Why Everyone’s Talking About CoQ10

Just like certain fitness classes or diets, supplements can become trendy, too. And right now, everyone’s buzzing about Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).

“CoQ10 is a natural compound made in the body that is used for cell growth and protecting the body against cell damage,” notes Rebecca Lee, RN, founder of RemediesForMe.com. It’s found in soybean and canola oil, chicken, herring, mackerel, beef, broccoli, cauliflower, oranges, strawberries, roasted peanuts, and pistachio and sesame seeds.

The naturally-occurring enzyme also works to convert food into energy. However, it’s possible to suffer from a deficiency of the powerful antioxidant—usually due to disease, low dietary intake, or high CoQ10 use by the body, notes Mayo Clinic. Falling short on CoQ10 may lead to heart failure, high blood pressure, and chest pain.

Taking it as a supplement may also be a boon for your health in other ways—namely, in regard to supporting heart health, blood pressure, blood sugar, and helping to ward off pain in the head and neck. Here, what research and experts have to say about the potential benefits of taking a CoQ10 supplement.

1. It may help relieve head pain.

Lee points to a small study published by the journal Neurology that found CoQ10 superior to a placebo in preventing head and neck tension. “Fifty percent of patients who took CoQ10 reported significantly reduced frequency of headaches compared to only 14 percent of those who took the placebo,” she says.

2. It can promote healthy blood pressure.

Research has pointed to the substance as promising for being a go-to for patients struggling with high blood pressure. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Human Hypertension concluded that CoQ10 has the potential in hypertensive patients to lower systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.

Mayo Clinic recommends taking 60-360 milligrams daily for eight-12 weeks to address hypertension. (Of course, be sure to work with your health care provider on any new supplementation plan.)

3. It’s an important supplement to your statin prescription.

If you’re on statins to reduce your cholesterol, you might want to talk with your doctor about taking CoQ10 as well, notes nutrition, fitness, and wellness coach Erin MacDonald, RDN. The reason: “Statins deplete the body’s reserves of CoQ10, and it’s a vital antioxidant,” she explains. (Research published in The Ochsner Journal supports the connection between statin therapy and lower CoQ10 levels.)

Bonus: Although more research is needed, Mayo Clinic points out that CoQ10 may help reduce muscle weakness associated with statin use.

4. It could improve cardiovascular health.

CoQ10 is a champion for heart health, naturally working to maintain the normal oxidative state of LDL cholesterol, supporting circulatory health, as well as functioning of the heart muscle and the health of vessel walls.

Additionally, two major meta-analyses reported in the Journal of Cardiac Failure prove the benefits of CoQ10 on heart failure of various causes.

5. It may promote fertility in men and women.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Kristie LeBeau, RN, RDN, says she recommends a CoQ10 supplement to patients who are trying to conceive. “It can improve sperm and egg health,” LeBeau says.

A study published in the journal Aging Cell looked at mice given CoQ10 prior to ovarian stimulation. The result: They made more made more follicles and better eggs than their counterparts without CoQ10. Researchers also believed that thanks to the supplementation, older mice produced eggs that functioned more like eggs from younger mice.

6. It may help keep you healthy as you age.

We naturally experience decreasing CoQ10 levels as we age, and researchers writing in Molecular Syndromology believe lower stores of the enzyme may be one of the main factors in the development of chronic diseases in aging people.

After all, in addition to being an antioxidant, the journal article authors point out that it is involved in several cellular processes, therefore “appropriate uptake of CoQ10 into cells is crucial for the improvement of cell activity during aging.”

6 Period Symptoms That Warrant A Visit To The Doctor

Plenty of women who get their periods are well acquainted with monthly cramps, cravings, mood swings, and fatigue. But there’s a real difference between annoying symptoms that are par for the course and others that are actually cause for medical concern.

We asked experts to weigh in on period symptoms that may serve as red flags. If you experience any of the six following symptoms, you’ll do well to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.

1. Excessive bleeding (also known as menorrhagia)

Although you may feel like your periods are heavy, needing to change a pad or tampon on the hour every hour is not normal, warns Sheeva Talebian, MD, co-founder of Truly MD (an informative blog about health written by doctors) and director of third-party reproduction at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in New York City.

Related: Shop products to help get you through your cycle.

Bleeding heavily could indicate an “anatomic problem, like fibroids (noncancerous tumors of the uterus) or polyps (small, benign growths on the lining of the uterus), or it could be a miscarriage,” she notes. It could also be a result of a hormone imbalance or adenomyosis (a condition in which glands from the endometrium become embedded in the uterine muscle), or a complication related to medications or other medical conditions.

Dr. Talebian suggest seeing your doctor ASAP if the heavy bleeding continues, especially for several days.

2. A particularly long period (also known as metrorrhagia)

Some women bleed for four days, some for a week. But if your period lasts longer than seven days, you should see your doctor, Dr. Talebian says. As with menorrhagia, bleeding for this long may be an indicator of an anatomic issue or miscarriage.

3. Large clots

Generally, clots—a coagulation of the thick lining in the uterus—are considered normal. This is because your body releases anticoagulants during your period, but sometimes the flow of your period is too quick for the blood to de-clot.

However, if you happen to pass a blood clot that is bigger than a silver half dollar, check in with your doctor, says Jenepher K. Piper, MSN, CRNP, a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner specializing in Family Medicine at Hunt Valley Family Health, an affiliate of Mercy Personal Physicians in Lutherville, Maryland. “This could be a sign of fibroids or a bleeding disorder,” Piper notes.

One such bleeding disorder is Von Willebrand’s disease, which prevents blood from clotting properly.

4. Intermittent bleeding throughout the cycle

Spotting, especially out of the blue, could be cause for concern, Piper notes. According to the US National Library of Medicine, vaginal bleeding that occurs between periods is typically benign and treatable. However, there are cases when the bleeding may indicate a greater health concern. So, if you’re spotting (especially if that spotting is heavy), you’ll want to see a doctor.

5. Periods that are extremely light

It may sound like a dream to some women, but a light period isn’t always a good thing. “[A very light period] could indicate a lack of ovulation or damage to the uterine lining,” Dr. Talebian explains.

Light periods may also be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, especially if accompanied by sudden fainting, abdominal pain, and shoulder pain, according to the Mayo Clinic. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. They can be very harmful, so see a doctor immediately if this is a possibility.

6. A sudden fever, vomiting or diarrhea, a rash resembling a sunburn, or feeling sick after using tampons

If you’ve been using tampons and are suddenly feeling like you’ve come down with a weird bug, check in with your doctor.

Symptoms may be linked to toxic shock syndrome (TSS), a rare, life-threatening complication of certain types of bacterial infections, such as Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria or group A streptococcus (strep) bacteria. Toxic shock syndrome has been associated primarily with long-term use of superabsorbent tampons. Thankfully, the tampons connected to TSS have decreased in the marketplace, and in turn, incidence of the condition is on the decline.

Related: An All-Natural Guide To Surviving Your Period With A Smile

The Bottom Line

According to the Mayo Clinic, women should also take any of the following patterns or symptoms seriously:

  • Your periods suddenly stop for more than 90 days—and you’re not pregnant.
  • Your periods become erratic after having been regular.
  • Your periods are less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart.
  • You develop severe, debilitating pain during your period.

There are plenty of possible culprits—from lifestyle factors (like how much exercise you get) to diseases, fibroids, and birth control—that could lead to abnormal menstrual symptoms. They generally can’t be diagnosed without a medical professional, so it’s wise to take note of what you’re experiencing, and when and how often, and then talk to your doctor.

8 Supplements That Support A Healthy Reproductive System

Whether you’re actively trying to get pregnant or want to get your period symptoms under control, eating clean, exercising, and sleeping well can help ensure a properly functioning reproductive system.

But you can take all of that a step further by using supplements for additional support, says Dr. Michele Sherwood, DO, co-author of Fork Your Diet and founder of the Functional Medical Institute of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Here are eight expert- and science-backed supplements that can help promote a healthy reproductive system.

1. Omega-3S

Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oil and some plant-based oils, like flaxseed) are often lauded for their ability to support brain and heart health. But they’re also good for overall female reproductive health, notes Sheeva Talebian, MD, co-founder of Truly MD and director of third party reproduction at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in New York City. That’s because they include something called essential fatty acids, which are key for our biological processes.

Research proves it: A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology looked at women aged 20-35 who were suffering from PMS, and concluded that taking an omega-3 supplement supported good health during menstruation.

“The three types of omega-3 fatty acids involved in human physiology are a-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in plant oils, as well as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—both commonly found in marine oils,” Sherwood says.

Common sources of plant oils containing the omega-3 ALA fatty acid include walnut, chia seeds, and hemp oil. Sources of animal omega-3 EPA and DHA fatty acids include fish, fish oils, squid oils, and krill oil.

Dr. Sheeva recommends purified fish oil, but advises steering away from cod liver oil, as some have very high levels of vitamins A and D and can contain heavy metals.

2. DIM

Diindolylmethane, or DIM, is the breakdown product of indole 3-carbinol, the phytochemical found in veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. And it packs a powerful punch for your whole body. Basically, it’s an antioxidant that aids in promoting a healthy estrogen balance, Dr. Sherwood notes.

Plus, DIM improves the healthy utilization of the hormone testosterone. (Yep, even women need this hormone). “Testosterone balance aids bone health, brain health, heart health, and sexual health,” she says. DIM also promotes a healthy metabolism. Win-win!

3. L-Arginine

L-arginine, an amino acid and a building block of protein, promotes various functions in the body. L-Arginine becomes nitric oxide (a blood vessel-widening agent called a vasodilator) in the body, which helps promote healthy blood pressure. Dr. Talebian also likes it for women’s health.

“This [is an] amino acid that helps with cell division, immune function, and the release of hormones,” says Dr. Talebian. “

4. Folate

This is one of the most important nutrients for reproductive health, notes nutritionist Victoria J. Lindsay, RD. “Folate is a type of B-vitamin required for DNA synthesis and the formation of new cells in the body,” Lindsay explains.

Folate is especially important for its role in ovarian health and in the prevention of birth defects. “During pregnancy, the developing fetus requires folate to form new organs and tissues, and a deficiency in folate can result in a higher risk of neural tube defects,” she explains.

Don’t just take folate when you’re preparing for pregnancy, though. All women of reproductive age should be taking folate daily—in case of unexpected pregnancy. 

5. Iron

“This nutrient plays a big role in transporting oxygen throughout the body, as well as creating protein and helping with the body’s energy production,” explains Lindsay. And women are at extra risk for iron deficiency due to losing blood during menstruation. While an iron deficiency can manifest itself in issues like increased fatigue, low levels have also caused fertility issues. In fact, the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found a link between the consumption of iron supplements and fertility. 

That said, you’ll do well to proceed with caution when supplementing with iron, as too much iron in the body may have adverse health effects, Lindsay notes. “Monitor dosage and work with a physician when wanting to increase iron intake,” she advises. (And for women who don’t need to supplement with iron but want to take a multivitamin, multis are available without iron for women).

6. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil

Flaxseed, as mentioned above, is a rich source of the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—good for our overall health and menstrual symptoms. And the lignans (a type of health-promoting polyphenol) in flaxseed are thought to have some antioxidant properties that may support healthy estrogen activity, according to the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.

7. Probiotics

All women can benefit from taking probiotics, Lindsay shares. That goes for even women without tummy problems or vaginal issues.

Probiotics—the bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tracts—are responsible for several essential metabolic processes, such as immune system regulation and proper digestion and absorption of food and nutrients,” says Lindsay.

Related: Probiotics Changed My Sex Life For The Better

For women, she explains, the better our bodies can process and absorb the nutrients in our food, the better we fuel all of the chemical reactions needed to keep ourselves and our reproductive systems healthy.

8. Chaste tree berry (vitex agnus castus)

This ironically-named herb is used to support women’s reproductive health (specifically, it supports a regular menstrual cycle), notes a study published in the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association.

The study showed that women had a decrease in the number of heavy bleeding days they experienced after using the extract.

Important to note: The herb does take several months to kick in. Pregnant women are warned against using it, as it could cause miscarriage.

Why You Get Sick When The Weather Changes

We’ve all come down with the sniffles when the weather changes drastically. And the timing isn’t exactly a coincidence or an old wive’s tale; you’re getting sick for a reason—and here’s why.

1. Major drops in temperature 

“The main weather changes that can set you up for illness would include severe changes in temperature,” says Mark Sherwood, ND, author of Fork Your Diet and co-founder of the Functional Medical Institute in Tulsa, OK. The main culprit: temperatures that go from warm to cold.

Not only does frigid weather restrict blood flow and narrow blood vessels, but in colder conditions, our immune systems may actually be less capable of fighting off the common cold (also referred to as rhinovirus), according to a 2014 study out of Yale University, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that at body temperature, antiviral proteins could keep rhinoviruses at bay. When temperatures were lowered to just 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit, however, the researchers saw that cells’ defense was far weaker, making it easier for the rhinovirus to take hold.

2. Environmental pollutants 

If the wind has picked up, you might also be at risk of respiratory symptoms. That’s because winds bringing in dust and other pollutants can affect your lungs and sinuses, notes Dr. Sherwood.

Related: Shop immune support products to stay healthy this fall season. 

A variety of issues—from respiratory illness to heightened trouble for asthmatics—may stem from winds. Research published in the journal Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research notes that climate change and climatic factors (think: temperature, wind speed, humidity, thunderstorms) can trigger respiratory allergies and asthma.

3. A change in barometric pressure 

If you feel a headache come on suddenly, it may be due to the weather—specifically, the barometric pressure, or an increase in air pressure. “The theory behind higher barometric pressure or changing weather as it relates to headaches is the belief that the headaches are a protective mechanism against adverse environmental stressors,” explains Dr. Sherwood. And, according to Internal Medicine, there’s a direct correlation between barometric pressure and migraines.

According to the Mayo Clinic, these kinds of weather changes may cause imbalances in brain chemicals like serotonin—which can also set off a migraine. For some migraine sufferers, weather changes may be enough to warrant staying inside or changing plans around in order to avoid the potential of a debilitating headache or migraine.

But It’s Not Just Colds That Weather changes Can Cause…

Ever had a little extra knee pain, say, when it rains? According to a study in Proceedings of the Western Pharmacology Society, plenty of people attribute joint pain to weather conditions. In a study including 92 patients with rheumatic disorders (80 with osteoarthritis and 12 with rheumatoid arthritis) compared to a control group of 42 subjects, it was found that weather variables (like temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure) caused increased joint pain.

Related: What Exactly Is Rhabdo—And Are You At Risk?

Specifically, less barometric pressure and lower temperature equal more joint pain. Thus, if possible, you may want to modulate your response to pain (for example, taking meds) when the weather changes.

Keeping your immune system strong can help

Ultimately, no matter what kind of climate you live in, you’re bound to encounter weather shifts that may affect your wellness. Thankfully, keeping your immune system firing on all cylinders can make you less likely to suffer the consequences of a changing weather pattern.

“The absolute best [way] to boost your immune system is to consume six to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables during the day,” says Dr. Sherwood. Why? Antioxidant-packed produce can boost your ability to keep viruses and other health issues at bay. If that many servings of fruits and veggies sounds unrealistic, there are many dietary supplements that can help support immune health.

Also useful: Getting a good night’s sleep, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, will bolster your body’s ability to produce infection-fighting antibodies and cells.

How To Get Off The Blood Sugar Roller Coaster

You don’t have to have diabetes to suffer from blood sugar spikes and dips that can leave you feeling jittery, exhausted, and just plain terrible. Adopting healthy eating and lifestyle habits will help stabilize your blood sugar—which, in turn, can keep your energy up, your mood sunnier, and your hormones in check. On top of that, healthy blood sugar is also connected to successful weight management, and can keep related diseases like type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease at bay.

Here’s what you need to know to get off that blood sugar roller coaster once and for all:

1. Understand the glycemic index

“The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly foods are digested, and the resulting effect on blood glucose,” explains David Nico, PhD, a certified wellness coach and author of the book Diet Diagnosis. In short: “High-glycemic foods cause an increase in blood sugar.”

When you eat high glycemic foods (or foods with a lot of sugar) your body releases insulin, a hormone that helps the body absorb and process sugar. But excess glucose can get converted into and stored as, triglycerides ends up getting stored as fat no it doesn’t—so when the body encounters this process too frequently, you run the risk of insulin resistance, which doctors see as an early warning sign for type 2 diabetes.

Related: What A Day Of Sugar-Free Eating Looks Like

When investigating where certain foods might fall on the glycemic index, you’ll see numbers that are based on how much any given food item raises blood glucose levels compared with how much pure glucose raises blood glucose, according to the Mayo Clinic. GI values are generally divided into three categories:

  • Low GI: 1 to 55
  • Medium GI: 56 to 69
  • High GI: 70 and higher

The goal: Aim for low to medium GI foods the majority of the time.

2. Identify low-glycemic foods you enjoy for snacks and meals

“Low-glycemic foods help stabilize blood sugar, as glucose is released more slowly into the bloodstream,” Nico explains. He advises consistently eating “nutritionally-dense whole foods with fiber to support blood sugar stabilization.”

A few low GI options: Green vegetables, most fruits, non-starchy veggies, carrots, chickpeas, lentils, oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, 100% stone-ground whole wheat or pumpernickel bread, and sweet potatoes.

3. Steer clear of high-glycemic foods

Processed foods, especially those high in refined sugar and anything “white” (think white rice, white bread, and potatoes), are typically high on the glycemic index.

“Unhealthy grains found in some baked goods, sweets, and packaged products are highly processed with white flours stripped of beneficial nutrients and fibers and contribute to blood sugar imbalances, because of their high glycemic index and load,” Nico explains. “The over-consumption of highly processed grains may eventually lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes making weight management a challenge.”

4. Prioritize protein

We generally think of lean protein (chicken, fish, plant-based protein like black, kidney, and pinto beans) as the component of our diet we need to eat to build muscle, but it also helps stabilize blood sugar and improves insulin imbalances, Nico explains.

Science proves it: Research published in the Journal of Nutrition found that nondiabetic subjects who ate protein experienced a reduced glycemic response. And research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that in patients with type 2 diabetes, eating a higher-protein diet helped improve glucose control.

5. Don’t be afraid of good fats

Foods that are high in monounsaturated fat (or MUFAs) like olive oil, nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans), canola oil, avocados, nut butters, olives, and peanut oil have been shown in research to benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control. (Incorporating them into your diet could also reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering your total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels but maintain your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level, notes the Mayo Clinic.)

And if you need a quick update: HDL is the “good” cholesterol, while LDL is the “bad” cholesterol.

Of course, you want to eat all of these foods in moderation—making a point to avoid saturated fats (usually found in processed foods) when you’re adding MUFAs to your diet.

6. Avoid artificial sweeteners

Reaching for a diet cola with zero grams of sugar isn’t necessarily a wise choice over its sugar-laden alternative. Research shows that fake sugar can also be detrimental to blood sugar stability.

Related: Is Sugar Really All That Bad For You?

A study published in the journal Nature found that artificial sweeteners (saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame, for example) raised blood sugar levels by altering microorganisms (mainly bacteria) in the gut.

8 Mood-Supporting Vitamins and Supplements

Plenty of us feel blue, anxious, or lackluster from time to time. In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), more than 20 million American adults have a mood disorder and 40 million have an anxiety disorder.

If you’re frequently feeling these ways, seeing a licensed health care provider for individualized medical advice is always your best first line of defense. That said, various vitamins and supplements have been proven to support a stable mood. Here are eight that experts—and science—stand by:

1. Magnesium

You’ve heard that bathing in Epsom salts (which contain the mineral magnesium sulfate) helps to soothe achy muscles, of course. But there’s more to magnesium than bath time: “Nutritionally, magnesium is known as the anti-stress, mood-stabilizing mineral,” says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a stress management and nutrition expert and author of The Magnesium Miracle. “Studies have shown magnesium to reduce anxiety and stress levels. And serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical, depends on magnesium for its production and function.”

Research published in Obstetrics & Gynecology also found that magnesium supplements could help address mood-related pre-menstrual symptoms.

Related: It’s Time To Stop Being So Scared of Meditation

Dean recommends reaching for magnesium citrate powder, which is a highly absorbable form that can be mixed with hot or cold water and sipped at work or at home throughout the day.

2. Vitamin D

Many of us suffer from a vitamin D deficiency, especially in the winter months when longer, darker days limit our exposure to sunshine. According to the Mayo Clinic, some studies suggest an association between low vitamin D levels in the blood and various mood issues, including depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

They also note that vitamin D supplementation may support mood stability associated with SAD. Meanwhile, an article published in Issues in Mental Health encourages more research around the link between vitamin D levels and mental health. For these reasons, working with a doctor to check your D levels and explore supplementation options could help bolster mood.

3. Ashwagandha

This herbal supplement (also known as an adaptogen) is associated with promoting relaxation and calm. In fact, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine concluded that Ashwagandha root can help support stress management—and thus, well-being.

4. Rhodiola

A plant that grows in cold, mountainous regions of Europe, Asia, and high altitudes in the Arctic, rhodiola has traditionally been used to promote a stable mood. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), two review articles—published in 2011 and 2012—looked at 15 studies that tested rhodiola on physical and mental performance in 575 people. Both reviews found evidence that rhodiola may help support mental and physical performance. However, more research must be done to make the connection, notes the study.

5. Passionflower

If a restless mind is interfering with your ability to catch some Zs, you may want to consider trying passionflower, which is a plant originally discovered in sixteenth-century Peru. Used to treat mood issues related to stress, research published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics concluded that passionflower is effective for supporting mood stability in those with anxiety.

6. St. John’s wort

When you think of mood-boosting supplements, St. John’s wort is one that most definitely comes to mind. The flowering plant has earned quite the glowing reputation for helping support mood stability.

Its benefits may be attributed to the way the plant prevents nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing certain mood-regulating chemical messengers, including dopamine and serotonin, according to preliminary studies cited by the NCCIH.

That said, it can interact with prescription drugs, herbs, and other supplements, so you should most definitely consult your healthcare provider before taking St. John’s wort.

7. SAM-e

S-adenosyl-L-methionine (also called SAM-e) is a well-studied, naturally-occurring molecule present in all living cells. An article published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry concluded that preliminary data suggests SAM-e may be a potential mood enhancer.

The NCCIH warns that, like similar supplements, you should always consult a healthcare provider before adding SAM-e to your regimen.

8. Omega-3s

Eating more wild Alaskan salmon and supplementing with fish oil may bring a smile to your face for more than one reason. A review published in the journal Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience noted that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) can help decrease feelings of sadness, promote stress relief, and increase libido—all things that make for a much better life!

How To Arm Yourself Against Ticks & Lyme Disease

If you’re spending time outside in grassy, heavily wooded areas during the warmer months (particularly in the Northeast and Midwestern regions of the United States), you could very well be coming in contact with ticks—and unfortunately, at risk for contracting tick-borne diseases like Lyme.

Lyme disease is caused by four main species of bacteria: Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia mayonii, Borrelia afzelii, and Borrelia garinii bacteria. Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii mainly cause Lyme disease in the U.S., according to the Mayo Clinic. “Lyme disease can cause chronic [health] problems if not diagnosed and treated early,” says Stephanie Sterling, MD, clinical assistant professor of infectious diseases at NYU Langone Health in New York.

The illness is transmitted via a bite from an infected black-legged tick (more commonly referred to as a deer tick), though it must be attached to you for 36 to 48 hours to transmit Lyme disease.

So what should you be looking for while you’re wandering the great outdoors? The insects are typically brown, and when they’re young, they’re actually no bigger than a poppy seed, which of course can make them difficult to detect with the naked eye. And if you’re not actively checking for a tick, then you may miss it entirely. That’s why it’s so important to think in terms of prevention.

While early signs of Lyme include rash (the “bulls-eye rash” is commonly associated with Lyme, but it only presents in nine percent of cases) and flu-like symptoms, other signs and symptoms that may crop up down the road (if left untreated) include joint paint, neurological problems, and less commonly, heart problems, eye inflammation, hepatitis, and severe fatigue. Wondering if this is you? LymeDisease.org offers a symptom checker.

If you think you may have been infected by a tick carrying the bacteria, know that it’s not always easy to get diagnosed with Lyme. In fact, according to LymeDisease.org, “False negative” test results are very common, especially in the weeks and months after infection. This is because it takes time for the antibodies—your blood protein produced in response to an antigen or infection—fighting against the Lyme bacterium to pop up and be detected. Many people carrying the disease are misdiagnosed entirely.

Related: What It’s Really Like To Suffer From Lyme Disease—And How I’ve Learned To Cope

Not everyone with Lyme will be chronically ill or debilitated, though. Some people will need a dose of antibiotics while others will need long-term care. Some people can go years without symptoms or treatment. But when symptoms get so bad that they can’t be treated easily, this is known as post-treatment Lyme disease (PTLD) or chronic Lyme disease (CLD). The Center for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that 10-20 percent of people who have Lyme have a chronic case of it.

Thankfully, there are plenty of precautions you can take to keep ticks at bay and guard yourself against Lyme disease.

  1. Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors. Dr. Sterling advises wearing clothing that will guard your skin and reduce the chances of a tick actually making contact with it. She recommends wearing lightweight pants that can be tucked into socks, and a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt if you’re spending excess time in heavy brush or gardening.
  2. Opt for light-colored clothing, too. “Ticks are dark, and therefore, are more easily spotted on light-colored clothing,” Dr. Sterling explains.
  3. Consider using a repellent with DEET. In a Wilderness & Environmental Medicine study, insect repellent with DEET was found to have been “moderately effective” against tick bites. Dr. Sterling recommends using repellents that contain 20 percent DEET, specifically, or DEET alternatives picaridin and IR3535, echoing advice from the Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Apply to clothes and exposed skin—but not your hands, eyes, or mouth,” Dr. Sterling advises.
  4. Reach for essential oils. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggested that Pelargonium roseum, also referred to as rose geranium or geranium oil, may work as well as DEET. At the very least, you’ll smell good! You can dab it all over your body for coverage—especially on your neck, wrists, and ankles. Got pups? You can help guard against ticks brought into the home by pets with peppermint oil and clove extract, which is used in Vet’s Best Natural Flea & Tick Spray.
  5. Do tick checks and strip down. When you return home from spending time outdoors in a heavily wooded area, you’ll do well to carefully look over your clothes and gear to make sure you aren’t bringing any unwelcome pests into your home, Dr. Sterling says. (This goes for checking pets as well.) “Consider showering after returning from prolonged hikes, gardening, or other outdoor activities,” she advises. “A shower can be a perfect opportunity to do a full-body tick check, as well as wash off any tick that may be climbing on you but not yet attached. Pay special attention to areas where tight clothing may have prevented a tick from climbing further, such as underwear lines, bra lines, belt lines. Don’t forget behind the knees, ears, armpits, and your belly button.”

Related: Shop products to protect your home and pets from ticks.

If you’re concerned that a tick may have made its way onto clothing, Dr. Sterling recommends tumbling dry clothes on high heat for 10 minutes. “Clothes should be warm and completely dry—damp clothes may require more time,” she says. “If washing clothes first, wash with hot water.” (Ticks will die in the dryer not because of the heat, but because they require dampness to survive.)

Finally, if you do happen to find a tick already attached to your skin, you can safely remove it by using tweezers to gently pull its head out, Dr. Sterling says. “Prompt removal will decrease the chance of any disease transmission, including the bacteria that causes Lyme disease,” she notes. “You can bring the tick to your doctor for it to be identified and, if appropriate, tested for bacteria.”

Call your doctor if you have a rash or fever, especially if you recently spent time outdoors.

4 Whey Protein Myths—Debunked

Whether you’re a devout protein lover or a sometimes-post-workout protein shake drinker, you’ve probably wondered whether that whey protein you’re using is the be-all-end-all of protein. You might also wonder whether or not your whey supplement is even working.

To help raise your WQ (Whey Quotient), we’ve asked the experts to debunk four of the most common myths about whey protein.

1. Myth: Supplementing with whey protein alone can help you lose weight.

Fact: Anyone looking to lose weight quickly might find themselves turning to whey protein-based shakes or smoothies. Unfortunately, the supplement by itself—unsupported by a balanced diet and exercise program—probably won’t help you shed much weight.

According to The Mayo Clinic, research supports whey’s ability to increase feelings of fullness, in addition to its ability to boost energy and promote recovery—but it’s not a weight-loss quick fix. As with all weight-loss plans, there’s no magic bullet.

2. Myth: If you’re supplementing with whey protein, you can build muscle Without Going To the gym.

Fact: Whey protein is packed with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which the body needs to build muscle but cannot produce on its own. “Whey has the most potent and ideal amino acid profile for driving muscle growth, and an abundant amino acid pool is a requisite for muscle growth, but by itself, [whey] won’t give the same benefit,” says Brandon Mentore, a Precision Nutrition Coach and board-certified holistic health coach in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In other words, whey protein and workouts need to go hand-in-hand in order for you to bulk up. A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism concluded that taking whey protein while doing a resistance training program “offers some benefit compared to resistance training alone.” In fact, the study shows that when supplementing with whey, there is a “greater relative gain in lean tissue mass.”

3. Myth: All whey protein products are basically the same.

Fact: The way whey is processed can vary greatly by company and manufacturer. “There are different grades of purity and processing with whey,” Mentore notes. Looking for a clean line? Try the NSF Certified True Athlete brand.

You can also try native whey (which contains leucine and important immune-boosting proteins) or grass-fed whey (which may be higher in antioxidants, and is considered more ethical and sustainable).

4. Myth: Plant-based or other protein powders won’t give you the same results as whey.

Fact: While whey definitely has its benefits, plant-based protein sources are also good choices for vegans, vegetarians, or anyone with a dairy allergy. There are plenty of plant-based protein powders out there, too. And research published in Nutrition Journal found that both whey protein and rice protein, taken after resistance training, improved body composition and exercise performance.

Thinking of switching to a plant-based protein? Plnt’s chocolate protein powder packs 18 grams of protein in one serving, while Garden of Life’s organic vanilla protein kicks it up to 30 grams in a single serving.

man-and-woman-lifting-weights

Don’t Let These 8 Common Strength-Training Myths Fool You

Sure, you know how important strength-training is now, but for years people believed that cardio was the end all be all. Nope.

Just like cardio myths, though, there are a ton of strength-training myths floating around out there. Here are eight of the most common ones, busted by experts.

Myth #1: Strength training is More Beneficial for men.

Fact: It may be 2017, but weight-lifting is still sometimes seen as a guys-only workout, perhaps under the false pretense that men derive more benefit from it. According to a study published in The Physician and Sportsmed, however, women who follow strength-training programs also benefit, seeing increased lean-body mass, decreased fat, and enhanced self-confidence. Duh.

Myth #2: Weight-lifting makes women get “bulky.”

Fact: “It takes serious planning to bulk the body,” explains Amanda DaSilva, NSAM-CPT, a trainer and nutrition specialist. “You can build lean muscle without having to bulk.”

“Getting bigger is not an inevitable outcome of strength training,” agrees Tee Major, an ACE Group Fitness Instructor, fitness nutrition specialist, and FitFusion trainer. “If you train hard, and eat caloric-dense, whole foods, you will build fat-torching lean muscle and burn way more calories during your workouts to get that ‘toned’ look you’re after.”

Myth #3: Weight-training is just for body builders. There’s no reason to do it if your goal is weight loss or weight maintenance.

Fact: Research published in the International Journal of Exercise Science notes that the perks of strength training are varied and vast, ranging from increased lean-body mass to boosted metabolic rates, increase bone density, decreased risk of injury, and the regeneration of lost muscle tissue due to aging. Another study published in the International Journal of General Medicine found that a progressive strength-training program improved cognitive function in older adults. In short: Lift those weights, and reap those rewards!

Related: Shop proteins to make your workout go harder, faster, and stronger.

Myth #4: If you stop strength training, your muscle will turn to fat.

Fact: Although lean muscle mass naturally diminishes with age, according to Harvard University, your body fat percentage can increase if you don’t do anything to replace that reduced muscle mass. That said, if you start strength training, and then stop, the muscle can’t magically turn into fat.

“Muscle and fat are different types of tissues,” explains Major. “If you fail to dial back the eating when you stop strength training, those extra calories will be stored as fat; it’s not because you stopped training, but because you’re now taking in more calories than you are using.”

Myth #5: Cardio burns fat better than weight-training.

Fact: Although elliptical and treadmill workouts offer motivation (in the form of that highly-approximated “calories burned” number we all stare at), trainers love strength training for fat loss.

“The myth is that cardio will make you skinny,” says DaSilva. “Except you’ll likely be losing muscle and retaining fat, throwing you into that nasty little title of ‘skinny fat,’ for lack of a better term.”

When you strength train, you recruit your muscle fibers, explains Major. “Those muscles are broken down, and then rebuilt over and over,” he says. “This process takes calories and energy to make this happen, generally known as ‘after-burn.’ You literally burn calories long after your workout is over.”

In fact, research published in the journal Sports Medicine notes that strength training is particularly helpful for decreasing your body fat percentage.

Related: Shop training accessories and get your weight lifting on.

Myth #6: You have to do more reps to get better results.

Fact: Not necessarily! According to the Mayo Clinic, research shows that you might be able to get the same results by doing fewer reps with a weight that challenges you more. A single set of 12 repetitions with the proper weight can build muscle efficiently in most people and be as effective as three sets of the same exercise.

In fact, heavy lifting for five repetitions or less is the quickest way to increase muscle strength, says Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., a San Diego-based trainer.

Myth #7: You can’t regain muscle once you’ve lost it.

Fact: While you’ll always do best to try to get ahead of muscle loss, it’s possible to regain muscle at any age. A study published in The Physician and Sportsmedicine involved 1,619 men and women ages 21 to 80 who did a progressive strength-training program. In 10 weeks, they replaced an average of three of the five pounds of muscle they had lost in the previous decade.

Myth #8: Reducing carbs will help you make the most of your strength-training program.

Fact: “Carbs help to energize and refuel the body,” says DaSilva. “They help you to build muscle. If you completely deplete your body of carbs, you are ridding it of an essential nutrient.”

In short, she says, eat your carbs. Just make sure you’re eating complex carbs and not the processed stuff.

Related: What You Should Know If You’re Considering Cutting Refined Carbs

Are You Dehydrated Without Even Knowing It?

When the temperature heats up outside, you’re probably more acutely aware of how thirsty (and sweaty!) you are. But dehydration doesn’t just strike during the summer months. In fact, you might be dehydrated right now—without even knowing it.

Humans are made mostly of water. 75 percent of an infant’s body weight comes from water, while older adults are made up of about 55 percent, according to research published in the journal Nutrition Review. So it’s no wonder that we need water to live and feel good.

Everyone’s aiming for those eight cups a day, but it’s more individual than that: “For water intake, you ideally should divide your weight in two and drink that many ounces of water over the course of a day,” says Jack Dybis, DO, founder of IVme Wellness + Performance in Chicago, Illinois. “So, a 140-pound woman should drink 70 ounces of water. For reference, 1 liter is equal to 33.8 ounces, so our subject should be drinking a little over 2 liters a day.”

Unfortunately, according to the CDC’s findings, most of us are falling short. In fact, up to 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated.

“Adequate hydration is crucial for basically every element of living,” says Brooke Alpert, RD, CDN. “We can go longer without food than we can go without water. Dehydration can lead to everything from fatigue, weight gain, blood sugar issues, cognitive functioning problems, muscle cramps, or even more serious complications.”

Related: Stock up on water for summertime.

Here are five crucial things you should know about dehydration so you can avoid the short- and long-term effects of it.

1. Watch out for red flags that signal dehydration.

“Everyone needs to be aware of the early signs of dehydration, which include lightheadedness, sore or dry throat, excess sweating, or nausea,” says Matt Tannenberg, a sports chiropractor and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) in Phoenix, Arizona. “Later signs of dehydration including extreme fatigue, fainting, and the chills. When you sweat, you not only lose water from your body, but also your electrolytes.” (Your body needs electrolytes because they control cell membrane stability and carry electrical charge.) Older people tend to get dehydrated more quickly as well, so be aware of drinking enough even when you’re not feeling thirsty. 

2. There are simple ways to stay on track and make sure you’re drinking enough.

“I find that for my clients who tend to slack off on their hydration, an app like WaterMinder is a great tool to remind them to drink throughout the day,” Alpert notes. “It’s also helpful to get a nice water bottle that you leave in plain sight, which in itself is a reminder to drink.”

Related: Shop electrolyte products, from tablets to drink mixers.

3. if you’re exercising, you’re going to need more water to stay hydrated.

Whether you’re hiking, taking a hot yoga class, or just hanging out on your porch on an 80 degree day, you need to drink more water to make up for all that sweat. Generally, you can add 1.5 to 2.5 cups (or 400-600 milliliters) of water for short bouts of physical activity, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re way more active—let’s say you’re running a race— then you’ll have to up your intake based on how much you’re sweating.

4. Your urine can tell you if you’re adequately hydrated.

If you’re rarely thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow, your fluid intake is probably adequate, according to the Mayo Clinic. Darker urine can signal dehydration, though.

5. Drink more water, and reap the many benefits.

“Being conscious of your water intake during the day is very important, as hydration has innumerable benefits, like increased energy, headache relief, promotion of weight loss, better skin, hair, and nails and more,” says Dybis.

9 Fitness Instructors Reveal Their Favorite At-Home Exercise Equipment

We know you’re motivated enough to squeeze a workout into your day, but hitting up the gym, a group fitness class, or even a nearby park can sometimes be challenging. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get quality exercises in at home with one or a few simple tools.

From the few pieces of gear you can cobble together to make a mini at-home gym to the go-to tool that bolsters mobility, fitness instructors and personal trainers swear by the following nine must-haves.

1. Kettlebell

“There are unlimited kettlebell exercises that target every single part of the body. They vary from core stability and strength to a cardiovascular workout. The most common exercises are squats and deadlifts, but my favorite is for shoulder stability. Hold the kettlebell upside down balancing its weight with your hand. Walk or go upstairs and downstairs. It’s fun!” —Adela Blevin, NASM, CES, PES, Pilates instructor and personal trainer in Fair Lawn, NJ

2. Resistance bands

“I love mini loop resistance bands.  They are versatile and easy to use. You’ll feel the muscles working the whole time!” —John Urena, CPT, CES NASM, Level 1 Precision Nutrition (PN) Coach and owner of Start to Fitness Training in Los Angeles, CA

Related: Shop training accessories to help you burn those calories.

3. Jump rope

“[A jump rope] is easy to use, inexpensive, and can be combined with equipment-free body weight exercises for a cardio, HIIT or circuit style workout.”
Franklin Antoian, ACE personal trainer and founder of iBodyFit.com, Delray Beach, FL

4. A Stability ball

“I can use the stability ball as a piece of equipment for stretching, for strength work, and for balance in many different positions. [You can] stand, sit, or kneel on top of it, [or put it] on the ground with legs on it. It also works great with other equipment, such as hand weights or weighted ball.” —Kim Evans, AFAA, ACE, USATF, fitness specialist in Grand Haven, MI

5. Ab roller

It’s one of the easiest to use—but not easy to do— home workout tools. Plus, it’s cheap and hits your abs like no other exercise. Another great thing about it is that anyone can use it, from a novice to the advanced. You can vary the intensity by the amount of bodyweight you employ and by how far you roll out. It’s a must have!” —Mike Donavanik, CSCS, CPT, PES, FitFusiontrainer in Los Angeles, CA

6. TRX strap

Basically, you can make your training as easy or as hard as you want just by making a few adjustments of your body position and strap length. TRX straps are lightweight and portable. They come with a door anchor, so you can attach it over a door, or you can buy a permanent anchor and mount them to your ceiling. They are one of very few pieces of equipment out there that you wouldn’t eventually outgrow if you continued to work out and train long-term. With a TRX strap, there’s always going to be some way you can make a move more challenging when you feel like you’re improving and ready to challenge yourself further.” —Allison Perry, AFAA-certified group fitness instructor with training in multiple TRX modalities in Lexington, KY

Related: Shop delicious protein powers to rev up your workouts.

7. Resistance tube 

“My favorite at-home or on-the-road tool is a medium exercise tube with handles. My ‘Old Red’ has traveled many miles. That’s because it’s super easy, lightweight, and infinitely versatile. You can anchor it on any doorway or bed post for a variety of upper body exercises: rowing, curling, chest presses, etc. Also, it’s great for stretching shoulders, back, and legs.” —Chris Clough, NSCA-CPT, Elite Trainer in Baltimore, MD

8. foam roller

“People often neglect mobility, [which is] an important piece of fitness in their regular routine. A foam roller can easily be used a few minutes in the morning, a few minutes at night, or while watching TV. It takes up minimal space, is inexpensive, and provides huge improvements in workouts and recovery. Some of the best exercises to perform on the foam roller are thoracic spine extensions. When focusing on soft tissue, rolling through the quads, hip flexors, and piriformis can make substantial impacts, especially for those who sit all day long.” —Virginia Kinkel, NPC Figure Competitor, personal trainer and group exercise instructor in Washington, DC

 9. A yoga mat and a pair of free weights

“That’s really all you need to get a completely stellar workout. Planks, burpees, jumping jacks, and weight lifting on your yoga mat in bare feet is about the best exercise in the world. That’s all the at-home gym you need!”—Sasha Brown-Worsham, RYT 200, yoga instructor in Maplewood, NJ

Elliptical vs. Treadmill: Which Is A Better Workout?

Whether you’re a first-time gym-goer or a complete cardio buff, you’re bound to use—at some point—either a treadmill or elliptical to torch those calories. So which one is the better workout?

“Choosing between the treadmill or the elliptical is similar to choosing between snacking on an apple or an orange,” says John Urena, CPT, CES NASM, Level 1 Precision Nutrition coach and owner of Start to Fitness Training in Los Angeles, CA. “Both fruits offer tons of nutrients and benefits and both are low on the glycemic chart,” Urena says. “Similarly, both the treadmill and the elliptical will offer the ability to raise your heart rate and increase your oxygen consumption—and of course, burn calories,” he says.

Related: Shop protein to power up before your workout.

But there are some notable differences. Here are five good-to-know facts about the merits and drawbacks of both machines.

1. The elliptical may actually activate more muscles.

Unless you’re always cranking up that incline when you hop on a treadmill for a walk or run, you’re only going to be activating certain muscles.

“The treadmill doesn’t allow for the person running on it to produce power through their hamstrings or get full hip extension,” Urena explains. “That’s important, because most of us are sitting all day, which shortens your hip flexors. And when you’re on a treadmill, you’re not getting full extension of those hip flexors. The treadmill belt moves during the planting phase of each step and minimizes glute and hamstring recruitment.”

On the other hand, an elliptical workout not only offers you the option to stretch and extend those hip flexors, but you’ll get more glute and hamstring activation, Urena explains. This is because you’re forcing the pedals to go forward and back (while it’s giving you resistance), whereas the treadmill is propelling the belt for you.

That said, if you prefer the treadmill, Urena has a piece of advice: “Use an incline of at least six—if not higher. The higher the incline, the more recruitment of the glutes and hamstrings.”

Related: Shop products to promote heart health.

And while you’re working out on the elliptical, “you’ll want to make sure you’re pushing evenly with both legs so there’s not a jerking motion with every stride,” advises FitFusion trainer Kenta Seki. “It’s very common for people to push more with their more dominant leg.”

2. The treadmill demands proper form.

We tend to think of the treadmill as an easy, accessible, low-pressure machine, but that’s a bit of a misconception—and one that could set you up for injury. “People want to run to get in shape, but you should be in shape to run,” Urena says. “People don’t realize how important proper form is when you’re doing any type of running.”

To that end, there are certain precautions you can take to ensure your form is on-point while on a treadmill: “It’s very common for people to lean forward while running, which can strain your lower back and knees,” Seki says. “To prevent this, make sure you ‘lead with your hips’ the whole time. Keep your glute muscles engaged and push your hips forward, especially if you’re at an incline. Also, try not to bounce while running—ideally, your head shouldn’t be going up and down, but rather staying at one level.”

3. The elliptical may be better for folks with injuries.

According to the Journal of Exercise Physiology, people with injuries may want to skip the treadmill for the mostly low-impact elliptical. “[The elliptical] may be a more favorable exercise modality for overweight patients or individuals with back, knee, or other lower-leg limitations,” the research says.              

Related: Should You Be Doing A HIIT Workout?

Urena agrees, especially when it comes to people who suffer from back pain. “The discs in your spine are essentially cushions,” he explains. “Over time, when you run and land—whether out in the world or on a treadmill—you’re compressing those cushions. For someone with back problems or lower back strain, what will happen is that the discs will keep compressing and compressing, which could set you up for a herniated disc.”

4. For serious, athletic runners, the treadmill may be the ideal choice.

Running hard on a treadmill should not be something someone does when first starting, Urena notes, but if you’re a well-seasoned runner, you can hit your sprinting goals more easily while on a treadmill. “You can somewhat sprint on an elliptical, but it is not the most rhythmic motion,” he says.

5. Both the treadmill and the elliptical offer a great aerobic workout.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research involved 18 college-aged people without much training on either machine. They worked out at the same level of effort for 15 minutes, and the results showed similar caloric expenditures. However, the heart rates were higher for the elliptical group.

Also worth noting: In a study by the journal Gait & Posture, it was found that elliptical training resulted in greater quadriceps activity and hamstrings use.

8 Reasons Why You’re Getting Bad Headaches

Whether it’s one of those low-key, long-lasting headaches or a soul-splitting migraine that literally hits you over the head, figuring out the cause is the key to relief.

A study published in Neurological Sciences found that almost half of its participants suffered from a headache up to 12 days out of the year. And nearly 35 percent suffered from one up to 52 days.

All in all, headaches affect up to 80 percent of the U.S. population, according to Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America. “At least one patient a day will come to me with headaches as a chief complaint,” says Svetlana Kogan, MD, a board-certified internal medicine doctor in New York, NY. “[But] having a headache more than several times a week is definitely a problem.”

So What Is A Headache, Really?

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are different kinds of headaches. A primary headache is caused by over-activity of or problems with pain-sensitive structures in your head—like chemical activity, the nerves or blood vessels surrounding your skull, or the muscles of your head and neck. 

Then there are secondary headaches, which come on as a symptom of another issue that activates pain-sensitive nerves in the head. Some examples may include acute sinusitis, ear infections, dehydration, or the flu.

Either way, if you’re suffering from headaches, getting to the root cause is key so you can work with your health care provider to pinpoint the best treatment plan. It’s also important to note that chronic headaches (headaches that occur 15 days or more a month, for at least three months, according to Mayo Clinic) might be the result of something more serious, like problems with blood vessels in and around the brain, or an infection like meningitis. If you’re dealing with headaches more days than not, especially if you’ve had cancer or are pregnant, definitely see your health care provider to rule out serious health concerns, Kogan advises.

Here are seven issues that could be at the crux of your suffering:

1. Hormones

Women sometimes have their reproductive cycles to blame for painful headaches. Hormonal shifts and headaches—usually migraines—go hand-in-hand. In fact, up to 70 percent of migraine sufferers report a connection between their periods and migraine attacks.

The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio notes that this may have to do with decreasing levels of estrogen before the start of menstrual flow. If you get headaches when you’re PMS-ing, it could be linked to estrogen and progesterone dropping to their lowest levels.   

2. Allergies

Hay fever (or, rhinitis) is so common that we often shrug it off as a normal side effect of living through spring or fall. But if your headache is in the front of your head and causing pain in one or more areas of your face, ears, or teeth, it could be tied to acute or chronic rhinosinusitis, an inflammation of the sinus resulting from allergies or even an infection.

3. Eyestrain

We spend so much time looking at digital devices that we often discount the effect all that staring into a bright screen has on our eyes. If you find yourself suffering from a headache after a long day in front of your computer without sufficient breaks or after spending a little too long messing around with your Snapchat filter, it may be due to eyestrain.

Recent research published in Clinical and Experimental Optometry concluded that just an hour (maybe as long as your train commute time) of reading from a smartphone intensifies eyestrain symptoms. Some evidence suggests that lutein can help fight against those screen-staring symptoms, but you should try to reduce looking at bright screens when you can.

Related: Shop headache products. 

4. Forgetting to eat

Whether you’re fasting for health or personal reasons or skipping a meal when you’re too stressed or busy, going too long without eating can cause your blood-glucose levels to drop, which can result in migraines or other headaches. Tip? Get a few healthy snacks in several times throughout your day.

5. Stress

Feeling stressed all the time is often linked to heightened sensitivity to pain. This type of chronic headache is often marked by a pain that’s dull, constricting, pressing, or tightening, and of mild to moderate intensity, says The Mayo Clinic. It can also be felt on both sides of your head. Tension or tension-type headaches (TTH) are very common, affecting up to 78 percent of headache patients in population-based studies, notes the Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology.

When your headaches are linked to stress, try meditation or even yogic breathing, says Kogan. “This Ayurvedic breathing technique is preventative for stress headaches, especially, if you do three to five breaths in the morning, three to five in the daytime, and again at night.”

6. Sitting too much

The fact that more and more of us are leading a sedentary lifestyle these days can lead to tension headaches. “We’re sitting, staring at the computer all day long, and then, we’re looking at our cell phones,” says Dr. Kogan. ”So, when you’re constantly sitting with your head at a certain angle—looking at the computer or cell phone—you’re definitely going to have muscle spasms and tension headaches as a result.”

Dr. Kogan recommends patients suffering from tension try a combo of stretching and supplements: “During the day, take breaks to get up, move around, and rotate your neck gently several times clockwise and several times counterclockwise, then move it from side to side.” She also advises talking to your healthcare provider about supplements like feverfew or magnesium oxide.

Related: 12 Natural Ways To Kick Your Stress To The Curb

7. Too much coffee, soda, or energy drink

If you’ve heard that drinking caffeine can actually help address a headache, you’re not alone. Headaches enlarge blood vessels, which makes caffeine (which causes blood vessels to narrow and restrict blood flow) a natural foe. So, a little bit of the stuff helps.

However, the National Headache Foundation warns that too much caffeine can trigger what’s called “caffeine rebound,” which occurs from the withdrawal of caffeine after a sufferer continually consumes too much of the substance. In fact, they advise that chronic headache sufferers avoid drinking caffeine on the regular.

Related: How I Kicked My Coffee Habit For Tea—And Lived Happily Ever After

8. Taking pain medication too often

Yep, the plan of attack for a headache could be causing more headaches! If you take over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics—such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, or a pain-relief medication containing caffeine—three or more days per week, you could experience medication-overuse headaches or rebound headaches.

The reason? Painkiller overuse appears to interfere with the brain centers that regulate the flow of pain messages to the nervous system, making headache pain worse, notes the Cleveland Clinic. In this case, your best bet is to work with a health care provider to break the cycle and zero in on the root of your headaches.

So What’s This Trendy Sirtfood Diet All About?

There’s Whole 30, Paleo, and a number of “master cleanse” diets—and now we can add the Sirtfood Diet to the growing list of buzzy eating plans. Sirtfood started making headlines last year, after reports surfaced that the singer Adele was a fan. But what can this sci-fi-sounding diet really do for you?

What Is A Sirtfood?

Created by two U.K.-based nutrition gurus, Aidan Goggins and Glen Matten, the diet revolves around eating foods that will trigger your “skinny gene.” While scientists certainly don’t refer to it that way, there actually is a gene called SIRT1. SIRT1 has been linked to improved insulin regulation in the body—versus insulin resistance, which often goes hand-in-hand with obesity and diabetes, according to the journal Cell Metabolism.

Sirtfoods are rich in something called sirtuins. “Sirtuins are a class of proteins in the body that work on our biological pathways and have a positive effect on our health and weight by mimicking a calorie-restrictive diet,” says Brooke Alpert, author of The Sugar Detox, R.D. and founder of B-Nutritious, a nutrition counseling and consulting company in NYC.

Sirtfoods also contain polyphenols, which, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, are linked to the prevention of degenerative and cardiovascular diseases. These foods include kale, blueberries, capers, chili, celery, strawberries, soy, apples, arugula, turmeric, olives, red wine, and coffee.

(Wine lovers, take note: Alpert suggests taking a resveratrol supplement to get the benefit of the antioxidant found in red wine, rather than drinking more red wine. Everything in moderation—even sirtfoods!)

How Does The Diet Work?

The diet asks people to work their way through various levels of calorie restriction (the calorie restriction is what activates sirtuin genes, actually) before having free reign to dig into any and all sirtfoods.

The first week, known as Phase 1, dieters eat 1,000 calories a day, which includes three sirtfood-packed green juices and one sirtfood-rich meal (like buckwheat and prawn stir-fry).

The second week, or Phase 2, dieters eat up to 1,500 calories a day. During this time, they’ll nosh on more whole foods—two sirtfood-rich meals and two green juices.

During the third week, dieters will move to onto the maintenance phase, which entails eating three sirtfood-rich meals per day along with a green juice.

The Bottom Line

“The concept of eating these polyphenol-rich foods certainly isn’t new, but I do like how these authors highlight the importance of eating them regularly in your diet,” Alpert says.

Related: Shop weight-management products to help keep your health goals in check.

And while it can’t hurt to add more sirtfoods into your existing diet, Chelsey Amer, R.D., a nutritionist in private practice in Manhattan, NY, and creator of CitNutritionally.com, doesn’t recommend zeroing in on just sirtfoods. “We’re much better off eating mostly plants with lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats, and indulging on occasion for a more sustainable type of eating.”

Ultimately, there’s room for more scientific investigation into the efficacy of the diet and sirtuin’s role in human health.

 

 

 

 

 

6 All-Natural Libido Boosters

Like hormone levels, weight, or even eye color, everyone’s baseline sex drive is unique and individual. And from just having had a baby to feeling drained by your job, a multitude of factors can end up quashing your libido.

To ramp up your libido, though, there are certain foods and supplements that may help. Here are six all-natural libido boosters backed by science.

1. Chocolate

As if you needed another reason to love the sweet stuff, research published in the South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that noshing on antioxidant-rich cocoa and chocolate can trigger the release of neurotransmitters phenylethylamine and serotonin, which can produce aphrodisiac and mood-lifting effects.

Other research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests that although the effect may be due to wishful thinking (as opposed to a direct physiological reaction), eating chocolate is, in fact, associated with bolstered sexual function in women.

Related: Shop products for sexual enhancement.

2. Gingko biloba

You’ve probably heard about Gingko extract, because, well, it’s just about everywhere. The herb gets a good rep because it helps to improve vascular flow to the genitals, according to a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

3. Yohimbe

Yohimbe is an evergreen tree that grows in western Africa in Nigeria, Cameroon, the Congo, and Gabon,” explains Gabrielle Francis, a naturopathic doctor and chiropractor who runs The Herban Alchemist. “Yohimbe bark extracts are widely promoted online and in health food stores as a natural to increase libido.”

Related: Attention All Men Over 30: You’re Leaking Testosterone

Published research, like one study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior, has found that taking the extract led to increased sexual activity. (However, as with any herb, you’ll do well to speak with your health care provider before trying yohimbe, as it’s contraindicated if you suffer from some heart or mental health conditions or are taking certain drugs.)

4. L-arginine

An amino acid (a building block of protein) you can take as a supplement, L-arginine has numerous functions in the body. Arginine becomes nitric oxide (a blood vessel-widening agent called a vasodilator) in the body, and research shows it may help promote increased vasodilation—which may be helpful for men.

5. Tribulus terrestris

Tribulus terrestris is an herb that has been used in the traditional medicine of China and India for centuries,” Francis explains. Extracts from the plant’s root, fruit, or leaves are used in a medicinal way, and it has shown promise at boosting women’s sexual desire. A study published in the DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences found that when women took 7.5 mg of the extract a day for four weeks, they experienced a notable increase in desirous feelings.

Related: How Probiotics Changed My Sex Life

6. Korean red ginseng

Also known as Panax ginseng, this herb has been used to address sexual dysfunction and low desire in men and women for years. One recent study, published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, had premenopausal women take either three ginseng capsules (1 g per capsule) or placebo daily.

Researchers concluded that the extract, and not the placebo, improved sexual function (desire, arousal, and orgasm). And in a Journal of Sexual Medicine study, menopausal women also benefited from the extract

Aromatherapy For Beginners: How To Jazz Up Your Life With Essential Oils

Our senses play a huge part in how we experience and react to the world around us. Hearing a displeasing sound can trigger anxiety, while breathing in a beautiful scent may send you back in time, consumed by an equally lovely memory.

In fact, our sense of smell is so powerful that certain essential oils—which are typically extracted from parts of plants and then distilled—can promote feelings of wellness.

What Is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system—the part of the brain that controls emotions.

Essential oils can be used for a myriad of reasons,” says Leslie Cohen, an aromatherapist and owner of The Blissful Heart wellness collective in New Jersey. “They can help with respiratory issues, evoke a mood—calm, happiness, sensuality—and deepen a meditative practice.” Cohen says they can also be used to help clean surfaces and dissipate not-so-nice odors.

There’s science behind the power of aromatherapy, too. According to the journal, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, it’s been shown to provide stress relief, promote healthy sleeping patterns, and ease symptoms of anxiety.

Related: 5 Essential Oils You Absolutely Want In Your Life

Pick A Few Favorites

Getting the most out of aromatherapy means honing in on the oils that are best for your needs.

When you first start investigating essential oils, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the options and combinations.  “Start with only five to 10 primary essential oils for your basic natural healthcare kit,” recommends Stephanie Tourles, a licensed esthetician, certified aromatherapist, and herbalist in Maine. “Try truly multi-purpose oils, like Roman chamomile, eucalyptus, geranium, lavender, sweet marjoram, sweet orange, peppermint, rosemary, and thyme.”

Many oils come in standard or milder versions, so be sure to look out for that, as well.

Use Wisely

  1. Diffuse or directly inhale

You can buy a diffuser to disperse the essential oils into your space.

But Cohen prefers direct inhalation, if you’re game. “Put a few drops of your favorite oil or blend on your palm, rub your hands together briskly, cup around your nose, and breathe deeply,” she instructs. “This is by far the quickest and most effective way to enjoy the benefits of many oils.”

Related: Shop diffusers for your aromatherapy experience.

That said, you should be cautious with which oils you apply directly to your palms—or any part of your body—and breathe in. Many are caustic and almost any essential oil can cause a reaction (like sun sensitivity, allergic reactions, or skin irritation) if you are sensitive to it, she explains.

The solution? Dilute them with oil or cream (more on that below)! “Some need to be diluted more than others to make them safer,” Cohen notes. “In general, think about how it might taste or how it’s used in its complete form. For instance, oregano, black pepper and cinnamon are hot when you eat them.” So, you wouldn’t want to put ‘hot’ oils directly onto your skin.

If you’re planning on directly inhaling a strong oil, start with one drop only and cautiously bring your hands to your nose to make sure it’s not too overpowering for your respiratory system, Cohen advises. “Those hot oils can burn your sinuses. Also be careful not to touch your hands to your face if you’re using a strong oil.”

2. Apply directly to your skin

If you want to apply an essential oil to your skin, your best bet is to dilute it to a very low concentration—one to three drops per ounce of an oil with a preferably organic, fat-soluble base or “carrier” oil like sunflower oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil. You can also use an unscented cream. After diluting it, you can test the blend on a small area of your body before using it as a massage oil, for example.

After the patch test, you can work with different concentrations. Generally, you want to mix a drop with at least a teaspoon of a carrier oil.

Related: Shop essential oils, from eucalyptus to lavender—and everything in between.

 A Note of Caution on Formulations

Use age-appropriate oils, avoiding eucalyptus and rosemary, in particular, for children under 10, advises Tourles.

“Children are not small adults and cannot handle the same dilution ratios as adults,” she says. So, do your research before concocting your blends!

The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy is one particularly reputable resource that provides details on how to dilute your oils appropriately (depending on what you’re using them for and who you’re using them on) and how to locate a certified aromatherapist in your area.

You can also find a practitioner by searching on the Aromatherapy Registration Council site.

The 7 Healthiest Things To Order On A Sushi Menu

When you think “sushi’ you probably also think “healthy,” right? With its fresh fish, cucumber, seaweed, and occasional avocado, it sure seems that way. But the fact is that many items on a sushi menu might be considered rather indulgent. From the tempura to the white rice, there’s a lot of not-so-good options. If you’re getting your raw fish fix and want to keep it clean, here’s what the experts suggest.

sashimi

“I’m a registered dietitian in private practice and go out to sushi weekly,” says Monica Auslander, R.D., founder of Essence Nutrition in Miami, FL. Auslander’s go-to pick is the sashimi platter, which is a selection of raw fish—sans rice—served over a bed of greens or curly-cued radish.

Her usual suspects include salmon, yellowtail, and fluke. “Pure protein and omega-3 fatty acids? Sign me up!” Auslander says. “Protein helps keep us full and modulates blood sugar, and omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body.”

Related: Shop heart-healthy omega-3 fish oils

seaweed salad

According to the journal Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, seaweed (sometimes called sea vegetables) packs a powerful nutritional punch. Filled with b-vitamins, vitamins A and E, antioxidants, and carotenoids, this delicious appetizer promotes  healthy blood pressure and aids in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. And did we mention it’s delicious?

green tea

Sipping green tea to enjoy alongside your sushi meal could be a big boon for your wellness. The beverage has been associated with a bevy of health perks. The reason: Researchers in the journal Chinese Medical Journal give the credit to green tea’s stores of natural phenol and antioxidant catechins, particularly EGCG.

Related: Is Matcha Really A Miracle Worker?

edamame

These steamed soy beans, served in their pods, are a popular appetizer option at most sushi restaurants. Next time you’re torn between an order of edamame or miso soup as a starter, go for the former, says Chelsey Amer, R.D., a nutritionist in private practice in Manhattan, NY and creator of CitNutritionally.com.

“While miso soup is low in calories, it’s loaded with sodium,” she explains. “Edamame contains fiber and protein to fill you up without the added sodium. To add a boost of flavor—and vitamin C—ask for a lemon wedge to juice on top.”

brown rice 

Amer prefers to let the fish be the main attraction, and axe any “fillers” like rice altogether. But if you’re really craving maki, opt for brown rice over white.

Brown rice contains more fiber,” Amer explains. “Most Americans don’t eat enough fiber, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol and heart disease risk.” One important caveat: “The average sushi roll contains about one cup of rice, which is more than the recommended serving of 1/2 cup, so ask for your roll light on rice, even if it’s brown,” she says.

avocado salad

If you love a creamy condiment with your seafood (and we all do!), do your best not to gravitate to anything that’s made of multiple ingredients or is mayo-based. “I recommend skipping sauces—like spicy mayo—because these contain tons of added fat, and enjoy avocado, which provides heart-healthy fats,” advises Amer.

Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which may help lower your risk of heart disease by lowering your total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels but maintain your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level, potentially helping improve the unction of your blood vessels.

soba noodles

Skipping the brown rice in favor of sashimi but still want to nosh on something super filling? Soba noodles are a great go-to and a standard option on most Japanese menus. Offering up all the benefits of buckwheat, soba, which is gluten-free, filled with amino acids, vits and minerals, polyphenols, antioxidants, and protein.

Not to mention, soba can be eaten hot or cold. According to the journal Nutritional Research Reviews, the rutin in buckwheat packs a powerful punch; it’s been shown to reduce blood pressure, regulate weight and preserve insulin signaling.

A Note On Tuna

Every sushi menu stars tuna, so it’s a pretty ubiquitous go-to option. It’s delicious, sure, but you’ll do well to eat it in moderation. Why? It’s pretty high in mercury, explains Auslander. The concern there is that you run the risk of heavy metal poisoning, which is linked to lasting neurological and muscular impairments, Auslander says. “It’s rare, but not impossible,” she notes.

Related: 4 Types Of Foods That Help Fight Inflammation

Other high-mercury fish include king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna, and bigeye tuna. Lower on the mercury? Choices like eel, salmon, crab, and clam.

The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) notes that if you’re pregnant, nursing, or planning a family, though, you should probably skip all types of tuna, mackerel, sea bass, and yellowtail.

The Surprising Physical Activity That Can Help Reduce Gas

The benefits of yoga seem to be endless—and wide-ranging. Research cited by the National Institutes of Health has shown that yoga can help improve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, aid in heart rate and blood pressure reduction, and improve sleeping habits—all while making you super-flexible. Not too shabby, right?

So, given all of its glorious perks, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised that yoga can help address another common, aggravating wellness concern: gas.

Whether you’re suffering from constipation, bloating, or food intolerance, chronic, painful gas is not fun to deal with, and can be a symptom of a bigger ongoing issue. Thankfully, regardless of the root cause, yoga has been research-proven to help move gas through and out of the body.

One study published in the journal Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback looked at people who struggled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and did a yoga routine that included 12 yogic poses twice a day for two months. According to the research, the group experienced a “significant decrease of bowel symptoms and state anxiety,” thanks to their yoga practice.

Related: How To Move On With Your Life When You Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The fact that yoga is so effective at aiding in the reduction of stress and anxiety may be one reason it’s so beneficial for gastrointestinal issues.

“Yoga is an amazing stress reliever,” says Sasha Brown-Worsham, a yoga instructor in northern New Jersey who teaches Vinyasa flow and prenatal yoga. “By focusing on the breath and making that louder than any thought or feeling in the body, people can work through a lot of pain. Obviously there is a big difference between practicing with mild GI issues and a full-blown stomach virus, but assuming there is nothing requiring medical attention, all of the twists and folds and bends you take during a practice really do get things moving, so to speak.”

So, how does it work? “Gentle twisting poses and forward bends compress the abdomen, stimulating the digestive system and detoxifying the body,” explains Calli De La Haye, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, a yoga instructor in St. Helier, New Jersey.

Related: Shop yoga activities for a healthy lifestyle. 

Even if bloating and gas only happen to catch you off-guard once in a while—maybe when you’ve gone a little overboard with your favorite comfort food!—yoga can come in handy.

One go-to, expert-approved move is the Wind-Releasing Pose. “Yes, that’s an actual pose that can be practiced very easily,” De La Haye shares. To do: “Lay flat on your back, and hug both knees into your chest,” she explains. “You may like to rock gently side to side, slowly. Keep the shoulders and head resting on the floor.”

An example of a twisting pose that De La Haye likes is Half Lord of the Fishes pose, which stimulates the digestive fire in the belly, according to Yoga Journal. A Standing Forward Bend is also tied to improving digestion.

Brown-Worsham notes that poses like (a squat) is so beneficial for digestion that you may end up passing gas in the middle of your practice. But it’s nothing to be self-conscious about.

“It is part of the practice,” she explains. “People cry. They get angry. And they pass gas. The process is all about releasing toxins from the body and moving blocked ‘prana’ or energy, so sometimes gas is a part of that. We are all adults. We can take it.”

Are There Any Benefits To Eating Salt?

Sugar is always getting a bad rap, but the reality is that salt doesn’t fall too far behind. Plenty of foods, from good ol’ potato chips to a seemingly innocent can of vegetable soup, are notoriously crammed with high levels of sodium. So, it’s no surprise that a study published in the British Medical Journal found that the mean global sodium intake is nearly twice the recommended limit.

“These days, there is just so much extra sodium in all of our food,” says Stacy Rothschild, R.D., founder of New Leaf Nutrition. “Even someone trying to eat minimally processed food is getting more than their share and daily recommended dietary allowance of 1500-2300 mg per day.”

Too Much Salt Is Risky

Going to town on the salt shaker is certainly not recommended, but what are the exact risks? For one, high blood pressure.

Excess sodium pulls water out of cells and into the blood stream, and over time, blood volume increases and raises blood pressure, explains Rachita Reddy, MD, a double board-certified nephrologist and internist. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Additionally, our kidneys regulate the levels of salt in our body by getting rid of the excess, but when there is a constant overload, the kidneys can’t keep up and salt is retained in the body. This causes water retention and fluid shifts, which stress the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys, and increase heart attack and stroke risk. Being that heart disease and stroke are the nation’s first and third leading causes of death, staying aware of your salt intake is extremely important.

Related: 7 Foods And Ingredients Nutritionists Won’t Eat

Too Little Salt Is Risky, Too

It bears noting that balanced sodium levels are the key to feeling your best. “Salt is the most concentrated electrolyte in the bloodstream,” explains Dr. Reddy. “Its vital roles include muscle contraction and relaxation, nerve conduction and signaling, and maintaining proper fluid balance.” So don’t give up on salt just yet!

“Letting your body’s stores of the nutrient drop too low can lead to muscle cramping, postural dizziness, nausea, heatstroke, and shock,” says Dr. Reddy. “Since sodium is not produced by the body, consumption is obligatory to maintain adequate balance.”

Consider runners or athletes. They need to keep their bodies running like well-oiled machines—so they’re definitely making sure they’re getting enough sodium. They’re obviously sweating more, and in turn, losing more sodium—up to 1000+ mg in sweat per hour of active exercise, Dr. Reddy says.

But what about the rest of us?

“On average, healthy adults lose between 500-1500 mg of sodium daily through sweat, breathing, and urination,” notes Dr. Reddy. You don’t need much to replace the loss, though.

Related: I Quit Drinking Alcohol For A Month—Here’s How It Went

Get Your Salt From The Right Sources

If you’re interested in making sure you get the most out of regular sodium intake, you’ll do well to really keep an eye on it. Read product labels, use half the salt you tend to use, and make sure that the salt you’re consuming is iodized, which, according to Brian Tanzer, M.S., C.N.S., nutritionist and manager of scientific affairs for The Vitamin Shoppe, is important because iodine deficiency can impact things like your energy levels and your thyroid functions.

Ultimately, when in doubt about striking the right balance with sodium, it’s best to steer toward whole foods. “Processed foods are not where you want to be getting your sodium from!” says Frances Holmes, C.N.C. “Healthy sources include sea salt, certain seaweeds like dulse, and all fruits and vegetables.”

Upping your intake of these— while doing your best not to go to town on those potato chips—will ensure you’re fueling your sodium intake in the best possible way.