in quiche such as cooked and chopped ham, turkey sausage, mushrooms or broccoli.
  • The quiches can be kept in the refrigerator and eaten cold or reheated.

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9. Zucchini Chips

zucchini chips roasted baked natural healthy snack ideas

Ingredients:

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Cut the zucchini into thin, round slices using a mandolin or a food processor with a slicing attachment.
  3. Spread out the slices on a plate and sprinkle them with salt. Leave the zucchini slices for 10 minutes while the salt works its way in to draw out excess moisture.
  4. Blot the zucchini slices with paper towels to absorb the excess liquid.
  5. Put the zucchini in a bowl with the olive oil and toss to coat.
  6. Spread the slices on a parchment-lined metal tray.
  7. Roast for 10 minutes or until golden brown on top, then flip with a spatula.
  8. Roast for another 10 minutes or so, until crispy.

Tips:

  • Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the slices. Be sure the zucchini is evenly sliced and keep checking the oven to avoid burning.

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Sweet Treat Recipes

10. Blueberry Muffins

blueberry muffins applesauce healthy snack ideas

Ingredients:

  • 1 ⅓ cups plain yogurt
  • 3 ½ cups ground almonds (or almond flour)
  • 6 medium eggs
  • ½ cup fresh or defrosted blueberries
  • 4 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons stevia granulated sweetener
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a muffin tray with paper cups.
  3. Put the yogurt, eggs, butter, applesauce and vanilla into a mixing jug and blend with an electric mixer.
  4. Then add the stevia, baking powder, and almonds and mix until smooth.
  5. Fold in the blueberries.
  6. Pour equal amounts into each muffin cup.
  7. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Tips:

  • This basic muffin recipe will also work with raspberries or chopped nuts.
  • You can replace all the butter for unsweetened applesauce (1:1 ratio), if you don’t mind a denser and more moist muffin.
  • The muffins can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a convenient breakfast or snack.

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11. Chocolate Mug Cake

chocolate mug cake healthy snack ideas

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1 tablespoons stevia granulated sweetener
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (or 1 tablespoon for a darker and richer taste)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk (or 2 1/2 tablespoons if using 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, coconut oil and vanilla.
  2. Then whisk in flour, sweetener, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt.
  3. Pour into a large coffee mug that has been sprayed with cooking oil spray.
  4. Microwave for approximately 40 seconds, on high. If it is still a little underdone, cook for another 10 seconds. The cake will continue to cook once it is removed from the microwave.

Tips:

  • The exact cooking time will depend on your microwave and your preferences.
  • Try adding nuts, coconut or peanut butter.
  • For an oven-baked version – preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 1/2 cup ramekin with cooking oil spray. Cook for around 15 minutes. Toothpick should come out clean. For a more moist cake, cook for about 11 minutes. Toothpick should come out slightly dirty (not with a lot of cake batter).

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12. Cinnamon Pecan Breakfast Bars

cinnamon pecan bars applesauce healthy snack ideas

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cup almond flour
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1 room-temperature egg
  • ½ cup stevia granulated sweetener
  • ½ cup roughly chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream together the applesauce and stevia. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until smooth.
  3. Add the almond flour, coconut flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda and mix to thoroughly combine.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the chopped pecans.
  5. Spread the mixture into a square or rectangular silicon baking dish or a buttered glass baking dish.
  6. Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes until golden.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before cutting into bars.

Tip: These are best served warm, but are still good when stored in the refrigerator and eaten cold.

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Final Word

Eating a variety of healthy homemade snacks is a natural way to increase your intake of vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fats, fiber and antioxidants. However, if you need to watch your weight, be careful with portion sizes. Eat just enough to satisfy your hunger and keep you going until the next meal.

7 Health Benefits of Turmeric Root & Curcumin Powder

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turmeric curcumin yellow orange spice powder root natural health benefits remedies

Turmeric is a popular yellow spice used in Indian and other Asian dishes and is also used in traditional Indian medicines to treat a variety of disorders. It is the most studied herb there is and has thousands of studies to back it up.

Turmeric contains active polyphenols called curcuminoids. One of these compounds, curcumin, is the active ingredient in turmeric. It has demonstrated antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and anticancer activities in laboratory tests.

A 2014 review article published in Cancer Research and Treatment notes that over 100 clinical studies have been carried out with curcumin. Extensive research has shown that it plays a vital role in the prevention and treatment of several chronic inflammatory diseases including pulmonary, cardiovascular, metabolic, neurodegenerative and autoimmune disorders.

Turmeric Spice vs. Turmeric Curcumin Supplements

Turmeric spice powder sold for cooking is ground dried turmeric root. It contains about 3% curcumin by weight. Most turmeric supplements are made with a combination of turmeric root and concentrated turmeric extract. Turmeric extract contains about 95% curcumin. The more turmeric extract contained in a supplement, the higher its curcumin content.

A supplement capsule containing half a gram of turmeric extract could provide around 400 mg of curcumin, whereas half a gram of turmeric spice powder would give you only 15 mg of curcumin.

Clinical trials have shown health benefits with doses of curcumin ranging from 200-1,200 mg per day. It’s unlikely you could obtain this amount simply by adding turmeric spice to your food. That said, the fact that diseases such as cancer are much less prevalent in parts of Asia where turmeric is part of the daily diet supports the concept that even very small doses of curcumin could be beneficial.

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Bioavailability

Curcumin is poorly absorbed, so simply eating turmeric in normal quantities will not provide you with the full range of health benefits. Fortunately, there is a natural way to boost the bioavailability of curcumin.

Piperine, a major component of black pepper, inhibits the metabolism of curcumin in the liver and intestine, allowing far greater quantities to enter the bloodstream.

A study published in Planta Medica investigated the influence of piperine on the bioavailability of curcumin in healthy human volunteers. After participants took a 2 gram dose of curcumin, blood levels of the substance were either undetectable or very low. When they took the curcumin along with 20 mg of piperine, blood concentrations of curcumin were much higher. Bioavailability of curcumin increased by 2,000% one hour after consuming it with piperine.

Curcumin supplements containing piperine are widely available. Scientists are currently developing various other types of formulations to increase the bioavailability of curcumin. One type currently marketed in the US is nanocurcumin. These supplements contain curcumin with a much smaller particle size, making it more easily absorbed into the body’s cells.

7 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Turmeric & Curcumin

1. Asthma & Allergies

asthma allergies airway constriction breathing tight chest turmeric curcumin health benefits remedies

The symptoms of asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever or seasonal allergies) occur when inflammation constricts airways.

Research on mice has shown that curcumin inhibits the signals of a group of receptors which play an important role in allergic airway inflammation. Another study found that curcumin prevented structural alterations in the airways associated with chronic asthma such as smooth muscle thickening and mucus secretion.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research evaluated the efficacy of curcumin as an add-on therapy for asthma patients. A total of 60 adults with mild-to-moderate bronchial asthma were randomized into 2 groups. One group received standard asthma medications and the other group received standard asthma medications plus a daily 500 mg curcumin capsule.

Patients’ symptoms and the results of pulmonary function tests were assessed at the start of the study and at 3 consecutive visits to the clinic over the course of 30 days. Both groups showed a similar reduction in asthma symptoms, however, the curcumin group had a significantly greater improvement in Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV1), a common test for airway obstruction.

A pilot study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology investigated the effects of curcumin on nasal symptoms in patients with seasonal allergies. Researchers randomized 241 patients with allergic rhinitis to receive either a placebo or curcumin supplements for 2 months. Nasal symptoms, nasal airflow resistance and markers of inflammation were assessed before and after the trial.

Curcumin alleviated symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and nasal congestion through reduction of nasal airflow resistance. The researchers also found that curcumin modulated the immune response to allergens by increasing the production of anti-inflammatory proteins.

2. Depression

depression anxiety alone sad depressed dark turmeric curcumin natural remedies health benefits

Three neurotransmitters in the brain, known as monoamines, are thought to regulate mood: serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

Monoamine oxidase (MAO) is an enzyme that weakens these neurotransmitters. A class of anti-depressant drugs called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) reduce the activity of the enzyme MAO. This increases levels of monoamines, which leads to improved mood.

Research on rodent behavior and rodent brains has shown that curcumin inhibits the activity of MAO enzymes in the same way as MAOI drugs, which leads to a decrease in depressive-like symptoms.

A trial published in the Journal of Affective Disorders tested the use of curcumin for the treatment of depression in humans. A total of 56 patients with major depressive disorder were randomized to receive either 500 mg curcumin twice daily or a placebo for 8 weeks.

Severity of depression was assessed using the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology at the beginning of the trial and at 4 and 8 weeks. From weeks 4-8, curcumin was significantly more effective than the placebo in improving several mood-related symptoms.

A trial published in Phytotherapy Research compared the efficacy of curcumin with fluoxetine (Prozac) in patients with major depressive disorder. Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) medication often prescribed for the treatment of clinical depression. A total of 60 patients with major depressive disorder were randomized into 3 groups. One group took 20 mg of fluoxetine, one group took 1 gram of curcumin and the third group took both fluoxetine and curcumin.

The severity of patients’ depression was assessed using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale before and after 6 weeks of treatment. In the combination group, 78% of patients responded to treatment compared to 65% in the fluoxetine group and 63% in the curcumin group. The average improvement in depression scores was comparable in all 3 groups.

3. Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimers disease dementia forgetful memory brain disorder elderly natural remedies turmeric curcimun health benefits

Alzheimer’s disease degrades neurons in the brain through a process involving inflammation, oxidative damage and the formation of beta-amyloid plaques.

Curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also appears to boost the ability of the immune system to destroy beta-amyloid proteins. Large scale human studies have yet to prove the efficacy of turmeric or curcumin for treating Alzheimer’s disease but individual case studies are promising.

Research has shown that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease among adults aged 70-79 is 4.4 times lower in India than in the United States, where turmeric is frequently consumed.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology examined the association between curry consumption and cognitive function in the elderly. Researchers administered the Mini-Mental State Examination (a standard diagnostic test for cognitive function and dementia) to a cohort of 1,010 Asians aged 60–93. The participants were also asked about their frequency of curry consumption. Those who ate curry occasionally (less than once a month) and often (more than once a month) performed significantly better on the MMSE than those who never or rarely ate curry. The difference was equivalent to a 10-year age-incremental effect.

A laboratory study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease investigated whether curcumin could help macrophages clear amyloid plaques. Macrophages are specialized cells of the immune system involved in the detection and destruction of foreign proteins. Researchers tested macrophages from the blood of 6 Alzheimer’s disease patients and 3 healthy controls. They found that amyloid-beta uptake was significantly lower in the macrophages from the Alzheimer’s group. When they treated the macrophages with curcuminoids, amyloid-beta uptake by macrophages of 3 of the 6 Alzheimer’s patients significantly increased.

Three case studies of Alzheimer’s patients at Kariya Toyota General Hospital in Japan describe how turmeric treatment improved the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. Two female and one male patient aged 79-84 with severe Alzheimer’s symptoms were given 764 mg turmeric supplements. The patients were evaluated before and after treatment using a neuro-psychiatric questionnaire.

After 12 weeks, total symptom scores decreased significantly. Turmeric was found to be effective for the treatment of delusions, hallucinations, apathy, agitation, anxiety, irritability, and depression.

All 3 patients continued to take turmeric and, after one year, they were able to recognize family members and distinguish them from hospital staff. They all became calmer and were less of a burden on their caregivers.

4. Arthritis

arthritis inflammation pain joints bones swelling aches natural remedies turmeric curcumin health benefits

 Since turmeric is known to reduce pain and inflammation, it’s not surprising that it’s often used as a complementary therapy for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Research on rodents has shown that turmeric inhibits joint inflammation and joint destruction by altering the expression of genes that regulate these processes.

A study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research compared curcumin with the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers randomized 18 rheumatoid arthritis patients to receive either 300 mg of phenylbutazone or 1,200 mg of curcumin per day. After 2 weeks, both groups showed significant improvement in morning stiffness, joint swelling and walking time.

An Italian study evaluated the efficacy of a complementary arthritis treatment. The supplement combined curcumin with lecithin (a fatty substance derived from soybeans) for increased stability and better absorption. A total of 50 osteoarthritis patients were randomized to receive either standard treatment or standard treatment plus 200 mg of curcumin per day for 3 months.

Patients’ symptoms were assessed before and after treatment on the WOMAC Osteoarthritis Index. Mobility was determined by performance on a treadmill and inflammatory status was measured with a blood test.

The average WOMAC score in the curcumin group decreased by 58%, compared to only 2% in the control group. The distance that patients could walk on a treadmill without pain increased by 336% in curcumin group, but only 31% in the control group. Decrease in markers of inflammation was significantly greater in the curcumin group.

Use of anti-inflammatory drugs decreased by 63% in the curcumin group compared to 13% in the controls. The curcumin group also had significant decreases in gastrointestinal complications, hospital admissions and total treatment costs.

A pilot study published in Phytotherapy Research compared the efficacy of curcumin to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac sodium (Voltaren) for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. A total of 45 patients were randomized into 3 groups. One group received 500 mg of curcumin per day, another received 50 mg of diclofenac sodium and a third received a combination of curcumin and diclofenac sodium.

Before and after 8 weeks of treatment, patients were given a disease activity score (DAS) based on an examination of 28 joints, a blood test and a pain consultation.

DAS scores significantly improved in all 3 treatment groups. Interestingly, curcumin alone was equally effective to curcumin plus diclofenac sodium. Both of the curcumin groups reduced disease activity by 44% compared to 42% for diclofenac sodium.

All 3 groups also had a significant decrease in pain scores, but curcumin was the most effective pain treatment. Pain decreased by 60% in the curcumin group compared to 56% in the curcumin plus diclofenac sodium group and 50% in the diclofenac sodium group.

5. Heart Disease

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The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin could help protect against cardiovascular disease. The endothelium is a layer of cells that line the arteries and allows them to dilate or constrict to provide sufficient blood flow to the heart.

Curcumin has been shown to improve endothelial function. Endothelial dysfunction is a predictor of future cardiovascular disease. It also lowers cholesterol and protects against the development of arterial plaque.

A rodent study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research examined the effect of curcumin on atherosclerosis and its underlying mechanisms. Mice with a genetic predisposition to develop high cholesterol and atherosclerosis were randomized into 3 groups. One group was treated with curcumin, another with statin drug lovastatin, and a control group received no treatment.

After 18 weeks, curcumin and lovastatin treatment had a similar protective effect against atherosclerosis. Both treatments reduced atherosclerotic lesions and fatty deposits in the aortic artery. Curcumin and lovastatin also showed a similar cholesterol-lowering effect, reducing total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol while increasing HDL ‘good’ cholesterol.

A study published in Phytotherapy Research tested the effects of curcumin extract in patients with metabolic syndrome. A total of 65 patients were randomized to receive either 630 mg of curcumin extract capsules or placebo capsules 3 times a day for 12 weeks.

HDL ‘good’ cholesterol significantly increased in the curcumin group, whereas LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and triglycerides were significantly reduced. There were no significant changes in the placebo group.

A study published in Nutrition Research investigated the effects of curcumin and aerobic exercise on endothelial function. A total of 32 postmenopausal women were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups. One group took curcumin supplements, another group did moderate aerobic exercise training, and a control group had no intervention.

At the start and end of the study, the participants were tested for flow-mediated dilation. In this procedure, ultrasound is used to measure how much the brachial artery dilates in response to an increase in blood flow.

After 8 weeks, flow-mediated dilation increased significantly and equally in the exercise and curcumin groups. No changes were observed in the control group. The researchers suggest that curcumin ingestion could potentially improve the age-related decline in endothelial function.

A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology examined the effects of curcumin on frequency of heart attacks after coronary artery bypass surgery. A total of 121 patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting were randomized to receive either a placebo or 4 grams of curcuminoids per day starting 3 days before scheduled surgery and continuing until 5 days after surgery.

Incidence of in-hospital myocardial infarction (heart attacks) decreased from 30% in the placebo group to 13% in the curcuminoid group. Blood markers for inflammation and oxidative stress were also lower in the curcuminoid group.

6. Colorectal Cancer

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According to researchers at the National Cancer Institute, rates of colorectal cancer are approximately 10 times higher in the United States than in India, where turmeric is widely consumed on a daily basis.

Experimental studies have shown that curcumin can suppress proliferation of a wide variety of tumor cells. It also blocks the activity of nuclear factor kappa-B, a protein associated with cancer cell growth.

Laboratory research have demonstrated that turmeric and curcumin inhibits the growth of 19 clinical strains of Helicobacter pylori, a carcinogenic bacterium linked to the development of colon cancer.

A clinical trial published in Cancer Prevention Research assessed the effects of curcumin in smokers at risk for colorectal cancer. Researchers recruited 41 patients with 8 or more aberrant crypt foci (ACF) discovered during a screening colonoscopy. ACF are clusters of abnormal glands in the lining of the colon and rectum and are one of the earliest changes that may lead to cancer.

Half of the patients took 2 grams of curcumin supplements a day and half took double the dose at 4 grams per day. After 30 days, the participants underwent another colonoscopy. ACF was not significantly reduced in the 2-gram group. However, in the group who took 4 grams of curcumin, ACF decreased by 40%.

7. Type 2 Diabetes

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Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreatic beta cells are unable to produce enough insulin, or when cells become insulin resistant, causing blood sugar to rise to dangerous levels.

Curcumin can help to control several processes involved in the development and progression of insulin resistance and high blood sugar. 

A review of studies on the anti-hyperglycemic and insulin sensitizer effects of turmeric concluded that curcumin can lower blood sugar levels by reducing the production of glucose in the liver and increasing the expression of genes involved in glucose uptake. It also improves pancreatic cell function and stimulates insulin secretion. 

A study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research investigated whether curcumin has beneficial effects on patients with type 2 diabetes. A total of 100 overweight or obese type 2 diabetes patients were randomly assigned to receive either 300 mg of curcuminoids per day or a placebo for 3 months. Curcuminoids supplementation significantly decreased fasting blood sugar and indicators of insulin resistance.

A trial published in Diabetes Care assessed the efficacy of curcumin in delaying development of type 2 diabetes in the pre-diabetic population. A total of 240 patients diagnosed with pre-diabetes were randomized to receive either six 250 mg of curcumin capsules a day or placebo capsules. The patients also received diet and lifestyle training.

After 9 months of treatment, none of the patients in the curcumin group had developed type 2 diabetes, compared with 16% of patients in the placebo group. In addition, the curcumin-treated group showed less insulin resistance and a better overall function of beta cells that release the hormone insulin. Their blood tests also revealed higher levels of anti-inflammatory proteins.

An Iranian clinical trial examined the effect of curcumin on patients with type 2 diabetes. Researchers randomized 70 diabetic patients into 2 groups. One group received a nanocurcumin supplement (shown to have higher bioavailability than ordinary curcumin powder). The other group received a placebo supplement.

Blood sugar and cholesterol levels were checked before and after the intervention. After 3 months, patients in the curcumin group had a significant decrease in blood sugar levels, fasting blood glucose, LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and body mass index.

Final Word

Clinical trials using curcumin for disease prevention or treatment use supplements with much more of the substance than you would get from simply adding turmeric to your meals.

If you have a condition associated with chronic inflammation, try a turmeric supplement containing at least 700 mg of active curcuminoids. Make sure it is formulated to boost absorption.

If you cook curry on a regular basis, you can increase the bioavailability of curcumin from your food by premixing pepper into your turmeric powder. Use about 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper in 1/2 cup of turmeric.

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