3 Very Real Health Benefits Of Tart Cherries

Berries get a lot of love, but there’s another fruit that deserves equal attention: tart cherries. Despite their sour taste, tart cherries offer some seriously sweet health benefits, thanks to all the good-for-you nutrients packed inside their juicy red shells.

Not only are they full of antioxidants, tart cherries offer vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and copper—along with less sugar and fewer carbs than another favorite snack, blueberries. They also contain trace amounts of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and both omega-3s and omega-6 fatty acids, says William Newsome, M.D., of Solutions Weight Loss in Orlando, Florida.

Here are three solid ways eating tart cherries—or drinking tart cherry juice—can benefit your health.

1. They Can Help Protect Your Cells

Tart cherries’ antioxidant content is one of their biggest perks. A quick refresher: Antioxidants are compounds that naturally occur in certain foods and help protect your cells against damaging molecules called free radicals that are produced when you’re exposed to pollution or when your body breaks down food. Research has shown that damage from these free radicals can contribute to diseases like cancer, arthritis, and dementia. One of tart cherries’ most potent antioxidants is called anthocyanin, which gives cherries (and other fruits) their purple-y color.

One study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that tart cherry extract (particularly that of a variety called Montmorency) can prevent some oxidation seen in cell membranes—so look for that variety at your supermarket!

(As a bonus, the researchers also discovered that one of the compounds found in tart cherries, chlorogenic acid, could help nix insulin spikes—sugar crashes—after meals.)

 2. They Help Promote Healthy Sleep 

Can’t seem to shut down at night? Consider sipping on tart cherry juice. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that elderly participants with trouble sleeping who drank two eight-ounce glasses of tart cherry each day for two weeks slept for a whopping 85 minutes longer than those who were given a placebo drink. The reason for this? Tart cherries contain melatonin (the hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycles), says Matthew Kadey, R.D., author of Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sports and Adventure. Studies suggest both drinking tart cherry juice before bed and drinking it multiple times throughout the day seem to help, without any sleepy daytime effects.

3. They May Soothe Muscle Soreness Post-Workout

Because tart cherries contain antioxidants, they may help your body bounce back after a workout. “Research shows that if you consume tart cherry juice for several days before and after exercising, you can experience less muscle soreness and faster recovery,” says Kadey.

According to one study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, runners who drank tart cherry juice for a week leading up to a race reported less pain and quicker recovery time afterward than runners who downed a placebo juice. (A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports found similar results with marathoners.)

A disclaimer: Tart cherries’ post-exercise benefits seem to be far more noticeable in people who are working out hard (or long) every day—so if you take cardio or yoga classes here and there, you may not notice as much of a difference, Kadey says.

Pucker Up!

How to Add Tart Cherries to Your Diet

To reap health benefits from snacking on fresh tart cherries, aim for about a one-cup serving, suggests Newsome. If you can’t find them fresh, look for dried tart cherries, which are great added to oatmeal or DIY trail mix. (Just cut your serving size down to a quarter cup and look for a brand without any added sugar.)

Same goes for sipping on tart cherry juice. Look for a bottle labeled ‘100 percent tart cherry juice’ that’s free of added sugar or any other juices, Kadey recommends. If you find the flavor of tart cherry juice is too sour for your tastes, try mixing a few tablespoons of juice into a few ounces of water.

Keep your tart cherry facts straight:

Are You Taking Too Many Showers?

Ah, a nice hot shower. It’s probably one of the most enjoyable moments of your day—and one of the best inventions in modern plumbing! Our ancestors could only have dreamed of having hot water at their fingertips with a simple turn of a faucet—but are we all taking this showering thing too far?

Most of us shower every day, but guess what? That’s probably way more often than is necessary. In fact, all those daily soap-ups could actually be harming your skin and hair.

Real talk: Chances are you’re not actually as dirty as you think you are, says Dr. Kachiu Lee, a dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University. Showering daily, she says, is a modern phenomenon: “It’s really a psychological thing. People think that if they don’t shower, they’re dirty. If you’re a construction worker, sure, but if you’re a normal office worker, your everyday life probably doesn’t cause a lot of grime.”

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Daily showers, as refreshing as they may feel, can have some not-so-great effects on your body, too. Specifically, Dr. Lee says, “Showering strips your skin of the natural oils that it produces, and dries it out. There’s also some evidence that bathing gets rid of beneficial bacteria on your skin, although we don’t know the full effects of that yet.”

Ready for your mind to be blown? It’s totally fine to shower every other day or even every three days, Dr. Lee says. Plus, elderly people and babies can bathe even less often than older children and adults because they sweat less.

There are some exceptions to this “every other day” rule, however. For instance, if you have certain skin conditions that require more frequent bathing. Same goes for those who live in very humid climates, have issues with hyperhidrosis (excessive sweat), or are athletes.

Pro-tip: When you are in the shower, you absolutely don’t have to soap your whole body to get clean. Hitting the areas that actually sweat, like the underarms, feet, and groin, is more than enough to keep you smelling clean and fresh. Dr. Lee explains that body parts like your back, arms, and legs probably aren’t dirty enough to warrant a full scrub-down all the time, so it’s fine to just rinse them.

Lee also recommends avoiding antibacterial soaps and other harsh cleansers, especially if you have eczema or other skin conditions. And moisturizing post-shower is key, especially during cold weather (when artificial heating can cause skin dryness).

And what about your hair and scalp? You definitely don’t need to shampoo every time you shower. “It’s good for the scalp to have a little moisture on it,” says Dr. Lee. Consider opting for a less-intensive styling routine, since many hair products, blow drying, flat irons, and other styling tools can seriously dry the hair of natural oils.

Related: In need of some natural beauty products? We’ve got you covered.

It Took Emergency Surgery For Me To Admit That I Was A Binge Eater

My husband Tuan says he hardly recognized the woman he drove to the emergency room in 2016: me. I was doubled over and moaning, after being woken up at 5 a.m. by intense abdominal pain.

In the E.R., I found myself on a gurney on the hospital’s surgical floor. The orderly had left me off to the side of the bustling corridor, where they lined up patients scheduled for surgery like taxiing planes awaiting takeoff.

Prior to that, an E.R. doctor had diagnosed me with cholecystitis, an inflammation of the gallbladder, and said I needed surgery to remove it. I’d had hereditary gall bladder issues, which had caused me to develop gallstones (hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can form in your gallbladder). But it was one particular gallstone, which had become lodged in my cystic duct, that became the source of my excruciating pain.

Waiting to be operated on was harrowing. I was nearly naked and the air felt cold—or maybe it was my fear making me feel that way. I shivered a little as I imagined my body in the drawer of a morgue, should something happen to me. A doctor approached me and introduced himself as my anesthesiologist.

The surgery was a wake-up call. I’d been keeping a secret for far too long—that I had been binge-eating since childhood.

“Can you read this before you give me the anesthesia?” I asked him. He nodded as I handed him a slip of paper. “I will come through this surgery well, and heal quickly,” it read. “I am loved.” The affirmation I wrote made me feel a little more in control.

Maybe my affirmation worked, because my surgery was successful. Afterward, though, I wore a drainage bag attached to the lower laparoscopic incision in my right side. It tugged uncomfortably at my skin, especially during bumps in the road as we drove home from the hospital.

After recovering for several months, I realized that the surgery was a wake-up call. I’d been keeping a secret for far too long—that I had been binge-eating since childhood—and surely that behavior had not kept me in optimal health.

My eating disorder had its roots in the chaotic household in which I grew up. I lived in fear of my mentally ill father and my parents didn’t emotionally care for me, so I often ended up turning to food for comfort. Many times after family dinners—long after I was full, long after my family members had left the dinner table—I stood alone over the stove in the kitchen of our suburban home, eating leftovers from the pots. A typical after-dinner binge left my belly feeling hard and round, yet I never felt sated.

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I got married in 2009 and continued secretly binging (or so I thought). My husband worked hard to ignore my binges, but empty Combos bags, clanking Pringles cans, and Cadbury bars still clinging to their foil—which I’d toss over the side of the bed after eating—were hard to overlook. I’d eat to treat myself after an annoying or long day, but these treats were ruining my health. Occasionally, my husband caught me bingeing and teased me for my “secret eating,” but neither one of us named the problem or took steps to address it.

For decades I had been able to binge without consequence. But now, in my late forties, my binge-eating had finally caught up with me. After the hospital, I had to try to make sustainable lifestyle changes for the sake of my health. More than that, my seven-year-old daughter deserved a mother who modeled good health practices.

I found a new doctor who worked at a hospital nearby. “I need help losing weight,” I told her. Young and eager to assist me, she saw how miserable I felt. The doctor promised emotional support—an essential element of sticking with good health habits.

It has been almost three months since that initial meeting and I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds (off of 200lbs), four BMI points, and several inches from my waist, hips, and butt, and my blood pressure has dropped. I’ve reduced my portion sizes and sugar intake, but I still allow myself to eat the foods I enjoy—in moderation. My husband now buys mini ice cream cones at Trader Joe’s (60 calories each), for example.

I had to try to make sustainable lifestyle changes for the sake of my health. More than that, my seven-year-old daughter deserved a mother who modeled good health practices.

Instead of forcing myself to go running, which I seriously dislike, I signed up for unlimited Pure Barre classes for a full-body group workout. I swim at the community pool and aim to walk 10,000 steps every day. I keep a food (and mood) journal to stay on top of triggers and remain honest with myself about what I eat.

In September, I rode my daughter to school on our cargo bike (another lifestyle tweak) for her first day of second grade. I felt good about knowing I had finally faced my behavior honestly, and I loved my improved mood, the way my pants fit, and how my more-sculpted shoulders looked in a sleeveless shirt.

I also love that my daughter watched me change my own health habits. I hope, inspired by my example, she’ll find ways to stay healthy far beyond the second grade.

What Is Tryptophan—And Does Turkey Really Make You Sleepy?

We all have our own Thanksgiving rituals, but the day usually looks something like this: Wake up, watch the parade and then some football, eat a massive amount of delicious food, and fall into an all-night food coma.

A lot of that food coma gets blamed on the tryptophan in turkey, but is it really this mysterious compound that makes you sleepy? Let’s fact-check Thanksgiving dinner’s biggest legend.

What Is Tryptophan?

Tryptophan is actually a type of amino acid a.k.a. the molecules that build proteins in our bodies. Turkey contains a number of amino acids, including tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, and leucine. Our bodies can produce some amino acids (called ‘non-essential’), but we have to get others (called ‘essential’) from food.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that, in addition to building proteins, also synthesizes the neurotransmitter serotonin. So what does that have to do with your post-gobble slumber? Serotonin (which is often called the ‘feel good’ hormone) helps regulate your body’s sleep patterns by producing the hormone melatonin, which your body releases when it’s time to settle down for the night, explains says Jackie Ballou, R.D.

So that explains that! Right? Er, not so fast.

Myth Busting Tryptophan

There’s a catch: Turkey doesn’t actually contain any more tryptophan than other types of poultry, says Ballou. You can even find tryptophan in foods like soybeans, yogurt, eggs, and cheese—and none of these foods, including turkey, contain enough of the amino acid for it to have a sedative effect. Plus, the other amino acids in turkey counterbalance the tryptophan’s sleepy effects.

To put it in perspective, three ounces of turkey contains approximately 250 mg of tryptophan. To really feel the effects of the stuff, you’d have to consume the nutrient on its own and in a much higher amount. (Tryptophan supplements, which can support sleep, mood, and relaxation, usually contain about 1,000 milligrams.)

Related: 8 Possible Reasons Why You’re Exhausted All The Time

What does cause you to feel so tired after your Thanksgiving feast, then? All of the calories! When you gorge yourself with stuffing, pie, turkey, and potatoes, your body devotes tons of its energy to digesting it all, says Ballou. Plus, many of the Thanksgiving foods we love are really high in carbs—so they’ll make your blood sugar soar and then crash, and leave you half-asleep on the couch not long after you eat.

But hey, Turkey Day comes but once a year—so enjoy the food, relish the company, and bask in the food coma.

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6 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Iron

Though it mostly goes unnoticed, iron has a very important job: It carries oxygen through our bodies, which helps us produce energy and get rid of carbon dioxide. Like we said—IMPORTANT!

If you’re not getting enough iron or if your body is struggling to absorb the iron you are already consuming, you could have iron-deficiency anemia. In the United States, 5.6 percent of the population are at least mildly anemic, according to the journal PLoS One. Additionally, an estimated 1.5 percent of Americans are moderately to severely anemic.

However, certain populations are more at risk for low iron than others, says Brittany Poulson, RDN. “People at higher risk of iron-deficiency anemia include women of childbearing age (due to blood loss during menstruation), infants and children, pregnant women, vegetarians (meat is a great source of dietary iron), and people who donate blood often,” she says.

Low iron levels can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including a lack of iron in your diet, an underlying health condition that makes it difficult for your body to absorb iron (like certain intestinal diseases), and pregnancy, according to Poulson.

The trouble is, many people aren’t aware that they aren’t getting enough iron—until they don’t quite feel like themselves. If you’re experiencing any of the following six symptoms, it’s worth a trip to your doctor to find out if you’ve got iron deficiency going on behind the scenes.

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#1. Extreme Fatigue

Feeling tired is one of the most common symptoms associated with low iron, according to Registered Dietitian Vanessa Rissetto.

“Fatigue [can] happen because your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to its many parts,” she says. “Also, the red blood cells your body makes have less hemoglobin than normal—and hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein in red blood cells.”

It’s worth noting that fatigue is not the same as sleeplessness. With fatigue, you generally feel lethargic, both mentally and physically—like you have no energy at all.

#2. Excessive Weakness

If you’re not getting enough iron, you may also notice that you’re feeling weak, especially in your muscles, according to Rissetto. This could be due to a  lack of oxygen. When you don’t have enough red blood cells, you’re likely not transporting an adequate amount of oxygen to your cells, organs, and body parts. Accompanied by weakness, you may also notice you are feeling dizzy or lightheaded, according to Poulson.

#3. Loss of Appetite

Are you suddenly finding yourself skipping meals? This could be another sign that you’re not getting enough iron. “If there is decreased oxygenation to the stomach, it can make you feel less hungry,” says Rissetto. “Less action means less interest in food.” If your appetite has markedly changed, do speak with your medical care provider.

#4. Spoon-shaped Nails

Yep, the physical appearance of our nails can indicate underlying health conditions. If you’re not getting enough iron, you could develop koilonychia, a condition caused by anemia that gives nails a thin, spoon-shaped appearance.

#5. Cold Hands and Feet

Some people are prone to having cold hands and feet because of their natural body temperature. However, if you’re experiencing it out of the blue, it could be one more clue you need more iron in your diet. This is also caused by the lack of oxygen moving throughout your body.

Related: Are You Getting Enough Iron?

#6. Pale Skin

If you’re suddenly struck with a look of pallor, you may want to have your iron levels checked, according to Poulson. This isn’t the same as having a fair complexion, of course, which is dependent on the melanin in your skin. If your skin is looking lighter, or unusually less colorful (like your cheeks have lost their color, for example), talk to your doctor.

Treating Low Iron

If you find you’re not getting enough iron, you should, first and foremost, focus on improving your diet. “Excellent sources of iron-rich foods include lean beef, liver, and dark meat chicken and turkey,” says Poulson. “Other sources include turkey, chicken, pork, fish, beans, peas, lentils, iron-enriched grains, spinach, collard greens, prunes and raisins.”

Pro tip: It’s beneficial to eat iron-rich foods (from plant sources) alongside foods that are high in vitamin C, since this essential vitamin aids our bodies in the absorption of iron.

If a change in diet is not enough, iron supplementation should be your next step. You may want to avoid consuming dairy, coffee, tea, chocolate, or high-fiber foods when taking iron supplements, as components of these foods may bind to the iron and reduce its absorption. Talk with your doctor about appropriate dosages before beginning supplementation.

Hemp Is Going Mainstream—Here’s How To Add It To Your Diet

You may have heard a thing or two about hemphemp oil, hemp seeds, hemp powder—but really, what exactly is it?
 
First thing’s first: Hemp comes from the cannabis plant—but it’s absolutely not marijuana. Hemp is derived from the non-psychoactive variety of the plant, and is both genetically different and cultivated by different means. In fact, hemp seeds and stalks have been used to produce  everything from textiles to paper production for over 8000 years. So don’t worry about hemp having any wacky side effects—eating it is both super-healthy and completely safe for everyday use.
 
Emily Keranen, NMD, an Arizona-based naturopathic doctor, is a big fan of hemp—and readily recommends it to her patients: “Hemp products are a good source of omega fatty acids, particularly omega-3,” she says. “Additionally, the high mineral content of hemp seeds, particularly phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and zinc, helps to strengthen bones and boost the immune system.”

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So how do you eat it? 

Hemp can be consumed in a variety of ways, depending on your diet and preferences. Hemp seeds, which have a neutral to slightly nutty taste, are commonly eaten by vegetarians because they’re a big source of plant-based protein, says Dr. Keranen: “The amount of protein in hemp (one tablespoon contains about 5.3 grams of protein) makes it a great protein source for plant-based eaters and anyone else looking to increase their protein intake.”
 
In addition, a study in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism showed that hemp seeds contain powerful antioxidants and other protective compounds, promoting immunity, joint support, and cardiovascular health. 
             
Hemp seeds are incredibly versatile (think of them sort of like chia). You can sprinkle them on top of yogurt or applesauce, pop them into your favorite smoothie or smoothie bowl, or even add them to baked goods like cookies, muffins, or quick breads. You can also reach for Hemp Heart Bites, which pack a whopping 10 grams of protein per serving.
 
Additionally, you can get the benefits of hemp by consuming it as a protein powder. Powders like Manitoba Harvest Hemp Pro are super-easy to add to a post-gym or pre-workout shake, and boast tons of amino acids (which help us build muscle), fiber, protein, and omega-3s.
 
Lastly, there’s hemp oil, like Nutiva’s Organic Hemp Oil. Says Keranen: “Hemp oil is a wonderful source of omega fatty acids and can be used as a finishing oil on salads, or added to dressings, smoothies, and dips for raw vegetables and bread.”
 
Hemp oil contains three fatty acids that work wonders in the body, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. These include linoeic, α-linolenic, and oleic, all of which are crucial for body functions and help to boost heart, joint, and mood health.
 
A note of caution: Dr. Keranen says that hemp’s omega-3s can degrade at high temperatures, so don’t use the oil for baking, roasting, or other oven activities. (Not into drizzling oil onto your food? Hemp oil also comes in capsules.)
 

 Want to ease your way in to hemp oil? Here’s a simple recipe from Nutiva:

Related: Your Guide To Cooking With Healthy Oils

12 Tasty Ways To Eat Turmeric (Other Than Golden Milk)

Turmeric—a staple of holistic medicine, featured ingredient in Indian cuisine, and a star in healthy Instagram pics the world over—is known for its immune boosting properties and ability to ease digestive issues.

It also happens to taste heavenly when mixed with coconut milk and honey as a soothing, health-boosting beverage called golden milk. But the turmeric-infused grub doesn’t end there! Whether you buy turmeric root fresh or grab a bottle of ground turmeric from the spice aisle, you can sprinkle a little gold into everything from hummus to salad dressing to smoothies.

We rounded up 12 of the most creative and delicious turmeric recipes we could find—and we guarantee you’re going to want to try them all.

photo: Sprinkle of Green

1. Turmeric Sweet Potato Hummus

Enjoy every dunk of this nutrition-packed dip by Sprinkle of Green knowing you’re scooping up all the benefits sweet potatoes, turmeric, and beans have to offer (think vitamin A, protein, fiber, and more). Whether you’re dipping with whole-grain pita chips, crackers, or veggie sticks, it’s a colorful and flavorful snack or appetizer.

Related: 12 Energy Bites You’ll Want At Breakfast, Snack-Time, And Dessert

photo: Natalie’s Health

2. Lemon Turmeric Energy Bites

When you need a boost fast, energy bites are as easy to grab-and-go as they are to make. These bites from Natalie’s Health are light, sweet, and zesty—and come together quickly in the food processor. In addition to the golden goodness of turmeric, they also offer protein, fiber, and healthy fats from rolled oats, almonds, and chia seeds.

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photo: Dear Crissy

3. Turmeric Gummies

Trick your taste buds into thinking you’re eating candy (while supporting your immune system, of course) with Dear Crissy’s gummy recipe. You’ll blend together steamed carrots, OJ, hot water, gelatin, and turmeric paste to make these fruity, chewy health powerhouses. You’ll score some vitamin A and vitamin C in addition to the turmeric.

photo: PaleoHacks

4. Turmeric Coconut Flour Muffins

Warm turmeric is perfectly at home in these grain-free, naturally-sweetened muffins by PaleoHacks. They’re the perfect healthy quick breakfast, snack, or after-dinner treat—and unlike your average store-bought muffin, they provide the fiber you need to feel satisfied.

photo: Rebel Recipes

5. Golden Ginger And Turmeric Cookies

No mere gingerbread cookie or gingersnap can stand up to Rebel Recipes’ spicy ginger and turmeric cookies. Made with wholesome ingredients like ground almonds, oats, bananas, and coconut oil, they’ll light up your taste buds from the first bite. (You can thank pink salt, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric for that!)

Related: Shop a wide selection of ingredients for healthy baking.

photo: Savory Lotus

6. Creamy Turmeric Dressing

Any food lover knows a delicious sauce can make a meal. This simple dressing by Savory Lotus is great drizzled on salads, veggies, meat, or fish—or practically any other food or dish that could benefit from a quality condiment. All you need is tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, turmeric, black pepper, and a little salt to step up the flavor and nutrition of any meal.

photo: Simply Quinoa

7. Healing Turmeric Cauliflower Soup

This thick, creamy soup is as comforting as it is nourishing—and provides the fiber, protein, and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) you need to feel both cozy and satisfied. Simply Quinoa’s recipe uses cauliflower, red lentils, vegetable broth, and nut milk as a base, and packs in the flavor with shallots, garlic, turmeric, cumin, and sea salt.

photo: Healthier Steps

8. Turmeric Coconut Rice

An easy way to spice up (literally) any grain side dish? Turmeric, of course. Healthier Stepsturmeric coconut rice turns a plain grain into a robust, elegant side. Along with onion, garlic, turmeric, thyme, and carrots, you’ll cook your rice in coconut milk for extra rich, creamy flavor.

photo: Jar of Lemons

9. Golden Glow Pineapple Turmeric Smoothie

You may not think to shake turmeric into your smoothies, but with the right blender buddies to sweeten it up and mellow it out, we’re willing to be you’ll start. This bright blend from Jar of Lemons combines turmeric with banana, frozen pineapple, and coconut milk, for a thick, creamy smoothie that tastes as refreshing as it looks. Add your favorite vanilla protein powder into the mix and you’ve got the ultimate free radical-crushing, muscle-building post-workout smoothie.

photo: The Seasoned Mom

10. Golden Chicken

Without a strong marinade game, chicken breasts can be almost too boring to eat after a while. Try The Seasoned Mom’s turmeric marinade for a burst of color and flavor. Honey, whole-grain mustard, Dijon (who doesn’t love that), turmeric, garlic, olive oil, and salt whisk together quickly—any you don’t use to marinate your meat makes for a delicious dressing!

photo: Fooduzzi

11. Cinnamon Turmeric Iced Tea

When it’s too warm out for golden milk, sip on turmeric in a refreshing iced tea blend. Fooduzzi brews her favorite loose-leaf tea (half English Breakfast, half Ceylon) with cinnamon, turmeric, and either maple syrup or honey, then stashes it in the fridge to make a sweet and spicy beverage that’s perfect whether you’re sipping poolside or just need something flavorful to put in your water bottle.

photo: The Mediterranean Dish

12. Turmeric Roasted Carrots

Toss any veggie in a little fat and throw it in the oven and it’s pretty much guaranteed to turn out ah-mazing. But throw some spices and seasonings into the mix and you’ll be next-level impressed. The Mediterranean Dish perfectly caramelizes her carrots by roasting them with olive oil, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, minced garlic, and salt and pepper for a punch of flavors that’s sure entice even the biggest of veggie-haters.

5 Health & Beauty Uses For Activated Charcoal  

Activated charcoal is trending right now, lauded for its ability to purge the body and skin of general uncleanliness. We’ve seen it popping up in products like ice creamtoothpaste, shampoo, and even lemonade!

Essentially, activated charcoal is charcoal that’s been heated to a very high temperature to make it more porous. The idea is that the many pores that are produced during this process make it possible for the activated charcoal to absorb all the nasties that might be floating around in your body and on your skin.

According to Brian Tanzer, Manager of Scientific Affairs at The Vitamin Shoppe, AC was originally used in emergency rooms to address toxicity issues related to poisoning and overdoses. “Activated charcoal can bind to toxins, reducing their absorption into the body,” Tanzer explains. “It carries a negative charge and traps positively-charged molecules that are potentially toxic.”

But activated charcoal has applications outside of the hospital, too—like in your bathroom! Here are the many ways lovers of AC use it for health and lifestyle purposes:

1. On your skin

Beauty aisles are lined with cutely packaged products starring activated charcoal, including soaps, face masks, skin peels, and more—and it’s not just a marketing gimmick: AC has skin-cleansing properties, according to research. Just note that it can also absorb good things, like the oils your skin actually needs, so always use a moisturizer afterward.

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2. As a deodorant

While there’s no specific research on how activated charcoal can combat general body odor or sweating, beauty bloggers swear by it. And, a 2008 study from the Indian Journal of Dermatology found that AC may cause a reduction in odors associated with skin blistering. So it’s probably not a bad idea to test out a deodorant that lists AC as an ingredient. You can also make your own, if you’re the DIY type.

Follow this tried-and-true recipe from blogger French Pixie. You’ll need just a few ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon activated charcoal
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot 
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup liquid coconut oil 
  • 2 tablespoons magnesium oil 
  • 1 tablespoon  witch hazel 

3. Hangover preventer

Had one-too-many the night before? Good news: AC may help. According to a study in the Journal of the Indian Medical Association, there is some strong evidence linking alcohol poisoning reduction to activated charcoal. The Bulletproof Coffee blog recommends taking an AC supplement after or while drinking to help prevent hangover symptoms.

Related: Shop activated charcoal products, from soaps to peels. 

4. Teeth whitener

For anyone who prefers natural oral care, AC users have touted it for its teeth-whitening and surface stain-removing qualities. You can use a charcoal toothpaste, or powder like My Magic Mud’s Tooth Whitening Powder, but it’s also easy enough to pop open a capsule and just rub it onto your toothbrush with water. 

Just be warned: It can be quite messy. RIP bathroom sink. 

5. Gas reducer

Tanzer says AC may also be used for tummy troubles: “As a dietary supplement it is used to address some issues related to GI health, such as occasional digestive discomfort—and particularly gas that results from the digestion of food in the GI tract.”

Plus, a study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that it may also reduce abdominal cramps and bloating. If you want to support a healthy tummy, the Vitamin Shoppe’s activated charcoal capsules can be taken after or during meals to help keep the flatulence at bay.

One note: Activated charcoal can interfere with the efficacy of some medications, so if you’re taking anything regularly, you should speak with a healthcare provider before going all in.

Related: I Brushed My Teeth With Charcoal For 2 Weeks—Here’s What Happened

Your Guide To Surviving Black Friday

There’s nothing more exciting than splurging on mega-discounted must-haves at the end of the year. That flat screen you’ve been eyeing? Two, please. That sofa sectional? Haul it onto the truck. But when you’re sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on your way to the mall—or when you’re getting pushed and shoved in the cash register line—stamina is key.

This Black Friday, keep your energy high and your tummy full of healthy, on-the-go eats. Consider these snacks and stress-fighting items your best friends—and you’ll be ready to shop ‘til you drop.

Trace Minerals’ Electrolyte Stamina Tablets, $31.72 for 300 tablets


Black Friday shopping is basically a race—a race to the store, a race for a parking spot, and a race to the register. If you’re running on empty, you may end up walking off that 40-person line and heading straight to the nearest donut chain for a sugar rush. Instead, up that energy the healthy way with Trace Minerals’ Electrolyte Stamina Tablets. Pop up to four of these and replenish those lost electrolytes!

Three Jerks’ Original Filet Mignon Jerky, $8.49


Ain’t got no time to stop for a sit-down lunch. When hunger strikes midday, chew on this tender, savory snack, which packs 12 grams of protein. No preservatives, MSG, or nasty nitrates—just delicious, healthy beef.

Marley Coffee’s One Drop Mocha Coffee Drink, $2.49


You need your java fix—we get it. With this ice-cold bevvie you’ll get no artificial sweeteners and you’ll enjoy the rich flavor of chocolate blended with Marley’s Jamaican coffee. Inspired by Bob Marley himself, a single can of this stuff will have you feelin’ irie while you scan those aisles.

VPX’s Bang Peach Mango, $25.99 for 12 cans


Coffee’s not your thing—but you never turn down caffeine? We’ve got you covered. With VPX’s Bang Peach Mango (an exclusive flavor to The Vitamin Shoppe), you’ll get a strong energy rush with 0 calories. It’s got branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), creatine, and caffeine (357 mg of it, to be exact). Start your happy dance!

Celsius Stick Packs, $14.29 for 14 packs


If you’re gonna be guzzling water all day—and you’ll need to!—you might want to try adding Celsius’ orange-flavored pack to your agua. The pre-workout formula (filled with vitamins, taurine, and guarana extract) actually kicks up your metabolism, helping to burn calories and boost energy. SCORE!

Amazing Grass Green SuperFood, $26.99 for 30 servings


With its fresh, lemon-lime flavor, you’ll want to start your shopping day off with this good-for-you powder. Made entirely with organic green, raw, and gluten-free foods, you’ll enjoy a natural flavor (matcha and yerba mate teas) and an energy kick (hello, 85 mg of plant-based caffeine). Filled with probiotics and enzymes, your tummy will be ready to take on the day

ONE Brand’s One Bar in Birthday Cake, $27.99 for one box


In the mood for something sweet? Of course you are. Before heading to the mall, grab a gluten-free ONE Bar and go, go, go! You’ll not only indulge in the yummy flavor of birthday cake, you’ll get 20 grams of protein. You’ll also be supporting your appetite and helping to promote healthy muscle—which you’ll need when you’re fighting strangers for the last Paw Patrol Sea Patroller.

Sunfood Superfood’s Mango Slices, $13.95


Need a second wind? These delicious mango slices will help you refuel when the late-afternoon slump attacks. With vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, fiber, you’ll get a quick dose of nutrients when you need them the most. Plus, they’re non-GMO, organic, and totally raw—with only six grams of sugar.

Zenify’s Zero Sugar Natural Stress, $21.99 for a box


If you dig drinking your supplements, you’ll love Zenify’s Stress Relief concoction. With zero sugar or caffeine (yep, you read that correctly), tons of B vitamins, vitamin C, and 250mg of L-theanine, you’ll de-stress and feel good. Because when you’re running around like crazy, you want to feel relaxed—but not sleepy. This healthy drink will keep your mind sharp so you can finish your holiday shopping without losing your marbles.

FitAid’s Recovery Blend, $10.99 for four cans


After a long day of shopping, carrying giant bags and boxes to your car, and standing on line, you’ll undoubtedly be zonked. Speed up your recovery by swigging some of this yummy stuff. Packed with lots of good-for-you ingredients like turmeric, coQ10, omega 3s, and vitamins C, you’ll be feeling less like a frenzied shopper and more like yourself in no time.

Should You Stock Up On Oscillo This Flu Season?

When cold and flu season approaches, we do everything in our power to take cover. Some pile on the scarves, others load up on vitamin C. But despite our best efforts, most of us still fall prey to that same ol’ aching, coughing, and sneezing at some point over the winter.

While rest and hydration are essential when you’ve got cold- and flu-like symptoms, many swear by a homeopathic product called Oscillococcinum (oscillo-what?) to move recovery along quicker.

Despite its intimidating name—for the record, it’s pronounced oh-sill-oh-cox-see-num—the over-the-counter item has developed a cult-like following, especially among people who prefer a homeopathic route to health.

Quick lesson: Homeopathy is an alternative medical system developed in Germany more than 200 years ago. The FDA regulates these products, but doesn’t rate their efficacy. Oscillo’s active ingredient is called Anas Barbariae Hepatis et Cordis Extractum, which is an extremely diluted extract of duck liver and heart.

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According to Dr. Elena Klimenko, MD, who is both board certified in internal medicine and licensed in medical acupuncture and homeopathy, Oscillo is a very commonly used product, sold in over 50 countries throughout the world—especially in France, where it is made and is the bestselling over-the-counter product for flu-like symptoms.

Some of Oscillo’s perks? “It does not cause drowsiness or a foggy feeling, does not interact with other medications, herbs, or supplements, and is not contraindicated with pre-existing conditions,” Klimenko says.

When taking Oscillo, you’ll put the entire contents of one tube under the tongue every six hours, up to three times a day—and time is of the essence, says Klimenko, who recommends taking it at the first sign of symptoms. It’s recommended for children two years and older, whereas decongestants and antihistamines aren’t recommended for anyone under the age of four.

The Bottom Line

A study published in British Homeopathy showed that Oscillo not only shortened the severity of flu symptoms, but the duration of them as well. In the study, 63 percent of participants who took the medicine within 24 hours of the onset of flu symptoms reported either a “clear improvement” or “complete resolution” of the symptoms within 48 hours.

When it comes to prevention, Dr. Klimenko stresses washing your hands often, eating well, and taking a multivitamin each day. But if that doesn’t work—and unfortunately it often doesn’t—she recommends Oscillo.

Your Guide To Surviving Holiday Stress

It’s OK to admit it: Your favorite warm and cozy season is also a little, well, stressful. After all, you’re planning big get togethers, getting trampled at the mall, and maybe even flying cross-country to see relatives, who all have LOTS of questions.

If you’re feeling the heat, the good news is that you’ve got options—so take a breath, armor up, and get back into the swing of things with this holiday season stress-reduction arsenal.

1. TwinLab’s Stress B-Complex Caps, $14.35 for 100 capsules


Before all the craziness begins, consider taking two of these capsules each day, preferably with a meal. B vitamins play a critical role in modulating our responses to stress. Protect yourself now so it’ll be smooth-sailing by Cyber Monday.

2. Yogi Tea’s Calming Tea, $4.49 FOR A BOX

Kick back and take a load off with a delicious, steaming cup of Yogi Tea’s finest. It’s filled with good stuff like chamomile and lemongrass—and a nice licorice kick for a dose of sweetness.

3. Boiron’s Sedalia, $11.79 for 60 tablets


So you’ve been cooking all day, or your mother-in-law is notoriously hard to shop for, or you’re in charge of the company party. Take a deep breath and turn to Sedalia, a nerves-calming product that works naturally with your body. First off, it’s homeopathic, so it won’t leave you feeling out of it.You’ll want to take two tablets three times a day.

4. The Vitamin Shoppe’s Super Stress With Vitamin C, $27.99 for 300 capsules


You know that vitamin C is essential for good health. But you can’t just drink OJ all day, can you? Instead, buck up your immune system—and give yourself a dose of natural energy—by popping this antioxidant twice a day with a meal. Especially around the holidays, when you’re feeling run-down (and when cold season comes back with a vengeance), you’ll want to get all the help you need.

6. plnt’s Ashwagandha, $15.29 for 90 capsules

Ashwagandha is an ancient Ayurvedic medicinal herb known as an adaptogen, a type of plant extract known to promote a healthy stress response in our bodies. Used to help us deal with everyday anxiety, you’ll want to pop one capsule twice a day.

7. The Vitamin Shoppe’s Essential Oil – Lavender, $23.89 for 4oz


The use of lavender oil as a soothing and rest-promoting remedy has long been established, so when you need to step away from the festivities for a moment to take a breather—consider bringing it with you. Not sure how to use essential oils? Here’s where we break it all down. Basically, you can inhale it or apply right to your skin using a dilution method (like a cream or carrier oil, such as coconut oil). It smells delightful, you’ll get a moment to yourself, and you’ll be flooding your senses with something that isn’t holiday stress.

8. Organic India’s Holy Basil, $23.89 for 90 capsules


Holy wha? Stick with us for a minute. Holy Basil (also known as Tulsi) has been nicknamed “Queen of the Herbs,” and with good reason: It’s used to boost immunity, help promote energy, and it keeps you feeling revitalized. You’ll want to take one-two capsules twice a day.

9. ProBioCare’s Stress Support, $43.99 for 90 capsules


Holiday season is filled with all the goodies—chocolates and cakes and liqueurs and carbs a plenty. A little indulgence is bound to happen—and that’s totally okay! To help your stomach make it through the many holiday parties and family dinners and  office snack-fests, take this two-in-one probiotic and ashwagandha capsule, which will support your digestive system and promote a healthy stress response.

10. Hylands’ Calm Tablets, $7.99 for 100 tablets

Having a hard time sleeping? Could it be because your to-do list is reaaaaally long? You’ve got to make dinner, get presents, wrap presents, and make it through a few company parties—and who knows what else! To help fight those anxiety-wracked sleepless nights, these calm tablets will come in handy. They’re non-habit forming, totally natural, and made with a homeopathic formula. You’ll need one to three tablets about an hour and a half before bed.

11. The Vitamin Shoppe’s Rhodiola Rosea, $23.99 for 60 capsules

First of all, if you can’t pronounce Rhodiola, no worries. We’ve got you covered. Second, it’s an adaptogen, which is a compound found in herbs and natural substances that help the body adapt to stress. Sounds enticing, right? With this supplement, you’ll take one capsule twice a day with a meal to boost energy, vitality, and the feeling of, yes, I can handle this!

Check out more holiday stress-support products on VitaminShoppe.com, all 15% off!

 

Your Guide To Surviving Holiday Indigestion

The holiday season is all about friends, family, and—perhaps most importantly—food.  But as much as we love the pumpkin bread, office potlucks, and cookie exchanges, it’s a miracle our stomachs survive ‘til the New Year.

Unless, of course, you and your tummy head into the holidays armed with a healthy plan. Whether it’s a soothing tea or herbal remedy, we’ve hand-picked products that will keep you in the holiday spirit (i.e. out of the bathroom) while you enjoy every last bite of stuffing and pie.

1. Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar, $6.99 for 32 ounces

This golden liquid is a must-have for any health enthusiast, but it’s especially handy when you’re waist-deep in seasonally-obligatory mashed potatoes, gooey cookies, and all the pies in the book. ACV has been shown to support healthy blood sugar levels, with research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association even finding that it can lessen the impact of a high-carb meal on blood sugar levels.

2. Prince Of Peace Natural Ginger Candy, $1.99 for 31 pieces

Here’s a candy your belly can really get behind. The warm and spicy ginger root has been known throughout history for its stomach-soothing properties. These just-sweet-enough candies are a natural way to satisfy your sweet tooth and keep your tummy calm.

3. Licorice Root, $5.99 for 100 capsules

Centuries ago, licorice root was used to ease stomach issues, and the herbal remedy remains a popular supplement for digestive issues today. Try licorice for yourself with The Vitamin Shoppe’s 450mg supplement.

4. Lily Of The Desert Whole-Leaf Aloe Vera Juice, $25.99 for 64 servings

Gooey green aloe vera is just as good for your insides as it is for your skin. In fact, the funky plant can be beneficial for your digestive tract and support regularity—and we all know that’s an issue when most of the color in your diet is coming from the icing on holiday cookies. While we’re not quite sure if it counts as a serving of veggies, it’ll definitely do your sugar-coated digestive system some good.

5. Dynamic Health Tart Cherry, Turmeric, And Ginger Tonic, $17.00 for 32 ounces

Whether you blend it into a smoothie, stir it into seltzer, or drink it straight, this tonic is a soothing way to end any night of eating and drinking. Tart cherry contains sleep-supporting melatonin, while turmeric and ginger both offer their own antioxidant and soothing powers. This tonic will be there for you all holiday season long!

6. King Bio Indigestion Relief, $16.49 for two ounces

A friend’s or family member’s dinner party is the last place we want to be rocked by discomfort, but we’ve all found ourselves slouched on someone else’s couch waiting for our stomach to settle down. That’s where a stash of King Bio’s natural medicine formula comes in. Just a few sprays and you’ll be ready to get back to rocking around the coffee table.

7. Solaray Lemon Balm, $10.49 for 100 capsules

Lemon balm dates back to the Middle Ages, when its calming and soothing properties were used to help with everything from trouble sleeping to digestive issues. Set your mind and body up for a relaxed, indigestion-free holiday season with Solaray’s 350 milligram supplement.

8. Alvita Organic Fennel Tea, $5.99 for 24 bags

Traditionally used to ease occasional bloating and gas, fennel seeds have a slightly sweet, licorice-like flavor. Alvita’s fennel tea is the perfect sweet tooth-satisfying follow-up to any meal that leaves you feeling not-so-great.

9. Boiron Nux Vomica, $6.99 for 80 pellets

Homeopathy to the rescue! Nux Vomica is just what you need after eating four chocolate truffles too many. Keep a sleeve handy to nix any stomach upset the holidays send your way.

10. Alvita Organic Peppermint Leaf Tea, $5.99 for 24 bags

When it comes to tackling stomach issues in an all-natural (and delicious) way, the more tea the merrier! Peppermint tea’s refreshing, invigorating flavor is almost as impressive as its belly-soothing powers. When you need a mind-body pick-me-up, peppermint is the brew for you.

11. Milk Thistle Extract, $29.99 for 200 capsules

Let’s face it: The holidays are chock-full of sugar and booze—and your liver has to take the hit. Show your body’s detox center some love with The Vitamin Shoppe’s Milk Thistle Extract ($29.99 for 200 capsules) and pass the spiked cider, please!

Shop the full digestion guide on VitaminShoppe.com

Your Guide to Surviving Holiday Travel

The holiday season is jam-packed with fun festivities, mouth-watering treats, and family get-togethers. And then there are the airports.

There might actually be nothing worse than traveling on Thanksgiving. On top of the delays, long lines, and crabby strangers, air travel breeds bad eating, sleep deprivation, and disorganization.

This year, make your life a little easier by treating yourself to the below items, which will help keep you healthy, satiated, and ready to rock.

1. Boiron’s Jet Lag Relief, $13.49 for 80 pellets

If you’ve got family on another coast—or another continent—you’re probably super-familiar with that extra-special brand of exhaustion that comes with holiday travel. After all the holiday parties, shopping extravaganzas, and travel delays, you might find yourself sleepless. Enter Jet Lag Relief. You want to actually enjoy the holidays—without passing out face first into your English aunt’s roast dinner, so pop five pellets the day before you travel and then five more on the day of to promote restful sleep.

2. The Vitamin Shoppe’s Melatonin Gummies, $9.99 for 60 gummies

Let’s say you’ve tried everything you can think of to get a good night’s sleep— you’ve hit the gym, had a mug full of warm milk, meditated—and still, nothing. What about taking a melatonin supplement? Melatonin modulates our sleep and wake cycles, and can help support successful snoozing. Take two gummies 30 minutes before bedtime, and prepare for slumber bliss.

3. BlueAvocado Travel Bag, $6.79

When you cram all your toiletries into different tiny suitcase compartments, it makes finding any of it impossible later on—and easy for TSA agents to single your bag out for unidentifiable random objects. Why not get a roomy travel bag that reduces waste, is eco-friendly and TSA-compliant, and even machine-washable?

4. Quest Nutrition’s Protein Vanilla Milkshake Packets, $26.99 for 12 packets

We know what you’re thinking—milkshakes and planes don’t mix. But that’s not totally true. You can have all the creamy goodness of a milkshake—plus a proper dose of protein (23g!)—by mixing one pouch into 16 oz of water. Plus, there’s less than one gram of sugar per serving so you won’t, er, crash at your destination.

5. Nature’s Way Zinc Lozenges, $3.99 for 60 lozenges

We truly hope you don’t come down with a bug, but let’s be honest—buses, trains, and planes are basically petri dishes filled with germs. To promote strong health during the icky cold and flu season, pop one of these berry-flavored, vitamin C- and Echinacea-filled lozenges every two hours (up to six lozenges per day).

6. New Wave Enviro Products’ Bottle Gallon, $8.79

Have a particularly long road trip ahead of you? You’re gonna want to stay hydrated without having to shell out cash for bottled H20 at every other service stop. Pick up this easy-grip, BPA-free  gallon bottle and make your drive that much easier. (Port-A-Potty not included.)

7. Building Better Solutions’ Pill Bag, $5.79

You wouldn’t dare dream of traveling without your meds and supps, right? Trade in your cumbersome pillboxes for easy-to-use, 3×2 resealable plastic bags that make storing all your capsules super-easy. Plus, they’re moisture-resistant (unlike most pill boxes), lightweight, small enough to fit into your pocket, and easily disposable.

8. Quest Bar’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bar, 1 box for $24.99

When you’re on the road, there are a lot of temptations along the way: fast food, warm hot chocolate from those not-so-trustworthy vending machines, gas station candy, and so on. Instead, reach for a chocolate chip cookie dough bar that’s sure to give your taste buds a treat without putting your waistline or blood sugar at risk. They’re gluten-free, have less than one gram of sugar, and they offer a solid 21 grams of protein.

9. Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lip Balm, $2.89

You already know that Dr. Bronner makes incredible all-natural, 100 percent vegan, skin-friendly, heavenly-scented products. But while you might use the all-purpose soap on the regular, you’ll want to also keep this soothing lip balm in your pocket to help your lips stay chap-free during the wintry weather.

10. SheaMoisture’s Virgin Coconut Oil, $11.49

Whether you’re stuck fending off eight hours worth of stale, dry airplane air—or are just visiting a relative in a particularly dry climate, you’re going to want to keep your thirsty skin happy. Cue SheaMoisture’s 100 percent coconut oil, which treats your skin to all-natural, fair-trade ingredients like coconut milk and Acacia Senegal (known to promote skin health). At three fluid ounces, you’ll be able to pack it into your carry on.

Shop the full travel guide on VitaminShoppe.com. 

You’re Not Too Young To Have A Leaky Bladder

Although most people think of incontinence as an elderly person’s issue, a leaky bladder can occur at any age, to both women and men. In essence, a leaky bladder is the chronic involuntary leakage of urine from your bladder. The issue is both physically inconvenient and mentally frustrating, and it can keep you from taking part in the things you enjoy, like going out with friends or hitting the gym. Read on for more information around why incontinence occurs—and what you can do about it.

The Why

Leaky bladder is classified as any sort of urinary leaking, even very small amounts.

Continence is controlled by the brain, the nervous system, the bladder, the urethra or prostate, and the muscles of the pelvic floor—a complex system of organs and muscles. Two valves in the bladder control the flow of urine, and if any part of the whole system isn’t working (due to neural damage, sphincter or bladder damage, pelvic floor issues, or other issues), incontinence can occur.

Temporary incontinence might also occur from drinking alcohol or caffeine, or taking heart or blood pressure medicines, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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There are two common types of incontinence, and you can experience one or both together: urge and stress incontinence. Urge incontinence occurs when the bladder has a functional issue (e.g. you need to pee all the time or feel like you have to pee when you don’t. This may be linked to nerves in the bladder, hormonal changes, surgery, childbirth, or even dietary habits.

On the other hand, stress incontinence is due to weakness in the sphincter or other issues. It could also be caused by loss of support in the bladder and pelvis, or, for men, due to prostate cancer treatments like radiation.

A third, less common type is called overflow incontinence—when you have leftover urine that needs to be let out—also due to nerve damage or injury.

Other types of incontinence might come from holes in the urinary tract, diseases, spine injuries, or stroke. It’s key to speak with your doctor to figure out what could be going on and how to treat it, as some types of incontinence mirror others.

The Who

It can happen to anyone. Ever leak urine during exercise? It may be a symptom of a leaky bladder. Ever have to cross your legs when you cough or sneeze? Yep, you could be dealing with a leaky bladder, too.

Certain lifestyle choices may increase a person’s risk for a leaky bladder, according says Cynthia Neville, Doctor of Physical Therapy and Director of Pelvic Health and Wellness at FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Centers in Bonita Springs, Florida. For instance, smoking has been associated with developing urinary incontinence. High impact activities, like trampoline jumping, could create bladder control problems as well.

According to the Review of Urology, men tend to experience incontinence less than women (around 3-11 percent of men). But that isn’t just because women experience incontinence due to childbirth (giving birth can weaken the pelvic muscles and cause a leaky bladder). In fact, The Annals of Internal Medicine found that 12.6 percent of women between the ages of 16 and 30 have dealt with the issue, and these were women who had never been pregnant and were otherwise healthy individuals.

Related: Shop supplements to support bladder health.

The How

Options are available. According to the Mayo Clinic, you might try bladder training (learning to hold it), double voiding (trying to pee more each time you go), scheduling your bathroom visits, managing your diet, medicines, electrical stimulation, Botox, devices inserted into your urethra, or surgery. Many women, especially after childbirth, can strengthen their bladder through exercises. Specifically, Neville recommends pelvic floor muscles exercises (a.k.a. kegels).

“The correct contraction of the pelvic floor muscles is when a person squeezes and lifts the muscles that stop gas and urine,” says Neville. “Practice contracting as if stopping both gas and urine at the same time. Contract pelvic floor muscles strongly, but try not to overuse the abdominal or gluteal muscles during the contraction.” Contractions should be held for 10 full seconds and repeated 10 times, three times a day.

According to one study in the journal European Urology, women may also benefit from vitamin C and carotenoid supplements, which can support bladder health.

Oh, and men can do kegels, too! Squeeze the muscles that prevent gas from passing, and hold the contraction for three seconds. Aim for three sets of 10 per day.

If these exercises don’t seem to be helping with your symptoms, Neville recommends meeting with a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation.

6 Things Guys Should Do Before They Hit 40

When men develop healthy and sustainable lifestyle habits and routines in their 20s and 30s, it makes turning the big Four-0 less of a daunting scenario. Many of us fear the prospect of aging—which may be why we eat, sleep, and live like we’ll be young forever. Hint: We won’t, but we can extend our health and youthfulness with some thoughtful measures.

Help make 40 the new 30 by tuning into these mental, physical, and emotional health tips.

Get moving

You forget, you don’t feel like it, you’re too tired, or you’ll “do it tomorrow,” but unless you make a habit of regular exercise in the here and now, it’ll be harder and harder as you age to get (and stay) on the wagon. By the time you’re in yours 40s, you will have to work much harder to achieve the same results, so it’s important to have personal accountability. Sure, it’ll take an hour out of your day, but it could add years to your life.

Not only will exercise help you become more metabolically healthy—supporting your blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight, all of which can help to prevent heart attack and stroke, among other diseases—exercise (both cardio and strength training) also boosts testosterone, according to one study in Endocrine Connections. And good thing, too, because T is the main sex hormone in men, regulating mood, muscle, sex drive, and hair. “Exercise [specifically strength training] will slow down muscle loss by increasing human growth hormone and testosterone,” says stem cell expert Dr. Purita of the Institute of Regenerative Medicine: Leaders in Stem Cell Therapy.

By your 40s, your T-levels decrease by one to two percent each year, resulting in mood swings, lack of mental clarity, loss of muscle, inability to lose weight, and limited sex drive. So before you really start to lose your T, get into the gym and start working on your body—inside and out.

Maintain friendships

The old adage about friends being the best medicine might actually have some truth to it. The older men get, the less time they have to see friends or make new ones. Whether it is work, family, geographical distance, or just growing apart, many men start to lose their friendships. Humans are social beings—so you’ll do well to keep the important people in your life around, while looking to build new friendships when and where you can.

According to a review of studies in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, people who have a support network and a group of friends—as opposed to people who are mostly isolated from others or who do not have a support network—tend to get more psychologically and physically ill. Having friendships may even keep us from dying early, say the studies.

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However, an article in Psychology Today suggests that men have a hard time making new friends—possibly due to their focus on striving for wealth and success. The idea is to balance your time working so that you can focus on maintaining and nurturing relationships.

Give up your vices

We all hear it all the time—but alcohol and tobacco are no good. Even smoking one to four cigarettes per day can increase your risk of heart and lung diseases, according to Tobacco Control.

And drinking—while fun, legal, and socially encouraged—can be a problem too. According to the CDC, men are more likely than women to drink excessively—with 23 percent of men binge drinking (that’s eight drinks in a night) five times a month. Not only can this cause weight gain, it can lead to diseases like cancer, and disrupt your sexual and reproductive health.

“Diminish your alcohol intake, because it decreases the body stem cell output, which decreases the body’s ability to repair itself,” says Dr. Purita. “Men also need to quit smoking because it damages the cells’ DNA…which leads to cancer down the road and decreases sperm count.”

Eat healthy, starting now

According to the Mayo Clinic, maintaining an unhealthy diet can lead to all sorts of diseases over the course of your lifetime, including a shortened life. That includes people who look thin but are actually metabolically unhealthy.

The goal? Ensure that your diet is sustainable and includes clean food, plenty of fruits and vegetables, good fats, and proteins. Here’s what a day of clean eating looks like so that you can incorporate it, bit by bit, into your diet.

If you have a hard time eating healthy, start by making small changes, one after the other—for example, first cut back on processed foods, then add more veggies to your routine, then begin decreasing the amount of sugar you’re eating.

Related: The 5 Biggest Health Issues Affecting Men Today

Get to bed

Staying up late to binge-watch Netflix or waking up extra early to prep for a big presentation are common habits for many people, but unless you’re dealing with a personal or a work emergency, bedtime should be sacred and routine.

You might take pride in going to work on less than five hours of sleep (and you might be able to pull that off in your late twenties and early thirties), but by forty you will really feel the consequences of the lack of shut-eye. And if you chronically don’t get enough sleep, the long-term results can be detrimental—including potential for cardiovascular disease, reduced immune response, diabetes, and obesity.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you want to get around seven hours of sleep per night—but no more than nine or 10, which can have reverse effects.

Develop methods of self-care

Purita believes that all men should develop a self-care routine to help them combat stress. That’s because stress doesn’t just cause hair loss and weight gain—it can take years off your life. According to the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, stress can harm the immune system, increase blood pressure, cause anxiety and depression, and even open up the potential for chronic disease. But it can be hard to de-stress if you don’t know how or haven’t been encouraged to do so most of your life.

Related: Shop men’s health products to promote your healthiest self yet. 

The good news: You have plenty of options. For starters, try meditating daily (according to the journal Ayu, this can decrease blood pressure, maintain mood health, and increase cognitive health) or keeping a journal. Others may find nature to be an outlet for stress.

Regardless of the method, finding healthy ways to release stress early on will help you function better in the long run.

Pin this infographic so you won’t forget today’s lesson!

How Exercise Affects Sperm Count

According to the National Institutes of Health, recent studies have shown that male sperm count in the Western world is dropping rapidly—by as much as 60 percent in 40 years. And we’re not talking about senior citizens. This is affecting men as young as 30.

More research is required to find out what’s causing such a drastic decline, but diet, obesity, physical activity, environment, pesticides, chemicals, smoking, and stress can all be factors. Luckily, there are some things men can do to help power up their swimmers. For one thing, exercise.

According to Sports Medicine, being overweight and out of shape can negatively effect your sperm count. Your move: Head to the gym several times a week, with a particular focus on moderate intensity continuous training (MICT).

Related: Shop men’s health products, from multivitamins to libido support.

According to a 2016 study in the Journal for the Society of Reproduction and Fertility, in which three kinds of exercise were analyzed in relation to sperm count, it was found that moderate intensity continuous training (MICT) showed the best results. (The other kinds of exercises included high-intensity continuous training (HICT) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).)

A good example of MICT includes walking or jogging on a treadmill for about 30 minutes per day, three-four days per week, with intensity gradually increasing to 45 minutes per session and never going higher than about 60 percent of max capacity. The goal: Keep your max capacity—especially when doing cardio—to around 40-60 percent, and stick to around 30-45 minutes a few times per week.

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In the case of sperm health, going too hard and too often can actually have negative results, explains Dr. Joseph Purita of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine: “[When you] overdo exercise, what can happen is your body switches into respiration mode and the muscles make lactic acid, which can have bad side effects,” says Purita. “[It can] cause the production of free radicals, which robs your body of energy and can interfere with its biochemical reactions, which in turn affects the body’s production of stem cells—which is connected to sperm production.”

But that doesn’t mean you have to be wary of getting in a great workout. You absolutely can and should keep up your fitness routine. “Exercise can help increase circulation by dilating the blood vessels,” Purita explains. “Which brings more nutrients to the cells and is beneficial in stimulating hormones, which in turn stimulates higher sperm counts.”

Other tips that give your sperm the best shot? Purita recommends a Mediterranean diet—full of whole grains, healthy fish, healthy fats, and greens—along with not smoking and healthy amounts of sleep (seven to nine hours per night).

“The goal is to lower inflammation levels in the body,” he says, “because higher inflammation levels adversely affect stem cells, and ultimately the stem cells are what produce sperm.”

Related: 4 Types Of Foods That Help Fight Inflammation

The Mediterranean diet, getting enough sleep, and not smoking can all reduce inflammation, say various studies. And MICT workouts result in the lowest levels of inflammation, according to the journal Reproduction.  

The bottom line: Eat healthily, exercise moderately, and cultivate good sleeping patterns while you’re still young.

What Eating, Drinking, And Working Out In ‘Moderation’ Actually Looks Like

The idea of moderation is something we either love or hate. When we’ve diligently eaten healthy salads all week long, ‘moderation’ in the form of a delicious Friday night cookie can really keep us sane. But if that moderation totally backfires, and that one cookie turns in to three or four, it just leaves us feeling frustrated with ourselves.

The reason the term ‘moderation’ is so tricky: “There’s no real definition of the word,” explains Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club and owner of Nutrition Starring You.

And aside from it not having a clear definition, the word can mean something different to each of us, and even our own personal definition can change pretty frequently. “What someone considers moderate is highly influenced by what’s around them and what seems normal,” explains Ryan D. Andrews, M.S., M.A., R.D., author of A Guide to Plant-Based Eating.

Based on research published in the journal Appetite, nearly 70 percent of us are generous with our idea of moderation. We might identify two chocolate chip cookies as one serving, but still consider eating three pretty ‘moderate.’ And, unsurprisingly, we’re more likely to be liberal with our definition of moderation for types of junk food we really enjoy, the study suggests.

So how do you practice moderation in a way that keeps you feeling balanced while still prioritizing your health and well-being? We asked the pros for their best advice—not only for eating in moderation, but for drinking and exercising as well. Keep their guidelines in mind next time yet another cookie, cocktail, or CrossFit® class calls your name.

Eating In Moderation

Having guilt-free moments to indulge is important, says Andrews. After all, our relationship with food is pretty nuanced: There’s more to it than the bad-good binary (i.e. that eating for pure nutrition will always lead to positive outcomes and treating ourselves will always lead to negative outcomes). “When we view our meals or food choices as restrictive in any way, we get into a scarcity mindset, which can lead to food obsession and potential overcompensation later on,” Andrews explains.

But how often you treat yourself depends on a whole slew of factors, like your overall health, your personal fitness goals, and your schedule, says Harris-Pincus. As a general guideline, she recommends following the 80/20 rule, meaning 80 percent of your calories should come from nutritious foods that fuel your body and are packed with protein, healthy fats and carbs, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. (Think fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean poultry, and fish.) The other 20 percent of your daily calories are saved for guilt-free treats. So if you eat roughly 2,000 calories per day, for example, 400 of those calories can be more indulgent.

Go Ahead, Treat Yourself

If you’re trying to lose weight, Harris-Pincus recommends adjusting your ratio to 90/10, so you can reach your goals while still having some wiggle room to enjoy yourself on special occasions.

Beyond your general eating habits, ‘moderation’ is especially important for a few specific foods and ingredients, says Andrews. At the top of the list: added sugar, which has been linked to various health issues, like heart disease. “The average American adult eats 23 teaspoons of added sugar per day, but from a health perspective ‘moderation’ would be more like six to nine teaspoons per day,” he says.

Meat is another food we may need to adjust our definition of ‘moderation’ for. “The average American adult eats eight ounces of meat per day, but ‘moderation’ would be more like three ounces per day,” says Andrews. (Andrews recommends limiting red meat, like beef, to two ounces a day, and getting the rest from other sources, like poultry.) Why? Red meat consumption has been linked to cancer risk in some research, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified it as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ to humans.

On top of moderating meat intake for health’s sake, there are plenty of other good reasons—like environmental sustainability. Get this: Livestock production accounts for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.)

Boozing In Moderation

Moderation may be nuanced when it comes to food, but it’s pretty cut and dry when it comes to alcohol. According to the CDC, moderate alcohol intake is one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink means 12 ounces of beer, eight ounces of malt liquor, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or liquor, says Harris-Pincus. More often than not, though, we pour ourselves more than this.

Alcohol has been linked to serious health risks, like high blood pressure and various cancers, so consider the CDC’s daily drink recommendation an acceptable upper limit of moderation, not the ideal, she says. Drinking less than that—or not at all—will better benefit your health.

We get it—sometimes you want to unwind after a long day with a glass of vino or a cocktail. When you do drink, avoid as many excess calories as possible by using unsweetened flavored seltzer or club soda as mixers instead of sodas or syrups, she says. Acknowledge that drinking doesn’t fuel or nourish your body, and sip slowly so you really enjoy the treat, she recommends.

Sweating In Moderation

You know exercise is important: It can help you maintain a healthy weight, keep your energy levels up, and even boost your mood—but moderation applies here, too! Striking a balance between couch potato and gym junkie will help you get the most mind-body benefit from exercise.

When it comes to the type of workouts you’re doing, moderation means balancing strength training and cardio, says Baltimore-based strength coach Erica Suter, C.S.C.S. They’re both great for fat loss, but strength training will help you build muscle, so you can eventually burn more calories at rest. Ideally, you’d strength train around three days per week, she says, and opt for cardio two to three days per week.

Moderation applies to your intensity, too. Three of your weekly workouts should be high-intensity, meaning they keep your heart pumping and involve little rest, says California-based trainer Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S., C.P.T. For strength training that means lifting heavy enough that your last few reps are very challenging. For cardio, that means doing sprints or another form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Schedule two or three ‘moderate’ days in between your two or three high-intensity days, in which you’ll lift lighter loads for more reps or do some steady-state cardio, says Suter. Play around with how many all-out and moderate workouts you do to find your personal sweet spot. Ideally, you’ll exercise four to six days a week.

There is a such thing as too much exercise. “If you notice your energy levels starting to wane, that you’re not sleeping well, or that you’re just not looking forward to your workouts, you’re not practicing exercise in moderation and might be going a little too hard,” says Suter. Listening to your body and not going overboard is crucial.

Related: 5 Signs You Need A Day Off From The Gym

That’s where rest days come in. If you’re just beginning an exercise routine, start with two full rest days per week. As you get more comfortable, you may be able to bump it down to one. Rest helps you come back stronger, motivated to work out, and ready to take on new challenges, says Donavanik.

That rest day shouldn’t be an all-day Netflix binge, though: Both Suter and Donavanik believe in active recovery, meaning you still move on your day off. Going for a walk or a hike, taking a yoga class, or even spending some time stretching can help keep your blood flowing and help your body recover from previous workouts, Donavanik says.

Ultimately, when you find your ideal ‘moderation’ for exercise, you’ll enjoy working out and get excited about your routine, he says. You may need to try a few different things to get there, whether it’s spin classes, running, weight lifting, or even an intramural sport—but the best thing you can do for yourself is to get up and move your body, however works best for you, he says.

How Fitness Became My Drug Of Choice

What you see on the outside doesn’t always reflect what’s going on inside, and that’s often been the case with me. I have years of experience in the health and wellness industry (I’m the Manager of Scientific Affairs here at The Vitamin Shoppe), and I’ve always been proactive in my own health. I train hard, eat well, and use fitness as a way to manage stress. In fact, people I know are pretty impressed that I’ve maintained such a high level of fitness at my age (49!). I’m seen as a strong, tough individual—but like many others, I have my demons.

Those demons stem from my childhood, and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been a long, tough battle working through it. As a young boy I had some idea that my mom—God rest her soul—wasn’t like (or didn’t seem like) the other moms in the neighborhood: My mom struggled with severe depression and anxiety for most of her life.

I can recall like it was yesterday seeing my mom ‘act out’. She had a very difficult time controlling her emotions—even in front of us, her kids. From watching her irrational behavior, and feeling such a lack of control over her mental health issues, I developed anxiety and depression as a young child, too.

The one thing that helped center me during this time was sports and fitness. Using my body—especially in an aggressive way—made me feel calm, less angry, and less frustrated with what was going on at home.

I have years of experience in the health and wellness industry, and I’m seen as a strong, tough individual—but like many others, I have my demons.

I was a quiet, shy kid, but when it came to sports (especially football) I was hyper-aggressive, getting great satisfaction from knocking someone over and watching them struggle to get up. To filter through some of that aggression, I also studied martial arts at a dojo. It was a way for me to be aggressive without really hurting people or getting into trouble.

Related: I Became A Fitness Instructor At 44

The dojo became a place for me to release my demons. I was an emotional roller coaster, a volcano waiting to erupt. And I had no idea that I’d need to deal with these sorts of feelings my whole life.

One cold December day when I was 15, I was playing football in the snow with my brother and his friends. I kicked the ball and my brother caught it. My brother was an all-around great athlete. He was fast as hell, even in the snow. As he came charging towards me, I drove straight toward his legs, rolled over, and collided with him. His knee smashed my back with incredible force, knocking the wind out of me and leaving me lying in the snow, unable to move.

I truly thought my back was broken. I couldn’t walk, so they carried me to my house (which was luckily around the corner) and called 911 right as my mom and dad pulled up in the car. As it turned out, I had no broken bones, but in the 1980s they typically didn’t do an MRI or check for orthopedic injuries that might end up affecting you in the long-term. And it wasn’t until four years later, when my back pain got worse and I had an MRI, that I found out that I had a badly herniated disc.

At 19, I had surgery. My orthopedic surgeon said he could repair it and I’d be just fine, but the eight days I spent in the hospital and two months of physical therapy that followed elevated my levels of anxiety and depression. I jumped back into football, hockey, martial arts, and lifting weights way too soon in an effort to feel better mentally. My pain began to feel worse than it did pre-surgery, which only exacerbated my cycle of anxiety and depression.

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Later on, I had epidurals (a spinal cord stimulator implanted to block pain), and I started seeing a chiropractor again—which offered some temporary pain relief caused by the muscle spasms, but did nothing for the shooting, burning pain down my legs caused by a compressed nerve.

As a last resort, I started trying different types of medication: anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, and—last but not least—opiates. The medication was effective at reducing the pain, and it also suppressed my anxiety.

I initially thought this was a good thing, but came to realize later on that it really wasn’t—at least for me. The medication was turning me into a different person, numbing me and making me feel very little emotion. So, I took my wife’s advice and quit. My goal was to turn to fitness and health again to deal with my trauma and pain.

Quitting cold turkey was hard; I couldn’t sleep for three months and my pain, anxiety, and depression came back with a vengeance. But I was comforted by my understanding of how the body works: As a scientist, I knew that I could help promote my body’s own production of natural painkillers and mood enhancers (endorphins) through vigorous exercise.

Strengthen that lower back with #deadlifts.@rogueamericanapparel

A post shared by Brian K. Tanzer (@bktanzer) on

And that’s exactly what I did. I practiced yoga for my back and hit the weights pretty hard to release the anxiety I was feeling. To this day, I train five-six days a week, incorporating all the big lifts (like deadlifts, squats, and bench presses) along with exercises such as sprints, rowing, pullups and burpees. Although I still deal with chronic pain and mood issues like anxiety, it has become much more manageable.

Looking back, I’ve learned so much over the years. I used to let those feelings control me, and now I control them. I even turned to my fitness-focused skillset when my parents got sick and needed care, and then passed away, one after the other within a month. I see every challenge as an opportunity and I never let my anxiety get the best of me. I believe that training every day and making myself uncomfortable (or even miserable at times) pays dividends when facing emotional and physical challenges in life.

To this day, I train five-six days a week. And although I still deal with chronic pain and mood issues like anxiety, it has become much more manageable.

I now look back at all that I went through as a child, teenager, and adult, and I’m proud of how far I’ve come, despite all the challenges. And despite my mother’s illness and the ways it affected me, I don’t blame her. I love her.

Mental health is often overlooked because it isn’t something that can be measured with a blood test or x-ray. In the end, her mental health challenges inspired me to deal with my health in productive ways. I try to live in the moment—not in the past—and enjoy each day as much as possible.

Although I have had these revelations, I still wake up every day with anxiety and pain—and I do worry about aging and its effects on my body. But for now, I have a morning routine to keep me motivated: I throw cold water on my face and start banging out the burpees, squats, and pushups, which helps stabilize my body and my mood. I guess you could say that my go-to drug is exercise—and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Related: Shop protein products and amp up your fitness routine. 

Do You Bruise Easily? Here Are 7 Possible Reasons Why

If you’ve ever gotten in the shower to find yourself blooming with unexplained bruises, you’re not alone. And just like everyone else who this happens to, you’ve probably racked your brain for answers. Lucky you: We’ve got some.

First off, most bruises come from broken blood vessels or capillaries near the skin’s surface. Usually this happens when you hit into something, like a door or edge of a table, with some force. The blood leaks from the vessels and shows up black and blue (and eventually purple or orange or yellow or green as it is reabsorbed) on the surface of your skin.

A gnarly bruise every once in a while is totally normal, especially if you’re clumsy. But are you always covered in unsightly splotches? Here are seven potential reasons why, as well as whether you have anything to worry about.

You’re low on vitamin C

You likely don’t have scurvy (a rare condition marked by extreme vitamin C deficiency), but you could still be low on the stuff. Having a deficiency of this important antioxidant, which helps us heal and repair tissues in our bodies, can cause symptoms like dry skin, bleeding gums, and a decreased ability to fight sickness. According to University of Maryland Medical Center, low vitamin C could cause a decreased wound-healing rate, too, which is why bruises may show up and take forever to go away.

Nutritionist Tara Coleman ensures her clients get plenty of vitamin C by eating whole foods in all the colors of the rainbow. She also suggests buying seasonal when reaching for fruits and veggies. “Seasonal produce is not only better tasting, but it is typically much less expensive because it doesn’t have to travel as far to get to the store,” she says.

Your skin is thin or you’re low on collagen

Have you ever seen an older person with bruises along their arms? It’s not an uncommon sight, and that’s because as you age, your skin loses collagen. Collagen is the main protein found in our bodies, giving skin its connectivity, tightness, and plumpness. The less collagen you have, the thinner your skin and the more prone your skin is to bruising. Women tend to bruise more easily than men because they have thinner skin—with less collagen—than men.

Collagen is so crucial to the integrity of your skin that when your body struggles to make enough or to utilize it correctly, severe bruising is one of the first signs, reports the Journal of Hematology. Fun fact: Vitamin C is also crucial in building collagen—which is just another reason to eat your fruits and veggies!

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You take certain meds or supps

If you’ve ever had surgery, you know that part of your pre-op is to ensure you aren’t taking any medications or supplements that will increase bleeding. These drugs all prevent blood clotting, which makes bruising a lot easier.

If you experience bruising that you suspect is related to your medication, talk to your doctor. Certain foods or supplements can thin the blood dramatically enough to cause easy bruising as well. For instance, someone who takes daily doses of omega-3 fatty acids and flaxseed oil—both of which thin the blood—might see more frequent bruising, according to the Canadian Pharmacutical Journal.

You lift Really heavy

When you are lifting extremely heavy weights, blood vessels can burst and bruise the skin. And when you are ‘feeling the burn,’ microscopic tears in the muscle fibers you are using can also cause bruises.

Related: Shop products for overall skin health.

You are anemic

Low iron—or cases of anemia—can amount to easy bruising. Anemia is the condition in which the blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells, which can be caused by disease or a vitamin deficiency, like iron deficiency.

Coleman recommends that people, especially vegans or vegetarians, who are worried about iron intake consume it with vitamin C, which bolsters iron absorption. Coleman reminds her patients that both caffeine and calcium prevent iron absorption, so avoid consuming them to support healthy iron levels when consuming iron. Iron supplements are a safe and common way to increase iron intake.

You have an illness

Easy bruising can be also related to an underlying diseases, such as diabetes, certain blood cancers, autoimmune disorders, and purpuric dermatosis (leaky blood vessels), according to Archives of Diseases in Childhood.

If you suddenly begin to bruise in multiple locations—especially if the bruises are painful or on the abdomen, face, or back—with no known cause, or if you have a family history of blood or clotting disorders, check in with your doctor immediately.

Vitamin D Deficiency Is Real–Here’s Who’s At Risk

Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D comes to us primarily through the magic of sunlight (when it hits our body, we produce it) and secondarily through our food. Unlike other vitamins, though, we can’t really eat our way to the right vitamin D levels, says the Vitamin D Council—since the foods that contain it (like salmon and milk) provide less than 10 percent of our requirement. Considering 50 percent of the world’s population has a vitamin D deficiency, according to the  Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics, that’s some cause for alarm.

Vitamin D is a major player in our health. Research from the same journal  shows that vitamin D can support and protect our immune, heart, and mood health, among other things. In fact, a lack of D can cause all sorts of issues, like something called rickets (the softening and weakening of bones), incidences of which the Mayo Clinic says have dramatically increased since the year 2000.  Other issues potentially related to a lack of D include difficulty thinking clearly, bone pain, muscle pain, and fatigue.

So, who’s most at risk for vit D deficiency? Read on and learn.

Vegetarians and Vegans

We already know that small amounts of D come from salmon and milk—so what happens if you’re a vegan or vegetarian who also doesn’t live in a sunny climate?

Those who don’t eat animal products have to be especially careful to bare some skin outside, says nutritionist Isabel K. Smith. But since the sun can be damaging, she recommends a vitamin D supplement.

Interesting to note: “Using sunblock reduces the body’s ability to make active D3 by 90 percent,” says Smith. (D3 is the form of vitamin D that is synthesized (or made) by the skin when exposed to sunlight).

People With Depression

The link between depression and vitamin D is not fully understood, but it is established. In the journal Nutrients, a D deficiency was also associated with an increased risk of depression (by eight to 14 percent) and suicide risk (by 50 percent). If you are depressed or if depression runs in your family, having your serum D levels checked is a safe bet. However, it is prudent to also speak with a licensed therapist.

Related: Shop vitamin D products to boost your health. 

Nursing Mothers

Breastfeeding mothers are providing nutritional needs for themselves and their babies, which requires a high level of nutrient intake to keep both mother and child healthy.

Vitamin D levels were found to be low in the overwhelming majority of nursing mothers in a study by PLOS One. Scarily, the study concluded that vitamin D3 supplementation at a dose of 1200 IU/d was somewhat effective at improving vitamin D status of nursing women, but not sufficient enough to fully restore the depletion. While further research needs to be done, it’s clear that nursing moms can benefit from both supplementation and sunshine.

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People With Dark Skin

People who have darker skin are more at risk of vitamin D deficiency. That’s because the high concentration of melanin in darker skin significantly slows the creation of D. In fact, the American Society of Nutrition found that African-Americans have the lowest rates of vitamin D among all Americans. If you have darker skin, be sure to use a supplement and not depend on sun exposure alone.

Those with illnesses OR predispositions to certain illnesses

A host of health issues have been potentially linked to vitamin D deficiency. According to a study published in the Journal of American Medicine, Caucasians who are low in vitamin D have a significantly higher risk of developing MS compared to those who have sufficient D levels. This connection was not found to be true with African-Americans or Hispanic people, and further studies are needed.

A study looking at the relation between macular degeneration (loss of eyesight) and vitamin D in the Archives of Ophthalmology found a definite link between low serum D levels and the incidence of this eye disease in women under age 75.

And, if you have an inflammatory bowel disease such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn’s, your absorption of vitamin D is probably seriously compromised.

People Who Take Certain Medications

There are a handful of medications that, when taken regularly, can block the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D. Those who take anticonvulsant medications, glucocorticoids, antifungals such as ketoconazole, and medications for AIDS will want to have their vitamin D levels tested for deficiency.

People With Chronic Pain

If your muscles or joints are chronically sore, it’s definitely worth it to request a blood draw to measure your serum vitamin D level. A study in Presse Medical found that people with severe vitamin D deficiency saw an improvement after using high doses of D.

People Who Sit Inside All Day

Let’s face it—this is most of us. Even those who work from home rarely sit in front of a window with the sunshine pouring in. (Doesn’t that sound lovely, though?) According to a Clinical Laboratory study, people who working primarily indoors are basically guaranteed a low vitamin D level, so you may want to consider supplementation.

What Now?

If any of the above applies to you, you’ll want to ask your physician to check your vitamin D levels. That way, if you are deficient in vitamin D, you can plan your sun time and look for a proper supplement dosage.